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I Can See
Clearly Now

by Stephen Lautens

XXX

July 13, 2001

I'm not a big believer in washing the car. During the summer I head off into the countryside every weekend I can manage, and usually come back covered in bugs ­ the car that is, not me.

That's why I'm apparently one of the few people who doesn't mind squeegee kids. I know, I know ­ they were the scourge of the downtown. Society matrons were outraged, editorials written, laws were passed, and cities authorized well-meaning but pointless retraining programs.

I don't think I've ever had a bad squeegee experience. Sure, the whole dog-collar-wearing, face piercing thing can be a bit of an eye-opener early in the morning. But on the whole, I've found them to be generally polite and respectful of a waving off.

But recently squeegee kids have become a bit of an endangered species, which is a bit of a loss to those of us too lazy to scrape the bugs off our own windshields. When I spot one on a corner I'm not sure which one of us is more excited. I'm on the verge of becoming a nuisance to them.

I also wondered about the risks of my being on the receiving end of an illegal activity. I suppose you could call me a squeegee John. Is it illegal to solicit for the purpose of a good squeegeeing? Will my photo and license plate end up on a neighbourhood watch website? If caught, will I have to go to squeegee John school to avoid punishment?

"For heaven's sakes officer, all I was looking for is a quick splash of soapy water around the wipers. It's not like it meant anything. It wasn't even very good. Just don't tell my wife ­ she doesn't understand why I can't clean my windshield at home."

Anyway, so when I was driving downtown last week ­ squinting through a layer of dead bugs ­ I welcomed a squeegee kid over to the car. For a toonie he scraped enough of the animal kingdom off my windshield to see where I was going.

I was about to drive on when he tapped on my window with his studded, leather glove and handed me something. It was a CD. He had about a dozen more of them in his belt.

My first thought was that the squeegee kids were starting their own customer loyalty program. Other businesses are always giving away points or prizes to keep you coming back. Why not the enterprising street kids? Maybe those city-sponsored small business training programs set up for them have paid off. After all, maybe the only difference between the squeegee kids and the gas companies is slick promotion and the size of their customer base.

Then I thought my freelance windshield wiper was an aspiring musician, and this was how he was promoting his new band. But no - when I got home I found the CD was actually a computer disk promoting a contest for a multi-billion dollar Canadian company.

Now probably my squeegee guy grabbed a bunch of free promotional CDs off a counter and was handing them out on his own as part of his entrepreneurial initiative. A little 'thank you' for his valued customers.

Or maybe ­ just maybe - some smart marketing guy at a corporate giant decided to literally take it to the streets and recruited a bunch of squeegee kids to spread the good word.

I hope not. I'd hate to find out that my green-haired, nose-ringed friends have gone corporate on me.

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© Stephen Lautens 2001

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