Sunday, July 5, 2015

Doing the Roomba

        Most of our modern conveniences were born out of the desire to save time. However, if you’re like me, you find that they often cost us just as much time as we save.
Take the dishwasher, for example. You have to rinse the dishes, sometimes even scrub off the caked food, before putting them in the dishwasher. Later, as you add more dishes, you have to re-arrange what you’ve already loaded. By the time you do all that, you might as well wash them by hand.
Same thing applies to the new robot vacuum cleaner I bought. As I write this, the Roomba, as it’s called, is whirring its way back and forth across my Great Room floor. No, wait, I hear it in my back hallway now, and because I didn’t close any doors or block any entrances, it will no doubt make its way into my office soon. It’s very thorough, crawls easily between my rugs and bare floors, and when it runs out of battery power, it returns to its base for re-charging. It saves lots of back-bending vacuuming time.
Moses examines the Roomba.
However, I have to put all my chairs on top of counters and tables so it has access to the entire floor. I have to move the cedar chest-cum-coffee-table away from the sofa so it can get between them. I have to move the child’s rocking chair and a small end table because it won’t fit between their legs. I unplug electrical cords that dangle between the sofa and an end table so they don’t become entangled, and so on and so forth. Granted, it’s good to move those obstacles anyway before I mop, but I only mopped once every six months before buying the robo vac. That brings up another time-costing conundrum: Now I feel compelled to mop every time I use the Roomba.
It’s kind of spooky, sometimes, to see it do its thing. It whirs and turns and glides with a mind of its own, like something out of a sci-fi movie. I have to watch my step if I’m in the same room while it’s vacuuming, lest it bumps into me or I step on it. Fortunately, my dogs don’t give it much attention, unlike the cat seen in the YouTube video riding on top of one. When it hits a snag, such as inhaling a piece of jute, or it can’t maneuver out from under a small table, I hear it complaining from another room. It actually speaks, telling me to check its brushes or move it away from an object, like some disembodied voice from the Great Beyond. 
After each use, I have to take the thing apart to clean it. I empty the trash bin, get the hairs out of the brush rollers and knock the dust off the filter. While these processes are less tiring than pushing a canister vacuum cleaner around for half an hour, they are just as time-consuming.
I could go on forever and a day talking about the time I spend with tech support on cell phone, internet and computer software problems. Then there’s that darned email that demands to be answered several times a day. 
If these contraptions are time savers, then why are they costing me so much time?