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What My Dyson Vacuum Cleaner Taught Me About the Precariousness of Perfection

photo: Randy Robertson on flickr

What’s your relationship to perfection?!

Do you constantly strive to achieve it in every area of your life? Or do you thumb your nose at such an archaic and unrealistic concept?

Either way, this post is for you!

I recently shared a story about a 93-year-old man and what he taught me about perfection.

Now it’s time to share another story. A story that must be told.

I start with a disclaimer:

If you have a problem with human-vacuum cleaner relationships, stop reading right now!

For the rest of you, I’d like to take you on a little journey:

Prepare to be shocked! Prepare to be amazed! Prepare to be challenged!

Prepare to achieve complete and total enlightenment by the time you finish reading this post!

photo: Kelsey_lovefusionphoto on flickr

Okay, that last claim was a little exaggerated. What can I say? I’m a Dyson owner.

(Did I just say that? Yes, I did. Why would I do that? You’ll find out soon enough.)

Our journey begins approximately one year ago. That was when Melissa sent me an email about a great deal to be had on a Dyson vacuum cleaner.

Only $185. For one day only!

Normally I don’t fall for these claims. But this was a Dyson. For only 185 dollars.

I’d been wanting a Dyson since I first saw their ads on TV, the ones with the owner of the company explaining how he revolutionized the vacuum cleaner industry with his brave, new machine.

I’m pretty sure I started salivating when I first saw that ad. How could I not?! The machine looked totally freaking awesome.

So when Melissa sent me the amazing, incredible, one-day-only deal, I caved.

I pulled out my credit card and ordered a Dyson. Our vacuum cleaner at the time (which I won’t name, except to say it rhymes with Zoover) made more noise than an airplane coming in for a landing.

You know those guys who wear protective headgear to help airplanes taxi into the gate? When it came to my, um, Zoover, I was one of those guys.

In other words, I had a reason to order my Dyson. I needed a new vacuuming experience. One that was bright and shiny and blessed with the serious sucking capacity of the Dyson.

If only I knew how accurate I was.

When my Dyson first arrived, I could barely contain my glee. I assembled that baby and took her for a spin.

All was going great. At first.

She zipped around the house, sucking up dirt left and right. I was in heaven.

In fact, I started composing a blog post about it on the spot. My Dyson was a mean, lean, dirt-fighting machine. Why wouldn’t I want to sing her praises over the internet?

I’ll tell you why.

Because after about five minutes, my sweet little Dyson started making a noise. A really, really bad noise.

It sounded like a cross between a screaming leaf blower and a chimpanzee in heat. Or maybe it was a screaming chimpanzee and a leaf blower in heat.

photo: Afrika Force on flickr

Whatever it was, it was terrible.

Actually, as I was to find out at the vacuum repair shop, she sounded like a Dyson.

To be more specific, she sounded like this particular brand of Dyson. The vacuum guy had seen it before. And he said he couldn’t repair it.

So even though the machine was under warranty, I was going to need to send it back to the factory and cross my fingers that the next machine didn’t make the same noise. Even though it probably would, because that’s what happened with the last people who brought this particular model to the shop.

My heart shrank in my chest.

My perfect, beloved Dyson was seriously flawed. How could I go on? I’d lost my faith in the exaggerated claims of the advertising industry.

Okay, my faith in the exaggerated claims of the advertising industry ended the day I realized that Sea Monkeys look nothing like the little creatures on the package. But still.

photo: Vincent X on flickr

We sent my seriously-flawed baby back to the factory and waited. Then we waited some more, because the paperwork got lost and I needed to call the factory in Illinois to remind them I needed a new baby.

Finally, months later, she arrived.

I pulled my new Dyson out of the box. She looked just like the old one. My heart skipped a beat. Was she going to make my dreams come true? Or was she going to crush them like a bug?

I plugged her in and off we went. Zooming around the house, to and fro.

There was a faint, high-pitched whining I wasn’t crazy about. And I discovered that, under very specific circumstances – like vacuuming throw rugs or pushing into tight corners – my baby made the chimp/leaf blower noise.

In other words, she was still flawed.

But she sucked up dirt like nobody’s business, and she was still a lot quieter than the Zoover. As long as I didn’t push her into a corner.

(And if I learned nothing from Dirty Dancing, it’s that one should never, under any circumstances, push baby into a corner.)

