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To Vacuum the Vacuum Use the Vacuum

Thanks to the unremitting efforts of two wives and a number of desperate girlfriends I have, over the years, become a fully domesticated man. I cook. I iron. I put the seat down out of pure reflex.

And I clean.

Yes, I clean the house. I have a wide variety of products and tools for floors, ceilings, window, toilets, and countertops (I’m especially good on countertops since I not only have cleaning spritzers in plain acid wash and foaming bleach blaster, I also have a compound that renews the polish once the sanitizing has been completed.) I am the very model of the modern major traife buster.

I am, however, a bit sketchy on floors. This is not to say you couldn’t eat off my floors. You could because you’d find a host of food shreds there on any given afternoon. This is not because I like floors configured as mouse buffets but only because, being 6’1”, the floors are so far away I don’t really focus on them. My solution? The world’s most rapacious vacuum cleaner, “The Kirby.”

Actually, I have 2 (two!) solutions since I own 2 (two!) vacuum cleaners. The first is a kind of cheap, plastic metrosexual’s vacuum bought at some box store because it was cheap. Like all metrosexual items, it performs in a manner that lets you know all cheap things are worth much less than you spent on them. It sucks by not sucking as a sucker of floor dirt should. Very sucky. It is, at the best, back-up. Bags and parts for it are sold everywhere.

Then there’s “The 2004 Kirby Diamond” weighing in are over twenty-three pounds of solid chromed steel, titanium bristles that can skin a black rhino, and a woven cloth bag wrapped around the vacuum bag that could be made into an outdoor area rug. The motor in this bad boy is so powerful it can suck kittens out of my basement through the floorboards in the living room. It is the chopped Harley Hog of vacuums.

The bags for this hoovering T-Rex are built to blast stresses and are rare as dinosaur eggs. Finding them always calls for an expedition to far-away strip malls and into some Norwegian albino’s small appliance parts shop sandwiched between a sketchy Malaysian smoke shop and a lap-dance rec room. It’s a chore.

So much of a chore that when The Kirby’s bag filled up about three months back I was too lazy to pack a lunch and go find new ones. My solution? Pure genius!

I took out the old bag which was almost rock-solid with dust mites, hair, and the bones of desiccated kittens and, holding it over the toxic waste recycling bin behind the garage, cut the bottom open and shook the contents into the bin. Then, because there is nothing it cannot do, I duct-taped the bottom of the bag and slapped it back in The Kirby.

“There. I fixed it.”

Fast forward three months and I am manhandling The Kirby over the current mouse buffet and noticing that for a super-sucker its sucking sucks. So I say to myself, “Self, check it out.”

I open the military gauge zipper on the back of the bag and instantly a fibrous tumor of hair and dust mites oozes out. I retreat and don Haz-Mat suit. I inspect the Superfund site that is my kitchen.

It would seem that my duct-tape resealing of the bag had, well, failed to hold the bag’s universe together some months back and that all creatures great and small that had been sucked off my floors were now compressed into a hairball that threatened to expand into all of known space.

Seeing everything that has come off your floors in the last three months in one wad is a unique experience but I resisted the urge to perform an archeological dig on the site. Instead, I deployed a very large garbage bag and, grimacing, transferred the dust mite condo from the bag into the bag.

It was only the beginning.

Upon double-gloved inspection of the inside of The Kirby’s bag, I found that at least an inch of detritus was still impacted into the cloth on all surfaces. I scraped at it a bit but the dust cloud just deepened around me and drifted out onto the previously pristine floors. Disaster loomed. Then I remembered.

“I own two vacuums. I shall vacuum this vacuum with a vacuum!”


In no time I had deployed vacuum two — the previously mentioned “cheap, plastic metrosexual’s vacuum” — attached the hose with the special little attachment that is used for sucking coins and popcorn kernels out of deep crevices in the couch and switched it on.

Its puny little metrosexual motor wound up and went to its wheezing limit. I tested the nozzle on my hand and felt the feeble suck but knew it would be better than scraping The Kirby’s inner bag surface with my fingernails. I deployed the nozzle inside the clogged bag and carefully and thoroughly went over all the surfaces until they seemed, well, “clean enough for government work.” Then I shut it down and carefully swept the dust and other detritus on the floor into a pile and sucked that up too. Then I mopped the floor of the kitchen. Twice. Until it gleamed.

