It was last Tuesday and I was in a hurry. First mistake. I had promised to replace an exterior light bulb above the entrance to my friend, Vivian’s house. It gets pretty dark at night in that general area, not only because of that bulb, but also because the one on the porch ceiling below has been 20 watts for apparently a very long time – probably a refrigerator bulb. Vivian has difficulty walking and seeing, so I was anxious to take care of the bulb at the top in front. I raced over to discover that it was higher up than I had anticipated, and it was an unusually shaped fluorescent. I decided to remove the old one so that I could take it to the store and match it. It was getting later and later. I only had about fifteen minutes before I had to leave to pick up Roxy at school. After knocking on the door and giving Vivian a quick “hello,” I scooted to the backyard and grabbed an aluminum extension ladder – same one I had used to go up on the roof a few months back to figure out where the leak was before calling my roofer. At that time, I used the ladder properly. At that time…. I WASN’T IN A HURRY.
It is essential to hook the top of an extension ladder to the top of the roof or any other structure we’re using the ladder to access. The rubber feet on the bottom of the ladder are not sufficient to keep the ladder from sliding out from under the climber. When I got to the front of the house with the ladder, I realized that I couldn’t hook the top of the ladder to the front (Apex) of the house….. and now it’s only ten minutes before I have to leave. At this moment, The Handy Hazzan could have had the sense to put the ladder away and leave. Vivian had done without this light for weeks if not months. What would be so terrible if she went another day or two? And so, in a senseless moment, not thinking of my own safety, not thinking of the daughter that I love and am mandated to care for… I leaned the top of the extension ladder against the stucco wall, made sure the feet of the ladder were flat on the ground, and proceeded to ascend. About five rungs up, I thought I felt the ladder slip … just a little. I stopped. It stopped… and then I cannot believe I did this… I began climbing again, albeit slowly, up the ladder. I was now about eight or nine feet off of the ground when suddenly, slip gave way to slide – a new twist on the old Simon and Garfunkle tune. The legs gave way and the top of the ladder zipped down the stucco wall, with me holding on all the way, face down. Crash! Thank G-d I had enough koach (koiyich Yiddish) – strength - to cushion my fall by bracing myself in a plank position, although nose and forehead did their parts as well. My face looked like Gregory Hines had tap danced the Twelfth Street Rag on it. My nose was bleeding and my left hand felt numb (ultimately just fine). I couldn’t be sure of my condition, although I knew that was my blood on the ground next to my face. Vivian heard the crash and when she saw me lying there she thought (kinna hera ) I was dead. “Vivian, call 911,” I yelped. She did. By the time the two fireman arrived fifteen minutes later, I was up and at the gate greeting them. Dueling for first place from among my emotions were stupidity, stupidity and stupidity. (Yes, you therapists out there… with me, stupidity is a real emotion.) Guess which one won. Poor Vivian was nearly in hysterics. I assured her I was going to be fine. This was a week ago and what lingers is a damaged left shoulder, the joint exceptionally grumpy for serving me as shock absorber. I convinced the medics that I could do without an emergency room. Finally, I drove away and directly to my union’s (Screen Actors Guild) clinic on LaBrea Avenue, where a great doc was able to put almost Humpty Dumpty Hazzan together again. Good thing Mom was available to get Roxy at school.
I now must insist to myself and you, my readers, that we cannot ever be in a hurry when it comes to safety. Our first obligation to ourselves and others is to maintain safety at all times. Unlike Vivian’s ultimate, plaintive cry, “Never go on a ladder again,” my promise to myself is “Never be stupid again and always take the time to make certain that I am working safely.A few days later it occurred to me that I would have to get back on a ladder, as getting back on the proverbial horse, and I chose to do so in a much safer kind of way on a step ladder (which I call an “A Ladder” in the companion Youtube video) for this week’s Do-It-Yourself” project: washing (exterior) windows. Here goes:
Before washing windows, or cleaning anything else for that matter, it’s a good idea to understand the Ph scale, and how cleaning products range from Acidic – not to be confused with Hassidic (0-2 Ph), to alkaline (13-14 Ph). I refer to a pretty nifty book entitled “Clean it Fast Clean it Right, edited by Jeff Bredenberg for Rodale Press, 1998. Jeff explains that there are five basic kinds of cleaning chemicals: 1. Surfactants … lower the surface tension of water on an item, making it flow more smoothly over surfaces and into tiny cracks, crevices and pores. Then the chemicals can get in there and break down the soils.
2. Alkalies – Most cleaners contain alkalies, not acids, because most soils – from hamburger grease to plain old mud – are acidic. We will be using an alkaline-based cleaning solution to clean the outside of the windows. The dirt is mostly environmental and, in fact, the grill is on the deck not far from that window. Who knows? We might have a bit of hamburger grease on the window as well.
3. Acids – for alkaline soils like lime scale, soap deposits, rust, tannin (from coffee and tea stains), alcoholic beverages, and mustard. These need an acid based cleaner that could range in strength form the mildness of a solution of white vinegar in water, to the harshness of sulfuric acid.
4. Solvents – dissolve soils instead of neutralizing them like alkalies and acids. Examples include paint and lacquer thinner, acetone, alcohol and glycerin. These chemicals are very harsh and toxic, not to mention hard on the environment. Solvents are highly regulated and for good reason.
5. Disinfectants – are for killing germs/bacteria. You may be familiar with such common disinfectants as Lysol, Pinesol, and liquid household bleach (Clorox).
For our window cleaning, I created a solution of a gallon of warm water, baking soda (about three tablespoons), a cup of rubbing alcohol, and two big squirts of dishwashing liquid. Alcohol speeds up drying. You may wish to add a little sudsy ammonia to prevent streaking.
For the longest time I thought that a bottle of blue glass cleaner and paper towels was all I needed to clean windows. (I still might do that on the interior panes.) Then someone gave me the tip that they used newspaper to wipe off the glass cleaner. That’s not a good idea. The newsprint will come off on your hands and you’ll smear the glass. Believe it or not, sudsy water is all you need. Water doesn’t streak and it costs next to nothing. On the other hand, additives like the baking soda will help cut through some of the more ornery dirt.
The secret to gleaming windows isn’t so much the cleaning solution as it is the drying of the windows. You’ve all seen squeegees and probably used them on your windshield at the gas station while pumping gas. Windows dried with a squeegee stay cleaner longer than windows cleaned with paper towels. According to Jeff, scrubbing and rubbing “with a paper towel builds a static charge on the window that attracts dust.” I’ve experienced this. Minute paper particles wind up on the glass as well. A pliable, good quality rubber squeegee adheres to the glass surface for smooth window cleaning.
To see our window cleaning technique, take a look at the video below. Let’s God’s beautiful, summer light into your home with sparkling, clean windows! … and remember, Tikkun Olam starts at home. You can fix it! - HH