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The necessary futility of power-washing sidewalks

April 6, 2015
The fellow power-washing humours me and hoses down my window seat.

The fellow power-washing humours me by hosing down my window seat.

For about a half-hour at least, the variegated patch of sidewalk outside of the McDonald’s restaurant in the 1400 block of West Broadway Avenue looked as clean as it ever could. This was only in small part due to the power-washing it had just been subjected to. Mostly it was because the sidewalk was wet and shiny.

Like a lot of city sidewalk, this bit is a jigsaw puzzle of variously-sized rectangles, polygons and parallelograms. A person looking down at it could fancifully imagine that they were seeing farm fields of various cinder-hued crops from an airplane.

Some of the pieces of the sidewalk could be upwards of 100 years old and others only a decade or so. They range in sooty colours from light wood smoke to the dark effluvium from an oil fire.

Only the youngest pieces of concrete, which are both the lightest and finest-grained, could ever be said to look clean.

A little something to tide us over until it rains

Freshly power-washed. Clean enough to eat off; at least the pigeons will think so.

Clean enough to eat off! At least the pigeons will think so.

The oldest squares defeat the whole purpose of power-washing. Not only are they inherently dark and dirtily-hued but their fine grains have long since worn away to reveal large round aggregate features, many exactly the washed-out colour and size of long impacted gum.

There is simply no consistent way to measure what “clean” would look like from one patch of this sidewalk to another.

But cleaners are familiar with this problem. It doesn’t matter how subjectively clean a thing looks. It matters that the job was done properly and that the people paying you know that.

And make no mistake, this sidewalk is clean.

Well it was clean, when I started writing this post. Now I can already see some discarded cigarette butts. And is that gum? Click the images to enlarge them.

From → Fairview

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