Legends from our own lunchtimes

Monday, August 11, 2008

When I'm Cleaning Windows

One of the beaut things about living seven or so floors above the ground is that you don’t have to clean windows, not that we have ever been in that position, but Joan and Ian have, and we're happy to have shared their predicament.

It’s not that they don’t get dirty, but more the fact that it’s difficult to assemble enough handles onto one squeegee to reach them while standing firmly on the ground, so if you want to have clean windows you have to hire a chap to do it.

Access to them used to present a problem at the building design stage, when all sorts of contraptions and ledges were designed in to provide safe (a relative term) access for a few hardy souls who made a career of cleaning windows while clinging on. Now that we live in the era of adventure sports and extreme games and at a time when everyone’s grandmother seems to have had a parachute jump to celebrate their ninetieth birthday, finding window cleaners isn’t nearly as difficult.

The world these days seems to be full of people willing to hang from the end of a rope while swinging backwards and forward with a squeegee in one hand and a bucket in the other.

Of course if it weren’t for Workplace Health and Safety inspectors there’d be more of them I’m sure. There’d be a real risk of them breeding until, like the windscreen washing people at street corners, they’d start swinging down buildings without being invited, hanging in front of one’s apartment until paid a tip to move on.

Perhaps there's a reason we should be thankful for that Safety stuff after all, although I do wonder at the requirement to wear steel capped boots.

Rock climbers can buy special slippers clad in stuff that’s so sticky that it makes flypaper look like teflon, and I have to confess that if my life was hanging by a piece of blue rope I’d want to make sure that I wasn’t going to slip too, so what is so remarkably dangerous about window cleaning that gives rise to potential injury to ones big toes?

I can't imagine that the steel caps in the boots of a cleaner would be particularly useful if they were hit by say, a falling refrigerator while suspended a hundred metres above terra firma, but perhaps they are a means of ensuring that the absailor's toes are prevented from being bent upwards for hours on end. Just as in years gone by, there were hazards which left symptoms which clearly identified one's occupation, like "black lung" for coal miners, perhaps they prevent "pixie toes" in Window Cleaners.

I suspect that's why that particular form of boot with the pointy curly toe and bell on the top of it is rarely seen anymore. There are just no more people with curly toes.

Thanks Workplace Health and Safety People, I can sleep soundly again!

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