What’s it like to squeegee cars? Just ask Steve...
Today 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?
Susan: And how old are you Steve?
Susan: Where are you from?
Susan: Edmonton. Were you born in Edmonton?
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.
Susan: 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
Steve: 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.
Safe Streets Act