From the Vault

Historical Reporter (image)

Mother Knows Best (image)

Sports Reporter (image)

Surfing is Surfing:
an essay on Grant Shilling

by Clayton Webb

We Don't Care What You Say

Growth Rings

Babes in the Woods

Exile off Main Street

Kids & Play & Adults

Squeegee People, Vulture Culture & Cars

Survival of the Fittest

True Crimes

Copper Ann

Bodysurfing, Travel & the Dead

Haunted Houses

Rock & Roll Road Kill, Kill, Kill!

Storage Locker


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 – traffic.

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 economies.

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’ squeegee people.

“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?”

“Impeding traffic.”

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 this ).



“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