Susan's Super Citizen Showcase

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

What’s it like to squeegee cars? Just ask Steve...

Steve squeegeeing a carToday a guy tried to squeegee my car at 12th and Commercial, in East Vancouver, but I gave him the polite “no thanks” gesture. Then I parked, got out, introduced myself, and asked him if he would like to be my next Super Citizen Showcase subject.

Steve said he sometimes has access to the internet and would keep my business card so he could look at my blog. He instantly agreed to talk with me but he was reluctant to be photographed, after a bad experience on the front page of the Province in which his photo was printed directly below an unrelated headline that read: Homeless man spits on woman. I said: “How about if I don’t show your face clearly?” and he agreed, so I took two shots and showed them to him on my digital camera. One is pictured in this entry and I deleted the other because he thought it was too identifying.

Then I turned on my tape recorder – and taped this conversation:

Steve: I want to get out of here as soon as I can so I don’t get arrested.

Susan: What’s the chance of getting arrested doing this?

Steve: Well it’s a pretty good chance. Now they can arrest us under the Safe Streets Act. So once you’ve got one warning they can throw you in jail if they see you again.

Susan: How long can you usually stay out before you have any trouble from this?

Steve: Usually half an hour to an hour and then a cop will drive by and either give me a warning or a ticket or just call a paddywagon and throw me in jail right away. So it’s really nerve-wracking now even though I believe it’s an honest job. I don’t rob or steal or do anything dishonest. It’s under the table, I guess, but everything I buy is taxed.

Susan: How long have you been doing this?

Steve: Two years now. I started in Montreal but with all the tickets there – if you don’t pay them you go to jail. I did 10 days for three tickets and I’ve probably got about a couple hundred tickets there too so I’m not going to be going back there any time.

Susan: So, can I ask your name – maybe just your first name?

Steve: Steve

Susan: And how old are you Steve?

Steve: 34

Susan: Where are you from?

Steve: Edmonton.

Susan: Edmonton. Were you born in Edmonton?

Steve: Ya.

Susan: So, would you recommend this as a good way to get money or is it too risky?

Steve: No, and the police are coming down way too hard. It’s not worth the risk – going to jail for something that is supposedly illegal.

Susan: How about the chance of getting hit by a car? Do you feel like you’re pretty careful?

Steve: I have to be really careful, especially on the weekend – there’s a lot of crazy drunk drivers. And there’s people who are looking to attack anybody for any reason. They see a squeegeer and they jump out with a baseball bat or something – even though I don’t even ask them if they want their window washed.

Susan: Has anyone ever attacked you?

Steve: Ya, right on this corner. A few months ago, a guy attacked me from behind while I washed a car window and he said it was because spray from my squirt bottle went on his windshield and he – Oh, there’s a cop right there. I’m just going to stand right here. [He moves so that I'm blocking him from police view.] And I had a dog collar chain around my neck and he yanked it from behind and broke my collar bone and he left me on the ground after kicking me and my money went every where and when I told the cops, they just laughed and said: ‘I guess he doesn’t like you that much.’ And they didn’t do anything. They just shrugged their shoulders.

Susan: Did you go to the hospital?

Steve: Ya – and because of the collar bone, where it is, you can’t get a cast for it and it’s really really painful and I was sleeping outside so it was even worse and I couldn’t move my arm or anything and I couldn’t work for months. But now I’m just a lot more careful now.

: Do you sleep outside now?

Steve: I finally got a place. I was on the streets for four years and I got myself a place two months ago.

Susan: Good! Is it around here?

Steve: It’s down on Hastings in a rooming house, which really – it’s not good, but it’s better than outside.

Susan: Ya – for sure. Are they gone? [i.e. the police]

Steve: I think so, ya. [He laughs slightly]

Susan: Okay – I’m trying to block you... So, do you know what you might want to do next – after this?

Steve: Well I’m an artist and I want to go back to school – to art school, but I don’t know. I’m just doing one day at a time right now.

Susan: Well thanks a lot for talking with me.

Steve: Ya no problem – thanks

Susan: Take care

: Ya – you too.

As I shut off the tape recorder, I noticed Steve had tears in his eyes, which caused my own eyes to moisten in return. For a brief moment, we just looked at each other. Then I touched his arm and told him to keep my card, read the story, and leave a comment or drop me a line to stay in touch. He said okay – and I really hope he does.

Technorati tags

sleeping outside


At Wed Jan 24, 12:23:00 AM PST , Anonymous mark, new orleans, la said...

you are a wild woman! you rock, keep up the good work,

At Sun Jan 28, 10:00:00 AM PST , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I told a co-worker about your blog and latest entry -- and how I was 'touched' by it -- and she asked me to send her the link. She said it really helped make her rethink her attitudes about that group of people, and reminded her to have tolerance, patience and sympathy/ empathy for another's plight. She got a bit teary-eyed at the end too. She also showed it to her husband, who really had it "out" for squeegee people -- and she feels it helped him to have perspective about their situation and to be more tolerant as well.

I said I might post her comments, and she said "please do", and also said to tell you "Keep up the good work!".

At Fri Feb 16, 02:24:00 PM PST , Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks for taking the time to do this. I hope Steve gets a chance to read it and I hope things start getting better for him. I don't get give change to the squeegee people 'cause I find it annoying getting stuck in one place while my windows are cleaned (I'm at that impatient, easily annoyed age in life) but I do feel for people that are having a tough time on the streets and try to at least give them a smile if it seems safe to do so.

At Mon Feb 19, 10:56:00 PM PST , Anonymous phillip said...

Yah, very poignant. I know I feel harassed by squeegee folks, but I can also see his point of view. Very difficult situation for anyone on the streets. Nice profile!

At Sun Mar 04, 12:55:00 PM PST , Anonymous bob said...

nice work sister!

At Mon Mar 05, 09:27:00 AM PST , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Enjoyed this article. Keep up the good work, Susan.


At Mon Mar 05, 10:07:00 AM PST , Blogger Susan said...

Since I wrote this story, no word from Steve. And I haven't seen him squeegeeing on the corner near my house, where I talked with him. I'd really like to know how he's doing - so come on Steve... read this and leave a comment!

At Mon Feb 08, 03:23:00 PM PST , Anonymous Jesi said...

Nice to hear about the person behind the squeegee.


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