I took a shower. I mixed a celebratory cocktail. I went to Amazon, found a pack of 12 bags for The Kirby, and ordered them on two-day delivery. I went into the kitchen and thought to myself, “A wise man would now replace the bag in the weak little vacuum that has all the leavings from The Kirby in it.”

I opened the “cheap, plastic metrosexual’s vacuum” and knew instantly that many moons ago I had taken a bag out of that vacuum and somehow failed, FAILED!, to install a new one. A cloud of hair, dust, dust mites and the bones of small animals exploded from the case and drifted across the gleaming kitchen floor and the carefully polished countertops. I stood in the cloud at ground zero and felt the dust of ages settle on me.

They say that “Nature abhors a vacuum.”

Nature’s got nothing on me.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • ghostsniper May 20, 2019, 4:50 AM

    self cleaning floors, that’s the ticket
    Not floors really, screens.
    You can see through em, to what’s below, whatever that might be.
    They have them in the long lumber inventory area at Menards, on the 2nd floor.
    Large holes in the industrial steel screen floors, chunks of mud, etc, on your boots will fall through.

    When I was but a child the Kirby man came to our house on a saturday afternoon and my dad was summoned from the garage. Any potential expenditures over say $10 required his presence. The Kirby, as it turned out, was way over that limit. The thing that places the Kirby head and shoulders above all competition is the engine. Most household vacuums have motors, the Kirby had an engine. It was an industrial engineers dream. An engine that screamed like a ramjet contained in a thick cast aluminum housing, similar to the F86 Saberjet fighter plane of the 1950’s. Everything about the Kirby’s appearance was right out of the age of supersonic flight, even the way the logo’s and trim were designed. And it was designed to not only outlive the original owner/purchaser but it will do just about everything the owner could imagine, if the right attachments were purchased.

    The kirby powerplant itself was impressive just sitting there, nothing else looked like it. Compact, curvy, gleaming polished cast aluminum, gray rubber wheels, burgundy highlights, nothing else outside the skunkworks looked like it. But it was the attachments that gave the Kirby it’s personality. Yes, mom could vacuum the floor, 9 different ways, and with the longer hose she could even vacuum the roof, on a 3 story house, but this sort of thing was sort of embarrassing for the Kirby as it could do so much more. With those attachments. They were really after my dad’s workspace in the garage cause that where the real money hung out.

    Think of the Kirby in it’s stripped down format as a universal power supply. The engine shaft protruded out of the front and back at the same time and things could be attached to the shafts. A table saw for example. Or a paint sprayer. Or a thousand other things. My mother took pride in how clean and proper her entire house was at all times in spite of 5 hellions running loose all the time and she employed a battalion of methods and products to do this. She sat right up on the edge of the couch as the Kirby dood unsheathed his weaponry. When he ran the hosed nozzle of the Kirby over her pristine couch with a disposable filter in-line to show her how powerful it was she recoiled in abject horror at the filth that filter revealed. The Kirby dood chuckled but my dad readied himslf to pull her off of his throat if necessary. She asked the Kirby dood if he’d like a cup of coffee and exited to the kitchen to get the cups allowing herself to the count of 10 to keep from maiming him. Us kids laughed, and laughed, and laughed.

    Next, the Kirby dood, all dressed in a 3 pc suit, decided it was time to show my dad and us all the dust mites in the mattress in their bedroom. The bedroom? gasp This guy hooked something on the 30′ hose and marched right into the inner sanctum of the holy place no other human save my parents alone had ever went. It was simply not done, or even implied, not even jokingly. My mothers mouth was agape as her arms waved and her scream was silent then her shoulders collpased as he was already inside, the damage was done. The neighbors will talk. The Kirby dood was just starting. He flipped all that pretty, lacy, top stuff back and put that Kirby nozzle right on the mattress and hit the switch with his foot and that saberjet came online, howling like a starved banshee. I swear the king sized bed heaved skyward as the machine tried to suck the very guts out through the industrial grade canvas like material of that matress. He ran that nozzle back and forth a couple times then hit the foot switch again, yanked that small filter out and held it at arms length so my parents could witness the horror they had been sleeping on. The white filter had a black square in the middle and that was whatever the stuff was that the Kirby sucked out of it. Mites. deep dust, who knows what. My mother almost fainted. My dad had to put his arm around her as she collapsed slightly, and he walked her back out to the couch. The Kirby dood was grinning ear to ear knowing he won. Out in the living room he sat in the upholstered chair and removed some documents from his brief case. At this point us kids got bored, paperwork does that, so we went to the backyard to find something more interesting to do.

