Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Around Town: Making room for the Roomba

It all started with the gym. Len and I joined Equinox and had started training with this awesome guy named Padgett when our weekly housekeeper retired.

“Let’s do it ourselves!” I suggested.

Some of our friends were skeptical. Our house would get too dirty, they said.

Our work schedules are too busy. Our dog (Miss Audrey Hepburn) and a cat (The Cat) distribute a fair amount of hair and dander. There are worthy people who need the work.

Relying on others to clean our house was a long-standing habit. Years ago, as a full-time working mom, the lactation consultant advised me to hire a housekeeper in order to prioritize my commitments.

“Are you sure you don’t want to quit work?” she asked. It was 1980.

I was insecure about the possibility of equality so I said, “No!”

“You can’t do it all,” she explained, “With a housekeeper, you can spend less time folding laundry and more time with your children.”

Back in the day, you could tell the working moms apart from those who weren’t employed outside of the house. We were the ones who made cookies from scratch for the bake sale. But we had housekeepers.


Now that it’s just the four of us—two humans, one canine and one feline—there’s no axe to grind, nothing to prove. No cookies to bake. No mess of Nintendo wires. We truly live in an empty nest.

Despite our history, it made sense, when the weekly housekeeper retired, to do it ourselves.

“Why pay someone to exercise for us?” I told my spouse.

Trainers do not consider housework to be “exercise,” which mooted my argument, but my husband was nonetheless convinced.

We were on a mission. We would be self-sufficient. We would take care of ourselves.

But all that was before we got the Roomba™.

The iRobot Roomba Vacuuming Robot, or simply Roomba, is a circle-shaped, semi-autonomous robotic vacuum cleaner with a large contact-sensing bumper mounted on the front half of the unit and an infrared sensor at its top front center. There are many imitations but only one original.

I think of it as another pet, a pet without vet bills, and although Miss Hepburn and The Cat would disagree, the Roomba’s round shape is cute.

I set it off in the morning. It buzzes around, gathering dust and pet hair. When it is done, it returns to its charging station. All of us, even a robot vacuum cleaner, need to recharge our batteries once in a while.

Now that we have the Roomba, there’s less housework and no excuse to stay home from the gym or city council meetings.

I see a glorious old age before me. There’ll be new models. New abilities. I want a robot to make the bed in the morning and dinner at night. Maybe the iRobot Corporation will redesign the iRobot 710 Warrior (“the next-generation force multiplier, the iRobot 710 Warrior is a big and powerful robot that carries heavy payloads”) into a point of production political organizer, designed to stop the 710 freeway expansion.

Stuff like that is the stuff of dreams. Right here in La Cañada Flintridge.

ANITA SUSAN BRENNER is a longtime La Cañada Flintridge resident and an attorney with Law Offices of Torres and Brenner in Pasadena. E-mail her at

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