There is a terrifying moment in a man’s life when he asks his wife what she wants for Christmas, and she says the following.

“Nothing. No, wait. A vacuum cleaner.”

Oh, no, it’s a trap. Surely you know how this will turn out.

Wife: “I’d like a vacuum cleaner.”

Husband: (Researches the best options, buys the state-of-the-art Dysharkoover 9000, sticks a bow on the handle.) “Merry Christmas!”

Wife: “How could you?” (Leaves room in tears.)

I agreed with her that it was time for a new one. The old one smelled of burned dog, and compared with the new models, it had a rather Soviet heft.

It lacked a headlight, and those come in handy when you want to find dirt hiding in dark places that you’d never vacuum, anyway. But who knows; houseguests might drop to their knees with a flashlight and look behind the sofa, so you want something with the candlepower of a movie premiere searchlight to find those 16 atoms of dirt.

When I heard her gift request, the first thing I did was run “vacuum cleaner” through an anagram program to see if the letters could be rearranged to form something she really wanted. Can Uvula Creme was one. She had not complained of a raw uvula. “A Cave Uncle Rum” was another, and that couldn’t be it; Uncle Rum had his own cave, it was on the card he sent for Christmas. No, she actually meant vacuum cleaner.

I went to five stores. Compared prices and capabilities. Tested them out. I liked the cordless models. The cord never reaches the sun porch, and that’s where the dog goes to shed. If I used a leaf blower on that room, there’d be a 2-foot drift of white mutt hair.

A clerk pointed out that because it is lightweight, you could use it to vacuum the ceiling, too. Note to clerk: Men never think about vacuuming the ceiling, even if we are wearing a neck brace that forces our head into looking upward all the time. We don’t think, “I should vacuum that.” We think, “I can’t wait until this brace is off and I don’t have to look at a dirty ceiling.”

The clerk also noted that it was good for 40 minutes of vacuuming. I asked if she had anything that ran out after 20 minutes, so I could knock off early. It turns out that they had one that dies after just 10 minutes! I chose that one, because now vacuuming won’t take as long.

If you’re thinking I’ve ruined the surprise by spilling the beans, it’s already been unwrapped. No, it doesn’t have a headlight. But I promised to follow her around with a flashlight when she uses it. She gave me a curious look, and I’m not sure why; she’s always saying we should do more things together.