Bear with me readers as I figure out a way to share this story with you delicately.
There is no task that makes me feel more like an old time light keeper than washing windows. Time and again in the Light House Service inspectors' reports there are black marks against this keeper and that, on just how clean the windows were up in the Tower. Right now those big panes are pretty good but for a drop here or there from a bird or two.
Late yesterday afternoon I decided to break out the squeegee and the cloths and capture that elbow grease and vinegar feeling again. The window by the kitchen sink is always a challenge in and out. It picks up a lot of dirt when the window box gets watered and it takes the rain and wind from the east. Up and down with screen and storm; inside and outside, and the view improved. From there it was the other big windows in the kitchen with the same routine. The setting sun showed that the big window that looks out on the parking lot downstairs was as foggy as the mists of Brigadoon. That required a ladder. The ladder was recovered from the mess that is the utility room; the panes scoured and wiped to satisfaction.
As the hour approached 7:00 the numbers of visitors grew. While up on the ladder I remembered that I had promised myself I would not quit until I got the bathroom window washed. That window had been the genesis of the whole project as I opened it for the breeze in the morning and saw the neglect. Just as I opened the curtain and pulled up the shade I saw a man, my age or older, approaching the window. He was beginning to unbuckle his belt. His intent was clear. Discretion was not a choice.
"Hey!, Hey!, What on God's green Earth are you doing?", I yelled out the window. "Are you some kind of moron? This is my house!"
His wife was with him and the pair scampered up the walkway and up around the Tower.
(And isn't that a great Friday night for her. 'Honey, lets walk up to the Lighthouse and maybe I can get arrested for public indecency'.) I wasn't done yet.
I headed for the kitchen door. Finger wagging I started yelling again. "Hey!, Hey! What's your name? What's your name? I always like to know who the stupidest SOB in Scituate is!" With his neck almost breaking from counting the bricks in the Tower to avoid eye contact, and his wife grabbing his elbow like a department store detective who has just caught a shoplifter, they made tracks down Rebecca Road. Better there, I thought, than on the wall outside my office.
Then my thinking went in a million directions.
There were easily 100 people around the Point at the time. A big group of kids and adults was on a scavenger hunt (these have become the rage around here) and I feel certain that finding the spot where Uncle Leaky let loose on the Cottage wall was not on their list of things to find.
I wondered if, on other days, his wife followed him around with a baggie on her hand as the dog walkers do.
I wondered if I had been able to get a cop here fast, could I have delayed the discussion long enough to have the guy hoping from leg to leg like a five year old after a Big Gulp and a two hour car ride.
I wondered if he only did this at historical sites the way that people take on the challenge of visiting every major league ballpark.
I wondered if he made it home.
There are nuts out there and they come here from time to time. I had to share this and I hope I have avoided offending any sensibilities. It was crazier than the three brides side by side, with mothers cursing. It was crazier than the Sunday morning dog lady. It was crazier than the kid who was going to climb up the flag pole line.
This morning, out watering the flowers, I thought of a line from the film director Billy Wilder, a Holocaust survivor, "No matter how cynical you are, it is hard to keep up." All I wanted to do was clean a few windows. For my trouble I get to chase Watering Plants off the reservation.