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Wednesday, December 12, 2001

The warranty on my vacuum must have expired. I know this because the machine no longer works. It stopped sucking and started sucking.

This happens at the most inconvenient time, when my formerly-white carpet is buried in pine needles. I was so excited to get my Christmas tree today, a six-foot Douglas fir from the wooded wilderness known as the Target garden department. Suzanne took me over in the van after she got off work this afternoon, and she helped me pick it out. I'd already cleared a space for it in the corner of the living room, so all I had to do when we got it home was stick it in the stand and give it some water.

Before I go on to my vacuuming problems, let me say that the folks at the Santa Rosa Target store (in the Santa Rosa Marketplace on Santa Rosa Avenue) are terrific. No, let me take that back. There's this one guy in the garden department there who actually knows what he's doing. He strapped on his goggles and gloves and took out his chainsaw and hacked off the bottom branches for me, and then he sawed off an inch or so from the bottom of the trunk, and evened it out so the tree would stand up straight.

He also ran it through the netting machine, so we wouldn't get needles all over the van. And he recommended sugar water with aspirin as a preservative. (I'll just use water, though. It worked last year, and I don't need any reason for the ants to find my living room.) All this should have soaked me in that Christmas spirit I've been trying to absorb. And it did, until I tried to vacuum up the loose needles.

Here's the scene: Tree in its stand, a few stray needles scattered around the edge of the sheet I'm using underneath. I pull the vacuum out of the closet, plug it in, turn it on. That's the end of the good news. By the time I gave up, I'd spread needles (and needle parts) over most of the living room. I should have realized earlier on that the machine was chewing up the needles and spitting them back at me, but I couldn't believe what was happening before my very eyes.

After coming to my senses, I lost my mind and started picking up the needles by hand. I didn't see anything else I could do at that point. I was briefly inspired to try the Pledge Sweeper (you know, with the kind you buy refill cloths for). It works great as a dust mop, but for pine needles on the rug it was about as useful as the defective vacuum.

Ah, but guess what. If you have a light enough touch, a common bristle broom can do the job. I learned sweeping from the Yoda of sweeping, a man who imparted much wisdom to me at an age when I thought I knew it all already. He gave me my first full-time job in retail, and the spotless sidewalk in front of his store was one of his trademarks. He wouldn't let me sweep it until he knew I was ready, because the customers would have noticed the difference.

My master taught me well. Not only is it therapeutic to use a broom the way it was meant to be used, but seeing all those pine needles come under my control, after what I'd been through and without having to get down on my hands and knees again, had a calming effect. It gave me hope, which is what the season is all about. Or should be. Used to be, anyhow.


My Christmas tree, unadorned.

The rug actually looks better than it has in a long time, after I swept it off this afternoon. I don't know why anyone needs a vacuum cleaner if it's this easy. All they need is a lesson in how to use a broom. (Ooh - like in that movie!)

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Wanna get in the Christmas spirit? Jolene has some great pictures of Jessica (linked in her December 11 entry) that ought to do the trick!

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One year ago: Making It Count

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