“Ironically, I’m terrified of roller coasters.”
Ruben Rodriguez, Red Rock Window Cleaning
Desert Companion: Did you always want to be a window washer?
Ruben Rodriguez: Nobody ever says, "I want to be a high rise window washer when I grow up." My advice to kids is: Stay in school, earn a degree. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job, I make good money — it’s got its ups and downs, literally (laughs) — but I wouldn’t recommend it to my kids. It’s hard work.
DC: What’s the worst thing about it?
RR: It gets really hot. Sometimes I’m reading reflections off the glass up to 125 degrees. There’s a casino in CityCenter, and we were doing the windows and the tower had a certain tint — they were calling it the Death Ray because it was reflecting into cars and melting dashboards. When you go clean a window and it’s a hot window, there’s steam coming out of it. There’s less time to swipe it with your squeegee because it’s drying — then you have smears all over the window.
DC: How do you handle that?
RR: It’s just something we got to deal with. A lot of the casinos, we can’t start too early for obvious reasons — the customers don’t want us bothering them. South Point, they want us to start at nine. Well, in the middle of summer the sun’s already out, and it’s already hot, but we do our best. We improvise. We put ice in our water and that cools down the glass and gives us that extra half second to be able to swipe it with the squeegee, so you get a nice clean finish.
DC: How do you contend with the wind?
RR: I’m always monitoring the wind days ahead of time. Anything over 15 miles per hour, we just don’t go up. I’ll have them schedule us on the ground for those days, so we don’t lose out on work.
DC: What other dangers might you encounter 600 feet up?
RR: We have hawks nesting on some of the buildings.
DC: How do you handle them?
RR: You just don’t piss them off. You try to go around them. They’re really territorial.
They had a problem at Trump Towers where a hawk kept landing on the sign and pooping all over the windows where the main suites are. So, my company sent me to a pest control company to get trained on how to install spikes in order for the hawks not to land on the sign. We installed the spikes and that stopped the problem.
The hawks were actually from the Mirage, but they made their rounds from Trump Tower to Palace Station. The Mirage — it might just be a story, but as far as I know, they released the birds. They were trained to stay at the Mirage because they had a pigeon problem. Hawks are territorial and they’ll kill the pigeons, so having two or three hawks flying around versus hundreds of pigeons, well, the answer is simple.
DC: Do you have a favorite building to clean?
RR: MGM would probably one of my favorites. The way the building is set up, it’s really easy to rig and you’re right up against the glass. Some buildings are more difficult, like the Aria because they put in planks of metal to create shade, and you have to reach over, or use a small pole or something. The East Cannery, they actually have steel beams in front of their glass — that’s one that’s difficult.
DC: How has this work influenced your perspective on life?
RR: It makes me more attentive in everything. You need to pay attention to detail because you’re up 60 stories in the sky. I’m talking about the actual rigging of the building. A lot of people think all you do is clean the glass. They don’t understand that we have to go up to the roofs of these buildings, and we’ve got to set up the devices that we're going to actually hang off of. You need to pay attention to your knots, the davits, the condition of the equipment, the motors. We do safety checks every day to make sure our emergency descending devices are working. You’ve got to pay attention to a lot of small things that could be real big things. God forbid.
DC: How important is it to trust your coworkers?
RR: You’re rigging one side and your partner is rigging the other side, and you’ve got to be able to depend that your partner is doing the right thing. Not only that, but in an emergency situation, you want to be able to have faith that he’s going to do the right thing, because there ain’t no breaking legs in this — usually, when you have an accident, it’s tragedy.
DC: Does it frighten you to be up so high?
RR: I was terrified the first time, but you get used to it. Next thing you know, it’s like you’re walking on the ground but you’re actually way up there. Ironically, I’m terrified of roller coasters.
DC: Do you see things up there that we can’t see from down here?
RR: Unfortunately, we see some things we’d rather not see. People come to Vegas and they’re here to have fun. The girls are all crazy — they’ll flash us, stuff like that. You know what I’m saying? They think that’s fun. I mean, you can’t let things like that distract you. You can’t because it’s so many floors, and so many windows, and you have to be aware of your surroundings and what’s going on. It would extend your job by hours.
DC: How long can you do this job?
RR: That’s the thing. It’s really physically demanding: You have to be able to lift heavy things, withstand the heat. I figure that I got another good 10 years in me.
DC: How clean are the windows at your house?
RR: They’re filthy (laughs). I’ve been cleaning windows all day, I don’t want to go home and clean windows.