Fire up the vacuum and watch fur fly

October 13, 2005|by TIM ROWLAND

Editor's note: Tim Rowland is on vacation. This column was first published May 6, 1996.

The primary downside of owning a cat is the accumulation of fur.

OK, OK, the primary downside of owning a cat, aside from the noise, the midnight howling, the expense, the smell, the open wounds caused by sharp teeth and claws, the 4-in-the-morning alarm call, the frequent sound of breaking glass, the ungratefulness, the fickleness, the property damage, the attacks on covered feet in the middle of the night, the stubbornness and the refusal to leave anything alone, is unquestionably and without a doubt the accumulation of fur.

I notice this because it is spring cleaning time. To say the issue is more urgent this year is a bit of an understatement.

Thanks to Bubba, everything in the place - rugs, tablecloths, napkins, bedspreads, chairs - has taken on this misty gray haze that, photographed from outer space, would probably be mistaken for a heavy, alto cumulus cloud system moving in over Hagerstown.


Take your rubber-soled foot and scuff it back and forth on the rug a couple times and you come up with a fibrous mass that looks something like a bale of rolled hay.

So it was obvious I needed some basic cleaning supplies. And when I say basic, I mean a vacuum cleaner. I also needed something to spruce up the place in the way of plants, so things would look all spring-like.

I do this every year. Every year, I fail. I drove out to Beaver Creek (the only time I'm allowed in the Beaver Creek area is when I plan to spend money; otherwise there's always a state trooper jabbing a nightstick into the small of my back saying "keep it moving, scum").

But, at a nursery there, I was helped by a very kind and optimistic woman who fixed me up with some herbs she said I probably couldn't kill for at least three to four weeks unless I really tried.

When I got them home the cat glanced up and you could see one word flash across his beady little eyes: "Lunch."

Buying a vacuum was a little more difficult. I walked into the department store and went to the cash machine, which is a very efficient invention in that they only charge you $2 for each $1 you take out.

But I couldn't use the ATM because standing three inches in front of it was a bespectacled, baseball-capped old goat, mouth agape, staring at this money-dispensing machine from its peak down to its base and then back up to its peak. So intent was he on its detail, its lines, its symmetry, that at first it appeared he was thinking of having one made like it.

He looked at this machine with as much florid disbelief and unharnessed awe as a Zambian gorilla who'd chanced upon a 7-foot banana.

He wouldn't leave, so I did - across the street to a store where shopping was a truly bizarre ordeal. I found the compact vacuum I wanted all right, but you couldn't just pick up the vacuum and take it to the checkout counter. Oh, no. You had to fill out a ticket and hand it to a helpful person who punched your order into a computer terminal.

Then, while you wait, you are sold an extended warranty service, which is a little like an HMO plan for vacuums, although more expensive than traditional health care. Then you fill out a credit application and wait around until you are denied, then they give you some coupons and other literature, and only then can you go to the cashier, where perhaps or perhaps not your purchase is teetering down a conveyor belt. It might be a vacuum, it might be a Kiddie-B-Gone outdoor playpen, you're never really guaranteed.

I got the vacuum home all right, but was too exhausted to use it. It was still a good deal, though. Because when I gun the motor a couple times, it scares the living kibble out of the kitten and keeps him away from the herbs. An expensive cat deterrent, I grant you, but darn effective.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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