|An illustrated water colour look at high rise window cleaning in Australia.|
What's it like to be a high-rise window washer? Head to the top of the concrete jungle with high-flying cleaner Caleb Wilkinson. By Lucy Fahey & Paul Donoughue.
My heart was pounding the first time I went off a 21-storey building. White knuckling is what they call it — going over the edge and just holding on for dear life.
If you leap over the edge, that will put a shock load onto your system and that can pop the anchor point from the roof. A 'controlled descent' is what people like to call it.
When I first started I was doing a building and I [was] facing the actual wall, and cleaning the window, I was 100 per cent fine. And then a big gust of wind turned me around so I was actually facing the Brisbane River. That was when I first pooed my pants. Not literally, but it scared the bejesus out of me.
When we go up to a roof to do a job, there should be certified anchor points installed. I normally do a figure-of-eight knot, and I put a carabiner onto the anchor point and hook my rope into that. The ropes that we use are rated to at least a minimum of two tonnes.
We'll have a spotter on the ground so that when we are lowering our rope we'll make sure that, yes, it is definitely touching the ground.
I have heard in the industry of people who just do their business into a bucket if they are doing window cleaning. Or they will just do it in their pants and then they will pour their water from their window cleaning onto themselves just to wash themselves off.
I am not that type of person. I will just hold it, and just try to get the job done.
There have been times where I was abseiling down and the people had their back to me but I could see their computer screens, and they were on Facebook when they should have been working. I have known of people who have abseiled down buildings and there have been people, you know, having relations inside or in the middle of getting dressed or something.
Once I was doing a taller window drop, and everyone knew we were there but I caught someone on the toilet. And I just swung around the other way until they had finished their business. Not the nicest thing, I can tell you that.
I've had a lady cry because she was scared for me. In order to stop her from crying, it was pretty much clean the window as quick as possible and move down out of her line of sight.
I was at the retirement home and one of the ladies was deaf, and she saw just my legs hanging from the window — she couldn't see the rest of me — so she ran to her next door neighbour. 'Oh my God, there's a boy on the side of the building, I think he's stuck, I don't know what to do'.
By the time they came out onto the balcony I was down [below them]. I was like, 'Hi, how's it going?' We do confuse some people and scare some people but all in all a lot of people just let us do our job and leave us alone.
It is always good to have a bit of interaction. We've had coffees offered to us. 'Thank you very much, but I can't secure the cup.'
A lot of the boys do wear sunscreen — it's just their personal choice whether they want skin cancer or not.
We were doing a building and it was about 35, 37 degrees outside and the windows that we were doing were black tinted windows, so the reflection that comes off that adds another couple of degrees. And you can get sunburnt just by the reflection of the windows.
A lot of people just say, 'I'm glad it's you and not me' and 'I would never do that — I hope you get paid a F-load of money'.