Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Back when I was working at Nova, there was a British employee who introduced me to the use of "Hoover" to mean "any vacuum cleaner" much in the same way that Americans use "Kleenex" to mean any facial tissue or "Q-tip" to mean any cotton swab He said that he and his wife needed to "hoover" their floors because of the dust mites living in the tatami, but they hadn't purchased a "hoover" yet. (Incidentally, Japanese people use "Hotchkiss" to mean "stapler" is a similar adoption of a brand name as a generic item name.)

In my Nova days, both my CH and I were working full-time at our respective schools and one of the first things that fell by the wayside was vacuuming duty. There were times when the floor of our apartment had accumulated so much debris that it was necessary to scrape off the bits that stuck to our feet before getting into bed lest we drag crumbly bits into the sheets. That's not an admission of which I'm especially proud. However, it's also obviously not one of which I'm especially ashamed either or I wouldn't be admitting it here. And don't ask what it was that we were stepping in as it's been awhile and I don't remember. However, based on what tends to accumulate on the carpets these days, I'd guess it's lint from doing laundry, tiny bits of paper from torn edges of various paper products, (my very long) hair, mature dust bunnies, and crumbs from food preparation and consumption.

As I'm sure is the case with many people, I have harbored an intense dislike for vacuuming more than many other household tasks. In the past, during our salad days of debris-strewn floors, I'd enlist my CH to take care of it about once a month when I couldn't stand it anymore and he was fine to do it. Since quitting my full-time job and inviting private students into my house, I don't have the "luxury" of vacuuming only once a month. Now, I have to do it at a minimum of twice a week or risk my poor students having to brush debris off of their feet after being seated on the sofa.

Since I have an apartment which is so small that the power cord on the vacuum can stretch and reach all rooms, you'd think it wouldn't be such a big deal. The entire task usually takes no more than 15 minutes, and even that is with my hitting some nooks and crannies and the walls and maybe a computer keyboard. Still, I find lugging out the vacuum, assembling its hose and dragging it around the apartment an odious task 85% of the time. The only time I enjoy it the least little bit is just after the vacuum cleaner bag has been changed. At that point, it has extreme suction power and it's an effort to move it along the carpet. If it happens to suck up an errant corner of a sheet or a piece of paper, I have to turn it off and extract the object from its ravenous orifice.

The reason its satisfying when the suction is hyper-powered is that I feel like it's really digging in and doing something. When it's at its average power, it just seems like its doing no better than I could with a broom and some vigorous sweeping of the topsoil. Of course, it's really important to actually use a vacuum cleaner in Japan or your ankles will get nipped to pieces by "dani bugs" (dust mites) so any thought of cleaning with an old-fashioned sweep is off the table.

It's not so bad, really, but there are times when I say 'damn the students' feet' and just let it go for a whole week. As far as I know, no one has ever dropped my lesson because of a dirty floor, but somehow I doubt they'd tell me if they gave up English study because my crumbs stuck to their toes.


Wally Wood said...

Actually, I enjoy vacuuming and as soon as the cast comes off my broken ankle (tomorrow), I plan to go back to doing my share of the housework. We have an upright vacuum, so all I have to do is plug it in--no hoses, no attachments. And there is something satisfying in a perverse way to see the design on the carpet nap that says, "I'm clean."

Orchid64 said...

I'm sorry about your ankle, Wally! I'm glad to hear that it's getting better though.

I had an upright vacuum, but they're not good enough in Tokyo. You have to vacuum the walls and the space is so small that you need something finer for the small corners (because of furniture). You have to have something with a hose and attachments.

My carpet, incidentally, doesn't have deep enough pile to even have a nap. ;-)

Thanks for commenting!

badmoodmike said...

You have induced me to vacuum my carpets! I've put it off since I've been on vacation this week.

I guess I should say "dyson" my carpets, since my parental units purchased me a fancy-schmancy Dyson vacuum for a housewarming gift. I was shocked and amazed by how much stuff it picked up the first time I used it. That was not long after vacuuming twice, using a carpet cleaner and vacuuming again just before I moved in.

They say they don't lose suction, and I'm here to say they aren't kidding!

Orchid64 said...

Now I have both Dyson and vacation envy! Harrumph!

I bet your vacuum cleaner is so big compared to a Japanese one that it'd refuse to fit in my closet. ;-)

CMUwriter said...

My sister bought a Dyson and she said it is one of the best "Hoovers" she has ever used in her life. My current situation is much like orchid's, although not as extreme. This was because my vacuum died one day, and the other alternative is my DirtDevil "edge Wedge" vac, which is made for using on stairs, and not large floors. It sucks.

Orchid64 said...

I've considered getting one of those small hand vacuums for the sofa and some of the small spaces, but then I consider storing one and think it's not worth bothering.

I would find it impossible to vacuum the floor with one of those and would have bought a new vacuum cleaner by now if I were in your shoes, CMUwriter!

Thanks for commenting.

CMUwriter said...

Perhaps I should have described it better, it is not a hand vac, although I could use one of those, but a very small upright, that doesn't have a circulating brush. The vac is shaped like a "V" so it can get into corners and edges of walls, and stairs. It works magic on stairs, and edges, but sucks (no pun intended) for large floor areas.

badmoodmike said...

I wouldn't be too envious. :)

Dysons are great, but I would never have bought one for myself. They are ridiculously expensive. Mother and father bought one for themselves because they decided to go expensive on a new "hoover" to see if they hold up better. So far, theirs is holding up great after two years. Traditionally they would have bought three new cheapie vacs in that amount of time. They liked it so much that they decided to get me one.

Mother vacuums daily because of all the dog hair generated by the two goldens. They, quite literally, have a whole additional dog volume-wise by the end of the week.

I have the Dyson Slim, which is quite small by US vacuum standards and is nice and maneuverable. It is considerably quieter than my old beat-up vacuum I had before.

At least you have a closet to put yours in! :) I have to put mine in the corner by the attic stairs in the "kitchendiningatorium". I have very little in the way of closet space in my house...things either get set out for everyone to see in the living areas, or gets stored in the Great Basement Sea or the Attic Broiler.