Squeegee People, Vulture Culture & Cars
by Grant Shilling
It’s smoggy as Mars and you sit in your car in a hurry to get
home to paradise. You hit a red. Gingerly prancing toward your car is
the man on the moon. ( He looks mysteriously like the character on the
cover of the cassette you’ve just popped into the tape deck, creating
a your lifestyle/his life conundrum). He carries a squeegee and begins
dragging it across your windshield.
He has cleaned the windshield and in the process created a possibly
unwanted indebtedness; a moral dilemna – or- if he’s lucky,
gratitude in the form of spare change for services rendered. How do
you feel about these wayward gas station attendants who have begun to
show up on our streets?
My preliminary thoughts are that they are great. Anything or anyone
that slows down traffic or makes drivers as opposed to pedestrians feel
more vulnerable is providing a community service. Of course you –
King or Queen of the road – may feel differently. Who are these
men and women of means – by – no – means anyway and
why are they messing with my riding with the King thing?
The poet Vachel Lindsay suggested that through the heart of every civilization
flows the Nile. If he were alive today he would no doubt add –
In Cairo, traffic yields to sheep, carts, people, bikes, more traffic
and peddlars of newspapers, bananas, papyrus – you name it. Driving
the six lane in Mexico City in your three-seat VW Bug ( passenger seat
removed ) folks will stand on the white lines selling you car mats,
car parts, shoes and sex ( sex, not taxes is the only constant of capitalism
). In Guatemala you can buy the paper or peanuts from your car. In Trinidad
it’s this corn thing.
Car consumerism makes pragmatic business sense – this is a target
market in a new era of entrepreneurial spirit: Car Vulture Culture.
The squeegee squadrons are just the beginning. How about coffee to go?
Hot dogs! Get your hot dogs! Condoms for the relentless auto suck service.
This here’s a drive-through and the drive-through is you.
As capitalism slowly crumbles life at the mall will slowly become life
as a maul. In New York, North America’s first Third World city,
the squeegee people use service as an implied threat – cough up
or else, (King).
This brings me to the next point, car vulture culture is the next step
in recognizing Third World globalization. We are just the last folks
to get a franchise. Shopping carts, dumpster diving, sidewalk sales
on blankets on knees selling bric a-brac and all sort so f crap ( shut
down on Commercial and sporadically closed down on Bute ) – all
form a creeping time line which is the Third World Globalization of
This does not have to be a bad thing – it all depends on the attitude
we bring to it. Alternative economies are a natural outgrowth of all
those wonderful agreements known as free trade. If only we could get
some of their warm weather.
But you really don’t like these squeegee people don’t you?
Walking the vivacious-libacious Libby-dog the other day down Beach Avenue
toward Denman I spotted two older fellows (50s) in beau chapeaus (pork
pie and Chicago gangster style) with squeegees and buckets. Stylin’
“How’s it going?”
“Just trying to make a living.”
“Yeah I know. How’s it going?”
“Just trying to make a living.”
“ Yeah, I know. How’s it going?”
(Now recognizing that I was not the enemy, the conversation advanced-
which is fortunate for both you and I dear reader).
“They’ll fine you $125 you know. It’s been on the
news. Like we are the enemy or something.”
“No! Really!” I was astounded. This was consistent with
the visions I had of a person behind a windshield waving a giant Canadian
taxpaying finger and channeling the voice of Robertson Davies’
English Auntie saying, “No, no,no this squeegee behaviour is highly
inappropriate.” Which led me to my next though-the cops won’t
like this (cops and Robertson Davies’s Auntie being just about
the same thing in my mind).
“Fined! For what?”
One of the guys was from the States,
by way of Mexico, Honduras and Belize ( and I was picking up some ‘Nam
jam on my antennae). He mentioned his experiences with car consumerism
( selling stray pets was a topper). He also told another tale of recycling
hangers and selling them back to dry cleaning shops-30 or so years ago.
“Besides you guys are just providing a service that gas stations
used to provide.” (In Israel they tip gas station attendants for
“Besides when you come here now
it takes three months before you can get your
I wish the guys well and leave them to it. I scoop up after Libby-dog
and think, maybe there is hope. I can see clearly now.
Terminal City June 13-19,1996