Monday, June 13, 2011

Squeegee? No, Thanks

I recently ran across a news article about – yet another – altercation between a motorist and a squeegee kid in Toronto. A motorist had stopped his car at an intersection, and a man with a squeegee began cleaning his window. Words were exchanged and the driver was called a derogatory name. He then got out of his vehicle to order the man to stop cleaning the windshield of his car, which resulted in him being hit on the head a number of times by the squeegee kid. The driver had to be taken to the hospital to be treated for open wounds. He ended up with 20 staples on the top of his head to close a gash.

For those of you who don’t know what a squeegee kid is, here’s a short definition:

A squeegee man or squeegee woman (New York City), squeegee kid (Canada), squeegee punk (Montreal), or squeegee merchant (London) is a person who, with washcloth and squeegee in hand, cleans windshields of cars stopped in traffic and then solicits money from drivers.

Anyway, the story brought back an experience I had many years ago with a squeegee kid. It wasn’t a violent one, but it was a little unnerving.

On a beautiful spring day back in the mid 90s, while I was waiting at a stoplight in the middle of heavy traffic in downtown Montreal with my daughter who was about three years old at the time, a squeegee kid approached my car and proceeded to clean the windshield. I immediately waved my arms at him, indicating that I did not wish for him to continue. He never even looked at me. I rapped on the windshield with my knuckles – hard - in an attempt to get his attention. He simply ignored me. I rapped again. Harder. Nothing.

Exasperated, I rolled down my window, stuck my head out and yelled out “STOP!”

He finally looked at me and said in return “What’s your problem, lady?”

My problem is you.

“Leave the windshield alone” I said. “Don’t clean it.”

“Well, f**k you then.” He answered.

What the…

“Nice language. Very classy.” I said. “Just don’t touch my car.”

This infuriated him, and he began swearing like a raving lunatic, calling me every foul word you can imagine.

“I have a small child in the car.” I said. “Why don’t you try watching your language?”

Instead of toning it down, he got worse. This led me to believe that:

a) He was crazy.

b) He was on drugs.

c) He was violent.

d) All of the above.

I know I should have kept my mouth shut, kept my window rolled up, ignored him and waited for him to move along. It was stupid of me to engage him, especially with my daughter in the car. There was always the possibility that I was placing us both in danger. But even though you know this, and no matter how patient you are, sooner or later you feel the need to say something. Especially when someone is speaking to you in such a derogatory manner, or when someone is aggressively pushing their services on you when you clearly don’t want them. Like in this case. So I can certainly understand how frustrated the motorist in Toronto was, and how that frustration led to him getting out of the car to confront the squeegee kid. But I don’t think he should have gotten out of his vehicle, which escalated the situation, and ended with him being taken to the hospital to close a gash on his head. It’s best to stay put in your car, and call the police if the situation gets seriously out of hand. You never know who you’re dealing with, so why put yourself in a potential dangerous situation?

That being said, I am not if favour of squeegee-ing. It is completely unacceptable for anyone to touch – or in this case, squeegee - a car without permission from the driver. And the squeegee-ers don’t seem to understand this. They certainly don’t respect it. Throughout my years as a driver, the majority of squeegee kids I’ve seen in action are intimidating, aggressive and exceedingly rude. And even when drivers indicate to these young people that they don’t want their windshields cleaned, they’re blatantly ignored. The squeegee kid pretends he doesn’t notice the motorist signaling to him to stop, the motorist attempts to relay the message again, once more he’s ignored, frustration levels rise, and an altercation is inevitable.

I’m all for banning this practice and making it illegal. There are enough low-skilled jobs across the country for young people to choose from if they’re looking to make some money.

What do you think?


  1. Here in Tampa it is panhandling. The problem is getting worse and worse especially with the down turn of the economy in the states. They are getting aggressive which is making many drivers uncomfortable. Many cities around us had to make it illegal, but now that prevents charities from collecting money and newspaper vendors are not allowed to sell on the streets. It is sad that a certain group of people have to ruin it for everyone.

  2. We have panhandlers here in Edmonton who can get pretty agressive if you don't have any change or blow them off rudely. I've yet to have a squeegie experience. btw, I am jealous that you lived in Montreal - we visited there for a week two years ago (for our 25th anniversary) and loved it.

