Little Roomba in Big Chalmers

How a vacuum and I are getting through finals.


Let me preface this with the note that I am in no way, shape, or form advocating for the lifestyle that I've apparently begun leading now (the keystone features including studying in the library until 3 a.m., setting myself goals so high and unrealistic that a valedictorian would be quivering in their shoes, and allowing a burgeoning caffeine addiction to be the thin layer of ice between me and a river of overwhelming catch-up work). To quote the age-old proverb, "Do as I say; not as I do." And I say you should live, well, any lifestyle that isn't this one.

Now that we've gotten all that out of the way, I saw a Roomba the other day! I was studying on the third floor of Chalmers with a friend of mine around 12:45 a.m., right around the time the building closes and remaining students are ushered into the 24-hour reading room if they still have work to do. This is also around the time that maintenance and custodial services start working. When I looked out the glass doors of the little study space, I saw the Roomba bouncing from wall to wall with monotonous determination, ricocheting around like an old DVD screensaver. And I watched. The puny Roomba, meandering around the third floor balcony of this gargantuan atrium, fueled by nothing more than the simple command: clean. It would take days of nonstop work for this poor little friend to clean the entire building. In minutes, I found myself reduced to tearful speechlessness.

It reminded me of one of my favorite anecdotes from philosophy, about the end of Friedrich Nietzsche's career. According to the story, nearing the end of his life he witnessed a horse being beaten while hauling a cart in the street. He sprinted up to the horse, hugged it, and purportedly screamed "I understand you, I understand you!" before promptly losing his mind and never writing again. As I watched that poor little Roomba roam around the carpet, bumping and bouncing from wall to wall, working tirelessly to clean the monolithic building, something deep inside me yelled, "I understand you, I understand you!"

As seems to be the nature of most of my 1 a.m. crises, in the morning it had all but disappeared. Such is the life of a college student. I still think about that Roomba, though, as I trudge through the last of my final papers. As daunting as Little Roomba's task may be, Chalmers remains inexplicably clean most of the time. I've begun to use this as my inspiration; hard as it is to believe, against all odds, we will inevitably get through finals, and it'll all be fine. I understand you, Roomba. I understand you. 

Here's to a bearable end of the semester and many more happy days of Roomba-ing around campus and tackling my workload until everything is finally squeaky clean. Next time a friend asks me what my kindred spirit is, I guess I'll know my answer.