Archive for July 3rd, 2010

Today I put on my Brazil jersey on and went to watch the match versus The Netherlands.  Although Brazil didn’t win, I am not sure that the Netherlands won it.  Neither team played a great game, but The Netherlands missed a few opportunities to make the game 3-1 or even 4-1.  I remember being in Sao Paulo, Brazil four years and a day ago when France beat Brazil 1-0.  The pub where I watched the match was completely silent after the game…the streets where empty.  The country went to sleep to wash away a nasty hangover.  I imagine that today is a somewhat similar day. 

I will wash my sorrows away with a blog post about an inspiring man named Charles who I met as he washed windows along Connecticut Avenue. 

Photo: Reed


Charles is 52 years old and was born and raised here in Washington, DC.  “I was born just over there in Georgetown,” he says as he points west toward the popular historic neighborhood.  “I used to play drums over here at Dupont Circle when I was young.” 

He attended Francis Junior High School just a few blocks from where we were standing.  He grins as he tells me that he still gets together every July 17th with his friends from Junior High. 

Now he lives down near the Waterfront with his mother who he helps take care of.  His father, who died some years ago, worked at the Navy Yard making weapons.  “His picture is on the wall there,” he says proudly.  He tells me that he and his father were almost identical looking. 

Charles' cart (photo: Reed)


After 12 years delivering the Congressional Record, the official record of the proceedings and debates of the United States Congress, Charles’ boss retired and he decided to start a new chapter in his life as well.  His boss let him keep some small carts that he used to use to deliver the report and he thought he could put a milk crate on it and make a good cart to carry supplies.  He had often seen people cleaning windows in DC but they were always carrying all the supplies and it was cumbersome to have to gather everything up every time they moved on to the next location.  He put two and two together and launched his own window washing business. 

So seven years and 400 customers later, Charles is doing pretty well.  He is a very simple man, but he understands business very well.  You build your business one customer at a time.  And if you take care of them, they will take care of you.  As an example, one of his clients even lets him keep his supplies in their back room so that he doesn’t have to haul it back and forth from his home. 

“I take care of most of these businesses,” he tells me as he points up and down Connecticut as far as I can see.  Each place is different.  Different size windows, different service (inside, outside, or both).  He chuckles as he tells me that one of his clients is a sex toy shop with lots of erotic toys, etc. in the window.  It definitely helps break up any potential monotony in his work! 

His favorite place though is an old school with lots of windows.  Although the building is special, what he likes most about it is how friendly everyone there is.  Even the kids say hello to him when he is there. “They say hi Mr. Charles when they see me.”  

In general his services cost between $5 and $25, depending on the customer’s specific needs.  Residential service can be quite a bit more if you have to deal with screens for example.  

Charles finished the storefront he was working on and it looked great.  I asked him if he had any trade secrets he would share with me.  He gave me three: 

  1. Use newspaper instead of cloth or paper towels
  2. Add a small amount of rubbing alcohol in the winter to avoid freezing
  3. Use dishwashing detergent instead of window cleaner, it’s a lot cheaper (he buys  a bottle at the Dollar Store)

It’s not all work and no play though.  When Charles is not working, he enjoys visiting the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum.  

Charles at work (Photo: Reed)


Note: If anyone would like to contact Charles about window washing services, let me know. 

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