Skyscraper Window Cleaners Describe the Most Bizarre Things They've Seen
Some of the bravest people working every day are skyscraper window cleaners, who spend most of their days suspended hundreds of feet above the ground keeping buildings sparkling clean. It’s no secret that their work is dangerous, but sometimes, their jobs come with some other unexpected incidents — for both them and their clients. Cleaning contractors and those who've run into them shared some of their favorite bizarre window-washing stories on Reddit.
Mesmerized by Their Job
I was visiting my grandparents in a highrise, looking out their windows a few stories up. As the window cleaners went by, I happily watched them clean, hands folded behind my back, because the windows were a one-way type thing where they were basically mirrors from the outside in.
I knew this because I’d seen the building from the outside. Unbeknownst to me, the level of reflectivity changes pretty drastically depending on the time of day. I realized later that when the window cleaners were going by, they had to wash the windows while some weirdo (me) stood about 12 inches from the window watching their form.
Pardon the Interruption
When I was in the hospital in labor with my daughter, I looked up from lying over the bed — massive belly, moaning — and what did I see? A window washer!
The funniest thing was that the windows were reflective and he clearly couldn't see me, or if he could he was a world champion poker player… He had no idea he was three feet away from a groaning elephant-like lady. Despite the pain, I laughed.
Swing Life Away
Sitting in a meeting, I once saw a window washer in one of those bucket seats at the building across the street, up maybe 40 or 50 stories, completely lose control and start swinging around, spinning. Everyone in our meeting lost our minds watching this. He regained control and just sat there for several minutes clinging to the building. We all just sat there watching in total silence. It was scary to see. I cannot imagine he didn't quit the job after that.
Service With a Smile
My therapist and I meet at her office in a skyrise, and we've begun this weird tradition of stopping everything we're doing, even if I'm like in the middle of crying or something, and just smiling these huge creepy smiles while trying not to blink as the guy washes the windows.
He loses his cool and starts laughing before he gets to the end every time, and then waves goodbye at us. Then we resume whatever it is we were talking about.
Food on the Brain
While consulting at an ad agency in NY, they gave me a sweet office to use on the 25th floor for the six months I was there. I had just come back from a three-martini lunch with some of the execs and the client. I'm sitting in my chair trying to fight the food coma and martinis. I decided to lean back, unbuckle my pants and loosen up my belt. My desk is at a 45-degree angle facing away from the exterior windows. After getting into the most lazy and comfortable position, I swivel towards the window and see two window washers smiling and laughing. One guy wrote on a notepad, "I'll have what you had. Where did you go?" We had a back-and-forth conversation for a few minutes by writing messages on notepads.
The CCO knocks on my office door. I had completely forgotten about our scheduled meeting. He comes in and sees me, belt and pants unbuckled with the two window washers, and just mutters "Am I interrupting anything?" I explain the whole thing to him and the window washers are laughing the entire time. They see him laughing and write "All cool?" Then the CCO proceeds to pick up a pen and notepad to join in. Everyone was having such a great time that he invited the window washers to lunch, on us.
Along Comes a Spider
My medical school is eight floors tall. There were often huge spiders outside every window. We were in a small group and kept hearing this loud smack but we couldn’t figure out what it was. The window washer came into view, and he obviously was not a huge spider fan and was smacking all of them. There were easily 30 large spiders on each window. I’m not deathly afraid of spiders, but forget that.
Best Timing Ever
There was a mandatory video conference with the CEO of our company. In the middle of his speech at his desk, a window cleaner comes down and starts wiping his window in direct line of sight of the camera to the entire company. It was probably the most interesting part of the call. We all had a good laugh at the mystery cleaner interrupting the CEO. I hope he didn’t get fired.
Nothing Like a Good Deed
We were getting work done on the house. There were a lot of guys right outside our windows working and trying to do work in sweltering heat. I would write little notes like, "I hope you have a nice day :) " and "Keep up the good work :)" and tape them to my window so they could see them. Then one day I got home from school early and one of the guys asked about the notes. He thanked me because no one did stuff like that for them. I had also brought them water and let them borrow my radio because I didn't often use it.
