Monday, February 17, 2020

Roomba Shaming 2: Electric Roombaloo

[The text of Alfred the Roomba's shaming sign: "I wedge myself under the futon and get stuck so I don't have to sweep anymore."]

It's a common sound in my apartment: the whirring of little wheels going into overdrive, the sudden silence, and the distressed beee-dooooop. Soon follows the pleasant female voice announcing "Error: Five. Spin Roomba's side wheels to clean." And I know Alfred's done it again.

The futon has always been an obstacle for Alfred. He's short enough to fit under it, but there are parts of the frame on either side that he gets stuck under sometimes.

This is understandable- it's a tight spot, and all he can do is his best. But it's been happening a lot more frequently lately. Like, six times (or more!) in an hour.

If my roommate or I are home, we'll reach under the futon and pull him out. We'll pat him on the head and send him on his merry way...

...and then we'll repeat the process a few minutes later.

Sometimes I bodily lift him and carry him to another room (a room that actually needs attention, Alfred!), and not two minutes later- beee-dooooop.

There he is, under the futon, blinking at me innocently. "Oh, dear, it's an Error Five. My wheels are unable to turn. I think there must be debris stuck in them- would you kindly give them a spin?"

Alfred. I know that you know that your wheels won't turn because you shoved your head as far under the futon as you could possibly get it!

The problem, I fear, lies in our inability to enforce the rules during the work week. My roommate and I typically aren't home when Alfred starts his daily 2 p.m. cleaning, so if he gets stuck under the futon two minutes in, there's nobody there to make him do his job. He gets to laze around until someone gets home (and if we don't realize he's stuck right away, he gets a real laugh out of beee-dooooop-ing at us out of the blue and scaring us half to death).

I'm trying to counteract this recent behavior change with extra enrichment and stimulation. I had fallen into a habit of closing off certain untidy areas before running out the door to work in the morning, but now I'm making more of an effort to pick things up off the floor so Alfred can go in and sweep during the day. Some studies say Roombas are much happier when they have room to roam, so I'm hoping the extended territory will encourage our little robot to keep sweeping and quit slacking.

If it comes down to it, I could place a Virtual Wall Barrier in Halo Mode under the futon to keep Alfred out of its radius, but I want to run this household on shared trust, not by putting up walls and treating him like a criminal.

Also, we snack a lot on the futon, and I need Alfred to keep going over there to pick up the crumbs.


  1. Poor Alfred.

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