Inventions that Made Things Worse: The Floor

It used to be that the only thing under our feet was the ground, and that was good enough for everyone. Whether dirt, rock, sand, or a different kind of dirt, it all served its purpose and did what it said on the tin. And the tin said a lot. You could walk on the ground, sleep on it, pee on it, draw pictures on it, make a fire on it, grow food out of it—it was a miracle product! You could dig a hole in it, and the stuff that came out would form a cool mound! You could put dead people in it and be reasonably sure they wouldn’t escape and kill you! It was an affordable, durable, versatile, low-maintenance solution. Hell, a whole herd of wooly rhinos could trample all over your piece of ground and the very next day you could sacrifice your daughter on that same ground no big deal.

Then some big shot decided it wasn’t good enough. And he invented the floor. The floor was a layer of stuff you put over your particular bit of the ground to make it fancier. Like clothes for the ground. To set you apart from your less-civilized neighbors. It became a status symbol. Like a Tesla for your feet.

“Oh, you’re still walking on the ground? You should try the floor! We just got one last week.”

“I don’t know, it seems complicated.”

“It takes a little getting used to, but it’s so worth it!”

“But what if you need to pee, or draw a picture, or bury a dead person?”

“Oh, you can still do that! You just have to walk back over to the ground.”

“Sounds inconvenient.”

“Okay, whatever, Lindsay, don’t get a floor, I don’t care. I was just trying to help you.”

The ground became passé, outré, gauche, and other French things. Everyone who could afford it walked on the floor. Floors became fancier and fancier. Some floors were made of wood, others of stone. Some people assembled small bits of colored stone in such a way as to make beautiful images in the floor. These people were slaves who still slept on the ground after making ceramic-tile floors for their masters.

But, as with all inventions that made things worse, this one made things worse. You see, the thing about the floor is that it gets dirty. Then it doesn’t look so nice. The nice thing about the ground is that it’s made of dirt, so it can’t get dirty, making sweeping a thing of the past! (Or, I guess, technically, the future.) With the ground, you ain’t gotta sweep shit! (Actually, shit is the one thing you should probably sweep away regardless.) Or say you spill some Kool-Aid® on the floor. You gotta wipe that up before somebody takes a tumble, or you get a permanent Sharkleberry-Fin™-colored stain on your nice floor. Ugh. In contrast, you can spill an entire pitcher of Kool-Aid® on the ground and the worst that happens is you get some tasty mud. Your toddler will eat it before you can say “Has anyone invented the mop yet?”

That’s right: as I cleverly foreshadowed in the previous paragraph, the advent of the floor brought with it The Two Great Evils of Civilization: sweeping and mopping. Of course, this was an unforeseen bonanza to the inventors of the broom and the mop, who until then could do nothing more than stand haplessly around brandishing their mysterious inventions at people and saying, “Maybe you’ll find a use for it?” They became rich, while the rest of us gave in to the misery of an existence where we had to spend several hours of our one wild and precious life pushing dust bunnies and old bits of Captain Crunch© around the floor.

Then came the Roomba, and made things even worse. Actually, first there came the vacuum cleaner, an expensive and loud device designed for the special challenge of cleaning wooly floors. Actually, I suppose we should backtrack and announce the invention of the wooly floor, otherwise known as the wall-to-wall carpeting, which, I suppose, we should explain as the natural evolution of the rug, which came about when people realized that the floor was nowhere near as comfy on the ol’ tootsies as grass and soft loam and decided to line it with soft, cushy, colorful, and attractive fabrics that also filled the urgent need for a soft and absorbent spot for the cat to vomit on.

Ergo, the Roomba. From the moment man invented the vacuum cleaner to deal with the wooly floor, he yearned for a device to free him from the drudgery of vacuuming. Until he realized that women were doing all the vacuuming. Still, though, the doctor said that, now that she’s pregnant, Megan shouldn’t be doing any vacuuming. Who’s gonna vacuum for the next nine months?

Enter Professor Phineas T. Roomba. He did all the vacuuming during Megan’s pregnancy. Until he realized what drudgery it was. With a hearty “Nuts to this,” he set about the business of inventing a robot vacuum cleaner.

Original prototype for the Roomba, based on Mrs. Roomba.

“But wait a minute,” you say, “You seem awfully fixated on Roombas. I thought this was supposed to be about the floor.” Well, unfortunately there’s only so much you can say about the floor—it’s not exactly a rich vein of cultural history. Besides, the Roomba is probably the most alarming thing to happen to the floor since the invention of clogging. It might look innocent and harmless, like BB-8 dropped from a great height, but since its introduction, it’s been steadily revealing a surprising capacity for mayhem. Take, for example, the incident of the Roomba that sucked up a dog’s tail. The Shih Tzu’s owner couldn’t free the dog from the evil robot and called police in to help. According to news reports, “The robotic vacuum sucked up the dog’s tail while it was ‘taking a respite,’ police said.”

Maybe you’re okay with a world where a Shih Tzu can’t take a well-earned respite without fearing for its tail. And maybe people like you are part of the problem.

Then there’s the “Poopocalypse,” the notorious incident wherein a Roomba ran over dog poop and proceeded to paint the owner’s home with “25-foot poop trails” and spread feces over “every conceivable surface.” The same story in the Guardian notes that two others had been attacked with poop by their robot servants: “neuroscientist Becca,” and “marine biologist Jonathan Williams.” The pattern is as clear as it is disturbing: the Roombas are targeting our scientists with a literal “smear campaign.” (The first victim’s occupation isn’t reported, but since his name is Newton, it’s safe to assume he’s a physicist.)

Technical schematic of Roomba poop distribution.

Thankfully, humanity is beginning to get wise to the threat posed by Roombas. One article advises prospective Roomba owners to “Put your clothes on the bed, don’t leave food or drinks on the ground, and certainly don’t leave sharp objects lying around.” Presumably if you don’t want to come home to a Roomba wearing your clothes, consuming your food and drinks, and coming at you with your own craft scissors.

Look: all’s I’m saying is: it’s a slippery slope from wanting to fancy up the ground you walk on to having to defend yourself from giant, sentient hockey pucks flinging poop at you.

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