Our Recalcitrant Robot

We were recently with our daughter’s family. They have two kids, two dogs–one of which is a Labrador retriever–and astonishingly immaculate hardwood floors. We have no little kids at home, one Labrador retriever, and hardwood floors that make people wonder if we’re running an unlicensed barber shop. Labs shed. Forget that myth about twice a year. If I could sell the dog hair I sweep up daily, I could save the world with the proceeds. It turned out that our daughter and son-in-law, who, yes, used to have floors that looked like ours, bought a robot vacuum cleaner (brand shall be unnamed by me to avoid a lawsuit) that they program to run while they’re at work. It thoroughly cleans their floors on its own, returns to its docking station in a pleasant and polite manner, recharges itself, and does its thing again the next day. (They do have to empty it, a quick little process they can do at their convenience.) It even talks to them nicely if it encounters a problem. They are all in love with this new family member, which they named Rosie.

So, of course, a nanosecond after leaving their house, we bought one, and in a burst of writerly originality, I named it Rosie “too”. We plugged her in, charged her up, and told her to clean the house while we took Scout the Lab (he who is the reason we need the house cleaned every day) on a nice long hike in the woods. Expecting to be dazzled by floors as clean as our daughter’s, we came back. I inspected. Hmmm. The failure was especially egregious since the late afternoon sun slanted through the window and all the dog hair was highlighted as it sparkled in brilliant array on the walnut flooring.

“ROSIE!” I yelled. “What the hell?” She wasn’t on the docking station and the house was silent. “Why aren’t you working!”

I started looking for the slacker.

Thirty minutes later, I still hadn’t found her.

“Rosie ran away from home already,” I told my husband, hands on my hips and making it clear that I was quite outraged.

“Well, that was a great use of money,” he said, while pouring himself a well-fermented beverage, his helpful response to domestic crises.

I finally found her. She was jammed under a bed in one of the guest rooms, tangled in a 1997 high school graduation tassel. And I’d heard she was smart. Turns out you have to read the directions, which is plain annoying, and set up virtual walls to keep her out of trouble. Lord, I might as well get a teenager.

So I sighed deeply and sort of read them, and put Rosie to work again the next day. It ended in another yelling match.

She didn’t run away (she couldn’t; I stayed home and stalked her), but she flat refused to go where I told her. Instead she kept redoing the exact same area even though I kept shouting that it was already fine, and, “Dammit, go over there where there’s whole pillows of dog hair you totally missed!”

I finally got out the broom and did it myself. It’s a work in progress. I don’t know which one of us will be trained first.


16 Responses to Our Recalcitrant Robot

  1. When I got to the end of your first paragraph, I was convinced that I should run right out and buy one for my daughter since she’s got two labs and four children! Upon finishing the post, I’ve decided to wait until you figure this out! Good luck Lynn!

    • Absolutely. (Maybe I’ll get a commission on the sale.) Or not. But here’s the good news: Rosie may not be much more effective than a teenager, but she doesn’t talk back. Yet.
      Thanks, Judi!

  2. Too bad Alan didn’t ask my advice before spending about $700 for Rosie (although come to think of it he hasn’t taken my advice about anything since I told him church was a waste of time when he was 10 years old). I bought one after I got rid of the carpet in my condo and put in Pergo floors. I quickly learned: (1) Yes, you have to use those little lighthouses to contain it in the small area it will clean without getting in trouble (2) The two lighthouses they give you are nowhere enough, although you can always emulate Trump in Afghanistan by throwing good money after bad by buying additional lighthouses (3)It gets stuck under low cabinets or furniture or anything with legs (4) It gets stuck and stops working on rugs (5) It gets stuck when it encounters the edge of a rug less than 18’ from a wall or other obstruction (6) It gets stuck on anything small, especially electrical cords (7) It gets stuck and stops working for no reason at all (8) It moves randomly rather than in a grid pattern, repeatedly sweeping one spot and ignoring others (9) Unless it is placed right next to the dock it can’t find its way back. I would have happily sent you this $700 paper weight currently holding down my newspapers to recycle and paid the shipping. If you decide you like yours cleaning the 10 square feet it can clean after you take 15 minutes to set up your 6 lighthouses, I will still gladly send you mine, including two lighthouses and the dock.

    Of course, Gale told me it would be a waste of money before I bought it. I should listen to her more often.

    • Well, I can honestly say that the price of ours was less less than half that, AND our brilliant daughter also gave us a 20% off coupon, taking the price down even further. (Maybe you bought an upgraded model?) Secondly, I’m not entirely sure it was a mistake on Alan’s part not to listen to you when he was 10 or ever; that’s a matter of debate in the family depending on who’s drinking what. However, you are entirely correct that you should listen to Gale.

  3. I could have been worse Lynne,
    I had read a story about a women who’s dog had diarrhea during the night, the vacuum ran at night. Yes, there were streaks of doggie doo doo all over the house when she woke up. I tears of laughter going by the time I finished reading her story.

  4. This is similar to the disaster we had when, against my advice,Glenn decided to clean our wood floors with Murphy’s oil soap,water & sponge mop. So much water & suds on the floors that I followed him around with a towel, mopping & cursing. He then decided to make them sparkle with Bona high gloss floor polish. When they dried, they looked like someone had poured milk on the floors & let it dry. I called the Bona emergency help line & when I told the person on the other end what had happened, she said, “Ohhh…with a huge sigh.” Turns out Oil Soap is an oil product that isn’t compatible with Bona Polish, a water based product. After getting a list of about $200 worth of products to remedy the problem, I ordered them, told Glenn what day they’d be delivered & left town.

    • Ohhhhh. This is good to know! I’ll tell Rosie. (Seriously, that is useful information–about the products, I mean, as opposed to Glenn!) Thank you, as always, Debra.

  5. You handed me a big laugh with your crack about hiring a teenager. Reason enough to be glad I read your latest epistle, the world being in the state it’s in and all. Nu, thank you!

    PS: Are you going to review the product in Yelp, or something like it? Or, perhaps write to the manufacturer? That could net you some more coupon discounts, and maybe this time you’ll end up buying something you can use.

    • Preston, actually, Rosie is running right now as I write this reply. In fairness, she must be doing something, since when she finishes lately, her “bin” is full of excess Scout hair. Maybe either she or I am trainable? And I know what you mean about the state of the world. Sometimes I think it’s inappropriate to write about any other subject right now, and then simultaneously, I think that’s not right either. There’s has to be a place for activism, to raises our voices, and also a place for respite, or we won’t hold up on the long road. Thank you for being in both places.

  6. HA! I missed this when it came out but Brooke Andrew I just talked about Rosie when we visited! I want one- Pete says waste of money….

    • Pay no attention to Pete or John. Get one. Rosie is not always the brightest worker, but if you explain things very clearly, she doesn’t let football games distract her from getting the job done. If you get my drift.

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