Reader Submitted Wed. Question of the Day

This reader asks a very interesting question that I have witnessed frequently but never thought of:

“Basically.. almost every building in the city cleans the sidewalks by spraying them with a hose. Some guy stands there and uses a regular garden hose to wash away everything into the gutter every day. What a waste is that? What ever happened to a broom? Are they so lazy? Is sweeping really so inferior that anyone would notice how much dirtier the sidewalk is? It seems stupid to me.

Greenpeace and all these people are all environmental and all that and right where they stand, countless gallons of water get wasted daily for no visible benefit but everyone kinda just walks by.”

23 Comment

  • This lazy wastefulness was among the first DC bad habits I noticed upon moving here in ’85. I often see the workers chasing a lone cigarette butt into the gutter with a powerful spray. In defense of hosing, there is a surprising amount of urine sprayed every night on ALL of the buildings…If you go to work before 6:30, it’s discouraging to see. So maybe a sweep for litter first, then hosing of the urine?

  • Wasted water AND all that trash is pushed into the sewer. From a practical view, think of the clogs and water back ups because of those clogs.

  • This must be something that happens early in the morning, because I’ve never seen hoses used except for watering tree boxes downtown. I must admit, I never get to work before 10 am so that must explain why I never see this.

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  • This, like the double and triple parking in front of churches on Sunday, is one of those things I’ve never understood. It’s funny how things get started and take on lives of their own… Aren’t DC residents hosed enough? (Sorry-bad pun, I know)

  • The ironic thing is that I mostly see it at the corner of 7th & H in Chinatown–exactly where the Greenpeacers are positioned to ask people for money.

  • Must be a regional thing. In my native land (Arizona), you can get ticketed for using your hose to clean driveways and sidewalks. Power washers are a major no-no as well. I still freak out when I see people toss a cigarette butt out the window, because there’s a little part of me that thinks it will start a brush fire.

  • Well, at the extreme end of this is the daily flushing of Bourbon Street in New Orleans. This is required, because it stinks of stale beer and vomit. I am not sure that even Adams Morgan gets bad enough that hosing down the sidewalks is really necessary, but certainly it’s not uncommon for people to relieve themselves on the sidewalk or an an alley late at night.

    So, it’s a possibility in really heavy nightlife areas that there might be a need to de-stink a little bit. But I expect it’s mostly laziness.

  • I wish someone would come hose down Georgia Ave!

  • I think the water is pretty much required downtown to wash away urine, bird waste, gum, and wads of spittle. Sure, I’d like to see more water conservation, but until we can as a society can refrain from peeing and spitting (and worse) on ths street, it’s a necessary evil.

  • Has anyone been to New York? Hoseing down the grime from the sidewalks in de rigour in cities. I don’t have an issue with it unless there is a drought or they are hosing litter into the gutter. Just looking at the grime that collects on my house, I can understand why water is used. Remember they pay for the water. If we want to curtail this kind of use, lets suggest pricing water as more of a scare resource.

  • seinfeld anyone?

  • I believe the main purpose of this activity is to prevent the hoses from freezing in cold weather, just as one leaves a tap dripping in winter time. Cleaning the sidewalks is merely a welcome side effect. True, the hoses are unlikely to freeze in the spring or summer, but what else is the hose guy going to do the rest of the year? He has to earn a living too, you know! Not that you moaning Greenpeace types care.

  • Nice Seinfeld allusion. Aside from the wasteful use of water — responsible for a good bit of street trash getting into Rock Creek and the Potomac — does anyone find it similarly strange that so many people in our neighborhoods feel the need to spit everywhere? Is this a cultural thing? Ever since I’ve been here, I’ve found it shocking that so many folks spit right on the sidewalks, loudly and in plain sight of others. Incredibly impolite, no?

  • Oh boy the spitting thing….PoP you might want to refer CP to the archieves on that one! There are numerous suggested explainations…some racially twinged.

  • yeah, what’s up with the spitting? it’s disgusting and it’s everywhere!

  • The spitting is new. Or at least, on the rise. I never saw it years ago, and now it’s everywhere. And it’s revolting.

  • for the record, i took up spitting and cursing when i had to give up drinking. everyone needs a vice!

  • Oh man, this is such a pet peeve of mine — and like Nikki from Arizona, it’s mostly a regional thing ingrained in me. I grew up during the Big Drought in California inthe 90s, and people would skewer you for hosing down a friggin sidewalk.

    I can understand the urine/vomit issues in the party zones, but I see people hosing down the front of the fancy restaurants in Farragut (not where the Rumors crowd is going) and down Rhode Island south of 14th, of all streets. *EVERY* single morning. It makes no sense. Such a waste.

  • As I understand it, part of the spitting is a way for folks who have lived here for a long time (yes they are probably african american) to show displeasure at folks who are new to the area (and yes they are probably white). I don’t know if this is true or not, but my personal experience has been an awful lot of young african american males seem to spit right as I walk by. Honestly, I don’t care and have taken to spitting whenever it happens as well.

  • Issue 1a: Hosing Down the streets should probably only take place after a street sweeper has gone through to gather up the major detritus, and I’m sure most sanitation circles would suggest that this is already common practice… whether it actually happens on-site is another story.

    Issue 1b: The east coast’s water problems stem more from water quality than quantity as we have a much more prolific water table… however, given the plight of areas in drought like Atlanta its worth looking into a system of Grey-Water recycling for street cleaning.

    Issue 2: A little spittle makes the world go ’round… irrigate those planter beds and streets with your home-made ‘grey water’ at will I say.

  • As a white person, I would like to point out that spitting is not race based. I love a good spit every now and then. And I don’t spit out of displeasure….and have never seen anyone spit as I walk by so as to make me feel unwelcome.
    Spit and let spit.

  • When some one spits when I walk by, I like to spit too. Just to say I see your lugie and can do it too.

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