Signs of Reggie

I recently talked about the process I went through to pack up all my gubbins and travel with, or ship it to the USA. I made a conscious decision that I would move with just what I needed to live; clothes, my laptops (for work of course), things to wash and clean myself, and … that was about it. Everything else would be shipped in boxes over the course of a few months or, if I hadn’t owned it in the first place, simply bought outright.

Once we’d found a place, the question of cleaning it quickly came up, particularly with wood floors throughout (dust magnet) as well as a long-haired canine in residence. A vacuum cleaner was needed, and fast, but my shiny-almost-new Dyson was in a box awaiting a boat to bring it across the ocean.

Faced with the prospect of buying another one to achieve our immediate needs and then having a duplicate a few months down the line, I decided to go a different route.

Enter, Reggie.

I’d been thinking about a Roomba for a while, and it seemed like the obvious choice for us. Our space is roughly 1000 square feet, with a large living area and two distinct bedrooms across a single floor, so easy for a robotic device to navigate without fear of it falling down stairs, or having to buy a second one for another floor. All floors are wood or tile, which should provide no hindrance to a machine but, critically, are also heavy dust magnets if left unchecked. Not only that, but we have a border collie who sheds hair like there’s no tomorrow.

Finally there’s the most obvious – convenience factor. A Roomba can be configured to vacuum your place at any time, with zero interaction from a human. I envisaged the Roomba busily whirring about the place whilst we were asleep or at work, leaving the place spotless for when we awoke / arrived home.

The Roomba Experience promises a hassle-free robotic butler to clean your place without you having to worry about a thing. That turns out to be not entirely true …

I decided that, as we weren’t sure how Cooper (the dog) would react to Roomba, I’d set it off at night so it could clean the main area of the house and the study. If it worked, we’d then set it off during the day whilst we were home and see how he reacted to it.

Morning #1 I awoke to an error message on my phone. “Roomba has something stuck in its right wheel”. I went outside to find that it had snagged the lace of one of my trainers, dragged it halfway across the floor, before finally the lace had wound its way around the wheel and brought the machine to a grinding halt.
Lesson duly learned, I removed the shoe and replaced it on the rack, tidying up all laces, confident that the following night would be more effective.

Morning #2 I awoke to another message on my phone: “Roomba successfully completed a job!” I was chuffed to bits, and duly rolled over to tell AJ of our success.
“Yeeeahhhh”, she said, “We need to talk about the Roomba.”

The way Roomba works isn’t quite as impressive as I’d thought. Rather than scanning its surroundings, it … bumps into everything. The front of the machine is wrapped in a rubber bumper with sensors behind it. Each time it gently bumps something, it registers an obstacle and changes its trajectory until it gets around / past it.
Apparently it had been stuck in the ‘dead end’ of the living space where our bedrooms and bathroom are, bumping up against the wall and doors. Not only that, but it was loud. Loud enough to wake my sleeping girlfriend and enough to get Cooper growling and threatening to bark through the closed bedroom door.
She had spent half an hour trying to keep him quiet before the Roomba went away.
I had slept through the whole thing thanks to my earplugs.

So, lesson duly learned (again), I decided to set it off in the morning to see how Cooper reacted to it. Thankfully, whilst being wary, he basically left Roomba alone, so I was confident enough to change the schedule to the daytime. We decided to set it off at 7am so that we could watch it – and the dog – before we headed out to work.

After a week or so it became clear that things were a little odd about the Roomba. It would clean the kitchen five or six times, whilst completely ignoring one of the bedrooms. Or it would get stuck in odd locations. We also had to do some cable management, as it managed to suck up a USB charging cable (twice) and drag some cabling out from under a unit.

I decided that we had been confusing it, owing to our constantly changing layout of furniture and ‘stuff’. I reset it and, in doing so, decided it should have a name. The Roomba was duly christened Reginald. He would go by Reginald when successfully completing a cleaning job, and Reggie whenever he fucked up. At this stage we envisioned using the name Reggie far more than Reginald.

A couple of months in, and I’m glad we got him. It is definitely more convenient having him vacuum the place every day, even if some areas are missed due to either being unreachable by a large circular robot, or thanks to the vagaries of his navigational skills. Here’s a breakdown of my experience for anyone else considering one (Reggie is a Roomba 690), in no particular order.

  • Convenience really can’t be overstated, especially if you hate vacuuming.
  • He forces you to keep the place tidy. Small items left on the floor will be sucked up. Anything string- or cable-like will be sucked up. At the start, Reggie sucked up an entire bag of nails and carried on trucking.
  • He’s as loud as a regular vacuum. Definitely one to set while you’re out. Not while you’re asleep (unless you all wear earplugs).
  • You’ll see at once where he’s been, and what needs securing, by looking for Signs of Reggie. He likes to grab the corners of floor mats and drag them around. He will nudge into everything as well, so if something isn’t heavy enough or anchored down, it will get moved. Or toppled (this hasn’t happened to us).
  • Reggie comes with a ‘virtual wall’ – a small device allowing you to create a semi-circular ‘no-go’ zone (around, say, a dog bowl) or a virtual wall to stop him entering a room or going down stairs (he also has ‘cliff sensors’ that should prevent that). This is useful – I’ve now set it up to stop him from going in the kitchen a billion times, to try and force him to do the bedrooms more regularly.
  • Unless you buy the really expensive version, you can’t track a map of where he’s been. I don’t know if this means that he doesn’t track it either, because I’ve watched him go over and over the same spot.
  • His cleaning power is excellent, on a par with something like a Dyson Vacuum, and he’s brilliant with pet hair.

For all the foibles, I’m glad I got him, and Reggie is a firm fixture in the house now. I just need to make sure that a few other things that he likes to kick about the place also become firm fixtures …

This is two days’ worth of dog hair
And this is a week’s worth of hair that got wound around Reggie’s wheels and brushes

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