Sunday, December 26, 2010

Just Suck It Up!

Is There Vacuum Cleaner Out There Worth a Damn?

© 2010 Leighann Lord
I really thought I'd have a housekeeper by now. I’m not talking Mr. Belvedere from “Mr. Belvedere” or even Alice from “The Brady Bunch,” but somebody to come in once or twice a week (off the books, of course) to help tidy up the place. At the moment that somebody is me. And rest assured, I’m not trying to be down to Earth or keep it real in any way. Given the opportunity and the ducats, my hired help would need hired help.

I don’t love cleaning but I’m good at it. I’ve even read books on cleaning to improve my technique. (“Clutter Control” by Jeff Campbell of The Clean Team is my favorite.) For serious cleaning, I gear up like I’m about to fight. I take off my jewelry, tie my hair back, slip on the gloves and start swinging. It’s damn near a dirt pogrom.

But a fighter is only as good as the tools in her arsenal and the weakest in mine is my so-called vacuum cleaner. I've run it over visible debris multiple times succeeding only in sliding it an inch or two down the hall. As a dirt mover its fabulous, actually sucking up said dirt, not so much.

It didn’t start out that way. In the beginning, my vacuum cleaner worked well and I was giddy. I’d vacuum the rugs, detach the cup and show my Husband the deluge of dirt that had accumulated inside of it. I was as proud as a hunter stalking and bagging big game. My Husband, a brilliant man, had the good sense to “ooh” and “ahh” over my cup of dirt. “Wow, look at that!” he’d say, perhaps to distract from the fact that if a crime scene investigation team ever came to our house, they’d find his finger prints everywhere but on the vacuum cleaner.

But soon the dirt cup yielded less and less, the vacuum cleaner becoming nothing more than an expensive air blowing, noisemaker. It’s not just about the money, although I’ve made no small investment in subpar appliances. I’d like my vacuum cleaner to work as advertised and expected because I have a Dog who sheds with willful purpose. We have a ritual, He and I. I vacuum a rug, and then He rolls around on it with great enthusiasm as if to replace and grind in the fur I had the temerity to remove.

Now, you might be thinking, “Leighann, like your Husband, I’m very impressed with your cup of dirt, but have you tried cleaning the filter?”

“Why, yes I have.” As a matter of fact, I lay down pages of old newspaper, remove the vacuum’s filter and gently brush away the excess dust and dirt with a cheapy tooth brush bought specifically for that purpose. And for good measure, I show off this dirt to my Husband as well for another round of “Wow, look at that!”

But this shabby performance is not just from my current vacuum cleaner. It’s every vacuum cleaner I’ve ever owned – I'm on my fourth — each one more disappointing than the last. I don’t think I’m being unreasonable when I expect a brand-new-out-of-the-box vacuum cleaner to last longer than six months.

My parents have had the same vacuum for the last 25 years. I kid you not. AND IT STILL WORKS. When I was a kid, I hated it. The Beast was big, heavy, loud and probably powerful enough to clean up Congress. But at this point, I fervently hope my parents leave it to me in the will. And my chances are good since I’m pretty sure I’m the favorite.

In the mean time, I’m still hoping to have household help someday. I want someone like Roberta from “Two & a Half Men”: a no nonsense Viking of a woman who comes equipped with a sharp sense of humor, a strong work ethic and, if I’m lucky, she’ll bring her own vacuum cleaner with the suction power of a black hole.

Maybe my life will be more like a sitcom when I actually have one.

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Leighann Lord is a stand-up comedian, who's style is best described as "Thinking Cap Comedy."mart, sexy, savvy, funny. If comedy were music, she'd be Jazz. Check out her upcoming shows @ Join her on FaceBook. Follow her on Twitter.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Lexus Christmas to Remember or A Transmission Under the Tree

© 2010 Leighann Lord

Ok, the Lexus “Christmas to Remember” commercials are getting to me. Who wouldn’t want to have a new car for Christmas? But you have to live in the right neighborhood for that. If you don’t, that shiny new car under the big, beautiful red bow might become the sad, dirty bow laying car-less in the street.

A brand-new car is always more exciting than the day-to-day banality of car ownership: gas, tolls, insurance, maintenance. This was on my mind as I took my 2005 Honda Civic in for an overdue inspection and tune up. There’s nothing like sitting in a chilly garage waiting room to make you think seriously about getting a new car, if not a Lexus then maybe a BMW or a Mercedes. I’m intrigued by the cars that can park themselves. I’ll be really excited when they start paying for themselves. When it can hide itself from the Repo Man, call me.

My dream car is a Volvo C-70 coupe, convertible. Now that’s a sexy whip. In my fantasy it never runs out of gas, needs repairs, or gets stuck in traffic. And while the wind blows through my hair as I zip around town, it still manages to look perfectly coiffed when I stop at very rare red light lights. (Lest you think I’m completely shallow and self absorbed, I also dream about world peace, space travel and free cable.)

