I was staring down at the clumps of cat hair and runaway Legos that my old Hoover kept spitting up, when it occurred to me that what I really needed in order to clean my own house was a fancy schmancy vacuum—I had my eyes on the Dyson 25  model retailing for 500 smackers, exactly the same amount we spent per month on our cleaning lady before we decided to “scale back” and clean the house ourselves.
The original idea for the “Do It Yourself” model was to save money, a wise strategy since I’m not making much dough these days in my “real” job, (very lucrative in days gone by). So, given our new, self-imposed, “fallen-on-hard-times” household spending strategy, forking out half a grand on a vacuum seemed downright schizophrenic. What was I thinking?
Later that night, I mentioned my vacuum lust to my husband Mark. Known to foam at the mouth at the mere mention of technology, his eyes lit up. “You know, a capital investment in the latest vacuum innovation would save us time, money, and back pain.” But, even with his convincing logic and my desire for the fashionable and efficient yellow and black Dyson, I couldn’t justify the cost (one of us needed to be strong).
Thus I began my Dyson25 search online (which will be referred to here as D25). The search ended up being a lot easier than I had anticipated. Within minutes of plugging the word “Dyson” into Craig’s List, I found two new D25s priced at $330 and $370.
The first person I contacted was advertising a “lightly used” D25 for $330. I called the number listed and left an enthusiastic message with a heavily accented voice mail. They must have sold it because I never heard back.
The other posting advertised a brand new D25, in box, (that’s “NIB” for those of you who don’t speak fluent E-Bay) for $370 cash. The NIB D25 was owned by a guy named Guy. I asked him via text, “Why are you getting rid of it?” He responded via voicemail, in a cloudy dope smoker tone, “I got in a three-wheel accident and I won’t be vacuuming for a while.” My mind went immediately to Tom Cruise in Born on the 4th of July, replete with wheelchair, catheter, and do-rag. The least I could do for the guy was to take the D25 off his hands.
I offered him via text $330 for the vacuum. He responded that his floor was $370 and he had another buyer. I wished him luck and went back to my old Hoover.
Five days later, on our way to church, I got a text from Guy.
“Other deal fell through; I will sell you Dyson for $340 cash today.”
“I’ll take it.” I texted back.
“Meet tonight, Shell station in Sumner, 7:00 p.m.”
For those of you who are not from Seattle, Sumner is so far south it may as well be Portland, Oregon. With gas and road snacks, I’d probably be better off buying my D25 at Best Buy and saving myself the hassle.
“Sumner is too far to go for a $340 D25,” I texted back.
“Can you do Jet Chevrolet, South Federal Way instead, 7:00 p.m.?” (Still a thirty-mile schlep but given the fact that the guy was disabled I acquiesced.)
“Yes. See you then.”
When we returned from church, I called Paige, our effervescent, overachieving, APP high school babysitter to see if she could watch our six-year-old prodigy while we made the trek to South Federal Way that evening. She enthusiastically took me up on opportunity.
At 6:15 p.m., my husband and I headed south on I-5 in our Toyota Prius to rescue our D25 and to save some money. After forty-five minutes in weekend traffic, we finally came upon Jet Chevrolet, a beacon in the vast arterial littered with fast food joints and big box retailers. Excited to get the deal over with, we pulled up to the front of the deserted dealership in our foreign, gas-saving car to conspicuously wait for our dealer to hand off the goods.
Seconds after of turning off the ignition, we were descended upon by seven hungry man-wolves looking to sell some cars from their newly bankrupt supplier. “We’re just waiting for a friend,” Mark said sheepishly when one of the guys tapped on the window.
At 7:10 p.m., I texted Guy asking him where he was. “Be there in 5,” he texted back. “Look for red Toyota Forerunner.” A few minutes later Mark saw in the rearview mirror a red SUV pulling into the back of the car lot, “That’s him.” We followed him as he sped down the gravel road behind the dealership. At my insistence, Mark honked the horn to let him know we were there. “He doesn’t know it’s us,” I said to Mark. “No, he knows we’re here,” he snapped nervously. Finally, after what felt like a Law and Order chase scene, Guy stopped his car abruptly, blinding us with gravel and dust.
Within seconds, a wiry, forty-ish man, who looked like he had smoked too many cigarettes in his time, jumped out of the car, all four limbs surprisingly intact. He had longish, salt-and-pepper hair that stopped at his shoulder and a tooth or two missing. He was dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt with a hood. “You Sally?” he asked. “That’s me!” I said, a little too enthusiastically, clapping my hands and smiling. I could see through the tinted window that he had a long-haired female passenger in the car and lots of electronics in boxes shoved against the back window.
“I have your Dyson.” He said, pulling a long rectangular box out of the back of his car.
“Can I take a look inside?” asked Mark.
“You open it and it’s yours.” He cautioned.
“Well, we need to make sure it does in fact have a vacuum inside,” explained Mark defensively.
“What do you think I’d do, lie to ya?”
Mark reflexively opened the box relieved to find a brand new Dyson with the tags still on it. On the outside of the box was a UPC code from a major retail chain.
“It looks like it’s in good shape,” said Mark.
“Brand new, just like I said,” growled Guy.
“Well, that’s one hot Dyson,” I said. With that, I handed him the $340 cash.
Turning away, I asked, “Why are you selling it again?”
“I got a new vacuum, a Sebo X4 .”
“Ah ha, I see.”
Mark and I put our brand new Dyson, including warranty, in the back of our car and followed Guy out of the lot. At the stoplight, we pulled up behind him. “Should I write down his license plate?” I asked Mark. “It wouldn’t hurt.” As soon as I found a pen, Guy floored the engine and sped away, burning some rubber for effect. I couldn’t help but feel that he was trying to get away from us. I would be lying if I told you we weren’t a little anxious to get away from him too.
When we got home, we tried out our new vacuum, put our prodigy to bed, and had a light dinner.
A few days later, I retold the story to a friend of mine. I said, “It was so dark, I felt like we were in a drug deal.” And he said, “Sally, I think you were.”
Recessions make strange bedfellows.