Some Additional Discomfort
I was seen by the cleaners, and not in a good light. It was not even my office. We were given some work by a firm and were given a small office to work from. I was there in the early morning after arriving. I felt some discomfort down there. I locked the door and dropped my trousers and underwear. A few seconds later, I was done, and I tried to retrieve my clothes. I looked up and there they were! Two guys looking at me. I don't remember everything but I remember trying to smile. I don't know how much they saw.
The GIF That Keeps on Giving
When we know the window cleaners are coming to our building, we generally try to mess with them. One time we put the same SpongeBob GIF on loop on every screen we could. Another time, we just frantically hid whenever they came into view. They usually laugh and seem to have fun with it, so we try to think of something new every time.
Getting Busted by a Washer
I got kicked out of my apartment because a window washer snitched on me. The apartment manager had them show up and never put out a notice about it. I lived on the 13th floor, so I didn't have blinds. Being that high up, I figured I didn't need them for privacy. Unfortunately, while I was at work, they were washing my windows and saw straight into my bedroom. They clearly saw inappropriate items sitting on my dresser and told on me. I came home from a 12-hour shift to an eviction notice.
The Doctor Is In
I was at the gyno for my annual visit waiting for the doctor to come in. I'm sitting in the chair, feet in the stirrups facing the window, when I start to see the ropes of them coming up to the next floor. I have never been frozen in fear like that in my life. Luckily the receptionist ran in at the last second and closed the blinds before they totally came up.
This Will Haunt Them Forever
I went to visit my parents, who happened to be getting some gutter and roofing work done at the time. They forgot to mention this, and I went out late the first night and got wasted. I woke up the next day hungover and stumbled my way into the bathroom to do my business. As I'm sitting there moaning with my face in my hands from the headache, I hear a tapping on the window. I look up and in the window in front of the toilet there's some dude in his 40s with the most uncomfortable look in his eyes I've ever seen.
Something tells me he wasn't planning on watching a hairy, 250-pound, 6-foot 2-inch ginger sit on the toilet when he woke up that morning.
Everyone Hates a Copycat
At my office, we would see the ropes come down, and we would know to close the blinds while the window washers were doing their thing. One day I decided to mess with the window washers. I cleaned off the windowsill and jumped up on it with a bottle of Windex and a roll of paper towels. The guy swings into view really quick, and by the time he had slammed his suction cup to the window I was following his every movement with my bottle of Windex and paper towel. For 30 seconds we stared at one another until he finally laughed and continued down the building.
Later that year I got everyone in my office, about four or five people total, to stand on their windowsills and do the same thing mimicking the guys outside. Then they got a new company to come in and clean the windows.
It's Honest Work, Dude
I once had a window cleaner leave all his stuff at my house. He rode there on a bike with a ladder and things and never came back. So one day I'm out riding around with this stuff, trying to figure out where the guy lived, and I run across an old college friend. Turns out his career is doing great, certainly better than mine, and he leaves without asking how I'm doing.
Then I realize he thinks I'm a professional window cleaner. The worst part is, a few days later I get stuck on a roof (long story) and another window cleaner has to let me down to the ground. On the way down, I see my old college friend and, excited to tell him I have a better job than a window cleaner, I start yelling to him that I'm not a window cleaner, I have a real job — all that. Then I realize I've just belittled this guy who's getting me off a roof. Not my finest hour.
Ready to Strike
I did high-rise window cleaning for a summer. I got out when I decided I enjoyed living for a long time. I never really saw anything out of the ordinary looking through windows (to be honest, I was too busy to bother staring in at people's lives), but I was very closely buzzed by some inquisitive hawks about 20 stories up the side of a building. There wasn't a whole lot I could have done if they decided to attack me.
The Drop Heard 'Round the World
I was in a classroom for some work thing in a tall glass building overlooking some older brick buildings. We can see down on the roofs of two of these buildings, one taller than the other by about five or six floors and overlooking the roof of the other.
A guy comes out on the roof of the taller building and starts assembling his ropes. It's the kind of rig where he sits on a board and can swing over from window to window. He took a long time getting everything laid out and rechecking. It seems like a long time, over an hour.
Finally he gets on the rope and starts over the edge. He gets to the first window — bum in the sling, feet on the wall — and he...drops his squeegee.
