Loud politics and the rise of squeegee men
Capitalists and socialists are preparing for an all-out war. They’re debating in classrooms, barrooms and restrooms. They’re fighting over the future of this great country or this once great country or this soon to be great country — depending on your view.
The signs of unrest are everywhere. As Charles Dickens said, “It is the best of times, it is the worst of times, it is Miller time.” And let’s not forget Hippocrates, who said, “Desperate times call for desperate measures.”
In New York City, the little people are rising up ... and embracing capitalism. Perhaps it’s the influence of billionaires like Donald Trump, Michael Bloomberg and Scrooge McDuck. Whatever it is, the latest champions of free enterprise in the Big Apple are the so-called “squeegee men,” who are making a comeback after being out of work since the 1990s. Their reemergence is further proof that new jobs are being created every day and unemployment is heading for historic lows.
It is a uniquely New York experience to be stopped at a red light and have someone with a wet squeegee or dirty rag try to wipe your windshield. I bet this is how the great industrialist Andrew Carnegie got his start, not to mention Bernie Madoff.
Mr. Squeegee — not to be confused with Mr. Rogers, Mr. Spock, Mr. Ed or Mr. Potato Head — would rap on the window and hold out his hand for payment, and if there was no payment forthcoming, your car might get keyed or your windshield wipers snapped.
Their tactics were a bit aggressive, but not much more aggressive than the average telemarketer, used car dealer or timeshare salesman. Let’s face it, capitalism can be an aggressive, bare-knuckle business. Just ask the survivors of Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns, if you can find any.
With their greasy rags, squirt bottles and can-do attitude, the squeegee men, who are probably former employees of Lehman Brothers, wait at crowded intersections to perform a necessary service. For a small donation, they’ll clean your windshield, which is something gas station attendants once did for free. (Pretty soon, squeegee men will be offering more services and popping up in supermarkets, where they’ll want to bag your groceries for a few bucks.)
Just to be politically correct, I should probably call them “squeegee persons” or “squeegee humans.” Let me check with Human Resources.
They’re as much a part of the city as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, shoe shiners in Grand Central and public urination in Central Park.
New York, of course, is known for aggressive capitalists. At Times Square, cartoon characters and topless women prowl the sidewalks to take selfies with tourists and won’t stop badgering them until they fork over $50. These grassroots entrepreneurs should be an inspiration to us all.
But what will happen if America turns to socialism? Does Bernie Sanders have a position on the rights of squeegee individuals? In a socialist country, will the squeegee proletariat be protected? Will the socialist government force motorists to pay a service fee to have their windows washed whether they want it or not? Connecticut legislators, known for their creative taxation, are probably already drafting a new law.
I should point out that squeegee comrades in Communist countries like Russia, China and Cuba are often unemployed because they can’t find enough car windows to wash. As Chairman Mao said, “The Communist party must control the guns and the squeegees.”
It was Karl Marx, author of The Squeegee Manifesto, who once proclaimed, “Squeegee workers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your dirty windows!”
I’m also reminded of the immortal words of the great socialist Lenin — I mean Lennon, who sang: “Power to the squeegee people! Power to the squeegee people, right on!”
A great political war is looming on the horizon. To quote Bob Dylan, who was known to wash car windows in Greenwich Village before he became famous: “You don’t need a squeegee man to know which way the wind blows.”
Joe Pisani can be reached at email@example.com.