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Window washer Scott Murrin hangs from the side of the building while wiping a window of the Riverview Tower clean in downtown Knoxville, Tenn., Tuesday, April 6, 2021, Murrin said he uses Dawn dish soap for cleaning. (Calvin Mattheis/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Many people can say they work in a downtown Knoxville building, but Scott Murrin has nearly worked on them all.

The 49-year-old went over the edge of Riverview Tower on Tuesday — 24 stories above the ground — with a bucket of water and Dawn dish detergent. From the ground, he appeared as just a speck alongside the building's massive BB&T sign.

Keeping Knoxville buildings clean has become fairly routine for the one-man band over the past 23 years. To an outsider, it's anything but.

"I've done this building since I started," he said after disconnecting from the ropes on safe ground. "I've probably done it 50 times now."

Going from a job at The Tomato Head to hanging off buildings doesn't seem like a natural career path. So, how does one start?

"I wasn't afraid of heights," he said. "I was able to get over the first time and just continue to do it."

 

SEEING A DIFFERENCE, BUT NOT PEOPLE

From David Moon's Riverview Tower office at Moon Capital Management, Murrin descended, stopping at a section on the southeast side of the building to wipe away grime.

Moon said he is used to the window cleaning and even makes faces to test Murrin.

But the man doesn't budge, Moon said.

Most of the time, Murrin can't see through the mirrored glass. If it's dark or cloudy, he can make out some objects and faces with the aid of office lights. People often hold up signs to thank him or simply say hello, he said.

Murrin said he has cleaned nearly every downtown building at some point — low rises, high rises and everything in between. He's the only Knoxville window technician for the Chattanooga-based Absolute Services Window Cleaning, and there's a personal sense of accomplishment when a job is complete.

"When it's all done, you can notice a difference when the sun hits the glass," he said.

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Window washer Scott Murrin cleans Riverview Tower in downtown Knoxville, Tenn., Tuesday, April 6, 2021. Cleaning the 24-story tower takes around five days on average said Murrin, who has cleaned the building over 50 times in his career. (Calvin Mattheis/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP)

SWEAT, SPIDERS AND SAFETY

Cleaning Riverview Tower is always his most anticipated project. It happens twice each year and, by the time he gets to work, the building can be in desperate need of a thorough scrub.

Cobwebs and spiders are "all over the place," he said, but the worst part is the pollen this time of year. The entire building can take more than a month to complete, including the outside, inside and balconies.

Murrin started at 9 a.m. Tuesday, attaching himself to a rope. There's a "work line" and a "lifeline," as well as a self-rescue device. Safety certification is stringent, he said, and he always feels secure.

He tries to stay as lightweight as he can, armed with a cleaning blade, an attached bucket and a suction device to maintain his position on the building. The job is physically demanding, but he sits on an attached piece of plywood to get as comfortable as possible while suspended in the air.

"When you start feeling tired, you want to quit before you start getting clumsy," he said. "You got to watch the fatigue. If it sets in, it's time to get down."

He also has to keep an eye out for wind. Murrin said a breeze can tend to "bottleneck" between the tower and its neighboring buildings. But aside from this unpredictable factor, the work is "the same thing over and over," he said.

 

CLEANING ON TOP OF THE WORLD

Although he's not afraid of heights, Murrin followed the golden rule when he first started: Don't look down. Now, he looks at everything and tries to enjoy the view.

"There's always going to be a little bit of adrenaline when you're first going over the wall," he said. "It feels good. It feels kind of recreational at first, like anybody that would rock climb or do stuff like that."

But rock climbing is something Murrin has never done; he gets enough of that experience at work.

It's not the adrenaline that's kept Murrin in his career but, rather, the simple feeling of working outdoors. He said the pay is a perk, and so is the perspective.

"It's one of the best views," he said about working on Riverview Tower. "You can see just about everything."

The finished product — a sparkling skyscraper — is a spectacular view itself.

"I always point it out to people," Murrin said. "I say, 'Look how clean that building is.'"

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