Sunday, February 24, 2008


(Written March 18, 1999)

Ah, yes, the Kirby story.
Actually, this is a bit of a misnomer, for although a Kirby figures largely in the telling, it's the people involved that make it a story...

A month or so ago, the doorbell rang after I had gotten the kids home from school. Wait, I guess it was pretty close to nine weeks; because I was seated on the couch having a "discussion" with my younger daughter about how she was capable of more than a "C" in Math, and I understand that another one of those talks is shortly forthcoming. In spite of the fact that I was endeavoring to be firm and fair and not loud in this "discussion," Molly was in tears, and when she cries, the skin around her eyes becomes a screaming blotchy red -- there is no mistaking that she is crying.

So, anyway, the doorbell rings, and I'm not particularly thrilled, because I'm busy, right? I answer, and there stands a man with a sheet of "collector's stamps" in one hand and a small jug of laundry soap in the other. One of these delectable items, he informs me, can be mine if I will just fill out a ten-minute survey, and he hastens to assure me that there is NOTHING to buy. Mind you, I could care less about either item, but he looks at me so wistfully and hopefully, that I figure what the hey, the lecture can wait ten minutes and I agree.

The words are hardly out of my mouth when he says that he just has to run to the car to get what he needs. The next thing I know, his van is driving off, and two teenagers are dragging a Kirby box to my doorway.

"Wait a minute!" I exclaim. "Nobody said anything about this!" But there goes the van, and there they are on my doorstep, with even bigger and sadder puppy-dog eyes than the first guy. What can I do?

In they come. There is the necessary conversation explaining Molly's red eyes, and some general commiseration on the part of the young man, who evidently thought C's were pretty darn desireable, and then they take a stab at beginning their presentation. It soon becomes very apparent that the girl is new to the whole spiel. She later confides that they stayed up nearly all night at the motel going over the routine. In fact, they stayed up so late, that she hadn't felt well, and drank some chocolate milk to help her headache, and she spilled some on her white nike shirt. Could I get her a cloth to clean it with? By this time the mother-feeling-pity is briskly warring with the I-can't-believe-he-tricked-me spirit, so I get her the cloth, and she uses some of the Kirby carpet cleaning solution on her shirt. As the two of them exclaim over what a marvelous job it is doing with the stain, I'm looking at the still very obvious brown spot and thinking "unh- unhh".

On they go. I am treated to such displays of vacuum knowledge and expertise. My couch is vacuumed; I'm shown the filth that resides therein. My TV screen is vacuumed; I'm not only treated to seeing what grime resided upon its surface, but I am also glibly informed that it "has never been so clean before." Thanks a lot, dearie. Didn't they tell you that you shouldn't insult the customer? Molly (at this time mightily recovered, and pretty darn pleased that the momentum I had built in the "discussion" is completely destroyed) volunteers her pillow for the bed-cleaning demonstration, and is suitably gratified at the pile of impurities they gather for her perusal. I am shown how simply twisting the dog-grooming attachment inside out makes a divine apparatus for blowing clogs in the toilet to kingdom come (now where was that little goodie when I needed it? I asked myself), although personally the thought of sticking my vacuum cleaner down the toilet made me feel faintly ill.

By this time, my older daughter has deserted her homework in favor of this much more desireable entertainment. She is just in time for the "shampooing" portion of the Joel and Amy show ( you see, Mother-feeling-pity had discovered their names by this point). Did I have any stains on my carpet? Amy sweetly asks, with the same little smug look she had when she assured me that my tv screen had never been so clean. I avoided looking at her shirt and replied that there were none that I could think of ( I mean, really, she ought to have been able to tell just by looking that the whole darn carpet is a living, breathing stain, but I suppose she learned how to maintain SOME polite fictions). So she chooses perhaps the cleanest spot in the room and tells me that we'll pretend we spilled grape juice there. I resisted the temptation to tell her "Let's just pretend that we're all done with this little show," and suddenly there is a pile of bubbles a good 8 inches thick over the "stain".

I have to admit that at this point, I am mainly thinking what a good story this is going to make for my internet pals. It's the only thing getting me through. There are 27 filter circles spread all over my living room with dust and dirt on them. I have a pile of suds on a fake stain. My asthma is kicking in, big time, and I can hardly breathe enough to maintain my strained smile. And then, the piece de resistance. I am to bring out MY vacuum cleaner to compare to this whiz-bang piece of jet-aircraft technology on a stick. Well, I say, I HAVE a Kirby. They nod encouragingly for me to get it out. Well, I confide, it is rather OLD. Bring it on, they urge. I sashay to the closet and get it out. Their faces register shocked amazement.

My Kirby belonged to my grandma. It is olive green, and it dates to 1958. It runs fine. The motor predates the jet engine version and is easily maintained by my very handy husband. It will live forever, and that's precisely how long I intend to use it. Finally Amy pipes up with "how old IS it?" I proudly reply. They look at each other. "Wow, it's older than WE are!"

"Duh," I charitably smirk to myself.

It was also at this point that I informed these children that I had to leave in fifteen minutes. ( I later defended this statement to Molly when she accused me of lying-- I pointed out that I really did have to leave, because I couldn't stand it another minute) We hastened through the proof that Kirby was better than Kirby (even though he vacuumed that spot 52 times with MY Kirby to simulate a years worth of vacuuming, there was still the de riguer pile of dirt on HIS Kirby filter) and then they spent the next 20 minutes trying to fit everything back in the box, while I filled out my "ten minute survey." By this time, the van was across the street, and off they filed with their survey, and I went and got in the car and drove around until I could breathe again.

And after all of this, I didn't have the heart to finish the "discussion." Molly got the sheet of collector's stamps for her collection, I had a clean spot in front of the barcalounger, Kati had the memory of the brief, frenzied moment that they tried out the dog grooming attachment on Angus (which she found absolutely hilarious), and the three of us went to McDonald's for dinner -- it's just too bad David was out of town and missed the entertainment.

2 comments:

DanisDelusions said...

Thanks for the giggle. There was a brief period of time that my father toyed with the idea of Kirby sales. It was just after he retired from Corrections and he was looking for a way to keep himself busy and supplement the income without upsetting the pension gods *L* He was only in his 40's when he was eligible for retirement so he was feeling restless. He went to the "class" to learn the process of selling and then brought one home to demonstrate. My mother spent the whole time either laughing or staring open mouthed at him with that "are you serious?" look. Thankfully, he realized that it was not the job for him. But I can only imagine how funny it would have been when you pulled out "ol' faithful" Kirby! You write very well, BTW, you definitely keep the reader entertained!

Janet said...

I could read this story over and over again. When I need a lift, I think I will do exactly that.