    After the paperwork was completed and my dad’s billfold was pulled from his back pocket, and the checkbook was hauled out of the desk drawer, my mother, and father, was assured their new Kirby would be delivered by the end of the coming week. My mother marked it on the kitchen calendar, the one from Bixlers Hardware Store that had an elk on it. Then the Kirby dood told my mother to call us kids in. When we spilled into the living room the Kirby dood had connected another attachment and was in the process of making a huge pile of soap bubbles right there on the living room carpet. Our eyes were big as dirigibles as we stood in stark amazement as the white mountain grew every bigger. My dad chuckled to himself wondering where this was going. My mother had already passed out on the couch. Then he reversed the switch and 30 seconds later that mountain of bubbles was gone. Where it went I have no idea but the magic Kirby man embedded himself deep into the memory banks of a whole bunch of little kids that day and I for one, some 50+ years later, can vouch for it.

    You’ll be astounded to know that when my mother passed 8 years ago that Kirby passed to my oldest sister in North Carolina and a few weeks ago her husband painted the inside of the garage with it.

  • H May 20, 2019, 5:32 AM

    Please stop, the two of you. Laughing so hard I’m dying here. Not kidding!

    Classic stuff; please Vander Loon save for reposting another day when things are slow and the news more horrid than usual.

  • jd May 20, 2019, 6:10 AM

    Truly funny, Gerard, not an easy thing to create. I will save reading
    your first response, which also promises humor in a totally different
    way, for another time, after I’ve had a chance to savor yours. It’s not
    that often that I laugh out loud but you made me do it.

  • Tom Hyland May 20, 2019, 7:05 AM

    Never cut the dirtbag open! Standing OUTSIDE with a keen awareness of wind direction turn the dirtbag upside down above the garbage can and REACH IN with bare fingers and pull out the clumps of gray dust and all its putrid contents. However, in these over reaching times of police surveillance and courts that slam-dunk individuals who harmed no one… it is inevitable you will be visited by the dirtbag police. You see, you ARE harming the profits of the dirtbag manufacturer. The reclamation of the oft-used dirtbag is best conducted under cover of darkness and one of those tiny flashlights affixed to the rim of your baseball cap.

  • Marica May 20, 2019, 7:22 AM

    Umm. Guys. “They” make bagless vacuums nowadays.

  • Jeff Brokaw May 20, 2019, 8:04 AM

    LMAO Gerard that was top notch!

    Just to weigh in on the bag vs bagless thing, we have 2 (two!) vacuums as well and both are bagless. Count me “not a fan” of emptying those whatchamacallits into the garbage and watching dust, hair, and all manner of random gross-osity drift back into the air again – even though I do this outside 95% of the time. Look away, hold your breath, marvel at modern technology.

    Plus side: we never need to buy bags.

    Our second vacuum is really handy, it’s battery operated and very lightweight and easy to use, and it includes a detachable hand unit. Super practical especially if you have pets or kids, or just like a well made product that makes your life easier. Made by Eureka. Highly recommended. Not ideal for thick carpets but great for bare floors and thinner rugs.

  • JiminAlaska May 20, 2019, 8:23 AM

    “clean enough for government work.”
    I first fully appreciated the phrase, ‘good enough for government work’ when I was working in a steam power plant on a military base and found each and every grated floor drain was uphill from the rest of the floor.

  • Glenda T Goode May 20, 2019, 9:19 AM

    Simple answer for your ‘second vacuum’. Shop vac.

    No bag. lots of room for dirt and things and it works outside and inside so you can clean your car interior if you are so inclined. Many will also suck up water so if you have an ‘incident’ with a wet theme, you can deal with much of it with such a machine. You do have to make sure your model is designed for this. The words ‘Wet or Dry’ would be what to look for.

