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The Art Of The Vacuum

The Art Of The Vacuum

I don’t know how it is that vacuuming became known as woman’s work. Almost everything about vacuum cleaners is guy oriented. Whenever a new model is offered, it’s a guy who invented it, and it’s usually a guy who is trying to sell it, too. Vacuums have names like Wind Tunnel, Vortex and Tornado. I’m not sure, but I don’t think women are impressed with these heroic names. I grew up with Kirby vacuums that looked like old Buicks: wide and lots of chrome. Later, Hoovers were very popular. They were lighter and painted pastel colors not unlike the perfect rows of homes in Edward Scissorhands, but these new machines are aggressive, dirt-eating monsters bent on devouring everything but the carpet. My vacuum (yes, it’s mine—I got it for my birthday) even displays its horsepower rating on its hood like a late ’60s muscle car. It is so powerful I recently sucked up a low-hanging tablecloth, pulling over the table it was on. In fact, my vacuum became the rope in an epic tug of war between the table and me. I nearly lost an arm. It was cool.

I’m a guy. I own great tools, which I probably paid way too much for because I love the way they feel in my hands. I own a $70 pocketknife that says Snap-on Tools 1920-80 Years-2000. It’s manufactured by Kershaw, and it’s called the Wild Turkey. I can shave the hairs off my knuckles with it. (Ladies, insert your own joke here.) It’s the only thing I’ll ever use it for because it’s too dangerous and frankly too expensive to be cutting things with. I get it out every few months and just hold it. I imagine myself having to defend innocents. Then I inadvertently cut myself or something next to me, which causes me to put it away until I want to impress another guy. I’m holding it now … ouch!

But I digress. The vacuum is mine because it is a fine tool; when the belt breaks, like after I sucked up the power cord, I can fix it with my other tools. It’s loud, metallic blue and comes with an awesome array of optional equipment. I admire this icon of clean. This monument of … I’ve gone too far, haven’t I?

Mostly, I like the way vacuuming makes me feel. It brings order to my world. My vacuum allows me to actually clean something up. I can make it right again. I get to choose which way the lines in the carpet will run. Horizontal, vertical or maybe diagonal will be the order of the day. The hum of the motor, the sound of paper clips rattling around the brush until they give up and hurl themselves into the abyss, that slightly burnt electric smell—it all works for me. I can see that I have accomplished something when I’m done. So much of life fails to give us this kind of resolution. Think of this: Your chosen employment never gets finished, or you’d be out of work; relationships require constant care, or they’re lost; Christian ministry is like working for the postal service—it never stops and the holidays are the worst. But vacuuming has a clear beginning and a satisfying end. Granted, I’ll have to do it again, but that’s like telling NASCAR guys that, like it or not, they’ll have to drive in circles again next week. No, there is great joy in this for me. It sounds silly and simplistic, but mostly I feel settled in my soul when I vacuum.

These days I’m employed as a guitarist. Technically, I’m a worship leader, but despite my knowledge of music, ministry and how they work together to glorify Christ, I know it all hinges on my ability to play six strings like I’m still in a garage band thumbing my nose at my elders. My elders now pay me for this. How ironic. The Sunday morning after the Christmas Eve service I saw that no one had vacuumed the carpet, which was a mess. I retrieved the church’s vacuum, a lovely red model that sucks like those tubes at the drive-up teller window at the bank and smells good too, and began to make the world right again for worshipers and God. When I finished, an older lady commented on the good job I had done. I told her that the church paid me, and it didn’t matter whether I was playing guitar or vacuuming—it was all in the wrist. She nervously laughed and quickly walked away. Maybe I should show her my shaved knuckles.

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