Vacuum Cleaners

The first house I properly remember living in is a perfectly-sized apartment for a young one and two adults. It’s the house I remember having my first sleepovers in, where we folded out the green sofa we had and my friends and I slept there. It’s where I remember spilling milk on the wall because I accidentally knocked down an entire glass with my right hand, and it’s where I first remember eating my mother’s pizzas. Aside from these memories and more, including a bunk-bed surprise, my first tryst with a vacuum cleaner comes in this house.

We had a vacuum cleaner at all of the houses we lived in when I was younger. Now I’m not sure what brand it was – and whether we had only one vacuum for all those years or not, but I’ll explain whatever I remember of it. Memory is a fabulous thing, but it’s likely that the vacuum cleaner I describe is a blend of two vacuum cleaners we had. The only things I’m certain of is that it was either a Hoover or an Aftron, and it was either red, or silver.

The rest is honestly a whirr. Quite literally, a whirr – the most powerful whirr you’ve heard. Biswa has this lovely segment on the irritating sound that motorbikes make, and my vacuum cleaner hit that frequency and more. It was not possible to live in peace in that household when the vacuum cleaner was on. The size of the house made everything echo so you heard the vacuum whirring about 4 times for 1 whirr. While we moved across the corridor to a new house, I think that was the thing I was looking forward to the most – the fact that there was an extended passageway and multiple rooms made it almost certain that in the hall, the television would be protected from the vacuum cleaner’s engine.

That was not to be.

I disagree with this Physics principle on emotional grounds, but I learned that sound travels fastest in solids. Never was that more true than when one wall separated me from the vacuum cleaner. I was in the hall, watching television, eating food, while the house-help that assisted us with maintenance vacuumed the rooms. But the sound traveled through the walls and pierced my ears like nothing else.

I knew I would love living in India when we moved here and didn’t have a vacuum cleaner. The jadu did all the jadoo and swept away all sound. For years, I lived in silence, yet a clean surrounding at all points. Till I went to live in France for 6 weeks. The vacuum returned, and with it, all the trauma of my childhood. I was really grateful for a small house and a roommate, because I had to vacuum only half the time, and I could stay outside and far away from the sound when vacuuming was being done, but oh man – on the days I vacuumed, how I wished that these things made less sound.

I thought my saga with the vacuum cleaner had come to a close. Till this lockdown happened and I was home alone. Remember how I said we didn’t have a vacuum? Turns out, our vacuum was in hiding all along. My parents told me where it was to make my life easier, and the convenience of everything has made me love cleaning up the house and doing the chores every day. Vacuuming is a joy because you can see dirt disappear. Dust vanishes before your eyes revealing smooth surfaces. I am no longer scared to make a mess because I can vacuum it away.

I’ve learned how to deal with the sound. My solution so far has been to vacuum quick. It’s worked. My ears can tolerate short bursts of this (and the mixer), so I try not to expose myself to it for too much time on any given day.

However, I’ve made another discovery about the vacuum cleaner, a discovery that has changed my life – and is the sole reason I wrote this post.

You see, my assumption about the vacuum cleaner is that it sucked dust up into the unknown; a void where all dust disappeared never to be seen again. This morning, after finishing up my vacuuming I noticed the vacuum felt considerably more heavy than it did at the start of the month. Then I noticed some flaps. Naturally, I opened them. Lo and behold, the vacuum had an interior!

First, I examined the source of my pain, the vacuum’s motor. After which I found the vacuum’s dust bag where I saw a collection of all the dust and hair the vacuum had sucked up over the past month. I gagged.

Turns out, dust isn’t decimated by the vacuum cleaner. It’s collected and stored for us to clean out. For it’s convenience this machine really sucks, I must say. First it makes that horrible sound, then I have to see and clean the dust it collects? We need a vacuum cleaner that instantly burns all the dust it collects and leaves ash or something. Some technology advancements are owed to society after this medical crisis blows over.

That’s been my adventure of the day.

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