My husband started it.
He fell for the initial pitch of a fledgling vacuum salesperson. He fell sucker for her newness, the contest and the vacation they dangled in front of her. So he made an appointment.
Things derailed a little after that, there was a cancellation, a reschedule and a few billion calls from the company. I really didn’t want to deal with it, but in the end, it fell into my hands, so I decided to make the most of it.
And because I still haven’t learned not to test fate, I posted this Facebook status that morning.
The first girl (oh yes, of course there was more than one) forgot her demo kit. I felt bad — she was young and she looked like she was going to cry. Plus, I didn’t know how well my husband knew her. So I softened. I told her I was home all day, to go back and get her stuff and return.
While I was out checking the mail, her appointment setter called, thanked me for my patience and let me know that Amy was unable to return. But that another rep, Dorothy, would be by in a couple of hours.
Whatever. Q’s little buddy B was dropped off and the two five-year-old boys commenced wrecking the spotless living room. Oh well.
One o’clock slipped by, then two o’clock. Then three. And I figured she just wasn’t coming. I started baking banana whoopie pies, considering dinner and generally making a mess in the kitchen.
At little after four she knocked on the door. She looked tired and flustered as she introduced herself, and I invited her in, apologizing for the mess.
She apologized profusely for being so late, she got lost on the way, fighting with her first time use of a GPS on the back roads between here and Madison.
She was wearing a giant yellow smiley face pin, with the contest logo arched over the rapidly blinking red eyes.
She deposited her folder and a giant tote bag on the floor of my kitchen and began to ask about my vacuum, household allergies and whether we had any pets.
She asked the last while being buffeted by the St Bernard tail that was wagging furiously right next to her.
“Oh, my God, I forgot my kit.” So off she goes to her car, returning with her kit. By “kit” I mean a factory box containing an unassembled vac, packed by a Tetris master.
She began talking…and talking…as she put the vac together. When she got to the point to attaching the power head she leaned over to grasp the heavy piece.
And in a perfect culmination of timing, the boys walked into the room as she leaned over and they fell silent for the moment that she ripped out a terrible fart.
B spoke first. “That lady just farted.”
“Boys, why don’t you go play upstairs?”
They minded me, but, because they’re five, the continued talking about it as they went through.
“That was a really loud fart.”
“It’s ok though, ’cause she said, ‘Pardon me,’ which is just like saying ‘Excuse me’ for old people.”
Scarlet, she abandoned the power head and reached for her bag, extracting a bottle of what looked like dry gas, and an almost empty Poland Springs water bottle with the label torn off.
Feeling bad, I offered her coffee.
“No thanks,” she said, “I am a water drinker.” She took a deep, gathering breath and opened the Poland Springs bottle to take a small sip.
Then the strangest look came over her face. Her brows drew down, she pursed her lips, and her chin jutted out, just a bit. Without speaking, she got up and went outside, holding up a single finger to assure me that she would be only a moment.
Assuming she was having some more gas problems, I started filling the whoopie pies, which of course, drew in the dog.
She returned with a smaller box under her arm — the shampoo piece — she had forgotten that in her first two trips.
I called her over to me, but that just made it worse. The giant dog face was removed and replaced by the giant dog butt with the wildly swinging tail. But Dorothy was valiant, and pushed on despite the dog.
Back to the power head. Finally, mercifully, it clicked into place. She smacked the top of the machine like it was a compliant farm animal and sat back to regroup. And talk some more. Soooo much more. About her day, the GPS, forgetting some of her kit at her last stop and having to double back for it.
I let it play out, figuring the machine was together, we were moving along, even if she had already been there for over an hour.
I only realized how long because at that moment B’s mom showed up to collect her little.
And poor Dorothy had to wait while I did the mom thing, calling the boys down, gathering toys and shoes and saying thanks.
And Nibs loved B’s sister, so that rudder-like tail was flailing madly with her attention, smacking Dorothy to knock her glasses askew and pulling the demonic smiley pin off to clatter on the floor.
She replaced the pin and tried to smile as the family exited. Moving into the next stage of the demo, she disengaged the power head and began talking about the various attachments. She cleaned my baseboards, an iron piece hanging on the wall and between the cupboards, showing me each little filter as she went.
Now we’re in a groove.
But…”Oh no! I forgot to do the first step! I forgot to do your rugs while I had the power head attached.” She looked like she was about to cry.
Back to the painful business of attaching the power head and more talking. More about allergies and asthma and she mentioned the fact that she smokes.
That power head would not work. I took pity on her and admitted that I could use a cigarette, so I invited her outside, thinking a smoke would calm her down and let us carry on with this demo.
It might have worked, but when we came back inside and she moved to take off her business jacket, she discovered that she had accidentally pinned the evil smiley all the way through to her shirt, so her blazer just hung from her shirt, trapping her right arm inside.
