Natural Disasters

When a Roomba Meets Cat Poo, Just Run

Violent delights have violent ends.

As George Orwell once said, cats sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough women stand ready to do violence on their behalf. Or something like that.

I have two friends. Let’s call them Maeve and Dolores. They are married, live near Bachman Lake in an adorable house inside the recent gas leak evacuation area, and have two cats and a Roomba that they bought on Amazon a few months ago. (To clarify: they bought the Roomba on Amazon. Fat Baby and Bad Baby, the cats, were acquired through other, non-Bezos-related means.)

Last night, while folding laundry in the bedroom, they set the Roomba to start vacuuming the guest room. I imagine them watching Westworld as they paired socks and debated the meaning of aspect ratios, Manifest Destiny, and free will, enjoying a quiet moment of domestic bliss. Until Maeve smelled what she would later describe as a “nightmare cat poop.” Only she didn’t say poop. And it was more of a descriptive exclamation that started with “What the” and ended with something unprintable.

At almost the exact same moment, Dolores leapt to grab the remote as Maeve yelled, “Grab the remote and TURN IT OFF!”

Now, Maeve and Dolores are not the first people to encounter a Roomba-induced fecal smear. I have a high-tech friend in Keller who is a first adopter of robot vacuums and consistently upgrades at the pace other people upgrade iPhones. Her super deluxe model once encountered a vast pool of doggie diarrhea that it proceeded to efficiently distribute in perfectly straight lines: back and forth, back and forth, slightly overlapping to ensure complete and total coverage.

Another friend’s brother once came home from work to find his apartment smelling “like death.” All he could hear was a running motor. He finally found the Roomba under the bed where his dog, Toblerone, had pooped. The Roomba was stuck against the wall, flicking poop across the bottom of the mattress like mud on tires.

Dolores, the less outwardly expressive half of the couple, immediately understood the gravity of the situation. “I knew right away it was going to be really bad,” she says. “I poured myself a large glass of wine, put a straw in it, and got out the rubber gloves.”

Like any successful married couple, they immediately divvied up responsibilities. Dolores would disassemble and sterilize the offending apparatus, while Maeve would clean the room itself.

Realizing that Dolores had the trickier task (their less-expensive Roomba traveled in less efficient random circles and lines), Maeve proceeded to bring her wife supplies, laying them out like surgical equipment in an operating room: paper towels, a real towel, two buckets of soapy water, an old toothbrush, cotton balls, Q-tips, rubbing alcohol, a headband. It was windy on the makeshift back porch clean room, and Maeve was concerned for Dolores’ long, blond locks.

One of the Roomba’s wheels was encased in poop. Dolores had to use pliers to take it out and scrub it clean. After she replaced it, something wasn’t quite right. Maeve realized a piece was missing. But Dolores had poured all of the soapy poop water into a plant. After a three-hour cleaning binge, the couple had to spend an excruciating extra 15 minutes looking for the tiny missing axle.

When Maeve finally found it, she held it up triumphantly. But her fingers were slick and the piece slid from her grasp, falling between the deck boards.

“So I had to unscrew a deck board and reach in as far as I possibly could,” Maeve says. “Because—joke’s on me—the piece wasn’t metal and I couldn’t pick it up with a magnet. And it was spider city in there.”

After experiencing the insides of her robot, Dolores says her marriage has never been stronger. Some violent ends have violent, or at least modest, delights.

I would have just burned that mother down.

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