Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Window Washer

I am looking out my office window at a man who is swinging on a rope eight stories off the ground. He is hanging from a balcony which juts out six feet or so from the building. He has a bucket on his rope and some other tools that I can't see from this distance (the building is about a half a block away from me). And he appears to be holding a big suction cup on a stick.

He swings out as far as he can away from the building, trying to get enough momentum to swing back to the window in front of him. And then "pop," he uses the suction cup to grab the window and hold him to the glass.

He quickly soaps the window and squeegees around everything that he can. Then he pulls off the suction cup and falls away from the building. He starts to swing toward the building again. And he uses a rag to get the area under the cup that he couldn't reach. A bit at a time, he is able to wipe that spot clean in four or five well-aimed swings.

Then he works his way down the building, one column of windows at a time. There is no platform, no seat. Only the rope and the things that are strapped to him and to it. It is riveting to watch.

No matter what we do, it has a rhythm. For him, it is the swing of the rope, the stick of the suction cup, the squeegee. Rinse, lower yourself a few feet, repeat. Sometimes he has to swing out farther from the building and use the momentum to get back. He has to go the opposite direction to get where he needs to. He has to spend a lot of time moving between windows, and not much time cleaning. And he better be paying attention. He'll fall a hundred feet if he's not.

Most of us don't have life and death jobs. But we still have times when we need to go backward to move forward. And whatever job we have, we generally have to spend a lot of time that is not productive, but still necessary. We have to do a lot of things before we get to wash the windows. We'd like it to be different, but we are most successful when we honor those rhythms rather than fight them.

Watching a man swinging from a rope is a good reminder of all of that. And of being in the moment, too.


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