April 9, 2015

Gemmell Award, and the events of last Tuesday

Good news! City of Stairs is up for the David Gemmell Legend Award. I am up against, I note, Joe Abercrombie, Brent Weeks, Brandon Sanderson, and basically every Big McLargeHuge buster on the block, so I am not hugely anticipating a Cinderella story here, but that doesn’t mean you, the entirety of the internet, shouldn’t go out of your way to make me feel good about myself. That’s basically all you’re here for, right? Right?

Anyway, the real story here is what happened last Tuesday.

I come home, son in tow. I am anticipating a lot of cooking, because I’ve had beef marrow bones stewing all day, producing some nice broth, with which I plan to make Taiwanese beef noodle soup. We were watching my parents’ elderly dachshund at the time, and he answered my entry with some half-hearted, grudging barks from deep within his kennel. I go and let him and my own dog out, and they and my son go outside for some quality frolicking.

It’s then that I look up and see that our Roomba, which is scheduled to run at 2:00 PM on Tuesdays and Thursdays, has not returned to its charging dock. And, now that I think about it, I realize I hear a soft humming from somewhere in the house…

I’ll pause here and say that a Roomba is both the most ridiculous, unnecessary luxury gadget one can buy, and yet is also worth nearly every penny. I bought it two months ago when I was home alone for the weekend, and I realized I liked not vacuuming more than I liked having $400*. However, it’s performed extremely well in our all-tile house, to the extent that I don’t think we’ve vacuumed since.


I see the guest bathroom door is shut, and I realize immediately that I forgot to shut it before I left, and the Roomba must have gone in there, nudged the door shut, and trapped itself. This has happened before, but usually by this point the Roomba’s run its batteries down – yet I can still hear it running, affably bouncing into the walls as if this is all part of a working day.

I open the door. And look inside.

Now, I guess I should note here that my parents’ elderly dachshund keeps a very strict schedule. He wakes up at 5:45 AM, eats, and then goes outside immediately to take a shit. I, however, have a lot better things to do at 6:00 AM than wait for a dottering old wiener dog to finish its food, so I usually go off to shower. This is when Gus – his name is Gus – usually responds by finding some discrete part of the house to take a crap in.

It’s usually the guest bathroom. I don’t know why.

But as I opened the door I realized that not only has the Roomba been stuck in the guest bathroom all day, it’s been stuck in the guest bathroom all day with a not-insignificant pile of dog shit, and has basically been doing donuts in the dog shit for the past, oh, two to three hours or so.

It was a warzone. It was unspeakable. Worse, our $400 luxury cleaning gadget not only has shit all on the outside of it, but because it is, in essence, a broom on wheels, it also has shit all up in its inside too, basically just a roving, whirring pile of dog shit bumping into the clean white porcelain bath, and toilet, and also the white baseboards of the bathroom.

My reaction – well, let’s say that it is pretty miraculous that both the dogs survived the afternoon**.


*In fact, I witnessed the future shift of humanity in my effort to buy a Roomba in one day – it was available in plenty online, but local retail stores proved frustrating. It wasn’t just that many didn’t have it, but the various sales clerks seemed so surprisingly incompetent that they were not only incapable of telling me what was in inventory, but they couldn’t transfer or even answer my phone call. When I (I got desperate) called the Wal-Mart, the person who answered acted as if their phone had never rung before in all of its existence. I found myself thinking, “THIS is why the robots are taking all our jobs – because we’re too shitty at them to begin with!” Then I reflected at length that I myself was buying a robot because I was too shitty at my own job.

**I did not clean up the scene. My darling wife is – I will make a vast understatement here – the sort of person who highly values cleanliness, and any effort on my part to do the job would probably be met with suspicion: namely, she’d assume – rightly – that I, in the midst of cleaning up the mess, would touch door handles, phones, my son’s hands, the kitchen sink, and other places she tries very hard to keep completely bereft of invasive organic manner, offensive or otherwise.