I’ve lived a bunch of different places over the course of my life. And with a vast array of different people. Sometimes a lot of people, sometimes just a few, and other times just one other person. I even lived alone briefly — without even a pet to keep me company — when I was staying behind in an empty house to fix up and sell it so I could move cross-country.
Anyway, over the years, I’ve had a variety of different roommates. Some of them have been great. Others… well. Look, if you don’t have anything nice to say, I suppose Miss Manners would say to start a new paragraph.
Some of my least considerate roommates have been animals, to be sure. Understandable — because non-human animals aren’t paragons of self-control. (And frankly a lot of human animals aren’t either.)
But I’d have to say that my most annoying roommate at the moment isn’t technically alive. Oh, sure… it moves. It makes messes. Gets in my way. Raises a racket. Causes no end of drama in my home. All while trying to be helpful.
Y’all. This robot vacuum seemed like such a great idea at the time. But Roomba and I have had the most fraught relationship.
Roomba, Great Instigator of Fights
As I’m sitting here typing this essay, I have a fresh memory of Roomba’s antics resulting in tears. I’d had a really rough day due to some chronic illness issues (not COVID). No energy whatsoever. Barely made it through everything I had to do.
But I was proud of myself, you see, for making it work. And when I came back into my office at the end of running a bunch of errands I didn’t know if I could finish when I set out, I was exhausted. I changed into my pajamas and hesitated a moment when I saw my clothes lying there on the floor.
Because, you see, it’s been an awfully long time since I left my clothes on the floor. I used to be a lot worse about that — driving my neatnik partner crazy — but ever since I sold the house and had to have it showroom ready every day for strangers, I haven’t done that.
I had a quick thought hit me as I looked at the clothes I’d dropped: You should really pick up those clothes, Page.
And I almost did.
But everyone around me has told me to cut myself a little slack. Make life easier for myself. Since I haven’t felt well for a long while now. So I said, aloud to myself, like an unbalanced person, “You know what? You’ve hard a hard day. Leave them there.”
I was doing laundry the next morning anyway, I reasoned. I’d just collect them then and do it all at once.
It was a small thing. More symbolic than anything else. But it felt like the right decision.
…until it didn’t.
For you see, my partner directed the Roomba to clean my office, and those clothes got caught up in its guts.
And yes, of course, we fought. Not hard. Not nastily. But I was not in the shape to have any kind of conflict.
My partner understood when I walked them through what had happened. Why my clothes were on the floor. That I actually had a plan to pick them up soon. But I was so wiped out from being drained from trying to do things while sick that I had a really hard time gathering myself so I could deescalate the situation and explain my point of view.
This isn’t the first fight we’ve ever had over the Roomba either. Not even this particular sub genre, where someone has left a small item on the floor and antics ensue.
…And Yet I Still Have Affection for This Weird Little Robot
And yet, even after everything has happened, I still have affection for this weird little robot. Yes, it hits my feet when I’m sleepily trying to make tea in the morning and it needs to clean the kitchen floor right then. Yes, it abducts charging cords unless you have them placed just so. And if — Godzilla forbid — there’s a spill/wet mess on a floor when it happens by, it will plow through boldly splashing whatever substance is everywhere and up into its mechanisms. Ew. (A dangerous combo with two elderly cats also living with us.)
But I have a strange affection for it. We’re improbable besties, me and this annoying robot. In fact, I wrote a Facebook post about this a while back, when we first got Roomba that kind of says it all:
As I am an autonomous living entity, I do chores, but I do them whenever I want to/when I’m thinking of them.
Our Roomba, however, is not alive (despite convincing evidence to the contrary) and so has regularly scheduled routines that Justin has programmed into it via the app.
Justin has told me what these are, but they’re just complicated enough that I don’t really remember them. I have a vague sense of what days of the week and times of day it will vacuum and which rooms it does more than others. But I don’t really know which times are on what days and which rooms it’s vacuuming when.
However, I’ve noticed that pretty much every time I spontaneously decide I’m going to go do my own chores for the day that the Roomba will fire up shortly afterward and start trying to do its business.
So all of a sudden I’m in the robot’s way.
It occurred to me: You know how when two women who menstruate live together (or even spend a lot of time together), their cycles will eventually sync up and they’ll be on roughly the same schedule?
It would seem I’ve done that with the Roomba and chores. Automatically. Without even meaning to.
Human-robot relations continue to fascinate me.