ST. CHARLES – Manuel Navarro doesn’t know how many other people might walk past the large window without noticing the almost invisible smudge on the glass, down around the level of an adult male’s knees.
But to Navarro, who has spent many hours keeping those windows clean, the smudge on the glass in the window of the Rox City Restaurant at the Hotel Baker may as well have been a streak of neon paint.
“There,” he says, pointing as he walks briskly past the window. “I’ll have to get that one, for sure.
“Kids, you know?” he added, with a laugh.
For the past four years, Navarro has worked at St. Charles’ historic downtown hotel, performing a variety of maintenance duties.
Some days, he said, he can find himself setting up banquet tables in the hotel’s party suites. Other days, he might be tasked with gardening and landscaping duties on the hotel’s grounds along the Fox River, tending plants or powerwashing patios.
On other days, Navarro may be required to clean, wiping down the hotel’s lobbies, bathrooms and banquet rooms. Or he may be sent through the hotel to “look for anything wrong” – whether a burnt-out light bulb or other maintenance issue – “and fix it.”
On bright sunny days in the spring and summer, though, Navarro said he enjoys finding time in his work schedule to grab a bucket, sponge and a squeegee and head outside to wash some of the most prominent windows in the Tri-Cities – the large panes of glass that line the sidewalk on the ground floor of the Hotel Baker on Main Street in St. Charles.
On a warm, sunny early afternoon, with temperatures in the upper 70s and just a few puffy clouds floating by in the sky above the Fox River – Navarro said he drew some ribbing from what he called “jealous” co-workers, as he filled his bucket with water and cleaning solution and readied the squeegee in the hotel’s lower level maintenance room.
“One of the girls, she said, ‘Oh, you’re going to clean windows again, huh?’ “Navarro said with a grin.
“And I said, ‘What do you mean, ‘Again?’ And she said, ‘You just did it three days ago!’ ”
As he continued to squeegee the glass, Navarro smiled. Then he just laughed.
“The weather is really nice today, you know what I mean?” he said, still grinning as he squeegeed.
He noted, though, that not all windows are as enjoyable to clean. Navarro said most of the hotel’s 675 windows need to be cleaned using a power washer, or need to be wiped down from the inside.
“But it’s all just part of the job,” he said, with a shrug.
Navarro, 30, arrived in Illinois in 2007, he said. In the year-and-a-half following his arrival, he said he took on a number of jobs, including working in a factory, working for a landscaper and working at fast food restaurants.
He eventually landed at Hotel Baker, and has kept the job since, leasing an apartment in St. Charles and finding a girlfriend.
“I like it here,” he said. “It feels good. I don’t [have to] be in the same place all day, you know?
“It’s way better than working in the factories.”
He said that holds true, even in the winter, when one of his duties has been to wash the windows of the salt that splashes up from the wheels of the many thousands of vehicles that drive past the hotel every day on Main Street.
“It’s cold,” he said. “But at least you get outside.”
And Navarro said that’s one of the benefits of his job: The chance to be out among people, walking by on their way to an appointment or enjoying the sunshine of a warm spring day; even if they don’t give more than a passing glance or a curt nod to the man wielding the squeegee against the smudges on the glass windows that thousands pass each day.