They ran into the road like rats out of a burning house – about 10 of them – and started dancing. Not minding that cars are coming and they could be run over. I looked into my rear mirror to see if the kids dancing on the road had any effect on my passenger. They got her attention alright. She was already leaning forward and squinting in disbelief.
I knew she must be confused like I was the first time I saw them. I drove closer so she could have a proper look at them and immediately, her expression changed from confusion to pure shock.
“Yes ma’am! I know what you are thinking. This city has gone to bunkers.
“You must be kidding,” she said.
“Hmmmmm… as an Uber driver, I have seen everything there is to see on these streets.”
A Squeegee kid was walking towards my car and I quickly maneuvered to the next lane, dodging another one in the process.
“What is he doing here?” my passenger asked.
“You mean the kid dancing with the Squeegee?”
“He can’t be more than 7yrs old,” she said, winding down the back window.
“Hey! come here.” She waved him over and handed him some money.
“Did you give him money?” I asked.
“Just a ten-dollar bill. It’s not much.” She replied, shaking her head…
“Why did you do that?”
“Do what?” she asked.
“Give him money,” I replied.
“He is just a kid and shouldn’t be on these streets.”
“You should have told him that instead of giving him money”
“Tell him what? I’m not his mother,” she replied dismissively.
As an Uber driver in Baltimore, you have to know when to disengage, when to remain quiet, and when to speak to the passenger.
“Ma’am, you forgot to wind up the window unless you prefer the natural air from outside,” I said after a few minutes have passed.
The Squeegee kids had a speaker on the sidewalk blasting loud music in that hot sun.
I heard a loud thud and shook my head because I knew what it was. It came from the car behind mine. I knew a Squeegee kid had kicked a car because the driver declined to have his windshield cleaned.
My passenger saw it as well and was beyond irritated.
I assured her she was safe but she should leave her window and door locked because the kids do all kinds of crazy things, including spitting into cars, using profanity, and even pulling weapons on drivers who refuse to be served.
“Really?” she answered.
I could tell she was beginning to get worried but remained quiet for a few minutes.
“How come they don’t bother you?” she asked.
“They can see that I am wearing a mask and you are wearing one too”
“What does that mean?” she continued.
“It is obvious to them that I am an Uber driver and that you are my passenger – and with that sticker over there, I pointing at my Uber sticker, they see me as a scavenger of the street just like they are”.
“Tell me, ma’am, are you a part of those who are against getting Squeegee kids off the streets?” I asked.
“You tell me. I want to hear your opinion. You are on the street driving for long hours every day,” she countered.
At this point, we were approaching the traffic lights on President and E Fayette street, where I believe is the Secretariat of the Squeegee kids. I was certain there was going to be an incident or series of incidents that would answer my passenger’s questions.
I pulled up behind a green Toyota Prius and she saw the regiment of Squeegee kids moving towards us from car to car with the precision of a well-trained military unit.
We had sat at the light for only a few seconds when this old white lady, who was maybe in her mid-seventies, pulled up beside my car. She sat on a hunch and her chin was almost touching the steering. She held the steering with one hand and had a burning cigarette in the other hand.
Two Squeegee kids approached the old lady’s car and were about to spray the windshield, but she blasted her horn so loud that they jerked away like they had been shot with a bazooka.
Other Squeegee kids saw what happened and gathered around the car and started spraying it from all directions. The old lady refused to just sit inside the car while they coat it with that liquid nonsense. She stepped out and began screaming like a banshee, “Don’t you dare squeegee me – I am warning you, Don’t you dare Squeegee me.”
I expected the kids would back off at this point, but they did not. Instead, one of them sprayed the old lady’s face. She retreated into her car and came out with a can of pepper spray and released a couple of sprays in the air.
That was when they backed off and left her alone.
I turned around to see the face of my passenger – Her mouth was wide open in absolute shock.
I couldn’t help but laugh at the look on her face… She laughed as well.
“Oh my God! Are they this dangerous?” “Something must indeed be done about them,” she said and turned back to look at the squeegee kids again as we started moving.
“This is why people are demanding they are taken off the streets. They are nothing but a menace to the city”.
“They use explicit on people and have become extremely dangerous”.
“The people saying there are no jobs for them are enablers”.
The city is littered with “Now Hiring” signs. There are jobs of all kinds everywhere. The thing is, these kids are damn lazy and prefer to do nothing else but move from one traffic light to the next, terrorizing road users.
“They don’t even bother to differentiate between the old from the young. They make victims of everyone.” I have heard of instances when they have shot into cars and got shot themselves as well.
“It is sad that people are beginning to turn this into a race issue”.
“Black kids are not the only ones facing hard times in this city. It is a general situation”.
“As a black person myself, it saddens me to see that there are only black Squeegee kids.” You don’t see white Squeegee kids or Hispanic Squeegee kids.
“And the Mayor and other elected officials should the ‘Squeegee worker’ nonsense. It does nothing but normalizes laziness and crime”.
Like the old lady said, “don’t squeegee me”. My car has a wiper for that same purpose.
I got to BWI Departures and wished my passenger a safe flight.
We will very much like to hear from you as well…
Are you intimidated by Squeegee kids when they approach you at traffic lights? Do you give them money and encourage them?
Do you think that what they are doing is akin to panhandling, or does it represent entrepreneurial enterprise?
Are people staying away from Baltimore as long as the Squeegee kids are at some of the corners of the city?
Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.
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Taiwo Coker is a well respected voice in the news and media space. He has been featured and published in many online and print media and his works transcends the borders of Nigeria. He is a graduate of Mass Communication from the University of Lagos and had worked non-stop on his passion and ambition ever since then. He likes to travel and explore the world and this is how he gets his inspiration to create amazing news and articles that touch people across the globe.