  3. And that's the problem with making squeegeing illegal - it ruins it for the majority who are not violent, and likely polite. We have squeegee kids in Calgary, and I've never seen one be aggressive. I have often seen some asshole in his SUV be quite rude though. The city had a plan to license them, just like buskers, and I like that solution, since the onus is on them to keep the license.

  4. Squeegee kids were a problem in Winnipeg when I lived there. If they didn't stop when I signalled them to, I would just let them finish and then drive on as soon as the light turned green. If they wanted to clean my windshield for free, fine.

  5. WebDebris, I don’t think there’s anything really wrong with this, per se. The problem begins when the people doing this become overly aggressive. Asking someone whether or not they want their windshield cleaned or not is the right way to handle this, not jumping on their car and forcing it on them. If they say yes, great. If they say no, move away from the car. Without becoming angry.


    Jane, I’ve never been rude to anyone, not even someone forcing their squeegee on my windshield, so I get really upset when people react this way toward me.

    I lived in Montreal up until 2 years ago. It’s a beautiful city, but I don’t like the politics there. I do have a lot of friends and family there, and it’s not that far away, so I get to visit.


    Tatiana, my experience has been the opposite: I’ve never seen a squeegee kid be polite. It could simply be different from place to place. I once saw a squeegee kid bang someone’s windshield with the squeegee when the driver refused the cleaning. An act like that is enough to make any motorist’s blood boil.


    Ha ha...Debra, that’s funny. And I don’t blame you for doing that. If you signal for them to stop and they refuse to respect your wishes, then it’s a freebie.

  6. We don't have squeegee kids, but we do have aggressive panhandlers at intersections, though I've never seen them get violent. I know your unpleasent encounter must have been quite scary, especially with your daughter in the car.

    By the way, I noticed that you have The Hunger Games as one of the books you've read (in your sidebar). They're making the movie based on that book right now near where I'm living. Pretty exciting stuff, even if they are closing trails to hiking while they're making it.

  7. Hi Martha, I am like you - I am always polite and try to remember that they are only someone who has made bad choices (& sometimes legitimately had a bad start) - but there have been a number of cases here where situations escalated because people were just plain rude to the panhandler.

  8. Hiya, Beth! For the most part, panhandlers have been fine with me. There was a man in my old city who would open doors for people all day long. He never asked for anything, and would grin from ear to ear and thank you a thousand times when you gave him something. I used to see him when I met my husband for lunch downtown. I always gave him a little something since he was so gentle and sweet. He said to my husband once as we walked by "Your wife has the most beautiful eyes" It made my day.

    Anyway, I just recently finished The Hunger Games. Very interesting book. I'm now reading the second book from this series.

    It must be VERY exciting to have the movie for this book being filmed near you. Have you gone over to sneak a peek? I look forward to seeing the movie when it comes out. I’d like to see how well it’s done.


    Jane, you are absolutely right. There are people who are – without good reason – mean and rude to panhandlers. If the person is not being aggressive with you, why can’t you just smile and walk away? You don’t even need to smile, really. Just walk away. And even if someone comes up and asks you directly for some change and you don’t want to give any, just say “No, sorry”.

    A lot of these people have made bad choices, but a lot of these people are also not well. Our mental health care system is not very good. Many of these individuals end up on the street because they’re sick and are left untreated. What’s sad is that many of them would live better if they got the treatment they needed. It’s sad.

  9. Hi, I am the kid who attack the man in Toronto on that june of 2011...

    Let me tell you one thing, he attacked me first, witness confirmed that detail in court and action were taking against him. Turned out, he was the violent one. Self defence is real people. Not my fault he got out of his car to attack me.

    Let me explain something to you, finding a job while being homeless is impossible. Finding a house without a job is even more difficult. Cycle of life when your homeless. By the way, I do have a job now and live a normal life after 10 years of being homeless.
    But before writing deregatory stuff about stories you see in the news, try to have the real version please. Thanks.

    1. Well, I appreciate you writing in, and I'd have to look further into the story for details. But this post wasn't focused on the details of the story in the news, and I hardly wrote anything about that case; simply linked to a news article. It was focused on my own personal experience with a squeegee kid that was quite unnerving. I'm happy to hear that things are going well for you.