THIS SIDE UP

Sometimes it best to stop when you're ahead

By JOHN HOWELL
Posted 9/3/20

If there wasn't dirt you wouldn't know when something is clean. That may sound like a kid's excuse for not cleaning his room, but our kids have long since left home and keeping things clean is up to us. One job that somehow has always remained mine is

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THIS SIDE UP

Sometimes it best to stop when you're ahead

Posted

If there wasn’t dirt you wouldn’t know when something is clean.

That may sound like a kid’s excuse for not cleaning his room, but our kids have long since left home and keeping things clean is up to us. One job that somehow has always remained mine is cleaning windows.

Windex and paper towels were the preferred tools until I was introduced to ammonia, a sponge on the end of a stick with a squeegee. This made window washing simple, although I have yet to perfect the knack of leaving no streaks.

So, Saturday I tackled to the chore of cleaning at least the porch windows of the film of pollen and wind-blown dirt. From the first swish, it was evident that I was dealing with more than a thin coating of dirt. The contrast between the upper pane where I started and the lower was dramatic made all the more apparent by the brown streaks running down from the sill. To properly tackle this job, I was going to need to hose down the windows.

But it didn’t stop there. The porch walls were coated and as I looked up, the ceiling was too. The porch floor wasn’t bad, but it could use some help.

Suddenly what I imagined was a half-hour job turned into an afternoon.

I was going to need more than the hose. This was a job for the power washer, the one Claude gave me after I borrowed it from him to clean the deck around the pool years ago. It was perfect for washing clean the grime that had rendered the cement apron a black and green hue from nasty growing stuff. I was close to finishing the job when suddenly the engine quit. I looked back. The power washer was gone, yet I was holding the spray gun and it was attached to a hose.

The washer was sitting at the bottom of the pool. It had vibrated to the edge and taken the plunge.

Remarkably, after pulling out the plug and changing the oil, it started. Several years later, Claude bought a new one and I got the “swimmer.”

The washer hadn’t been used for more than a year, but I was confident she would start.

That, however, wasn’t going to happen until I bought some gas.

This window-cleaning project now took on a new dimension.

I passed Legal Motors on my way to the station. The garage door was open, the hood of a black Mercedes protruding. I wondered whether Mayor Joseph Solomon was checking things out. On the way home with the gas, I stopped in. Rep. Joseph Solomon Jr. was standing in the doorway. His story was similar to mine – a seemingly simple project had grown into something much larger. Joe was looking to replace a burned-out plate light. Getting to the fixture involved pulling apart the trunk. When he finally reached it, it was not a bulb but an LED. Part stores didn’t carry the light and the dealer didn’t have one in stock. They placed an order, but it was going to take a couple of days. Joe was on hold for the moment, so he lit a cigar and put off fixing his car.

I was determined not to let anything interfere with my project, as much as I would have liked lingering to talk about Warwick.

Indeed, the washer started and I went to work, enveloped in a fog as I started with the porch ceiling and worked my way down over the walls and windows to the floor and the railings. Brown rivulets streamed from the shingles and fell in heavy drops from the ceiling. The further I went, the more dirt I found. The stone stairs needed cleaning. And while I was at it, I might as well power wash the table and chairs.

Then suddenly the washer stopped.

It was nowhere near the pool. I had made sure of that and leaned it against a chair to ensure it wasn’t to creep off the porch. It was out of gas.

I looked over what I’d done. Surely there was more, yet the windows I had set out to clean only required some touchup. My vision was clear. I would do that before I engaged myself in another project that would lead me somewhere I had not imagined.

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