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To buy a plum bun

January 7, 2011
The GTS at Kmart

Yes, Kmart is still in business (Orin O'Neill photos)

I’m pretty sure there are no monsters under my bed. But dust bunnies? Ah, that’s another matter.

I used to have a nice vacuum cleaner, but when my membership in the middle class ended abruptly a couple years ago, it had to go. I got 40 bucks for it, which is considerably less than I paid, but hey.

The crash pad in Portland had one I could use, but I’ve been going without a vacuum cleaner since I moved to the foothill villa. I can sweep loose crud off the linoleum with a broom, and the industrial-grade carpet hides dust & dirt rather well.

But that carpet has taken on enough of a gray mask to make me think it’s time to do a better job of housekeeping. I need a vacuum cleaner.

What’s on Craigslist? Kirbys, which have this kinda steampunk thing going on (and which were hideously expensive devices sold by sleazy door-to-door salesmen when I was a kid); Dirt Devils, which in my experience don’t work very well and self-destruct rather easily. And Dysons.

I admire James Dyson. Not because I think he’s such a wonderful person—the guy comes across as a total a*****e in his commercials—but because he has the chutzpah to charge $600 for a vacuum cleaner. And people pay it!

It’s not that the technology he talks about is bovine excrement; how well air inside the machine moves does indeed affect how well dirt and dust get sucked up.

But OMG, conventional (i.e., not made by Dyson) vacuum cleaners LOSE SUCTION!!! Yeah, but if you empty the bag/canister of a conventional (i.e., not made by Dyson) vacuum cleaner and clean the filter once in a while, the suction will return. Really, it will.

As far as I can tell, people fork over the c-notes because 1) Mr. Dyson’s upper-class British accent gives him credibility among people likely to think $600 for a vacuum cleaner is a good deal, and 2) his company takes full advantage of the underlying fear of not being perceived as cool that underpins all marketing taking place in the U.S. over the last 30 years.

Back when I had my condo, I gave several tutorials on the subject of how to use a plunger to my Gen-X/Y neighbors who’d mentioned they’d paid a plumber an ungodly sum of money to unclog their toilets. They were amazed. They’d never seen a plunger before. And they almost universally had no idea what things actually cost. Six c-notes for a vacuum cleaner seemed like a bargain to them. So did six grand for a flat-panel TV, but that’s another subject.

I’d found a couple of possibilities at big-box stores’ Web sites, but the sun was out. And I had discovered how to get to the Kmart at Sunset Square without using I-5. And we’re in for another cold snap. And because the best way to keep gas from going bad is to burn it. 😉

Kmart had some appealing choices in the $60-70 range, but that’s a bit rich for my blood. They do layaways, I think, but there’s a Goodwill store next door. Let’s go see what they have. As I walked toward the door, this caught my eye.

Razor electric scooter for kids

There wasn’t one on display, but the illustration on the box shows styling that’s kind of a mashup of Honda Metropolitan and Yamaha Vino 50. Claimed top speed is 15 mph, which is not much slower than electric scooters intended for riding in traffic by adults. I see this one is called the “Sweet Pea Pocket Mod”. There’s also a base model without the streamers, in any color you want as long as it’s lavender. From the Web page:

The Pocket Mod™ gives every young girl with an eye for fashion and a passion for fun a set of wheels that is sure to be the hottest ride on the block. Vintage-inspired styling meets high performance with the classic Italian scooter design.

Razor electric scooter for kids

Look carefully—you’ll notice it has an under-seat storage compartment! This thing is endorsed by Teen Vogue, so it must be good, right? The box says it’s recommended for riders 13 and older. In France and Italy, 14-year-olds (girls and boys) can ride road-legal 50cc scooters, on the street, without a driver’s license. I don’t have kids, but if I did I can assure you I’d rather have them riding in traffic on a 50 than toddling down a sidewalk on one of these things.

Let’s review: The messages being sent by this thing are 1) a scooter is a toy; 2) scooters are only for girls; 3) it’s okay to wear a bicycle helmet when riding a scooter. *Sigh!*

In the door at Goodwill, I head straight for the housewares section. There is a veritable used vacuum cleaner lot in the corner! How much? Fifteen bucks?! Well, $14.99. There are a couple others for $19.99, and there’s even a Kirby for $39.99. Some steampunk fan would love that one, but I spot a $14.99 item that has all the tools, and even a place for an extra bag.

But how am I going to get it home? Yeah, I could probably bungee it to the GTS, but it’s windy, and the pavement is wet. It would make a good sail. Maybe I can pay for it and have them hold it while I run home and fetch the Fourth Estate?

No prob, says the lady at the checkout. A sign says they’ll hold purchases for up to 24 hours. I won’t need anywhere near that much time.

My new-to-me vacuum cleaner

The sun came out, the heavens smiled, and it was good.

I couldn’t wait to test my new acquisition. Unspool the cord, plug it in, and turn it on. It sucked up the debris on the carpet like nobody’s business.

And emitted a B.O. smell to rival the one in Jerry Seinfeld’s BMW.

Well, the bag was full. I removed the bag and tossed it in the Dumpster, but there’s still B.O. smell in the bag compartment.

Not a problem. Wipe it down with a white vinegar/water mixture and install a fresh bag, and all should be well. Fred Meyer has vacuum cleaner bags.

It’s still light, and the pavement is drying. I’ll make this trip on the GTS, of course. Favicon

  1. mark morris permalink
    January 7, 2011 10:48 pm

    You still have Kmarts!! These stores are all closed around here.

    Your story about the young people and the plunger amazes me. Do these peoples’ parents teach them anything at all?

    Good luck with the vacuum cleaner. And a belated Happy New Year!

  2. January 8, 2011 3:56 pm

    You freak of nature you… all those opinions! Good job. Great read.

  3. January 8, 2011 5:53 pm

    I read the title and the ditty “to market, to market, to buy a plum bun…” kept playing in my head. I don’t know why and I don’t know why you titled the post such.

    It’s no wonder they didn’t know how to use a plunger. Not only doesn’t their shit clog a toilet but it doesn’t stink either probably.

    Good luck with the vacuum cleaner. A treasure!

    Steve Williams
    Scooter in the Sticks

  4. January 9, 2011 11:58 am

    mark, I was at a party the other night listening to a friend tell a story about how he overheard a parent berating a child for not being able to tie his shoes. “What are they teaching you in school, anyway?” the parent said. My parents taught me to tie my shoes; same deal with just about everyone I know.

    Steve, I gave this post the title I did because it sort of relates to an earlier post about carrying a week’s worth of groceries on the GTS. I have a hard time writing headlines, so I’ve fallen into a pattern of using song titles or song lyrics. I’m not surprised the nursery rhyme popped into your head. And a plum bun seemed to fit better than a fat pig (jiggedy-jig) or a fat hog (jiggedy-jog)…

  5. January 9, 2011 5:55 pm

    I’m happy to report after wiping the inside of the bag compartment down and squirting a few shots of lavender room freshener down the hose the B.O. smell is GONE! The living room rug is now clean!

  6. January 10, 2011 7:16 pm

    A little late to offer advice, but you can always try dusting the carpet with a light coating of baking soda and then vacuum. Dual effect: carpet smells better and so does the vacuum!

    Happy Belated New Year!

  7. January 11, 2011 1:28 pm

    I shop Kmart and the occasional thrift shop. What you don’t spend in one place you can spend in another. Like on motorcycle stuff.

    Somehow I thought you were going to make a carpet cleaner out of the Razor. Oh well.

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