Viva La RoombaluciÃ³n!
Chapter 1: Vrrrrrrrroomba!
I get home from the post office and the Roomba is all charged up and ready to go. I have provisionally named the Roomba "RoomBob," knowing that I will have to pick another name for it eventually because I have already named my plant Bob. (…Shut up.) I carry the Roomba into the bedroom and put it on the floor, but before I turn the power on, I stop and observe the cats, both sleeping, each stretched out peacefully in his own sunbeam, unaware of the horror that awaits.
I turn the power on. The Roomba sings a little song, just a few happy little "ready to work now" notes; Little Joe opens one eye, regards the large, flat, round beetle on the floor, and goes back to sleep, but Hobey is immediately suspicious.
"Sorry, cats," I say to them, although I am not really sorry at all, and hit the "clean" button, and as the Roomba cranks up to full whir and does its little starting pirouette, Hobey gives me a glare that could cut glass and bolts under the bed. Little Joe, still half asleep, scrambles down from his chair and heads for the bedroom door, at which time the Roomba shoots back out from under the dresser in front of Joe and heads for the bookcase at the back of the room. Joe jumps a foot in the air and gallops into the closet and hides in a boot.
Chapter 2: The Love Song of J. Alfred Proomba
In the room the felines come and go
Talking of "oh HELL no"
So, Hobey's under the bed, Joe's in the closet, and the Roomba is courting the back tire of my bicycle. When a Roomba hits something, it turns a little and keeps Roombonking into it until it either figures out where the edge lies or it gets sick of the bonking and whirs off at a right angle to go do something else, but my Roomba can't quite figure out the bike, so it's Roombumbling around and conking into the kickstand and the bike is just sort of standing there, the striped cat to the Roomba's Pepe Le Pew. "Aw," I say. "It's the Love Song of J. Alfred Proomba."
But the Roomba is really really into the bicycle — it's, like, nuzzling the gears, and I'm on the point of telling the two of them to get a room(-ba) when the Roomba suddenly makes a Roombeeline under the bed.
You can see where this is going.
Joe is just sticking his head out of the closet when Hobey, whose tail is so incredibly fat that he looks like a funny car trailing a parachute, shoots out from under the bed and hauls ass down the hallway to the living room. Joe's like, "What the he– AAAAAAAAACK!" because hard on Hobey's heels is the Roomba, which is now wearing a giant seventies-porno mustache of lint and cat hair and is, if anything, even more determined to have its way with my bicycle than before.
Joe, seeing an opening, is worm-squirming towards the door when, I swear to God, the Roomba sees him and gives chase. Yeah, yeah, "it can't possibly tell" — it can tell. It knows. Joe pulls a "you've gotta be kidding" face and trots down the hallway, and the Roomba Roombarrels determinedly after him.
Chapter 3: Flight of the Roomblebee
I follow all three of my pets into the kitchen. Hobey is treed on top of the microwave, which is on top of the fridge, and is hiding, hilariously, behind…an avocado. Whatever. Joe is tucked under the couch.
The Roomba is eating their food.
No, really. The Roomba is Roombashing into their bowl; the bowl is tipping from side to side; kibble is spilling out; the Roomba is sucking up the kibble.
I think the Roomba hates my cats.
I think I love the Roomba.
Then the Roomba Roompages over to my standing ashtray and tries to climb it, zips over to the couch and Roombumps into it fifteen times, eats and spits out a phone cord, vacuums my boot, and disappears under the couch. Exit Joe, followed by the Roomba, which has a cat toy trapped in its undercarriage, a state of affairs that causes great conflict for the cats — there's the cat toy, zipping along enticingly on the floor, but in the jaws of their mortal enemy.
Chapter 4: Roombikaze
Satisfied that the Roomba won't suck up anything harmful, I retire to the bedroom — also my home office — to post a recap. Occasionally, out of the corner of my eye, I can see a cat dashing across the room, followed by the Roomba…the other cat fleeing…Roomba…cat…Roomba…catRoombacatRoomba.
Finally, the cats figure it out and skulk back into the bedroom and flop down on the bedroom floor, exhausted. The whirring of the Roomba issues faintly from the other room as it cleans under the kitchen table and near the coat rack. The cats begin to relax.
Roombig mistake. I hear the clarion ka-chonka-chonka-chonka-chonka that means the Roomba has clambered onto the kitchen tile and is heading our way, and I point to the hallway: "Um…cats?"
Sarah: "Okay, but don't say I didn't warn you."
The Roomba heaves into view at the end of the hall, spots the cats, and picks up speed. I swear to God. Hobey slinks under the desk, and Joe sort of stomps towards the closet all put-upon, but the Roomba enters the room as Joe's passing in front of it, and when it spots him, its "dirt detect" light goes on.
The Roomba thinks Little Joe is a 16-pound ball of dirt. The Roomba wants to eat Little Joe.
Chapter 5: Roombellissimo
By the time the Roomba finishes its Roombinistrations, sings its little "all done!" song, and shuts off in the middle of the living room, the cats have pretty much stopped caring. It isn't as loud as the Hoover, or as big, and they can hide from it if they pick a safe surface that isn't the floor — not that they've quite grasped that, of course, so the Roomba follows them around all little Roombrother "I wanna play with you guys!" and the cats keep appealing silently to me like, "Mom, make it quit Roombugging us." Poor J. Alfred, Roombarding my apartment with its whirry, indiscriminate love.
"How well does it clean?" What do you me– wait, it cleans, too? Roombest invention ever!
[Thank you so much to reader JH, who sent me the Roomba. Under my bed has never looked so clean. You're a peach(-ba); proper thank-you note to follow.]
March 7, 2005