Her performance was stellar early, but something seems to be off with her of late.

It would "change our lives," we were told.

Our friend was right. Purchasing a robot vacuum has indeed changed our lives. Or at least my life. My wife does- n't get too involved in the complex relationship that's developed between her husband and our iRobot Roomba i7 that I named "Rihanna" moments after removing her from her box a few months ago – I worship at the altar of alliteration. It’s not like my wife has even downloaded the iRobot app on her phone, or even knows how to empty RiRi’s dust bin.

It was so wonderful in those early days. Floors would get cleaned while we lived our lives. Rihanna would alert me every time she successfully completed a “job” and was so excited and proud she’d use an exclamation point. Meanwhile, our Shark upright vacuum collected
dust in the furnace room.

But, fast forward to now, and vacu- uming has become a weird sort of "thing" in our house. Before Rihanna, it was obviously a "thing" in a more tra- ditional sense, because, lacking a robot vac, we had to actually vacuum with the Shark. Expending energy and effort. Not able to simply live our lives. It was a task, a major aspect of the larg- er chore known as cleaning the house.

Vacuuming isn't supposed to be a thing when you have a robot vac. Having one is supposed to change your life because, as the marketing pitch goes, you just press a button or tap the app on your phone, the vacuum gets

busy cleaning while you do whatever in the hell you want to do, and when she's all finished she returns to her charging station.

But for whatever reason, Rihanna is struggling. I keep her dust bin empty, I’ve changed her filter and her little brush thing on the front, and yet it seems as though her performance peaked early on, plateaued, and is now in decline. And if Rihanna is strug- gling, that means I am struggling.

I follow her around, stealthily. Almost stalking her. If she's heading

down the hall, reaches a wall or door and starts to turn around, I'll dart out of sight and peek around the corner to see if she’s staying on task.

I talk to her, and I'm not real pleasant about it. I ask exasper- ated questions and engage in heated, one-way exchanges, like, "What are you doing!? You've been over that spot three times! You have less than

half a charge left and you haven't touched the kitchen! Stop obsessing over the dining room!"

Her light flashes a pretty blue when she senses she's on a particularly soiled spot. She'll stop, back up once or twice to hit the spot again, then proceed for- ward again. Early on, when I saw her blue light pulsating, I'd be like, "Good girl, Rihanna. So thorough!" Now I see the light and my fuse is instantly microscopic. "There's not even one grain of cat litter there!” I’ll say all judgmental-like. “You're wasting your battery!"

Maybe I hurt her feelings and now

she's mad at me. Maybe she wasn't totally in sleep mode on her charging station when I realized that for a few more bucks, I could have bought the Roomba i7+ that’s capable of emptying its own dust bin after a job. I said to my wife in our living room, with Rihanna easily within earshot, "Why didn't I get the 7+?" That must have been a soul-crushing moment for Rihanna. I mean, just imagine how you'd feel in her shoes.

I find myself compensating for her. You know, like when you're staying in a hotel and you pick up the room before housekeeping shows up because you don't want them to think you embrace squalor. Before firing up Rihanna for another job, I find myself grabbing the broom real quick to sweep crumbs and whatnot from under the kitchen cupboards toward the center of the room, where Rihanna will be more likely to suck them up. If I see that she’s missed a little ball of cat fur or a Dorito crumb in the dining room, I’ll pick it up and discreetly deposit it in the garbage. Who am I fooling?!

I’m certainly not ready to abandon Rihanna. After all, the effort still seems to be there, it’s just about execution.

But we seem to be entering a critical stretch. When I named her, it wasn’t due solely to the joys of alliteration, it was also an homage to the singer. Once, we were all about “We Found Love” and “Only Girl in the World” and “Love on the Brain.” But now it’s more like “Love the Way You Lie” or “The Monster” or “Unfaithful.”

It’s all amounted to a very “Disturbia” situation, indeed.