The Squeegee Brigade

**This story is a Baltimore tale.  In the city of Baltimore, there are crews of “squeegee boys” who patrol busy intersections in the city armed with a squeegee and a bucket.  They wash windows and expect a nominal fee.  It’s a thing.**

By: Todd

Story #1

Scene:  Coming off the 83 South exit onto North Ave.  The light is red!  Squeegee-er is coming at me.  Squeegee raised.  I roll down my window.

Me:  It’s raining.

Squeegee dude: Just trying to stay out of trouble.  I ain’t robbing anyone.  Just trying to make some money.  (He never addresses my comment.)

Me:  Go for it.

I have been thinking about writing about the squeegee-ers for a couple months, but then my dog died, and Dan Rodricks started writing a few columns about them, so I have waited. 

Story #2

In the beginning, when I first moved to B-more, in 1992, the squeegee guys were very assertive.  They annoyed me, cause, with my annual teaching salary at $22,500, the last thing I was going to do was give up money I didn’t have.  I avoided eye contact, and if they got in my face, I would shake my head no.  In those days, they would clean it regardless of whether you said yes or no, and then give you a dirty look (or worse) if you didn’t pay.  I would try to play the lights skillfully so that I was way back in the line or barreling through a yellow-ish light.  It was stressful for a 23-year-old who had never lived in a large city. 

Story #3

My mom and stepdad were visiting, and we somehow ended up in Philly.  My stepdad was driving, and my mom was in the passenger seat.  I was in the back.  (Important information; Wes is Okinawan, was raised in Hawaii and lives in Guam, a tiny island.)  We are a few cars back in the line at an intersection somewhere in Philly.  Wes sees them coming.  He starts tripping.  He starts nervously laughing in a high-pitched way, and starts repeating, over and over, “What do I do?”  I start smiling, my mom starts laughing.  He starts yelling, “What do I do? What do I do?”  They start washing his windows.  Between fits of laughter, my mom screeches, “Give him money.”  He does.  It’s a story that has snuck into family lore.

Story #4

Where did they go?  Did they disappear for several years?  I think so.  Some sort of city initiative…. Hmmmmmm

Story #5

Sarah:  Todd, what do you do about the squeegee guys in the city? 

Me: I just give them $2.

Sarah:  I usually do as well, but when I say no, I expect them to not do it.  But sometimes they do, and I won’t pay, and they can get nasty.

Me: Yeah, I don’t ever say no.  I just give them $2, regardless.  I don’t need it, I don’t want it, but I appreciate the hustle and the “hustle.” I figure it is a tiny bit of wealth re-distribution.  (I clearly married well and am not pulling in 22.5 anymore.)

Sarah:  Interesting….

Hidden within these mindless missives are some serious questions that need to be answered.  Why are we so uncomfortable?  How do we address the concentrated poverty? How do we employ/train the underserved? Etc…  But that is for another day.  Keep hustling squeegee-ers, you can always get 2 bucks out of me.

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