I stopped in to a convenience store this afternoon to pick up some soda and I noticed the latest copy of the New York Post on the news stand. On the cover is a photo of a man who looks a bit scruffy with matted dreadlocks, standing in traffic with a Windex bottle in one hand and a wadded up newspaper in the other washing the windshield of a car. In huge white letters scrawled across the front, it says, “Squeegee Men Back – Bad Old Days.” The subtitle reads, “No, it’s not 1990 – it’s this week, as a squeegee man harasses a driver near the Midtown Tunnel, one of several such unwelcome sightings.” Turning to the page for the squeegee man story, across the top is labeled “Return of a Crime ‘Streak’” The story can be found here.
I am not particularly sure where I’m going with this. I was considering linking it with tight money, but it’s a likely stretch even for me, the queen of mudslinging. Though, I think the label “Return of a Crime ‘Streak’” is a bit much.
I remember many years ago going down to Mexico for the day. Driving through Tijuana was complete with squeegee men on every corner. By the time I got out of downtown, my windshield had been washed no fewer than 5 times. It’s certainly not a safe practice and it snarls traffic. But I always just accepted it as a part of the city and made sure I had a stack of dollar bills when I went through there. Those guys weren’t scary when they asked first, and most did. When they did ask to clean the windshield I let them and I paid them because it seems more acceptable to me than panhandling – it is work, and I get the bugs cleaned off the windshield.
I actually felt better there in Tijuana than in downtown Riverside where I’m from, or even downtown Rochester for that matter because the panhandlers in those cities are relentless shakedown artists. It’s a tense situation having some scruffy looking dude’s radar locked onto to me while on foot. One of them dogged me for five blocks as I walked down to a café from work for lunch one day. I thought he would never leave; and he was a big guy too. But I was determined to not give this guy anything because begging is completely repulsive. Though, the events of the last half decade have softened my outlook on things people might do out of desperation, my attitude toward panhandling is still the same; thinking it to be more like a crime streak than squeegee men.