I attribute my long and healthy life to having been born with a keen nose for impending peril. I sometimes refer to it as the OSHA gene. When I was in grammar school I would lie in bed at night at and rehearse my emergency plan over and over again in case the school bus crashed on the way to school. The bus ride was all of a mile from my house.
When I was about eight my mother tried to convince me to get into a car with a man who was trying to find his way to a specific street on the other side of the inlet where we lived. Unclear as to whether the man was a stranger, I instead opted to run in front of the lost man’s car for a half mile until I got him, and me, safely to his destination.
Even my siblings benefitted from my hypervigilence – I quickly summoned my mother when my younger sister stuck a cut-off toaster plug into a wall socket and lit up like a lightbulb, and I always immediately picked up the glowing hot spent sparklers that were dropped in the grass on the 4th of July. Amusement park rides – are you kidding? Those things were dangerous. And, like any genetically paranoid kid, I screamed bloody murder at the local five and dime when my parents tried to set me on the lap of a creepy-looking bearded guy everyone called Santa Claus.
You may recall a television commercial a few years back where a little girl points to a lamb lawn ornament on her lawn and, as she’s walking to her front door, sizes up the statue, realizes the hazardous tripping potential, and calmly commands, “Have this removed.”
I was the prototype for that little girl.
I have an inherent ability to spot an accident about to happen a mile away, even while wearing safety goggles.
So imagine my surprise when my vacuum cleaner konked me in the back of the head the other day nearly knocking me out cold.
I didn’t see that one coming!
If an electric sweeper can sneak up on a consummate safety freak and knock her silly, I had to wonder how many other innocent vacuumers have been the victims of their potentially lethal Bissells.
Part of the problem is that I was somewhat new to this brand of vacuum. I was forced to purchase a new sweeper several weeks ago after irreversibly clogging up my Hoover upright while vacuuming leaves off the deck. “You’re not supposed to vacuum up leaves with that!” my brother-in-law teased, whose impending visit was the reason I was vacuuming in the first place. But I was happy to trade in my old Hoover whose cord was frayed and attachment door cracked, and I never liked the cumbersome dirt cup anyway. So I spent a good 15 minutes comparing vacuum cleaners at the department store and decided on the Bissell upright whose innovate design allows you to remove the canister from the main part of vacuum cleaner, making it conveniently portable to do stairways and ceilings. But the other not so innovative parts of the design are: a way-too-short attachment hose which will pull the vacuum cleaner over with the slightest yank, and, if you happen to be on your knees with your back to the machine chasing a dust ball, the slightly curved handle appears to be scientifically designed to drive the pointed tip of the handle into the back of your skull as if a bull’s eye had been painted on it.
Ouch baby, very ouch.
As a safety advocate, I was curious to see if I was the only one who had been sucker-punched my vacuum cleaner so I did an Internet search and found one source that claims in 1990 alone over 15,000 people were injured by their vacuum cleaners. There is a veritable epidemic of vacuum cleaner attacks on people in this country that is no doubt being covered up by the Bush administration.
According to my research most of the injuries appear to happen from people tripping over the cord or getting various body parts stuck in them. The ones I can write about here involve a guy getting his lip caught and a woman who got her thumb caught. A surprising number of people get injured when their vacuum cleaner falls on them while they are putting it away. (I think we can all agree — not a good idea to store a vacuum on an upper shelf.)
After hours of research, I finally came across a victim while reading the product review section on shopping.com who had also been unexpectedly bitch-slapped by her malevolent vacuum machine. She wrote: My biggest issue is (and thank goodness I’m not the court type) I have been hit on the head by this vacuum falling over while using the hose/tool attachment. I suffered a hit so hard that my head hurt for almost two weeks, and I had nerve tingling on my face for three days. These short hose- heavy suction vacuums should be built with a tip resistance in them. Needless to say I’m done with this vacuum.I feel her pain. In more ways than one. On the same day I suffered my own vac attack my sister called to brag that she had just purchased a new Dyson – the expensive designer machine that sits benignly in the middle of the room, far away from her noggin as she safely sucks up dirt throughout the house. “I’ve never loved vacuuming so much!” she gushed.