Columnist

Beth Dolinar has been writing her column about life, both hers and the rest of ours, for over 20 years. When not on the page, she produces Emmy-winning documentaries, teaches writing to university students, and enjoys her two growing children.

Our garage is like a page of doodles, decipherable only to the person who drew them. I look at our two-car garage and see a cryptic mess. The farmer sees Marie Kondo order.

Except when fetching my bike, I seldom go in there, and even then, I don’t venture far into the cluttered depths of the space. If I were to draw our garage from memory, there’d be a table saw, some workout weights, a stationary bike, a few bikes hanging from the ceiling, bags of grass seed and potting soil, a broom or two and a lawn mower. And that’s only the front half of the garage. There’s a lot more toward the back. That’s the foreign land known only to the farmer.

“Kinda messy back there,” I said.

“Not really,” he replied, “I know where everything is.”

And so it was last week that my request sent him into his bailiwick. I wanted to clean up the laundry and storage area of the basement, a.k.a. Spider Land.

“I don’t want to sweep the webs with the good vacuum,” I said.

“I’ll get the Shop-Vac,” the farmer said, and off he went into the hinterlands of the garage to extract the large, black barrel with the hose attached.

Into my life rolled the most glorious (and underrated) tool of domestic work. Although I’d known about Shop-Vacs – indeed had over the years watched my father and grandfather use them – I’d somehow arrived at my advanced age without having used one on my own. What a revelation!

“Don’t put the nozzle directly on the floor,” the farmer warned as he demonstrated. “You’ll have too much suction.” And good grief, was he right. This ugly little suck monster was powerful enough to pull the foundation clear up through the laundry room floor.

Dirt, dust, chunks of wood, bits of paper – up it went through the hose. The mouth was wide enough to scarf up large wads of dryer lint and dust bunnies. I could even use it to inhale a small dog, if I were that kind of person.

In went the spider webs (we definitely have a spider problem), wayward nails, plastic wrappers (who eats snacks in the laundry room?), and bits of dry dog food.

Lone socks, scraps of fabric, grass clippings, a wilted face mask, a dish cloth (it was ratty anyway).

And pennies. Holy cow, the pennies. Have you heard about the coin shortage? Check your Shop-Vacs, people.

Years ago, when we adopted a particularly sheddy Labradoodle, we ditched our store-bought sweeper and went for an expensive high-end model, a European brand called Sebo. It’s still going strong and, until I deployed the Shop-Vac, was the suckiest sweeper I’ve ever used.

It has nothing on the Shop-Vac. Although the dogs don’t go into the basement, clumps of their hair end up stuck to things down there.

The Shop-Vac swallowed those golden tumbleweeds like nobody’s business. Imagine how sparkly the living area would be if I took the mighty Shop-Vac upstairs?

“Doesn’t work that way,” said the farmer. Turns out the Shop-Vac is for dirty places, like workshops and garages. Besides, the dogs live upstairs. We don’t want to accidentally makes pennies of them.

After an hour of work, the Shop-Vac and I had finished in the basement. It’s almost a pleasure to go down there, it’s so clean.

The farmer rolled my hungry friend back to the rear of the garage. I asked him to keep it where I can find it.

The spiders are back at work.

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