I am sure you have all had the experience of having to look for loose change when you are stopped at the lights, because you have been ‘ambushed’ by one of the many ‘window washers’ who inhabit the intersections in the cites around New Zealand. This can be a frustrating experience, especially if you didn’t particularly want to have your windows washed. It’s almost like you didn’t get a choice and I have to say it, that feeling is more apparent for female drivers, who ‘some’ of the washer target in the unfortunate belief that the said drivers will not protest. If you observe the washers as they approach cars, I think you will see a pattern.
I am in two minds about the whole scenario. In one way, you could say, that the guys who do the washing (I have rarely seen a female washer—funny that!)are at least getting off their butts and doing something, that could be described as being marginally useful, on days when car windows get a bit dirty, instead of staying at home doing whatever people do when they have stuff-all else to do. They are most certainly getting money and from what I hear, it can be quite large amounts. If the stories (and I have no proof of this) I hear are true and not just some ‘urban myth,’ then some cleaner are getting hundreds of dollars each day for a few hours work. That’s OK you say; they are paying tax! NO, unless you take into account the GST they pay on goods and services, but either way, they are operating in the ‘black economy. Of course one could say that the rich have been finding ways of not paying tax for eons, so what’s the difference?
What gets me is the ‘alleged’ intimidation of drivers, ranging from the subtle—‘already started it mate,’ to the downright targeting of more vulnerable drivers and then asking for money. I have seen drivers put their window screen wipers on, screaming at the washers and even getting out of their cars and confronting them, thereby holding up traffic. I have seen drivers behind cars getting pissed off as they wait for the car to be finished in front and then get caught in the ‘light change.’
What we have is the potential for a range of responses, both from the washers and the drivers and some of the scenarios are not good. One has to say that if the ‘scene’ is expanded it won’t be long before we are assailed by kids selling all sorts of items at traffic lights, much like they do in other countries, mainly because there are no other options re employment. Is this what we wish to have in NZ?
Now that the idea of instant fines’ has been proposed, I guess we are in for a discussion as to whether we turn a blind eye and deal with the odd washer who goes just that bit too far, of go the other way and regulate the hell out of one more aspect of NZ life. If the former is true, then the guys have brought it on themselves. What a pity that a minority of people have once again stuffed it up for the rest.
Still, I do tend to try to ignore the washers, if I don’t have ready cash on hand. Of course, I can never say ‘NO’ to former students. That just wouldn’t do!