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House Cleaning: It Ain’t Easy Being Green

December 10, 2009 Family Travel No Comments

Even Shrek would admit it ain’t easy being green. The eco-friendly bandwagon has arrived in town and I am holding on by my fingernails. I sure miss the good ol’ days of conspicuous consumption.

I’ve tried to show my support for the cause by turning down any flight in a private jet, refusing to wear bowling ball sized diamonds mined in Africa, and dumping any friend who lives in a house larger than 3,000 square feet. But they just want more, more, more. It’s so hard to change.

Just today I was vacuuming with an upright model old enough to vote. I hate that thing. It’s bumper guards have sprung loose and whip around frantically sideswiping every piece of furniture and ankle in its demon path. Today it wouldn’t pick up a single hair, piece of lint, or small child. I was ecstatic. I get a new vacuum! I want a red one! I’m gonna buy it tomorrow!

Then I started thinking about landfills, and carbon footprints, and Visa bills and decided the environmentally sound thing to do would be the check and see if the belt was shot. I tried to flip it over, but I couldn’t lift it. I called for reinforcements. Two out of three Payne children showed up. I explained how—on the count of three—we were going to turn the beast over and DROP it to dislodge any Webkins, Nintendos, or winning lottery tickets. Nothing fell out, except maybe a few dust bunnies. The open window blew them right back under the bed where they knew they’d be safe. After all, when you are environmentally sensitive like me that means no animals—real or dust–would be harmed in the cleaning of this house. So back to the bloody vacuum. We dropped the bugger a few more times for good measure. If it wasn’t broken already, it would be now. And then I’d get a red one.

This is the point where I remembered vacuum cleaners use bags. Fairly quickly actually, a second thought banged into the first one. When did I last change it? Probably the last time I balanced my checkbook in 1992. But where were the replacement vacuum bags? They were probably in some box marked “cleaning supplies” left over from the move. Eleven years ago. I won’t bore you with the search-and-rescue details, but I finally found them lodged in the Christmas decorations, cradling baby Jesus. I didn’t mean those bad words, baby Jesus. I cracked open the plastic housing on the canister very slowly. Who knows what could be living in my vacuum? Prairie dogs? A subcontractor left over from the remodel? Fleas? Everything appeared to be dead, I thought in relief. The old bag was so heavy it could double as a cement shoe for a one-legged mobster. I handled it gingerly, like I imagine the bomb squad might do, and I fleetingly thought of calling them.

It says on the Internet that you can get very sick from vacuum cleaner dust. I wasn’t taking any chances. The seams were already straining, a big clump of toxic debris hung out the open mouth like a furry tongue. It was disgusting. So I made my kid take it out to the trash. There are some perks to being the boss. Unfortunately, not only had the bag filled to capacity, it had overflowed and crud was lodged down that entire tube that goes to the floor. It was layers of rock sediment hardened over geologic time. I started pulling out hockey pucks of lint with my fingers until I could no longer reach. Then I grabbed an old toothbrush and fished some more out. My 13-year-old walked in and said, “That better not be mine” and walked out.

Whatever happened to “Mom, need some help? I got out everything I could before resorting to kitchen utensils. Then I had the bright idea to just turn on the vacuum naked and bag-less. I could watch to make sure any obstruction cleared itself out. I knelt down to watch the lint dribble out. A word of caution in case you want to try this at home. Lint under pressure does not dribble. Picture more a potato shooter and you will get the idea. Anyway, I’m glad my reflexes are still so… uh…reflexive because I really need to keep my vision in my left eye. And as for the dent in the wall eight feet away? I’m sure I can find a subcontractor somewhere around her to patch it up. And my vacuum? Good as new. See, it pays to be green.


Jody Payne

Mom Living Out Loud

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