|Sam Rodriguez, with Award Window Cleaning Services, cleans the windows of the JW Marriott in Grand Rapids. The hotel is cleaned twice a year. More pictures at the link.|
23 stories up, window washers dangle high above Grand Rapids, MI – Dangling over 200 feet in the air, four men inch their way down the face of the JW Marriott while wiping each window clean. The building's height and its unique shape make rappelling from the roof the most efficient way to ensure that the windows shine on the riverfront hotel that has become a Grand Rapids landmark.
The work is not for the faint of heart. "Terrifying," window cleaner Sam Rodriguez said of his first trip down the JW Marriott. "You finally get to the ground and you almost want to kiss it." One "drop" or trip down the face of the hotel takes more than an hour.
|From left, Sam Rodriguez, Brenden Riggins, and Tim Scott, all with Award Window Cleaning Services, clean the windows of the JW Marriott in Grand Rapids.|
The first time Rodriguez performed the task as part of the Award Window Cleaning crew, it took him twice the time of an experienced window washer. With each swipe of his squeegee, he felt sure something would go wrong. After six years of working high above the ground, like any other job, it becomes routine. Now, he has to remind himself that it's dangerous and to check and double check his equipment.
What's one thing facing window washers that passersby can't see from the ground? "Spiders," said Mark Reinhart, Award Window Cleaning's president. The eight-legged creatures leave cobwebs for the cleaners and sometimes crawl up their pant legs. Before pesticide use, window cleaners would duct tape their pants and shirts closed to keep them out. Now, there aren't nearly as many, but they still can be found even on the highest buildings in town.
Grand Rapids' most recognizable buildings, including the Amway Grand Hotel, Bridgewater Place and the JW Marriott are cleaned twice a year, moments that often draw the attention of downtown crowds.