Pizza Joe

It’s 10:31pm and I’m lying naked on the floor in the kids’ tv room trying so hard to make my arm long enough to reach an errant robot stuck under the couch.

How did I get here?

It’s just back there. Just back where the back of the couch meets the wall. I can feel the plastic with my fingertips. This carpet is so clean!! Like super clean. Clean enough to eat off of. Clean enough to lie down naked on while trying to reach a robot stuck under a couch that is too close to the ground for, well, anyone else’s arm to fit under.

I just need like two more inches (that’s what she said).

How did I get here?

I am typically not one to go bananas with retail therapy. I believe in it, sure, but the effort it takes to hit the stores while upset or pissed off often stands in the way of the whipping out of my wallet. I’m also not one for a big storm out (well, until recently) which might lead me out of the sticks and into the “good” stores. However, I did learn last year, during my mom’s involuntary vacation, exactly what it feels like to let your emotions take the retail lead. I had just arrived in my parents’ hometown after three hours on the road following my parents’ RV, driven by Dad, who was following an ambulance transporting Mom. One could say I was a bit emotional (hello, understatement).

After Mom was settled into her new hospital bed and Dad was settled into a glass of wine, I settled myself behind a TJ Maxx cart. It was supposed to be a quick zip through the store – a little me time to clear my head and try to make sense of all that had happened in the previous weeks and, especially, the past 24 hours. I still can’t nail down how long I was in that store – only that I seemed to re-awaken as I was handing over my Visa to pay the three hundred dollar bill. Three hundred? Dollars? I was shocked while numb – that seemed like a pretty big number for TJ Maxx, where socks are only a few dollars, body wash typically under five and whole outfits under twenty. According to the near dozen bags in my cart, I had purchased a lot of socks. Oh, I remember thinking in a haze while loading my car, this is what they mean by retail therapy.

I justified my haul with simple Retail Therapy Math:

One hospitalized parent equals about three hundred dollars of getting the Maxx for the Minimum. Got it.

Oddly, as we are rounding the turn to the anniversary of that trip, I am once again engaging that savage skill to shell out money as an emotional band-aid. This has been a rough summer here at the McGillicutty’s (hello, understatement). And, yes, within the next few weeks, all the reasons for that will appear in a blog near you – though the story is currently stuck in the drafts folder until the distance from both the events and the responsible parties seems wide enough. It is actually nothing earth shattering, I suppose – we are all healthy, well-fed, and have a lovely roof over our head. Still married (I question that choice daily (just kidding (am I?))). But it has been rough, yes – and is often the case when rough things happen at my home, where I work/sleep/eat/exercise/organize, there is sometimes no clear place for escape.

Unless you count Amazon Prime Day.

I have heard inklings from friends for a few years about robot vacuums and how life changing they are. I’ve shrugged those inklings off with oh, neat or sounds great and zero intention of joining CarpetFit. I have teenagers, after all. Two perfectly capable human beings (un)willing and able to push the human vacuum once a week. Two human beings? Yes, we have two children home – currently and indefinitely. It’s been a rough summer. Robot vacuum? Why would I shell out hundreds of dollars for a robot vacuum that would probably not be strong enough for my high-pile, pet hair covered carpet when I had two perfectly capable kids? Sure, they often go around any obstacles on the floor (socks, shoes, dog toys, actual cats), ignore the dust bunnies living in the corners, and forget to return the human vacuum to its closet when finished…but still, a robot vacuum just seemed like an invitation for frustration veiled in frivolity.

Yet, when Amazon threw one of those waste of money robot vacuums onto my Prime Day sale screen, I closed my eyes and clicked on Buy Now. Idiot.

It came in a well-labled box. The other three members of my house all stared at it with wide eyes and whispers of Is that a Roomba? Did Bear buy a Roomba? were heard around the house. Surely, the task master had lost her mind! Is it for us? I left the box intact, telling the impatient crew that I’d get to it when I get to it. I really was busy and did not feel like I had time (ever) to read a million instructions for something that would probably be sent back anyway. Plus, I like the anticipation of opening things more than the actual opening. Once I sliced through that packing tape, the anticipation would disappear forever. I realize this sounds crazy and drives people bananas.