    Another virtue of a shop vac is that for the same price as a metrosexual vacu-wimp you get something that takes its job seriously.

    Suggestion: Get the most powerful and small as possible shop vac. I used to have one from our friends at sears that had a huge motor and a handle that you could carry it with, a super long hose and could be stowed in a closet on a bracket that came with it. You get one that measures its size in gallons over 10 and you will have something that will weigh so much you cannot pick it up to empty it.

    Lastly, put a large trash bag inside the dust bin of the vac and you can simply take the vac part off and dispose of the bagged dirt. The bonus is that cost of the average heavy duty 30 gallon trash bag is measured in cents not dollars like the Kirby and its Electrolux clones.

  • Rob De Witt May 20, 2019, 9:24 AM

    First of all, in re the “If it wasn’t for women, all guys would live in squalor” trope….some of the filthiest and sloppiest people I’ve ever seen were chicks I was married to. One of ’em passed it on to our daughter, who narrowly avoided being evicted in Austin 30 years ago because pig sty.

    As for vacuums, 27 years ago I bought a Miele, apparently to celebrate the onset of my terminal bachelorhood. It cost $600 and came with a handful of bags and a HEPA filter on the exhaust port. After emptying the bags until the last one finally disintegrated, this last year I found a place to buy more, along with a new HEPA filter (it was white, to my surprise. I’d forgotten….)

    Sho do clean.

  • Auntie Analogue May 20, 2019, 10:13 AM

    No matter which sort of vacuum cleaner one has, it surely beats having to manhandle the rugs outdoors, drape them over a clothesline, and flog the dust out of them.

  • KC May 20, 2019, 10:45 AM

    Time to get a Roomba! I thought I would not like having a robot do my floors. My floors are cleaner than they have ever been without me having to do more than emptying the collection hopper on the Roomba. I’ve had em all in the 45 years of maintaining a home. Roomba is the easiest of them all. Now if Roomba could only vacuum furniture.

  • jwm May 20, 2019, 10:58 AM

    As a long-time school janitor I could share some stories. I’m way too familiar with the contents of vacuum cleaners.
    @Ghostsniper. I have a Kirby very much like the one you describe, and some years older than the ones I used at the school in the early 70’s. Unfortunately you can’t get the rubber seals for the vintage machines, so it blows dust all over creation. Still with exception of the Pig, it’s the most badass vac out there. It’s on a shelf in the garage for display. Can’t throw it out, and I’m dam sure not going to recycle it.


  • Stretch May 20, 2019, 11:37 AM

    Grandma bought a Kirby in the late ’60s. Dad still has it. Uses the upholstery cleaner attachments on his Cadillac seats and living room furniture.

  • ghostsniper May 20, 2019, 2:07 PM

    OK, stop the drooling and step right up and buy your own vintage Kirby at the link below, just $249. You might be able to get it for less.
    However, this one doesn’t sound like the F86 Sabrejet, it sounds like a B17 Flying Fortress. Regardless, it’ll make yer backbone slip, big time.

    Looks complete, for the basic rig. Includes the butler box of attachments. Even has a new belt. dawgeez!

    You’ll have the cleanest crib in the hood. Gotta crawl? This puppy’ll suck the field mouses up through the cracks between the floor boards. You’ll be the envy of the neighborhood, you might make the cover of BHG. You can vacuum the yard! It’ll sound like Dresden all over again!

    Couple hours with the buffer and rouge and this Kirby will be mantle worthy, right up there next to Pappy’s shotgun. yowza

    Better hurry, I might beat ya to it.


  • Snakepit Kansas May 20, 2019, 2:42 PM

    I wondered why nobody every tried to make a supercharger out of a Kirby vacuum cleaner. Someone creative could cast an adapter to mount a Holley 750 and an adapter to the intake manifold of a Chevy 350. Drive the center shaft from a belt tied to the belts already on the front of the motor.

  • mmack May 20, 2019, 3:44 PM


    Let Vyvyan from The Young Ones set you straight on what you need for a vacuum cleaner:

  • jwm May 20, 2019, 4:33 PM

    Holy cow, Ghost that’s the same model I’ve got.


