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It's not only nature that abhors a vacuum

“Cleanliness is next to Godliness.”

— Sandra


“Cleanliness is next to impossible.”

— Willard


While vacuuming the other day, I was reminded of something Roseanne Barr once said: “I’m not going to vacuum until Sears makes one you can ride on.”


Cleaning is something that doesn’t come naturally to a man. I’m certain of this. There’s something unnatural about cleaning. Dirt is natural; leaves, grit, mud, dust bunnies, clutter, all natural.


Men find themselves to be conflicted. They are expected to work in the yard, the garden, on the golf course, deer stand, car, but in the house, they’re supposed to be clean. I know men who have to take their shoes off before they can come inside. I have actually had to take my clothes off before I came into the house merely because I was covered in mud from head to toe.


That’s one reason the military is so traumatic, that and the possibility of dying for your country. The military expects you to slop around in all sorts of weather, low crawling around like a snake, but also wants you to be immaculately dressed, your bunk made and your socks, for goodness sakes, rolled up neatly.


Speaking of socks, I decided to match mine the other day. I poured the entire drawer full out on the bed and proceeded to attempt to pair them up according to color, style or holes in the heel. I managed to find one matching pair but it turned out to be Sandra’s. Sandra suggested I throw the whole mess away and buy two dozen pairs of blue socks, all the same make and model. I can’t understand why socks, hidden on your feet, should have to match. As Willard says, “Out of sight, out of mind.”


Over the years I have been trained and re-trained in cleaning, bed making, dusting, laundry, drying and folding. Some days I didn’t know whether I was washing or hanging out, but I have made progress.


I’m still not perfect, though. Recently, three shelves needed dusting at my place of employment. I have promised my employers that I would not write about the library, so I won’t mention it here. Anyhow, I grabbed a cloth and a can of Lemon Pledge and proceeded to dust the shelves. I knew I had failed the dusting exam, though, when I heard one of the ladies in the background whisper, “I would have sprayed the wax on the cloth …”


Everyone has their own way of cleaning. Personally, I like to dust around things, particularly on my desk, which Sandra fondly refers to as “the garbage dump.”  Sandra, strangely, has a habit of picking up things and dusting under them. My tee shirts require three folds, Sandra’s P.J.’s only two. Sandra does not like to wash towels with her blouses. Especially red towels.


Cleaning has improved over the years thanks to innovations that replaced the broom and dish rag. One invention that has saved some of my sanity has been the dish washer. I imagine the dish washer has meant as much to us as the washing machine meant to our parents. The vacuum cleaner has been another life saver although some people don’t see it that way. Or, as Anne Gibbons said, “Nature abhors a vacuum. And so do I.”


Now experts say that robots will be cleaning our houses in less than a decade. They already have a robot that will fold clothes, fetch a drink from the fridge, set the table and even bake cookies. It only costs $400,000, but a one-armed version runs around $285,000. I doubt if the one-armed robot folds many clothes. I also doubt if it picks up things as it dusts. We have a Rumba, which is a mini version of this robot. It’ll clean the floor like crazy. No dusting, though.


On an episode of the TV series “Everybody Loves Raymond,” Ray purchased a Humm Vac, a vacuum that used a canister of water rather than a bag. Debra insisted that he return it until Ray showed her the dirty water after he vacuumed a supposedly already cleaned carpet in their living room. Debra then took the Humm Vac over to her mother-in-law’s to prove that Marie, in spite of her boasting, didn’t really keep her house as clean as she thought.


After vacuuming Marie’s carpet, Debra found, to her dismay, that the water in the Humm Vac was still clean. Marie said she thought it might even be cleaner than when Debra started.


Julie and Jim also purchased a similar vacuum, with a different name, of course. She was impressed when the water became dirty after she vacuumed her carpet. So Julie took it over to her sister’s, where the water again turned brown after a good vacuuming. Armed with her new toy, Julie came to our house and offered to vacuum. What she didn’t realize was that, like Marie, Sandra is a white tornado when it comes to cleaning. The water wasn’t completely clear after Julie finished, but you could probably have drunk it in a pinch. I was proud in the knowledge that my dusting around things had contributed to our cleanliness. As Marie noted on “Raymond,” “Vacuums don’t clean houses. People clean houses.”