Chatting with my mechanic about possibly buying a new car, he reminded me that upkeep on high end cars is expensive. “More features? More problems,” he said. Last week he had just done a transmission oil change on a BMW: $700. Yikes! Where’s the black market when you need it? Bottle for bottle, I know transmission oil is more expensive than motor oil (actually I only recently learned this from my Mechanic, nodding in agreement when he said it so as not to look like an idiot) but good grief.

Another lady in the shop received the news that the left axle on her 1999 wagon needed to be replaced yesterday. “Do I have too?” She said. “Well,” the mechanic said gently, but firmly, “You can replace the axle or use the money for bus fare.”

Suddenly my five-year-old Honda didn’t seem so basic and boring. It’s my third. My first was a 1989 Accord. I road-tripped the hell out of that car, may it rest in peace. It got totaled in an accident. My favorite Honda, the one I miss the most, is my 1992 Civic: red, two-doors, sun roof. Sigh. You couldn’t tell me I wasn’t cute in that car. I remember being parked one Summer night on the Belt Parkway – yes, I said parked – and I opened the sun roof to sit and look at the stars, while listening to a news report that assured me the parkway was wide open and traffic free.

I might still have that little cutie car too if not for the intervention staged by my family. “I can get one more year out of it!” I said. But at the point you’re thinking about replacing the engine, again, it’s time to let go and move on. But in a world where cars start losing value before they’re finished being built, Hondas are – in my humble opinion – one of the few that are built to last.

“You have to do a lot to kill a Honda,” my Mechanic said. “If you take care of this car, it will take care of you.” Today, “care” cost me $288.51. At the dealership it would have cost me double. But like people, the older a car gets the more care it needs.

Next up on the preventative maintenance list is the dreaded transmission oil change. Given the price, I may have to slip it onto my Christmas list. It’s not quite a Lexus but I still want it wrapped up in a big pretty red bow.

Leighann Lord is a stand-up comedian, who's style is best described as "Thinking Cap Comedy." Smart, funny, sexy, savvy. If comedy were music, she'd be Jazz. Check out her upcoming shows @ Join her on FaceBook. Follow her on Twitter.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Barefoot Stand-Up?

© 2010 Leighann Lord

When I’m going on stage to perform, I like to dress up. Nothing ostentatious just neat, clean and stylish. But I'd been traveling all day and I was tired. The outfit I put on was nice, but when it came time for the shoes I just couldn't face putting on a pair of pumps. The heel was a respectable two and half inches high, but cramming my toes into a pair of black satin, pointy-toed sling backs seemed like cruel and unusual punishment.

I've often fantasized about performing bare foot. I saw Sade do it in her 1993 PBS concert and I loved it. She looked both classy and earthy standing there in a slinky, white, Morticia Addams style gown, her perfectly manicured toes peaking out from the bottom of her dress. Glancing at my own toes, I saw that my week old pedicure still looked decent. Was tonight the night? Was I brave enough? Could I walk out on stage barefoot and tell jokes?

And then my eyes fell upon my slippers, a brand new pair recently purchased, price tag still attached. These weren’t of the big pink bunny variety, complete with nose, whiskers and floppy ears. These looked like ballet slippers. All black, top and bottom, they blended in perfectly with my pants. And, best of all, the slippers were foam padded. "Oh yes," my feet seemed to say. So, I slipped on my slippers and yes, my feet felt fabulous, the best thing short of a full on foot massage.

“No, this is crazy,” I thought. “I can't wear slippers on stage! It's unprofessional.”

"Who says?" my tired toes chimed in. "They look good. No one will mind. No one will even notice."

I took a gander at myself in the full length mirror to see if my eyes could settle the argument between my head and my feet, and it became four against one. To the casual observer it looked like I was wearing black flats.

My mind — finally on team comfort — even reasoned that I'd give a better performance if my feet didn't hurt. Weather wasn't a factor either since I was performing on a cruise ship. The showroom was just one deck down. And so I walked out of my room, my heels left behind like bewildered sinners after The Rapture. In fact, my shoes remained packed and untouched during the entire trip. I relished the compliments I received on my “cute shoes” as women seductively stumbled around the Promenade Deck in strappy stilettos while the ship swayed from port to port.

For my next cruise I may not bother packing shoes at all, which puts me one step closer to performing, Sade style, in my bare feet. The stage, of course, will have to be foam padded.

Leighann Lord is a stand-up comedian, who's style is best described as "Thinking Cap Comedy." If comedy were music, she'd be Jazz. Check out her upcoming shows @ Join her on FaceBook. Follow her on Twitter.