|“Off the Deep End” - A weekly window cleaning cartoon strip by Jesse Green.
My pre-Thanksgiving tradition of gorging myself on Chinese takeout while watching the original Twilight Zone yielded the seed that would grow into this blog involving window cleaning and obscure social theory.
You see, when I popped open the fortune cookie, a wise little paper banner unfurled which perfectly embodies the Thanksgiving spirit: “If you don't enjoy what you have, how could you be happier with more?”
I guess there is a synchronicity at work in the universe. When takeout food, holidays and my writing schedule align.... kapow!
Putting off the writing of this blog article, I reached for a book which chronicled the 2008 economic collapse and the dwindling post industrial American landscape through personal narratives – I know the perfect book to settle your stomach after you've eaten too much, right?
Opening the book in the middle to a random page, it so happened that this page briefly lays out Mimetic Desire – exactly what I had been thinking about over the past few days but without a fancy name to gift wrap it for the mind.
Mimetic Desire is the theory proposed by Rene Girard to explain why humans seem to want the same things. It states that people want and value things because other people want and value them. Little Freddy is happy playing with the toy motorcycle and doesn't even care about that toy tug boat in the corner until little Bobby grabs it. Now, suddenly the tugboat is all little Freddy can think about. After seeing little Bobby cut through imaginary waters to pull valuable freight to the shores, little Freddy cannot stop until he is the captain of that magnificent vessel.
This phenomenon of desiring what other's have is, according to Girard, the root of human conflict.
This got me to thinking about why I went into window cleaning. When I made the decision to start a business, I did the opposite of what Mr. Girard says many of us do. I tried to pick something that I thought no one else was doing.
I looked around and saw landscapers and house painters and the occasional carpet cleaning van driving through my town. But, I didn't see a single soul cleaning windows. Maybe it helped that I lived in “the rain-belt” near Seattle. The grayest, rainiest part of the country was surely not the epicenter of the window cleaning industry.
But even here in sunnier Cape Cod, Massachusetts, I rarely see other window cleaning vans driving down the streets. And even fewer people evidently want to scoop out people's gutters as I hear all the time from customers who say they can't find anyone to do the task.
Maybe that's the secret to economic well being, if not exactly riches : 1) pick something that no one else is doing.
And if that becomes increasingly difficult, go to step 2) Pick an area where no one else is marketing to.
My friend Jonny Alden of Jonny Windows picked an neglected side of town where no other window cleaners were interested in servicing. Building up a route of customers, he established a thriving business over time.
It takes more imagination to come up with a plan to do something that no one else is doing, but the rewards can be greater than dropping your line in the water where everyone else is fishing.
Hopefully, my window cleaning efforts will stay on the sidelines as I grow my company. But I've got a few back up plans if everyone start diving into cleaning windows in the future: 1) pet taxidermy. Who doesn't want dear sweet Muffy the kitty princess next to their bedside stuffed and preserved for all time? 2) Surrogate Vacationing. It's a lot of work going on vacation, packing bags, catching flights. I'll do the work for you, take lots of pictures and give you a slide-show of all the places “we” went together.
So, in the meantime: keep a lid on how great window cleaning is. The less we praise it's hidden pleasures, the less competition we'll have.
Jesse Green of Sparkle King in Cape Cod, Massachusetts: Hi, my name is Jesse Green. I have the fortunate job of cleaning windows and gutters in a really great place - Cape Cod, Massachusetts. I fell in love with the area when I came to see my friends get married here. The history, the natural beauty, and most of all the people won me over. I have been very fortunate. Cape Codders have welcomed me with open arms – spreading the word and referring me to friends and family.