Friday, April 16, 2010

Why use a sledgehammer when a Shop-vac will do?

We’re anticipating a weekend visit from my cousin, his wife, their two toddlers, and their teenage Bosnian exchange student.

Though Pythagoras and I are ignorant about children, we had a sneaking suspicion at least one of our guests might be inclined to grab fistfuls of pet fur from under the sofa and eat them.

My money was on my cousin.

No matter, we needed to clean. I spent yesterday changing the sheets in the guest bedrooms and tidying bathrooms. When Pythagoras came home, he surveyed the place.

“The floors should probably be cleaned,” he said.

It was a task I’ve been avoiding for, oh – a year.

You think I’m kidding, but I’m not. When we built this house 5 years ago, I chose to cover nearly all 2,300 feet of floor surface with a tile the vendor called “African Batu Gray” and I called “dirty concrete.” It looks the same whether it’s coated with three inches of dirt or immaculate enough to eat ice cream off the surface.

I love this tile.

But Pythagoras was right. It probably needed to be cleaned in case our guests – operating under the mistaken assumption that we don’t live like cave dwellers – might attempt to walk barefoot, resulting in a foot fungus not treatable in the western hemisphere.

“Tell you what,” Pythagoras said. “If you corral the pets in the bedroom, I’ll do all the vacuuming and mopping in the rest of the house.”

I stared at my husband for a few beats, wondering whether he’d been drinking, and if so, why he wasn’t sharing.

“Let me get this straight,” I said. “You’re going to clean every floor surface with the exception of the bedroom, which is where I’ll be hanging out surfing the Web and napping with the pets?”

Then I saw the unmistakable twinkle in his eye. “Oh,” I said. “You’re going to use the Shop-vac?”

My husband’s affair with the Shop-vac is legendary. If he spills a teaspoon of salt on the kitchen counter, he will retreat to the garage, lug in the hulking black appliance, select the proper hose and nozzle, outfit himself with a pair of earplugs, and fire it up.

“Wouldn’t a dishrag be easier?” I’ll shout over the roar of the machine.

Doesn’t matter, that’s not the point. The Shop-Vac is technically a power tool, and power tools are cool.

Last weekend, I caught him vacuuming the driveway with it. He’s used it to drain my aquarium several times, and once I found him vacuuming cat fur off our sheets.

“We have a washing machine,” I informed him.

Well, I tried to inform him. He couldn’t actually hear me over the roar of the motor.

I really can’t complain. I hate to clean, and if the Shop-Vac gives Pythagoras a reason to enjoy it, I’ll happily stand aside and let him drag it through the house while dragging his knuckles on the floor and occasionally scratching himself.

Though I’m a big believer in the notion, “why use a sledgehammer when a scalpel will do?” I can also respect the need to occasionally pull out the sledgehammer anyway. Whether you’re cleaning a house or editing a manuscript, there’s something infinitely more satisfying about revving the motor and powering through it with a vengeance.

Are there any areas in your life or your writing where you use a Shop-vac when a scalpel will do? You’ll have to write it in the comments. I can’t actually hear you right now, what with all the ringing in my ears.
The lovely Shop-vac, the centerpiece of our living room.

21 comments :

Candyland said...

Hahaha. At least he's helping. I'll have to chew on that question for a minute and get back to you.

Patty said...

So, sword, shield, and shop vac, eh? (Wish I were artistic enough to draw that concept...)

For me, I suppose my revision process could be squished into this category... I prefer to start with a brand new Word file and then paste into it the passages I decide to keep. I know, it's bass-akwards, but there's something about that fresh, clean file. The new manuscript smell?

Sometimes, a pasted passage looks odd and needs a surgical cut (ah ha! Knew I'd have use for the scalpel in here). I find this method helps me make sure I really want something in the final draft.

Better yet, because I haven't "cut" per se, I don't have to murder the little darlings... I just banish them to Siberia.

LR said...

No shop vac. Just a steam iron for plot wrinkles.

Jaydee Morgan said...

I'm hoping a sledgehammer and scalpel will do. My biggest fear is that my manuscript will need to be hit with a bazooka to whip it into shape.

Jade Winters said...

lol My 6 year old daughter came in while I was reading this, saw the picture of your living room and said "Cool! It's a person!"

I had to look a couple of times but she's right. The hose of the shop vac makes a perfect smile.

Linda G. said...

LOL! My hubs loves vacuum cleaners of all sorts. Wait, scratch that. He loves to collect vacuum cleaners. (We currently have five, including his mother's classic Kirby, a real tank. Oh, wait...six. I forgot about the Hoover "stick" vac.)

Love the view of your living room. You know, if you dress the shop vac up like C3PO (of Star Wars fame, for those of you who don't happen to be nerds), you can leave it right where it is & call it art. ;)

Christi Goddard said...

My last manuscript required a shovel to dig out all the unneeded prose. This time, on my new WIP, I'm trying the opposite approach: writing the bear bones then inserting more later with a shoehorn.

Side note of safety: If the kids are really little, they might bean themselves on the fireplace. Pretty much every niece and nephew has at my dad's place. Might try putting a barrier on the sharper edges to avoid bleeding craniums.

Patrick Alan said...

