I have a confession to make. It’s a big one. And has been weighing heavily upon my conscience for many years.
Here it is: I have a phobia of vacuum cleaners. What? Did you think I was going to confess to some heinous crime or something? Come on, you know me better than that!
I have always thought I was alone in this particular insanity, but I just Googled it and there’s even a term to describe it….Zuigerphobia…although it seems to not show up in any medical references whatsoever. I think somebody might very well have made it up. The dubious origins of the word, however, do not diminish the fact that there were hundreds of hits on my search to show that there are many others who are similarly afflicted. Not that I found any useful ways to overcome it, mind you, other than the advice to just ‘suck it up”! LOLOLOL….sorry, could not resist.
I probably should have written this down about twenty years ago when it was all still fresh in my mind. The little gray cells are not what they used to be and it will probably now lose something in the translation. However, if my experiences could help just one other person, then my work here is done. Noble little thing, aren’t I? In truth, this is just yet another attempt to make people giggle at my expense. The story of my life.
Actually, the reason for this belated confession is to make amends to my boss, to whom I told a tiny white lie a year or two ago. I had just disclosed his all-encompassing phobia to a car full of our peers (with hilarious results, but that is another story and oh, yes, it will be written!) which prompted a discussion among us later about what we’re all afraid of. When the question was posed to me (my boss was, most assuredly, looking for something to exploit for later revenge) I calmly stated that nope, I wasn’t afraid of anything. Not a thing. Nope, not me. Shame on me, I know, but would you have done it differently? After all, said boss is a practical joker and I knew that revealing my Achilles heel would result in torment for the rest of my natural life.
Yeah, yeah, I’m still waffling and have yet to get to the story. I know. This is traumatic. Cut me some slack!
So….once upon a time, many years ago, I was the manager of a retail store. We had only four employees (including me) so we were all called upon to do everything from stocking the shelves and helping customers to cleaning up at the end of each day. This included vacuuming the floor every night before we closed up. <shudder> Being a place of business, we did not have a silly little household vacuum to do the work….oh no….we had one of those industrial Kirby things that looks like it might well have landed from another planet in the hopes of taking over one day. What did I care, it did the job.
This particular evening I dragged this monstrosity out to the retail floor, removed several boxes of shoes from a lower shelf, crawled in there and plugged in the cord. Yes, that WAS the only electrical outlet available, I’m sure the designers of the store had a good laugh about that one. With the beast plugged in, I step on the little foot switch to turn it on and commence vacuuming. I get through the first aisle and halfway down the second when it suddenly shuts down. I assume that I have inadvertently pulled the cord from the socket and go to check. Nope, still plugged in. I head back to the machine and while I am still about ten feet away it starts up again of its own accord and begins running helter skelter between the two racks of shoes, banging into shelves and leaving chaos in its wake. Ooookay, maybe there’s just a loose wire in the cord or something and all of my jiggling with it fixed the issue. I wrangle the thing back under my control and go on about my business. Two minutes later it shuts off again. This time I wonder if perhaps there is an issue with the on/off switch. I tap it with my foot. Nothing. Tap it again. Still nothing. Now I’m wondering if maybe I’m just not pushing the button in properly with my foot since I’m wearing boots so I lean down to push it with my fingers. ZAP! Ever seen those movies where someone gets electrocuted and they fly backwards? Yep, that was me. Slammed right into the 8’ tall shelf behind me and crumpled to a heap on the floor while cheap shoes were raining down on my head from above.
The first thing I do is check to make sure none of my employees witnessed any of this. They would never respect me again if they had. While I’m sure that being surrounded by shoes is a fantasy of many women (including myself), being surrounded by CHEAP shoes after being thrown across the room by an electrical appliance is not the stuff of dreams by any stretch of the imagination.
This is now war. Cleaning is not fun, at least not for normal people. Cleaning while being assaulted by a vacuum cleaner is even less so. I’ll be damned if it’s going to get the better of me.
