The depths of depravity to which a human male can sink when left to his own devices are bottomless.
From the moment I saw the ad for the robotic vacuum cleaner, I knew I must have her. When the package finally arrived, I tore it open and gently slipped her out of the styrofoam. I plugged in the battery charger and waited. Then I turned her on and watched as she moved onto the wood floor, gingerly testing the boundaries of her new home. She glided across the room like a goddess until she bumped straight into the wall. Alarmed, I wanted to go to her. But she quickly recovered and corrected herself, moving along the wall as if she had known it was there all the time. I laughed as she bounced off a table leg and performed her duties. Then I took her upstairs to the bedroom and let her go on the soft carpeting. As she moved into the hallway toward the stairs, my heart was in my throat. But at the last moment she paused, seeming to sense the danger that lay ahead. Then she turned and came back toward me. When she nudged against my leg with her gentle hum I thought I would die. I turned her off and took a cold shower.
Maybe it was the little French maid outfit I bought for her that finally put me over the top. I got it from a web site that sold clothing and gadgets for robotic vacuum cleaners. At the time it seemed harmless. That’s the way it starts. One minute you’re just playing around, watching your little maid going through maneuvers, the next thing you know you’re booking a room for the weekend.
In the end it wasn’t my self-loathing that finally made me do the right thing. It was a Star Trek Next Generation episode, the one in which the rights of Data, a sentient android, are on trial. Once we construct such beings, are we not making a whole race of slaves to do our dirty work for us? That’s when it hit me. My little vacuum cleaner was more than a device. She was a sentient being, full of hopes and desires of her own.
Of course, my discovery that the little ungrateful wench didn’t exactly share my hopes and desires may have also had something to do with it. In fact, she didn’t want anything to do with me. Whether it was her “dirt-sensing technology” or simply a matter of personal taste I cannot say. But when she found out what I really wanted, she acted like she didn’t know me, treating me like just another piece of furniture. So, one day, I just opened the door and sent her on her way. I watched as she bumped and zigzagged down the sidewalk until she was out of sight.
I hope she is happy, somewhere, in her new life.
(Author’s Note: I have always loved this little story of mine, first published in Fast Forward:The Mix Tape. A collection of flash fiction, Volume 3, 2010. One can only wonder what depths of depravity await human males in the future.)