28 Dec

Unfortunately Terry’s skill at Monopoly gave credence to the rumor that he was a big fat loser…


I pull the sheet over my head and roll over, unwilling to respond to the ringing phone, still suffering as I am from Christmas apathy and the residual effects of last night’s pizza fest and beer tsunami. I love Christmas, a chance to indulge, to free one’s inner glutton in the knowledge that the faux promise of New Year resolutions and self-imposed fitness regimes are only a few days away. Planned purpose and corporal redemption which might occur tomorrow or possibly the day after, depending upon how I feel! It rings three times before I hear the click of the answering machine and the voice of the anonymous caller leaving a message.

It’s very professionally done!

My wife’s honeyed voice welcomes the stranger to our home, heralds our business and invites them to leave their personal information so that we can return their call at some ungodly hour more convenient to us. The price of doing business on our terms! Customer satisfaction achieved on our time, using our resources, at our convenience and all at their expense. Of course the customer will end up with bright sparkly windows with which to impress friends, neighbors, and co-workers however, at a time and place of our choosing. A reverse transaction, where the expectation of a controlled master-servant environment is eliminated the moment the customer acquiesces to our demands; leaving the details they wouldn’t otherwise give to random strangers.


Let’s be honest, we wouldn’t give out telephone details to just anybody, let them know whether we are in or out of town, or whether there will be anybody at our homes between certain times and dates. I have often thought of steering the company’s primary objective away from window cleaning and starting a cat-burglar service instead!

The answering machine message creates a bond of trust and professionalism – images of  silver steeled, glassed atrium-ed, 21st century architecture all wrapped up in corporate advertising. The illusion of busy, well-dressed, expensively educated people, ready to perform window cleaning excellence conjured up for prospective clients. What the client doesn’t know is that the telephone that links my corporate empire to the world stands next to a refrigerator covered in magnets, family pictures and children’s schedules; made in China tourist ephemera from American weekend getaways, gifted by guilt ridden friends.

“We had a lovely time in Hawaii, here’s your magnet!”

A gallery of photographs of the same kids at various ages in basketball, football, volleyball and soccer kits holding balls, trumpets, guitars and diplomas. The chronology of a busy work-a-day family trying to give their children the experiences of youth they themselves were denied; an eraser board filled with dates for dentists, hair appointments and yoga sessions. It’s hardly corporate America but the unknown voice spilling its guts on the telephone doesn’t know that. They have already listened to the welcoming message, made their instantaneous decision that we are to be trusted and chosen to leave their information.


Despite his enthusiam for glass, the recently hired midget wasn’t going to work out


“Hey this is Mrs. Smith at such-and-such address; here are my phone and cell numbers. Just to let you know we won’t be in town from such-and-such to such-and-such and then only in the afternoons!”

It would be so easy to take advantage of the situation; but we don’t!

Her mind filled with imagined images of gleaming glass and spotless sun screens, the client replaces her receiver. Satisfied that a milestone has been achieved, she crosses us off her to-do list and moves on to the next cup of coffee, TV show, or whatever.

The window cleaner cometh….


Unable to afford the new SHAKE-WEIGHT, John had to improvise with amazing results. 


The toilet flushes, the faucet runs and the kettle is filled in preparation of the first cup of the day; tea, the life giving elixir that no day can begin without. Once my priorities have been set, and I find myself in my happy place, I press play on the corporate electronics and listen to the message which so rudely awakened me.

Usual stuff;

This is John McCain, your biggest friend and I need you to vote for me –delete!

This is the paraplegic parachutist society please give us money-delete!

This is your mother why do you never call?

Hello this is Mrs. Smith and I need a quote for….Ha-ha my interest is peaked! Somebody somewhere is desperate to give me some money and of course, being a greedy capitalistic bastard, I am only too eager to please.

I scrape marmalade across my toast, slurp my tea and press the numbers entrusted to me and suddenly the disembodied voice on the machine becomes a full fleshed middle aged woman from somewhere back East; a snowbird returning to warmer climes, escaping the inundation of winter back home.

“Yes I called for a quote.”

I pose the usual, easy-to-answer questions which always seem to cause such consternation and proceed with my interrogation. It’s not exactly a cold grey dank Colditz cell however I sometimes feel a little like a uniformed interrogator, death head runes on my collar, pressing downed airmen for vital information.

“Schnell Schnell, tell me where you hide your secret what-you-ma-call- its, you Yankee schweinhund!”

My victim is easily vanquished and spills her guts without any further prompting. Rather disappointedly no coshing or corporal punishment is required. Too easy; in fact it seems the prisoner wishes to impart more than I need to know.

“I need my windows cleaned-my screens removed-but only on the left side not the ride side-I mean the eastern wall not the southern- but only downstairs not upstairs-yes of course the inside and the outside-and the bug screens naturally! Would I be careful of her dog, cat, goldfish, and husband’s credit card collection-do I have references – don’t forget the tracks-and how long do I think this will take?”

My head spins with client demands and I peel off my practiced answers one at a time. Having done this for so many years, it’s easy to get a feel for the customer and generally a woman with these kinds of perfectionist expectations means only one thing.


The phrase, “I am a perfectionist,” once uttered can never be taken back; a verbal Pandora’s Box!

Bells ring and red flags flap. It’s time to haul up the sails and swing the rudder to starboard in order to avoid the needle-sharp rocks of commercial disaster. Too much work for too little money. I make my decision; quote some impossible amount that only a lunatic would pay, in the hope of scaring her off and wait. The telephone goes silent, the seconds tick by before the faltering voice comes back on the line.

“Really, that much? Somebody else quoted me such and such”……the probe of financial fortitude. Will I hold or will I fold under the strain as the customer tries to gain the upper hand? I consider briefly, imagine the hell to which I am about to commit myself and decide to take the path more frequently travelled.

“Well I suggest madam that you go with that first quote, as clearly it sounds like a lot of work.”

“Have a great day, happy New Year etc. etc.”


Mrs.Smith’s neighbors thought she was foolish to try the tripple salto with a half flip from her window ledge.


The phone clicks. I pick up my tea, crunch down on my marmalade and imagine that somewhere in another place of business a phone is ringing. Some poor unsuspecting unfortunate is about to engage himself in a monumental task for very little financial gain, complete with mucho heart ache and a factor of ten in the pain in the arse stakes!

It bothers me not, knowing that somewhere out there in window cleaning land I have managed to avoid another self proclaimed perfectionist. I open the paper and sit back to wait for the next willing victim to dial my digits.


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