#13: David Schmidt on High-Rise Window Cleaning

Listen to the interview by clicking the arrow on the audio player below.

Whenever I see high-rise window washers, I always think of Roko Camaj, an Albanian immigrant who worked at the World Trade Center for 26 years, before he died in the 9/11 attacks on the towers. I didn’t know Mr. Camaj, although I happened to work with a relative of his; like millions of others, I learned about his life mainly by reading about him in The New York Times. One of the things that always came across in the profiles about him was how much he loved his work. Clipped in 1300 feet above the street, he reportedly found a freedom in it that gave him great joy.

Those two words, freedom and joy, don’t come up all that often talking to people who sit all day in desk jobs. I’ve started to think that physical labor might bring with it both a sense of light heartedness and a sort of deep satisfaction that office jobs rarely do; that was certainly one take-away from Samantha Cole’s essay about becoming a carpenter. I could never be a high-rise window washer—I’m far too afraid of heights—but I still feel like there’s something to be learned from people who are able to do this kind of work, so I sought out David Schmidt.

About David Schmidt: David Schmidt began working as a high-rise window washer in his twenties and went on to own his own window cleaning company. After nearly two decades in the window cleaning business, David sold his company and started a new venture: the Dutch Bike Company. His bike business now has two locations, in Seattle and Chicago, and is growing fast. But David still cleans high-rise windows from time to time—just because he loves it.

#12: Gotham Ghostwriters President Dan Gerstein

Listen to the interview by clicking the arrow on the audio player below.

One of the questions I’m looking to explore through Work Stew is this: is it possible to achieve a position where there is no significant dissonance between your personal beliefs and your professional roles? This is a question I’m eager to discuss with people in a wide range of jobs, but because I earn a living writing for various clients, I was especially interested to talk with Dan Gerstein. As a political commentator, Dan speaks for himself, but as a former speechwriter and the founder of Gotham Ghostwriters, he understands full well the dynamics of promoting someone else’s agenda. In the interview, we discuss some of the issues that writers for hire have to work through and, in a dizzying tour of current events, we also touch on Greg Mortenson’s ghostwriter, the Kardashian sisters’ publishing plans, and the statement that Anthony Weiner should have made.

About Dan Gerstein: Dan Gerstein spent 10 years as a speechwriter and communications strategist working in the U.S. Senate and for two presidential campaigns before becoming a political consultant and commentator based in New York City. He has become a national media figure as a contributing columnist for The Wall Street Journal and The Politico, and he regularly appears as an analyst on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC. In 2008, Dan founded Gotham Ghostwriters, a firm that specializes in long-form writing such as books, speeches, op-eds, white papers, and corporate reports.

Reunion Musings

What do you know now that you wish you had known 20 years ago?

At my college reunion last week, I went around with a microphone asking this question.

I collected a lot of interesting answers, but the sound quality was pretty poor on account of the raucous parties that were unfolding in the background. So, I won’t be inflicting them on you in a podcast; instead you can sample some of what was said by checking out the 4.5 minute mash-up on Work Stew’s Facebook page.

In the excerpt below, a classmate who is now a family physician recalls a particularly humiliating experience as an office temp.