We got a Roomba last Christmas, which felt like divine intervention.Two thousand eighteen years after the world reportedly welcomed its savior, our family welcomed our very own. It wasn’t going to turn water into wine (we had already tried and failed at a home brew kit a few years earlier), and it wouldn’t walk on water because—as I have been instructed many times—you sweep before you mop, idiot.
See, my wife and I have different views of what makes a clean house. I believe keeping things organized and tidy are the benchmarks of a clean home. She believes that cleaning it frequently is pertinent. We had ourselves a good old fashioned philosophical impasse, and were both ready to accept arbitration via a domestic robotic industrial revolution.
I was excited about it, because I assumed it meant three to seven fewer arguments a year about cleaning, which always occurred during the biggest plays of the biggest games I was watching. I also felt a little guilty because we got a new Roomba instead of rescuing an old one, but as it turns out, the Roomba would be the one rescuing me.
We named him Jere, which rhymes with hair, which would soon be off of our floors and rugs forever, the box promised. Jere was constantly running, recharging, then running again. And since Jere was not Jesus, I did not give him Sundays off for Sabbath, or any other day. I now lived in a temple of cleanliness and couldn’t go back to my life of heathenly squalor.
Jere had complete dominion over the house. He was free to roam, so long as I wasn’t doing pushups or situps in the middle of the floor, which I never was. Sometimes Jere looked bored with his two-dimensional capabilities, and I thought about jere-rigging him a ramp up to clean the couch, but it was the biggest play of the biggest game I was watching.
Without having to clean my home every few months, I now had minutes of free time. Moreover, I was unchained from my psychological burden of dirt-shame. Praise Jere.
If Jere could help me do that, what else could I do? Like a Netflix menu, I had unlimited options. Maybe I could get more into Netflix. As I perused the listings—from British shows to true crime docs, all the way back to the beginning—Jere perused the living room, the dining room, the kitchen, and all way back to the beginning.
That’s when stranger things happened: Jere ran straight into my foot. Strange because I hadn’t told him to clean, stranger because my feet were almost always on the ottoman. But strangest because Roomba assured us that Jere was programmed with very specific boundaries. Jere backed up a few inches and ran back onto my grounded foot, which still hadn’t made its way to the ottoman.
Jere rotated to make eye contact with me, before sermonizing me about sloth and how Jere helps those who help themselves. Much like Jesus, the alleged boy wonder, our Roomba, Jere, had a calling far beyond manual labor. Jere explained that Roombas cleaned floors, but more importantly, tidied up lives.
While Jere had been picking up dust and dirt all over the house for the last few months, he had also been picking up things about me, not unlike MTV’s Room Raiders, which Jere saw me binge-watching in February and then again in April. Jere sternly reminded me of my love for travel and salsa dancing, activities I had almost completely forgotten about. He offered to help me get back into dancing shape, working on moves with me around the living room floor. Jere’s body limitations kept us from pulling off arm loops or sombreros, but quickly we moved as one, leading each other around the ottoman and always just short of boundaries.
With my new energy and rejuvenated rhythm, I started losing weight and spending more time out of the house. It was hard being away from Jere, who had also become a really great listener, but I was meeting and liking neighbors I’d always avoided. Turns out that the guy a couple houses down had a vegetable garden in his backyard and invited me to help him out with the harvest. Working with him taught me patience and gave me a deeper appreciation for the food I consumed. Plus I always trekked back some dirt for Jere, so he still felt important and didn’t get the wrong impression about my commitment.
Jere and I still danced, but increasingly we were only going through the motions. I was tired after getting home late from work and nights out with new friends. We both knew it but neither of us said anything. New friends also meant hosting more, and that meant pushing Jere into a back bedroom. It felt dirty, but the house looked clean, so I could live with it.
Maybe it was in my head, but over time, it seemed like things became more laborious for Jere. At first, it was the extra audible sighs, then spinning in place as a passive aggressive f*** you. A week later, I found him looping the dance moves we no longer did together. You may ask how I knew the difference between dance moves and regular Roomba-ing, but dance once with a Roomba and you’ll know. Like a jealous ex or the technology that becomes the sentient villain in a movie, Jere made me apprehensive.
I activated him less, which meant manually sweeping more. Sometimes, if Jere was out of sight, I’d spin and dip the broom, moving to music in my head, lest Jere hear our song. The pangs of nostalgia ached only slightly less than those of guilt. One day I actually asked my wife to unplug Jere, because I didn’t have the heart. Also I was afraid he would run me down.
A year later here I am, in better shape, sweeping the floor regularly, and dancing like I hope nobody’s watching. Of course I’d recommend a Roomba to anybody looking to improve their surfaces and themselves. But if you are in the market, rescue; don’t buy. Jere could use a new home.