I'm ignorant of children, too.

I suspect that makes life a little more challenging for my son.

KLM said...

Wielding the power of enormous suction -- wet or dry! -- is something no man can be expected to resist.

If they start making a rider-Shop vac someday, you're in real trouble. You'll never see your husband again. Well, I mean, you'll see him, but he'll be waving at you from afar while he shouts, "What?! I can't hear what you're saying!"

danicaavet said...

When I read this, I was immediately reminded of my brother-in-law. He has one of those huge airplane hanger size sheds filled with "goodies". I don't even pretend to understand it, but I suppose collecting power tools is like collecting romance books for me...an addiction.

I suppose I use a sledgehammer when I'm working on a new story. I get frustrated with it and put it aside...but when I go back to it, if I hate it (which is where I am right now), I delete the whole thing rather than pick and choose what I like. It offends me. I must get rid of it. Then, I'll go back and rewrite it and generally, be much happier with the second attempt.

mariadkins said...

Are there any areas in your life or your writing where you use a Shop-vac when a scalpel will do?

All the time!!

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Hey, I think we have that shop vac, too!

I'm guilty of attacking my writing with a shop vac sometimes, and then wishing I could get back some of what got sucked into cyberspace. Gradually, I'm learning to use the old "save as" before my attack. (Think, Dianne! Don't just react!) That way, I'll at least have a record of the thing I hated, in case some of it turns out not to be so hate-worthy.

Tawna Fenske said...

Candyland, "helping" is a relative term, but he does try!

Patty, wow, that's a unique process. I've never heard that before, but you've gotta go with what works for you!

LR, a steam iron, I like that! I'm not a fan of ironing or vacuuming, but have been known to take both appliances to my manuscripts from time to time.

Jaydee, never underestimate the editing powers of a bazooka!

Jade, well that's a unique way to look at the Shop-vac. I hadn't noticed that, but your daughter is right. Good eye!

Linda G, we have one of those ancient Kirbys, too! Still a pretty good vacuum, not that we vacuum very often. I like the R2D2 idea!

Christi, shovels, bones, and shoehorns? There's something a little macabre about that! And speaking of macabre, our whole house is pretty much a kiddie death trap. Everything is comprised of hard surfaces, sharp corners, and even a bridge spanning the whole second floor that a little one could easily leap from. This is probably why we don't have many visitors with kids.

Patrick, there are many reasons I fear for the safety of your children. Primary among them is that they have your DNA.

KLM, your first line made me laugh out loud! My husband would die for a riding Shop-vac. Don't ever tell him such a thing might be possible. He'll try to invent one.

danicaavet, there's something about men and their power tools that I don't even pretend to understand. I do, however, understand how the delete key can be an author's best friend!

mariadkins, I can relate to this!

Dianne, is your Shop-vac covered with paint and dirt and all sorts of disgusting things you don't want tracked around your house? I save a new version of my manuscript every time I open it, and I title it with that day's date. That way if I hate something I've done that day, I can always go back to an earlier version.

Thanks for reading, guys!
Tawna

Angela said...

Now that's a love affair any woman would die to allow into the relationship!

Linda G. said...

Eep. I suggested the wrong Star Wars robot! How embarrassing. Don't tell my nerdy family--they may well disown me. *grin*

Claire Dawn said...

So let me see if I got this straight:

1. Tile your house with African Batu Gray.

2. Buy husband a Shop Vac

3. Live happily ever after!

Thanks for the advice ;)

Tawna Fenske said...

Angela, agreed! There could definitely be worse things for him to be obsessed with than exercise and the Shop-vac!

Linda G, it's OK, I knew which one you meant :)

Claire Dawn, I should totally write a marriage advice book, huh?!

Tawna

Jade said...

My husband has a similar love affair with our Dyson vacuum cleaner. A few years ago I let him go to the electrical store by himself and he came home with a massive flat screen TV and the Dyson. Sometimes I don't know which one he loves more.

Sydnee said...

Hey, as long as he's cleaning, no complaints right? ;)

One time, after finishing a pastel drawing, I went out into the garage to spray a fixative on it. I could've used regular old cheap hairspray, but no... I had to use the expensive, toxic professional kind. And I sprayed it on my dad's car. Now there's this funky gray haze on the hood and trunk.

As far as writing goes, I'm all about speed. One day I stayed up 15 hours straight writing and polishing a long short story... and then I slept for two days and didn't write another word for a month. I don't recommend either of those, by the way.

Liz Czukas said...

So, are you saying my husband would vacuum if I let him use the ShopVac? Hmm...

As for my writing...well, right now I'm considering taking an actual sledgehammer to my computer so I can stop working on this cursed chapter. Does that count?

- Liz

Tawna Fenske said...

Jade, is the love ranking between you, the Dyson and the TV? If so, I'm crossing my fingers you at least rank above the vacuum! :)

Sydnee, indeed, I'm intensely grateful for any amount of cleaning he does. I will certainly make a mental note that 15 hours of straight writing is not a good idea!

Liz, it's definitely worth a shot with the Shop-vac. Just be prepared to lose your hearing. As for taking a sledgehammer to your computer, just make sure you have that Shop-vac handy to clean up the mess!

Tawna