Must've Had a Rough Night
On this particular morning, a colleague and I were washing a window on some guy’s apartment at around 6 a.m. This guy in his 40s comes up half asleep, blissfully unaware we were there. And there he was...pantsless, yawning and scratching his head while his shirt that was a size or two short raised up.
Once while cleaning a highrise apartment, an old lady kindly asked me if I was hungry and proceeded to open her window and hand me a pizza slice. So I sat there, 27 stories up, tangling on my chair and eating pizza. It was a good day.
Getting Ready for the Day
I was washing the outside of the windows at the group home I work at. I walk up to one of the bedroom windows to wash it off, and apparently the resident hears me outside somehow even though he had his radio turned up to about 9,000 like he always does.
He rips up his blinds and starts slapping himself repeatedly in the forehead and screaming. This was pretty normal for him, but it's definitely the strangest thing I've ever seen so far in my life while washing a window.
Polly Want a Cracker?
I had six ladders stacked and I was cleaning a third-story window at a private residence. As soon as I made the climb up the ladder and to the window, I scared the crap out of a parrot sitting in a cage on the other side. This parrot let out this shriek that scared the you-know-what out of me because I didn’t see the bird at first.
I was already nervous being three stories up on a sketchy ladder. I swear I almost fell backward. I just hugged the ladder and messed myself and had to go back down because I was so shaken. Climbing down I was so nervous, and I’ve done it with ease before. Once you get used to it as a short guy like I am, you don’t get scared unless an unexpected parrot screams at you.
A Costly Mistake
I worked as a commercial cleaner for two years in the ‘90s. One of many window cleans involved cleaning an air traffic control tower’s glass — the controllers had to visually identify the planes as they talked to the pilots. After one of my not-so-good window-washing efforts, the controller wrongfully identified an aircraft through his window and refused a passenger plane access to the runway. This cost many thousands in extra fuel and delayed several flights for the day. I lost my job and my employer lost the contract. All because of that middle bit of the window.
See What's Next
As a skyscraper window washer, working at the Sears Tower is next level. We wore pilot oxygen masks, safety parachutes and magnetized shoes. The things I witnessed while being up there were amazing. Every time I passed the 32nd floor, they’d all stop working, take pictures and cheer me on. I’m in many selfies with those people.
I was cleaning a window and saw a man watching Netflix on his phone. He looked up at me and turned the phone towards me. I Bluetooth-ed my headphones to his phone and we watched two episodes of a show.
Cat Got Your Tongue?
I did window cleaning for a summer with my cousin who’s a full-time window cleaner. One customer we had to do was an old cat lady, and unfortunately it was an inside and out job. Inside her flat she had cat urine stains all over the carpets with soggy newspaper thrown on the ground in places. There was one corner where I pulled a curtain away to get at the window and there was cat puke in the corner. I lost count of how many times I gagged from being assaulted by a new wave of putrid smells. Thankfully I had a strong enough stomach to keep my lunch down.
Not Your Lucky Day
My family and I went to a casino hotel once when I was about 10, and I remember lying on my belly early one morning staring out the window from under the curtains while I waited for everyone to wake up. Slowly a window washer descends. We lock eyes the entire time, not knowing what to do, equally stunned and unable to say anything due to the thick glass in the way and sleeping people. Eventually he washes our window and descends. Keep in mind this entire time I've just been staring at him.
Gotta Scare the Students
We clean a 32-story dorm three times a year thanks to students constantly vomiting off the balconies and wind updrafts spreading it everywhere. Everyone gets pretty upset when this building comes up on the schedule to service. Anyway we usually always find kids sleeping, and their headboards are normally right against the glass.
We go out of our way to smash the suction cups as hard as we can against the glass to freak them out and startle them awake. This has caused some kids to jump up out of bed insanely fast since it's not a usual place to hear a noise come from. Usually a few of us are on the same side of the building and we all get a good laugh at whoever we "get." It's pretty fun.
Bark Raving Mad
I was in a behavioral psych unit when I was in high school, on the fifth floor of a regular old hospital. Let me tell you — it gets boring. One day when we saw the ropes come down, I waited by the window until the guy got to our floor and started barking my butt off. A couple of the other patients joined me. It was fun for a while. I doubt it made much of an impression, but it was an event at the time.