You've seen them dangling in harnesses from thin lines or on rickety looking platforms connected to what you hope is something strong enough on the roof above. No one can deny that window cleaners deserve some R.E.S.P.E.C.T for the dizzying heights from which they hang to keep the outsides of windows clean.
The New York Times recently profiled one such "grime fighter," giving you a look at what it looks like from the perspective of the "man on an edge." And don't you dare call him a "window washer."
A "man on an edge" looks into what it's like to be an NYC window cleaner. (Image: New York Times/YouTube video screenshot)
Brent Weingard has been in the business for 35 years.
"Washing windows is dirty work because the city is so dirty. And to be honest, I don’t think the work is all that healthy. But I love it," he told the Times.
What is healthy though is having "a certain amount of respect and fear" for the heights," he said.
A respect and for heights is something Weingard said is healthy because it helps you focus on safety. (Image: New York Times/YouTube video screenshot)
To Weingard, he provides a valuable service because "why live in New York, if you can’t look out the window and see how beautiful the city is?”
Weingard started Expert Window Cleaners while he was studying political science at Columbia University nearly 30 years ago. He now works with 10 employees on up to 1,000 buildings a year.
Weingard said they try to do as much cleaning from the inside of a building, but there are hard-to-reach spots that require getting in the "belt." (Image: New York Times/YouTube video screenshot)
Things have changed over the years though, especially as the city has become more wealthy, according to the Times:
“People are fussier,” Mr. Weingard said. “They get upset if they can’t get an appointment right away, or if the guy is five minutes late.” There’s also less chatting with the customer; usually, a domestic worker or a doorman escorts Mr. Weingard into an apartment.
Now, why a "window cleaner" and not "window washer"? According to Weingard, people who use "washer" are either not knowledgeable about the business or they're "trying to put us down."
Here are some interesting fun facts about Weingard and Expert Window Cleaners:
- His solution: water, Joy brand soap, because “my grandmother swore by it," and ammonia. "God, I love the smell of ammonia in the morning," Weingard said in the video.
- He calls his mops "porcupines."
- His team has only dropped equipment -- a pole or squeegee -- five times.
- One winter day, he got stuck outside a building after the window closed. He had to go through another apartment unit's window and ring the lobby to rescue him.
- Although the iconic picture of a window cleaner is rappelling by ropes down the site of a building, most due to city regulations, work from the inside as much as possible and do "belt work" in areas where there's no other option.
- The average for apartment window washing is one to two times per year, costing $20 for each standard, double-hung window.
- "You missed a spot," is what Weingard calls "the oldest joke in the window cleaning industry." But he was generally gullible when he was younger and would often try to find the spot.
And now -- what you've all been waiting for -- footage of Weingard showing just how they safely anchor themselves so they can hang on the outside of the window safely:
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