The plug is still plugged so I’ll have to deal with the demonic machine itself. I pick myself up off the floor and stride purposefully towards the vacuum/beast/alien invader with as much confidence as I can muster. I can only imagine that showing this thing any weakness whatsoever would spell my certain doom. It is sitting there looking oh so innocent. I take the handle in my grip and tap the switch again with some force. Ok, so in the meantime I’m also ducking and covering my head with my free hand because, let’s face it, I don’t want this thing to decide it might be a good idea to start pelting me with plastic high-heeled pumps. It turns on, just as it was supposed to, and I’m left looking like some kind of spastic idiot in a half crouch.
I peek at it cautiously, see that it is running exactly as it should and decide that it was all either an anomaly or I have a greater imagination than I had previously thought. I continue with my cleaning. Yes, I’m keeping a close eye on it in case it goes all Transformers on me or something, but it’s behaving itself so I finally calm down.
I am now approximately ¾ of the way through the store and looking forward to finally being done and going home. And it shuts off. Again. Ok, to hell with it. One aisle that doesn’t get sucked clean for one night isn’t going to be the end of the world, right? I’ll just pack this POS back into the back room and get someone to look at it tomorrow. It has already pretty much tasered me, I’m not about to check it out any further for fear that it might have grown fangs and claws and decided to test them out.
I start to walk down the aisle to go unplug it and made the horrendous mistake of turning my back on it. It starts up again. I freeze in my tracks. The age-old question rears its ugly head; do I turn around and see why it’s growling quietly behind me or do I just run for my life? Had this been a horror movie you would all now be screaming “run, run, don’t look behind you, just RUN!” So yep, you guessed it, I turned around.
Have any of you seen or read “Christine”? The demonic, homicidal car that had a life all its own? Great book, favorite author and all that, but that does not mean that I want to relive any of those experiences in real life. As I turned to face this evil, hateful piece of machinery I suddenly realize that I might just be in over my head. The headlights came on (they never worked before) and the sound of the motor started to increase in volume and intensity. I am no longer trying to pretend any kind of confidence or bravery on my part, but my damn feet just will not move. And then it lunges at me.
Please keep in mind; this is a vacuum cleaner, not a lawn mower. It is NOT self-propelled. At least it didn’t come that way from the factory. In my fright, I try to jump backwards away from it and just manage to get my feet all tangled up so that I end up in a heap on the floor again. It stops just inches away from me and growls. I kid you not. I start to crab-walk backwards on all fours and it advances. Once I finally manage to regain my feet, I decide there is nothing left to do but run for all I’m worth and unplug this hellish hunk of metal before it manages to do some serious damage to my extremities. I run straight down the aisle I’m currently in and halfway up the aisle next door. After all, the fact that it was moving on its own is weird enough, no way will it be able to make the turn and….oh no…no…tell me it isn’t so….yep, it made the turn and is now right behind me and picking up speed quickly. At this point, I’m fairly certain I was making some rather pathetic mewling sounds that are becoming closer and closer to actual screams, but nobody came to offer any assistance. My employees are probably huddled together in the bathroom hoping that whatever it is eats me and then goes elsewhere with a full belly. It’s just as well. I doubt I really wanted them to see me running full tilt, in high heels, while screaming and waving my arms around frantically like a demented bird.
I’m now in the home stretch, running down the final aisle towards the plug while Christine is nipping at my heels. (Yes, it was forever named Christine after this and no, I never touched that bitch again.) My screams are no longer incoherent sounds but more like “pull the plug, pull the plug, if you value your damn jobs you will PULL THAT FREAKING PLUG” One of my employees reaches out from the back room and yanks the plug as she comes around the corner. What does she see? Her boss, disheveled as hell, hair all over the place, dripping in sweat and panting from exertion. And a nice, quiet, well-behaved vacuum cleaner that looks about as menacing as a basket full of kittens. Yes, I told her the story. No, she did not believe me. And no, Christine never attacked anyone else to my knowledge. I wouldn’t know for sure, I quit that job soon after. After all, she used to sit in the corner of the back room and snicker quietly at me when nobody else was within earshot. It was only a matter of time before I was sucked into oblivion. Or committed.