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Flaring tempers sear St Andrew streets

Published:Tuesday | February 2, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Windshield wipers at the traffic light at Newport West, St Andrew. - Norman Grindley/Chief Photographer

So I was travelling along Hagley Park Road in St Andrew the other day and had an encounter with a squeegee-wielding straggler who had me contemplating committing grievous bodily harm and running off to Mexico to lay low for a while. I mean, I'm as law-abiding as the next guy, but no jury in the world would convict me for landing a wallop right between the eyes of this hooligan.

It was a Tuesday, like any other, when I pulled up to a stoplight, as I often do. Immediately, the race was on. They appeared from every corner, shoe-less men brandishing instruments of window-washing like mini torture devices aimed at hapless motorists. The drivers had little choice but to wave frantically even as soapy water was being sprayed on otherwise clean windshields. But their waving did little to stop the unfolding debacle. The men just continued washing windshields, further angering the drivers with every turn of the wrist.

"Oy bwoy! Mi tell yuh yesterday seh mi ah ago lick yuh down if yuh touch mi cyar again!" yelled a large man in a small black car. He had stuck his head outside the vehicle and flashed his hand as he spoke.

"Just cool, Uncle, is just a food we ah look fi buy," replied the man washing the windshield of the car.

"Uncle? Mi know yuh? Nobody inna my family couldn't so ugly!" the driver quipped.

In my rear-view mirror I could see a fair-skinned woman resting her palm on her forehead after desperately signalling to a skinny window washer not to spray soapy water on her car. Needless to say, the man didn't listen and was now well into the cleaning process.

Man with the rusty squeegee

It was then that the little man appeared. He was wearing no shirt and had a scar on his right cheek. He had a vacant look on his face and started spraying water from an altered soda bottle, on to the windshield of my car. Although knowing quite well that it would be of no consequence, I stuck my head out the window and made it known, in as raspy a voice as I could muster, that I did not wish to have the windshield cleaned. The man said nothing and kept wiping away with his rusty squeegee.

I glanced up at the light. It was still on red. Images of the squeegee being shoved up the man's nose ran through my head as I contemplated my next move. Eventually, I decided I would do nothing, just accept that the windshield was being washed, though without my consent, and move on with my life as soon as the light changed. Nothing else I could have done would have stopped it from happening at that point, anyway, and getting into an altercation in the middle of a crowded street was not on my list of things to do that day.

The last straw

The man with the squeegee had other plans though. When he finally finished washing the windshield he walked up to my window.

"Beg yuh a ting nuh, boss," he said. I didn't respond.

"Oy boss, mi seh beg yuh ah ting," he pressed, this time tapping the side of the car. I didn't respond. "Oy man, yuh nuh hear mi?"

I lost it at that point. Steam must have been coming through my ears when I responded.

I went on to angrily explain why I wouldn't be giving him any money and added a few suggestions about what he could do with his rusty squeegee. It was not my crowning moment but it felt really good to get it out.

The man looked me over silently. There was an awkward pause before he said, "So, yuh nuh have nothing can leave wid me?"

It was an anti-climactic end to the encounter as I glanced up at the light and saw it change to green. In silence, I drove off, leaving the man behind to wait by the side of the road for the light to change again.