Don’t give the squeegee guy a new squeegee. I mean it. I did.
At the time I thought that I was doing this random guy a favour by giving him a brand new replacement for the ratty bit of dirty sponge that remained of a once useful wind-shield cleaning tool.
The look on his face eclipsed all my doubts about giving a squeegee person anything. He seemed genuinely grateful as I held out the new squeegee out of driver side window, my vehicle already creeping ahead as the light changed to green. I heard a “Thanks mister” as I drove off.
I’d seen this particular guy at that intersection enough to make his a familiar face. He’d been there for the past year or so and I’d witnessed the deterioration of his primary working tool. What had begun as a regulation squeegee; available at almost any hardware store, had deteriorated badly. A now tattered bit of dirty sponge no longer than the length of my hand was casually and indifferently proffered to potential customers.
So much for effectiveness in cleaning anything, let alone a wind-shield (but then again, since when is actually cleaning wind-shields the real reason to be out there in traffic in the first place?)
I’ve never availed myself of this convenient wind-shield cleaning service now available at almost all major intersections of Anytown. I still see no need. My vehicle comes equipped with two, count ’em two wipers just a flick of a switch away from doing the job; and a reasonably good job too.
But seeing this guy doggedly using what amounted to a filthy rag and who-knows-what kind of liquid that he squirted onto that rag from a crumpled clear plastic bottle, got the better of me. That was my motivation as I set out to hand him a pretty, new squeegee; the next time the opportunity presented itself. I figured that he’d be happy to save the cost of replacing his squeegee and be pleased to be able to offer potential customers a more efficient service.
The next time I saw this squeegee guy, my sympathies turned into disappointment and then frustrated ill-will. All of my good thoughts that had flooded my brain in the wake of successfully having made a successful hand-off went horribly wrong, suddenly splattering against the wind-shield of idealistic goodwill. His car glass wiping hand clutching that same old ratty, dirty bit of sponge instead of the shiny new red squeegee I’d handed him just a few days ago.
Either this guy was really rough on his squeegees or he’d sold it or was saving it up for a special day or who knows what, but barely three days later he was out creating pity and goodwill with his crusty old rag, leaving countless duped drivers squinting through a curtain of grimy mess now more evenly distributed all over their windshields.
I never stopped to ask him about the squeegee. What’s the point? I nod curtly and drive past. And I’ve gotten over that frustration.
Since then I am still mildly interested in the phenomenon of squeegee workers, keeping a curious eye on two or three of the more familiar faces that have made certain intersections their own drive through business ventures.
Short of heading over on foot to observe and to talk with these determined traffic vultures, I can’t and won’t pretend to fully understand their motivation, need or determination.
I still see that guy and others like him out there on traffic islands and every time I do, I am reminded that I still owe the person who lent me that squeegee, a new one.