And yes, no surprise, the robot vacuum was finally opened, tested and packed up for a return. Goodbye, short lived friend. We enjoyed watching you work for six minutes.

Because, after six minutes, I was so sold on the robot vacuum that I re-boxed it, clicked on Return Item, closed my eyes and clicked on Buy Now for the deluxe model. How did I get here? The exchange justified itself. I realized in that six minutes that the purchased model was fascinating but that it would not be fascinated by our high-pile carpet. After some pre-exchange research, the Amazon spies played me like a fiddle – offering me an advanced robot vacuum with ten times more suction at a discount of one hundred dollars. Jeff Bezos truly knows the way to my heart. Or at least his algorithm does.

I could always return it again, right?

When the next model arrived, I put my family through the same unopened box misery. Mainly, because I forgot about it in lieu of the continuation of our stress filled of summer. Finally, unable to take it anymore, Rich started off a Friday morning with a desperate When are you going to open the box??? Whoa. I did not know it was a dire situation. It’s a robot!! Of course I want to see it work!! And so we broke the seal together. I clicked a few buttons (turns out the instructions were about four pictures long) and off it went, navigating our living room, kitchen, and offices for any and all specs of dirt. And power cords. And blanket corners. And socks. Did I mention it was a Friday? A working day by company standards? Apologies for the complete lack of productivity in the McGillicutty home as we spent most of the morning watching in awe as our new addition took its first confident steps.

A parent’s first responsibility with any child is naming it – no different than with robot vacuums. In the naming, I insisted that I be in charge lest we end up with something too galactic. Rosie? Alice? Jarvis? All too obvious. Carpet Muncher? My husband’s eyes went wide in the not good way. Crumb Catcher? Better, but still – was that something we’d want to pop up on our phones in good company? What if the kids downloaded the app and a teacher caught a glimpse of a message from Crumb Catcher? Probably not ideal. We finally settled on Pizza Joe – an ode to a joke made years ago while sitting at a stop light with two hungry kids and a pizza delivery car on either side of us. You had to be there. It was dumb. I looked left and said Oh, Pizza Hut! I looked right and said And there’s Pizza Joe! The vehicle on the right was only labeled “Pizza,” not sure why I added the Joe, but it has stuck as a family (inside) joke ever since.

And so, Pizza Joe, the robot vacuum, was born on July 11, 2021 and we began getting messages from him when his dustbin was full or if he tried to eat another cord or if his right wheel was stuck or if a sensor needed a wipe down or…if he got lost under a couch at 10:31pm while I was upstairs and my immediate response was to drop everything, including drying off from the shower I’d just left, to go save him by throwing myself naked on the freshly cleaned floor in a critical rescue attempt. In fairness, the actual message said Pizza Joe is near a cliff. At least he’s not dramatic like my real kids. My incorrect assumption was that he was about to fall down the stairs to the basement. Turns out he is smarter than that. Just not smart enough to know that the underbelly of the kids’ couch is sagging a bit from its days as a trampoline.

The good news? We love Pizza Joe. We haven’t actually had the human vacuum out in weeks. He starts jobs, takes breaks when he needs to recharge his battery, and gets right back to it until the bristles on the carpet are standing at attention. I’ve offered to take him to my friends’ homes or to my parents’. Would it be weird if I got a Baby Bjorn to carry him from one floor to the next?

The downside? An entire week of listening to my husband talk about this robot vacuum and all the other options offered by Roomba. Yes, I fully expect the super-duper-mop-vacuum-combo-that-empties-its-own-dustbin to appear under the Christmas tree this year. And I probably won’t even be mad. Will there be a model that can climb stairs in the future? Just wondering. It was not a total downside, though, as it gave my ears a break from hearing what Elon Musk/Tesla/SpaceX was up to at any given hour.

In simple Retail Therapy Math?

One child dropping out of both school and her life equals one advanced robot vacuum.

Although, there is currently an unopened, brand new toaster oven sitting on the dining room table…so perhaps my numbers aren’t quite defined yet.

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