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A job in the sky

Johannes Chiyi is a window cleaner. He cleans windows outside the big IBM building in Johannesburg. The IBM building is 21 stories high. He told Learn and Teach his story:

I am now 29 years old. I am married and I have one child. My wife and child live at my home in Grey town, Natal.

Before I came to Johannesburg, I worked in a hotel in Durban. I worked in the hotel for a few years. In 1957, I decided to come to Johannesburg. People told me I can make money in Johannesburg. That is why I came to find work in Egoli.

The first job I found was this job. At the job, I found other people who had worked here for a long time. They knew all about the job. They showed me what to do. They did not teach me for a long time. I learned the job quickly.

When we clean the windows, we stand in a steel box outside the building. We call this steel box a cradle. I was very scared when I went up in the cradle for the first time. I said to myself: “It I die, my wife and parents will be sad. And nobody will send them money anymore.”

Now I am not scared anymore. I go up in the cradle everyday. Sometimes I forget that I am cleaning windows on the 20th floor. I just clean the windows and think about my home and other things.

We work in groups of four people. Two people work outside in the cradle and two people work inside the building. We all clean the same window at the same time. Then we clean the next window. We take six weeks to clean all the windows in the building. After we finish cleaning all the windows, we start again.

We use pink soap to clean the windows. The soap is like a dish-washing soap. We also use sponges and a rubber thing. The rubber thing is called a squeegie. The squeegie takes the water and soap off the windows. Then the glass dries quickly.

Sometimes we drop water or something from the cradle. Then we see people in the street waving or pointing at us. Maybe they swear at us. Or maybe they laugh at us. We do not know.

I say that I am not scared anymore. But I know that my job is dangerous. I can do everything right. But things can still go wrong.

One day last year we were working on the tenth floor. The cradle made funny noises and did not go up or down.

I tried doing everything I knew. But nothing happened. Then the cradle started moving from side to side. I did not know what to do. I thought I was going to die.

Then the cradle started moving again. Some­body fixed the machine on top of the building. I nearly cried with happiness. I hope such a thing never happens again.


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