Careful What You Wish – A Pressure Washing Story


When I mention that I am a carpet cleaner, the last thing people expect me to deal with in my professional field is graffiti. What can I say – I like to multi-task. And since I’ve included pressure washing in my cleaning portfolio, more and more people call me to get rid of the creative expressions of neighborly teenagers.

That was the case a few days ago when I got a call from a regular customer from Fresno who got sick and tired of having to clean his backyard wall. To make matters worse, the street painters seemingly had found new, longer-lasting permanent sprays that were particularly hard to remove.

When I arrived at the address, I immediately understood my customer’s frustration. A poor colored rendition of Fresno State’s mascot – the angry bulldog in red – covered a large part of the backyard wall facing the street. “A fifteen-minute job at most,” I thought while parking the van.

While unloading my steam-jet cleaning equipment, I noticed a teenager watching me. The kid looked fifteen or sixteen, wearing a Fresno State hoodie a couple of sizes too big – he appeared more impudent than aggressive. “Are you about to wash off the Bulldog?” he asked with an unmistakable note of defiance in his tone.

“There is our wannabe artist,” I thought as silently I nodded.
“Good luck!” he retorted. “It’s the latest spray on the market, man. This thing ain’t gonna come off in a century!”

The statement made me turn towards him. “So, are you the one who made this mockery of the poor Fresno Bulldog?” I asked in a sarcastic tone. I must have hit a nerve because the boy looked as if I had slapped him in the face. “The dog is not coming off!” was all he could muster in reply.

By this time, I had decided to give the youngster a lesson. So I closed the back of my van and leaned onto it. “Tell you what, if the dog doesn’t come off, I’ll give you fifty bucks. If it does, you will give me your phone, and I’m telling your parents what you’ve done.” I could see the wheels in his head turning. Was he sure enough that the spray was as bullet-proof as he claimed? Was he afraid enough of his parents’ reaction? I got my answer in five seconds. “Deal!” he exclaimed and clasped his hands in triumph.

If you have never seen a pressure washing procedure in your life, it is a thing to behold. I had the heavy-duty equipment at my disposal, and I knew from experience that at the highest level, the steam jets were capable of blasting off industrial-grade paint (the kind they put on navy ships). The “mural” did not require anything of that sort. Within five minutes, it was all gone.

The kid just stood there, his mouth agape. He muttered a few expletives, but I must give him this – he was a man enough to hand me his phone. After a brief conversation with his Mom, I was back in my van, off to the next job. Cleaning done, teaching moment delivered. God, sometimes I do love my job!