In the end, I realized that my relationship with my Dyson is like any other relationship:

It started with high, unrealistic expectations. When these expectations were smashed, there was a period of bitterness and woe. But once I got past my disappointment, I saw that my Dyson is like anything else: perfectly imperfect.

That’s right – my baby isn’t perfect. But that doesn’t mean I can’t love her anyway. Indeed, her little quirks and foibles are part of her charm.

Sure, I sometimes yearn for the perfect vacuum cleaner I saw in those ads years ago. But that machine doesn’t exist.

What I have is my Dyson. In all her flaws and glories. She’s my baby and I wouldn’t trade her for anything.

Although the guy at the vacuum store made a good case for an Oreck.

But that’s a story for another day. Hopefully not-too-soon-a-day.

For now it’s me and my high-whining, occasionally-screeching baby.

At least I didn’t spend $185 on Sea Monkeys.

What have your appliances taught you about life? How have their imperfections changed you?

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10 Responses to What My Dyson Vacuum Cleaner Taught Me About the Precariousness of Perfection

  1. Karen September 25, 2012 at 7:42 am #

    Such a finely-crafted post, Z.

    Haha — love the ending. No sea monkeys for you.

    • Z Egloff September 25, 2012 at 9:51 am #

      Hi Karen!

      No sea monkeys for me! But I do have my lovely Dyson! 😉


  2. River September 25, 2012 at 9:53 am #

    Hi Z!
    Hummmm…..I am now on my second writing of a thought about your post. I think that perfection thingy just bit my ..er uh..neck, yeah, that’s it. Ok..now the third try at this…seems to be a pattern emerging huh?
    My fingers seem stuck to the keyboard as I type this. And that makes me think, How does that reflect your life?
    I think I will take a deep breath and just be the

    • Z Egloff September 26, 2012 at 12:09 pm #

      Hi River,

      Being the perfect River sounds like a great idea! Oh, but then there’s all that pressure to live up to. I mean to say that you are the perfectly imperfect River, which is, of course, the perfect River. And so it is! 😉


  3. Jill Shinn September 25, 2012 at 11:38 pm #

    Hi Z, this makes me think of, well, everyone and everything—imperfection is so annoyingly pervasive! But it really reminds me of Byron Katie who always gets down to the heart of the issue, the thought that causes the suffering, which might go somerthing like this:

    Z: “My new Dyson ‘shouldn’t’ scream like a howler monkey”

    Katie: Is that true? Can you absolutely know that that’s true? How do you react when you have the thought that your new Dyson shouldn’t scream like a howler monkey? Who would you be without that thought?

    I like how you came to the same conclusion that she would have, which is basically that your baby ‘should’ scream because that’s what baby Dysons sometimes do, and they’re loveable just the way they are. Well done!

    • Z Egloff September 26, 2012 at 12:11 pm #

      Hi Jill,

      I love this! The Work applied to a blog post. I was doing the Byron Katie thang without realizing it. Her work is incredible, and I love that you point out that all roads lead to Rome. Or to a Dyson. 😉


  4. michael frank October 1, 2012 at 8:05 am #

    on the brite side, you could have spent 1000 for a Kirby LOL

    • Z Egloff October 2, 2012 at 9:22 am #

      Hi Michael!

      True that. :)


  5. Marilyn August 24, 2016 at 12:02 pm #

    Hi Z,

    I was sucked into your post immediately, with a high-pitched, Zoover-like intensity. Why? It was the Dyson factor. I recently brought a baby Dyson stick vacuum home from the big box store, after hearing another Dyson Mom boast about her own dear cleaning machine.

    What did I find? Perfect imperfection, that’s what. Only it’s taking me awhile to accept that. She’s not loud. She does everything I wanted her to do. But she didn’t make me look forward to vacuuming. Why did I think this would happen?

    You know that idea we sometimes get that if we only find just the right thing to fill a need, it will make a certain aspect of life completely perfect? Well, I had that idea, Z. And–Dyson or not–I still don’t love vacuuming. That’s a lot of pressure to put on a little baby Dyson, don’t you think?

    I will say that I do enjoy vacuuming a little more than I did before.

    Oh, and about the sea monkeys: no kidding! I was totally taken in by the picture on the package, too. Ah, expectations.

    • Z Egloff August 24, 2016 at 2:13 pm #

      Ha! So I’m not alone in my Dyson expectations. Thank God! I’m glad that you at least like vacuuming a little bit more – there’s something to be said for that.

      As for the sea monkeys, I suspect that there are a lot of us out there with Unrealistic Seamonkey Expectations! :)

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