A nicer person might have moved to help, but I don’t like touching people that I don’t know, so I let her battle it out herself, watching while she tried to fold the fabric around to find the pin mechanism, that right arm having all the range of a T-Rex arm.
And this took long enough to be funny, for me to check my laughter and sober, then cycle back around to funny a second time. She was like a living, breathing Monty Python skit.
She finally got that malevolent smiley face undone and moved to the vac again. One more deep breath before she picked up the Poland springs bottle again, uncapping it and draining it in two long pulls.
Only one swallow though.
Her mouth full, she leapt to her feet and raced to my sink, spitting the water out, then gagging and spitting some more.
“I have got to stop putting my soap into my empty water bottles.” She spit and gagged again.
I offered her coffee, but she shook her head, her lips pressed together tightly. Then, she put the same bottle under my tap and took another pull.
So of course there was more spitting and gagging and really, this is turning into a fresh new Hell.
Finally, she recovered herself and popped a mint to kill the flavor of carpet shampoo before returning to battle against the power head. Another good-animal smack when she won, then she stood up and announced that she needed another smoke break.
When she came in, I was on the phone with my husband. She heard me tell him I was going to give Q a bath and start dinner soon.
I was optimistic. I mean, we’d done the attachments, the floor was small, how much longer could she be?
She did the power-head demo without incident. Awesome.
Then she started talking about the beds. Just wanting this whole thing over, I guided her upstairs. She arranged her little filters — black this time — and began looking for an outlet.
“Unplug the Christmas lights,” I said, pointing under the sloped part of the ceiling. “But watch your head.”
“Oh,” she said, “I know to watch my head in rooms like this.” She bent to unplug the lights. “My daughter has ceilings like this too.” She plugged in the vac then promptly stood up, smashing her skull into the corner of the slope hard enough to make me cringe.
She sank down to sit on the edge of the bed.
She gave a full body shake, like a dog shedding water, then launched into the discussion of how many pounds of dead skin cells and mite poop were likely in our mattress — none of which I wanted to know.
We descended the stairs and returned to the vacuum. Which, up until now, had no handle attached. She demonstrated how easy it was to attach, how to flip the release that would allow the handle to lie flat for pushing beneath beds, and how easy it was to return it to the upright position.
So easy, in fact, that when she pushed the little lever, the handle shot upright and clocked her in the side of her head.
She didn’t even acknowledge it. She just stood and vacuumed the entire living room.
All that was left was the sales pitch. But she was hot, and needed another smoke break.
While she was out, I started running Q’s bath.
She came in and started talking numbers. “…everything you’ve seen today, the vacuum, the shampooer attachment — the shampooer attachment!”
No. For the love of all that is holy, please, no.
I tried to nip it in the bud. I told her I wasn’t really interested in that piece, anyway, what would it be for just the vacuum.
But of course, she was new. She didn’t know. So she called her boss.
But she called from her cell phone, and given that I am in a dead zone it rapidly devolved into shouting incoherent sentence fragments into a useless piece of plastic.
“Please,” I said, “just use the house phone.”
And of course the line was busy. But a call came in on her cell, and she answered without looking. It was her daughter, and because the world has a gleeful diabolical streak, the call was clear.
“We’ve got a tote of crab!”
For the next five minutes she and her daughter shrieked back and forth about picking crab-meat and making plans.
When the call was over, she still didn’t have an answer to my question.
“Q, can you go check the tub?”
Off he went, coming back to let me know it was full. I excused myself for a moment, explaining what I was doing. I made it a point to speak to Q again when I got to the point that she could hear me.
“It needs about 10 minutes to cool down, bud. But we’ll be done by then. You go play for a few minutes.”
But…but…while I was checking the tub, she had put together the shampooer and flipped it on as I stepped into the room.
Defeated, I slouched into a kitchen chair. Moments later my husband came home. This marked the four hour point in the demo. I made my hand into a gun and pointed it at him.
“You did this.” I mouthed.
She finished the rug and began to clean the pieces. All that was left was getting her out.
And a round of Master Tetris, played by a noob.
She disassembled the machine, laid the pieces on the floor according to her diagram. She placed all the pieces in, put the cover on, only to discover that she hadn’t put the attachment set in.
Everything back out of the box. Everything back in the box, but the box won’t close. Everything out of the box. Everything in the box, and another piece left over. Everything back out of the box.
Finally, finally, she won.
And the phone rang. Her boss. Now it was time for the pitch, the numbers. Yes, I could have it without the shampooer. They could defer the start of payments until February. I knocked them down, and down and down. But not quite far enough. I had to say no.
Which kind of sucked. I felt so bad for her. And really, when your own vacuum leaves all of this behind, it’s time for a new one: So, after four and a half hours, I helped her out to the car with her things and gave her directions that didn’t rely on her GPS.
And the worst part of the whole ordeal?
Now I really want that damn vacuum.