At mid-summer I resumed, with the help of my oldest son, a really immense home project – the window cleaning Linda started in the spring.
This might not sound so big until you consider that we live in a two-story house built in1886; one with 52 windows, many of which are quite large (7 feet by 3 feet). So far we’ve cleaned 15. Only 37 to go.
The past two weeks I’ve been at the ones in my office, which, because they haven’t been thoroughly cleaned since Clinton was president, not only required cleaning but also extensive hosing, scrubbing, wasp nest removal, caulking, re-glazing and painting.
While waiting for the DAP 33 window glaze to slowly “skin over” so I can paint it (2-4 weeks), I decided to check out the evolution of glass windows.
The Romans were first to use glass for windows, a technology likely produced in Roman Egypt in 100 A.D., albeit with poor optical properties. It would be over a millennium before window glass became transparent enough to see through clearly. Glass became common in the windows of ordinary homes only in the early 17th century.
These days you can install 27-plus different types of windows in your home, including eyebrow, fixed, sash (double or single hung), foldup, sliding, casement, awning, hopper, pivot, tilt and slide, transom, skylight, bay, picture and stained glass.
All of mine, except for one fixed porthole in the attic, are traditional double-hung sash that once had counterweights attached to a braided cord that rolled over a pulley on either side to make it easier to raise and lower them. Most all the cords on mine have broken, so, to keep the windows open I now have to use a wedge in the groove.
Our English language word window originates from the Old Norse as a combination of “vindr” (wind) and “auga” (eye) resulting in windeye. This replaced the Old English words “eagþyrl” (eyehole) and “eagduru” (eye-door).
You may have heard that old windowpanes are thicker at the bottom because glass is actually a slow-moving liquid. Not so. Glass is actually a solid, albeit an odd one that’s called amorphous (formless) because it lacks the ordered molecular structure of true solids. It’s moving, but you’d have to observe it over a billion years to see even the slightest shift.
There are lots of expressions and idioms about windows. When riding after lunch with the Labradorian in my Pathfinder I sometimes have to quickly get fresh air in to mix with one of his spontaneous emissions, so I “crack a window.” (Actually, I crack ‘em all. Thank God and the saints for power windows!).
Sometimes, despite a resolution to remain calm in an upcoming discussion, I end up getting so torqued up I find myself shouting … and my plan to be cool goes “out the window.”
On more than one occasion in my life I’ve missed the “window of opportunity,” much like the “launch window” necessary for a spacecraft to reach its designated target — and found myself stuck in the wrong orbit.
Of course there’s pithy window sayings; “You make a better door than a window.” Also window jokes, like this one we told as adolescents: Q. “Hey, did you notice that grandma’s been staring through the window ever since it started to rain?” A. “Yeah, if it keeps up I think we’d better let her in.”
Songwriters make use of windows quite a bit – lots of times in reference to unrequited love, as in this lament by John R. Cash: “Don't call my name out your window, I'm leavin' / I won't even turn my head. / Don't sent your kinfolk to give me no talkin' / I'll be gone, like I said.”
Or this by Bob Dylan: “When your rooster crows at the break a dawn / Look out your window and I'll be gone / You're the reason I'm travelin' on / Don't think twice, it's all right.”
Cash and Dylan inspired me to compose a window song of my own: “Don’t call my name through the window, I’m cleanin’ / And don’t be givin’ me no sass. / Just grab the Windex and get your rear out here / This job’s a pane in the glass.”
I have — over the past few months — come to see my window washing as one of life’s conundrums, as in, “Why spend all this time cleaning, repairing and painting my office windows when 20 years from now I’ll have to do it all over again?”
The whole experience has made me realize I’ve passed into what Calvin Trillin calls the third stage of life. One I wasn’t fully aware I was in before I started cleaning windows. It’s the stage where you find a lot of things you’re grateful for being too old to do.
There’s a lot to be said for this stage. I’ve started to make a list and I’m enjoying it. Climbing a 30 foot ladder to clean second story windows is already on it. I think it will give me great pleasure someday to add cleaning windows on the first story as well.
J.T. Knoll is a writer, speaker and eulogist. He also operates Knoll Training & Consulting in Pittsburg. He can be reached at 231-0499 or firstname.lastname@example.org