Hanging in There The Way-Up World Of Window Washers

June 28, 1992|By GARO LACHINIAN

As the squeegee glides across the glass, droplets of soapy water trail off the rubber blade and disappear below. Most won't reach the ground: Most evaporate as they descend the 25 stories toward the pavement.

Yes, it's a long way down. But don't look down. Look out at the Baltimore only seen from a pigeon's perch, wind whistling in your ears and birds swooping around as you glide, stop, glide down a wall of windows.

Call it urban rock-climbing. Call it thrill-seeking. Call it a paycheck. It's just another day at work for Admiral Services Window Cleaners, who make many of Baltimore's skyscrapers glisten.

I wanted to photograph window washers up close; I'm not afraid of heights. I learned that the day starts on the roof. Anchor two ropes, and weave one through a device called a bar and rack; the bars squeeze the rope, allowing control over the speed of your descent. Secure this rope to the harness strapped on your waist. For safety in case the first rope breaks, attach a second to a board not much wider than the seat on a child's swing set -- it's your office chair and the towers are your work desk.

They let me make three drops. Standing on the roof with your back to the sky, you give the rope a little slack and for a split second, free-fall over the edge. It feels like an eternity. Then the rope catches and you're facing the broad expanse of glass as traffic swirls below. The window washers say you just have to trust the ropes.

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