Digital Slob


Slobs always ask,
why do we have to do it?

Most slobs, digital or otherwise, can pinpoint when they came into their own, when they came to know, if not accept, who they were.

Of course, not all of us can connect the dots, but the memory is always buried somewhere. My catharsis was like many. I was 4 or 5 years old when I asked my mom, "Why do I have to make my bed in the morning? It's only going to get messed up again when I go to sleep tonight."

Now, it really doesn't matter what she said or how loud she said it (actually, I think I blacked out during most of it). Her reaction isn't really the point. Her reply could not possibly have satisfied this new left-brain logic trap of mine.

And no matter my response, whether I boldly engaged a work stoppage or returned to my duties like a perfect little cherub, my rite of passage was complete. I was now a slob in spirit, if not yet in practice.

Such is often the genesis of slobbery, and eventually the spawn of numerous devices that vow to answer the question our mothers never could: Why do we have to do it?

Every answer from the R&D boys so far has been a big lie, a lie that is only fed by any slob who tries to buy his way into the realm of Respectable People. The truth is, the human race will sooner invent a time machine than a truly "time-saving device."

Take the washing machine. My grandmother, born in 1899, would spend the better part of an entire weekend washing clothes, from fetching the water to heating it in a big pot, to scrubbing on a washboard, to hanging it all on a line outside. When the washing machine debuted for most in the 1950s, it promised to be the pinnacle of "time-saving."

Well, guess what? When it became easier to be clean, we decided we might as well be more clean, more often. Or, as my grandmother said: "I spend as much time washing now as I did then. The difference is, back then, we just stunk more." As a chore gets easier to do, our standards (i.e., standards of living) for a job well done tend to rise until the new method gobbles up at least the same amount of time as the old way.

Enter the Roomba, a robot vacuum cleaner that may follow in the footsteps of the washing machine. It's a plate-size disc on wheels that bumps its way around your domicile, picking up all the little pieces of your life that, collectively, obscure the true color of your carpet.

And the price seems reasonable, about $200. However, for it to work you have to pick up everything you don't want it to suck up or negotiate around (for slobs this includes socks, silverware and last year's yet-to-be-filed tax-return extension).

This is where the deal with the devil's fine print kicks in. Once slobs take this step, prepping their floors to be clean enough for the Roomba to then, well, clean, they're already much farther down the path to true Respectability than any robot can mimic.

To my mind, this is kin to trying so hard to make a cheat-sheet for a test, you end up learning all the material despite yourself (or so I've been told).

So, the Roomba may not be the answer to the single question that has haunted slobs since they emerged from their ransacked cocoons, but it could free up yet more time for Respectable People to more thoroughly lather, rinse and repeat all the other parts of their lives.

Curt Brandao is the Star-Bulletin's
production editor. Reach him at

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