  • ghostsniper May 20, 2019, 5:22 PM

    I thought they all looked like that.
    Maybe you need a matched pair.

  • Rick May 20, 2019, 6:05 PM

    When I got out of the Army in 69 I had a tough time finding a job and, in desperation, ending up working at a small loan company in a rural area of South Carolina. I soon discovered that I hated the job which consisted of me traveling alone over hill and dale into very small backwoods communities chasing $5.00 payments on $50.00 loans. Mostly at night with Friday night being our busy time because the men, who had the money, were all home working on getting drunk. I had to beat them to their wallet before Schlitz got it all. In the process, I got beat up and shot at but that wasn’t the worst.
    A large part of our business was writing paper for all the sales outfits that blew through the country like a financial plague. They sold newsprint encyclopedias, fire extinguishers that couldn’t put out a match, “waterless” cookware that burned the first time it was exposed to heat, auto stabilizers that would keep the old 55 Chevy from flipping over, and the biggie, Kirby vacuums. Ironically everything was $500.00 with $50.00 down and we held a note for the rest. Most of the customers were poor but honest people who eventually paid off the note although I had to repossess a lot. Imagine going in a house and taking the dirty pots off the stove and out of the sink which I had to do several times, that was the worst part.
    Kirby vacuums were the only thing that had any real value even though it wasn’t anywhere close to what the customers paid. I had to repossess several of those too, stinking of cat crap and dirt so bad I had to keep my windows down when I had one in the trunk. Mostly it was women who bought the Kirbys, usually without talking it over with her husband. I called a delinquent customer one after to see about them coming in to make their payment. In an unusual twist I got the husband on the phone, he was an undertaker and worked out of their house, who promised me payment on Monday. He told me not to worry as he had a “cash body coming in on Saturday!” A more typical call was another time when I had the bad luck to get the man of the house on the phone. As I explained the reason for my call he got madder and madder and insisted his wife hadn’t bought a vacuum. I assured him she had so he asked me how much the vacuum cost. When I told him $500.00 he blew up and called me a liar. He said, “mister, now I know you’re lying, I ain’t never paid $500.00 for a car in my life and I sure ain’t buying no $500.00 vacuum!” When I knocked on their door on Monday the door opened and his wife shoved the vacuum at me and closed the door, no words were exchanged. The whole thing left me with a bad taste in my mouth for Kirby vacuums that I’ve never overcome.

  • Walter Sobchak May 20, 2019, 8:52 PM

    Dummy: Never open a Vaccum Cleaner’s dirt bag inside the house. Take it outside before you open it.

    Can’t I teach you nothing/

  • Snakepit Kansas May 21, 2019, 5:11 AM

    Good story. Funny the jobs we take when we are young and the stories they can produce years later.

  • lendie May 21, 2019, 10:46 PM

    I am reminded of the time I suggested to an ex BF that he put the somewhat
    disgusting dishrag into the wash. He walked around muttering for several
    hours “Wash the washcloth? Wash the washcloth?”. Apparently this had
    never occurred to him.

  • Francis W. Porretto May 22, 2019, 1:44 AM

    Gerard, this is…I don’t know…geez, my sides hurt…I think it should be labeled DO NOT TAKE WITH FOOD OR ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES and sold strictly under doctor’s prescription.

    Anyway, I own three vacuums — two Eureka baglesses and an Oreck upright — and you’ve taught me something that, perhaps, I should not have learned. Applause.

  • The Cynic May 23, 2019, 8:58 PM

    I inherited my mother’s Kirby, and it was a close-fought fight to keep it from my brother! My mom bought it in the early 70’s and had it completely refurbished in the 90’s, and it’s still just as good as new. The small bagless one I got to clean the bathrooms is merely a pale imitation of a vacuum cleaner!

  • pkudude99 May 24, 2019, 9:33 AM

    My father was a “Kirby Guy” in college, and as a result, my family had one when I was growing up. It was heavy, and ugly and oh so very loud, but it also got those carpets very nicely clean each week. I think it broke sometime in the late 80’s or early 90’s, but since dad had got it in the mid 60’s that’s still 25 years or so of good use out of it.

    We had an Ace Hardware and another local mom-n-pop hardware shop in town that both carried the bags for it, so that wasn’t a consideration, at least.