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Doing the Roomba Rhumba
by Amy Kenneley

The box was surprisingly big for this new gadget that I hoped would collect cat hair and dust. Would it save my aching back? My vacuum attachments could reach "everywhere" but my arms no longer could.

v The box had lots of padding to keep it safe-much like myself, I figured. Reading the instructions, I carefully tore off the non-English parts, discarding them. I felt confident doing this, knowing no one will be operating Roomba more literate than I.

First, I had to decide where Roomba would dock. That would its Home Base, for recharging.

I decided that my bedroom would be best, where I could keep an eye on it. The docking station was plugged in beneath a small dressing table that was a "Here-- We're Moving and its Free" acquisition many moons ago. Having already been pre-charged, I pressed the center of Roomba's circular self and a little humming began. Roomba backed up, swiveled about 20 degrees left, and took off. Under the bed it sped. All you neatniks out there can avoid this next paragraph.

Under the Bed and Beyond

I could hear it humming along, coming out, going back under, turning and bumping, re-adjusting and moving along. It was under the bed for a very long time. I remember the instructions stating that Roomba was so attuned to the dust content of a floor or rug that it would hover over the offending section until some interior "OK" signaled for it to proceed elsewhere. Understanding that, I thought I could hear a coughing sound coming from Roomba's earnest efforts.

Okay, neatniks can resume here: Roomba hummed out of the bedroom and proceeded down the hall, zig-zagging to right and left. Just to test it, I dropped a small dead Asian Beetle (that has masqueraded as a Ladybug) in its path, and was satisfied that more than dust would be gathered. Zooming into the living room, the machine surprised the Cat, sleeping on my chair. (of course my chair-Cat takes all the best spots for her naps). Cat became instantly alert, her ears pulled back in astonishment. Roomba traveled around the living room on some path known only to itself while Cat decided which course to pursue: fight or flight.

She chose flight, and quickly jumped to the mantle by way of chair, desk, then mantle. She sat between photos of grinning grandsons and moved her head back and forth, following Roomba's every move. Clearly, Cat was not going to stalk this Thing.

Danger Danger

Convinced that my new gadget would perambulate the kitchen and dining room with the same efficiency, I decided to take eyes off it, and handle some kitchen chores. I could tell by the satisfied hum that Roomba had everything well in hand.

As it left the dining room and rumbled across the kitchen floor, I deftly side-stepped it, letting it nose around the fridge, skim the pie safe edges and head…..oh no! Roomba had bounced off the pie safe and was now trundling past the kitchen towards the utility room…3 steps down!

I picked up Roomba quickly. The whirring of rollers protested my intrusion. "But it's for your own good" I wanted to say. Well, now I am talking to a thing that has no answer for me except to keep rolling rollers and humming.

I had forgotten to place the "tiny tower of detour" that was also in the box. Battery operated, this little cylinder is placed at a doorway and when switched on. The beam it emits warns off Roomba from going further---like a plane getting an "abort" from the signalman on an aircraft carrier.

Placing the "Tiny Tower" by the stairs, I allowed Roomba to continue safely perambulating the floor. After a while, I carried Roomba carefully upstairs and placed it in a bedroom, closing the door. No need to watch now. It would finish up for the day.

Minding the Baby

I forgot about Roomba. An hour later, when I hadn't heard any humming or movement above me, I cautiously opened the upstairs door. No Roomba. Silence. I found Roomba in the far corner under the desk. Clutched in its roller jaws was the end of the phone cord, pulled from the extension box. I am no forensic detective, but I can only surmise that Roomba caught the long extension cord while humming along under the desk, and proceeded to try to insert it into its small collection box, along with the other dust.

Having roped itself, and alone with no supervision, Roomba had been spinning wheels for some time until the battery ran out. I gently disemboweled the extension cord from Roomba Whew. No damage. I carried Roomba back downstairs to its docking station, placing it directly in contact with the charging points, since Roomba was too worn out to do so itself.

It gave a feeble "beep, beep" and went quiet. Round One was over, and I would let Roomba rest for the night. Round Two would start tomorrow.

I made some rules for myself regarding this new "baby" in the house: 1) Keep an eye on it until it knows its way around. 2)Recognize the power it can generate. 3) Keep clutter out of the way. Simple things to remember---could have used them with our kids.

Did Himself and I watch as closely from toddler steps into adulthood until they "knew their way around "? Did we notice and encourage the potential-the power-in each child and help it to flourish? Did we help them to focus on character and not "clutter"? I hope we did. Either way, with this new "baby" in the house, I won't need to read bedtime stories.

Epilogue:I read on the instructions that I could access an app for my cell phone that will enable me to turn on Roomba when I am away from the house. I don't think I will use that option.

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