Lonely Vacuum


Kate and I went for a walk after dark. A few blocks from home, we passed an abandoned upright vacuum cleaner, standing forlorn on the corner. Cord unraveled, bag flaccid, partially detached and flopped on the sidewalk. You could almost read its life history: from youthful vigor as a partner in the war on household grit, leaving behind no donut crumb or sinsemilla seed; through wheezing middle age that saw it sometimes leave flecks of granola embedded in the living room carpet, even after half a dozen passes; to tired, inefficient old age in which even wayward Cheetos and carelessly sprinkled Baco-Bits scoffed at its feeble sucking powers.

I saw the discarded appliance and my first impulse was to take it and stand it up in the middle of the intersection. It’s not a busy corner, and I don’t think it would be a significant safety hazard. But I just liked the idea of drivers encountering this thing in the middle of the street. The one flaw I could see in my idea was that I’d have to hang around for a while to watch the fun begin. I didn’t have the patience to wait around for my brainstorm’s possibly Letterman-esque consequences. Also, Kate didn’t wholly approve of the concept.

Her response was to imagine posing the vacuum cleaner on different corners in town; sort of an instant interactive “found art” piece. She thought about hanging a sign on it, asking passersby to pick it up and take it someplace interesting, take a picture of it, and send it to us; then we could publish the pictures online. She spun the whole idea out in about half a block, to the point we were imagining the vacuum cleaner riding BART for the day, appearing in a grocery line, getting set up at a public phone.

We didn’t do it, though. Later, I did manage to go back to the corner and snap the vacuum’s picture.