It’s 38 degrees, the wind is blowing horizontally, pushing small grainy bits of snow across the parking lot below, and there’s a man hanging from a couple of ropes outside my window with a bucket and a squeegee. So, yeah, I’m feeling lucky — lucky that I’m on this side of the window.
Lucky that I don’t have to use a squeegee professionally.
Lucky that, generally speaking, my work is the same no matter what the weather.
Even as I write this, I’m feeling a little uncomfortable making that kind of observation. I know nothing about this man on the other side of the insulated glass. He’s a lot younger than I am — I can see that — and he seems totally unmoved by what I perceive as the precariousness of his position. His movements are methodical, almost relaxed. His face shows no sign of stress or anxiety. He’s working, just as I am, crabwalking his way up and down the shiny face of the building, just as I crabwalk my way through the panes of my Outlook calendar every day.
Of course, when he’s done, he can see easily what he’s accomplished. It’s clean, after all. Streak free and all that. And when I’m done?
Well, let’s just say it’s not as simple as all that. In fact, some days I scurry through my calendar at full speed and leave the office unclear about what exactly I got accomplished. My friend outside the window here doesn’t have that problem, I’m sure. He comes, he sees, he squeegees.
Look — I’m no fool. I don’t have any romantic notions about the idyllic life of the working classes. I grew up as the son and grandson of the working classes. I understand the toll such a life takes, physically and mentally. I understand that, for my friend outside the window, the day is long and tiring. I understand that he’s likely to have people who depend on him, who are banking on his continued willingness and ability to sit suspended three floors above the concrete sidewalk so that he can earn enough to pay the bills. And I understand that it’s likely to be a long. long way into the evening before he’s able to shake the chill from deep within his bones.
But still, I’m imagining him wiping the last window clean and easing himself down to the solid pavement at the end of the day and looking up at where he’s been — admiring the way the sun glitters off the shining surfaces, and the cold, bright blue sky of October reflects in pieces all across the glassy front of the building — and thinking “There. Done.”