We knew we were in trouble the moment the light turned red.
That’s when the young man stepped off the curb and headed our way.
We shook our head. He kept coming anyway, leading with a smug “I don’t care” look.
As he sprayed our windshield and raised his squeegee, we joined his little game. We lifted our foot off the brake, allowing our 2,000-pound chunk of steel to slowly roll forward.
He went berserk as the frame of the windshield rolled his arm up and over his head.
He slammed our door with his dirty squeegee – a squeegee that was almost certainly stolen from a nearby gas station.
As he did, our left hand instinctively opened the door and our fist began to clench. With a flash, we’d grab his wrist, twist it toward his body and use his now-inverted elbow to push his face to the ground.
We had no doubt our training would have stopped the threat and left us on top.
But then what? Stand on top of him preaching about his wrongs? Let him loose to harass the folks at the next light?
If we confronted him, surely we’d be the one with the most explaining to do as we stood with our boot atop a high school-aged kid.
So instead of giving in to the reptilian side of our brain, we calmly pulled the door shut, turned our head and ignored his vulgar comments.
The nasty words that flowed from his teenaged mouth would have cost most men their careers, but they seemed to be the vernacular of choice for his.
If vulgarity were his job… this guy would have been the CEO.
He threatened to shoot us just as the light turned green.
We pulled away, peering through our smudged windshield and wondering what we’d encounter next on our drive through Third World America… formerly known as Any Town, USA.
When we got where we were going, we told a good friend about the incident.
“Ah, the squeegee boys,” he said. “They’re horrible.”
“Why doesn’t the city do something about them?” we pondered, clearly showing that things are a bit different where we hang our hat each night.
“Do something about them? This town? Oh no, this town loves them,” he said as our heart sank. “They’re the administration’s way of displaying the oppressive sins of the city.”
That’s when we realized that it was no coincidence that these “entrepreneurs” (the mayor’s term for them – certainly not ours) were posted on the main corridor leading out of one of the city’s wealthiest sections.
The squeegee boys, it turns out, are virtually sanctioned by City Hall. The mayor even helped them set up “pop up” car washes.
We’re in trouble.
Our friend was kind enough to hand us a recent editorial that ran in the city’s paper. He dubbed it “infuriating.”
After reading it, we understand why.
The piece was written by one of the hundreds of motorists who get harassed each day. But this writer made the heinous mistake of driving with his windows down.
As he stopped for a red light, one of the young “entrepreneurs” poked his head in the passenger window and demanded the french fries in the man’s cupholder. When the driver refused, the kid grabbed the bag on the front seat and took off.
Did the driver call the cops?
Because, according to his essay, he’s seen what the “system” does to boys like this.
The Blame Game
Are you seeing what I’m seeing, dear reader? There’s a pattern emerging, and it’s not pretty.
The blame game has a lot of contestants.
And they’re all losers.
The mayor blames the city and its lack of opportunity. She blames the same city, by the way, that has bustling new high-rises, world-class colleges and one of the tightest job markets in history.
The people of the city, on the other hand, blame the cops. The boys in blue will only hurt these young kids, they say.
The cops, of course, blame the judges who wink at the kids and push their emboldened souls right back to the curb.
But nobody blames the damned kids.
“They’re just trying to survive,” the sympathizers cry. “We need to show empathy,” they say.
Those are all worthless, feel-good excuses that keep us from taking the uphill path – the right path.
Teach ‘Em a Lesson
Instead of giving these kids a handout or turning the other cheek on their illegal scheme, we must teach them what so many folks need to be taught today.
Some folks say we must teach accountability. Others say it’s discipline. And more will say we must show these kids the effects of the decisions they make.
We don’t disagree.
But we’ll take a step in… and simplify the idea.
We say we must remind these kids – and all of America – that true success lies hidden within a simple and overused, but misunderstood, motto.
It’s the idea at the core of this passion project of ours.
“Every man for himself.”
On the surface, it sounds cruel, as if we’re fans of anarchy.
No. It’s just the opposite.
We’re not saying do whatever you want. Far from it. Instead, we beg readers – nay, we beg the nation – to rely on nobody but themselves.
Don’t expect the city to feed you.
Don’t expect the cops to raise your kids.
And don’t demand some stranger give you his money just because the mayor gave you the right to intimidate.
Nope. It’s every man for himself.
Third World America was built on the idea of entitlement. Everybody wants something they don’t deserve – your fries, your bag… your tax dollars.
Don’t give in.
Success must be earned… not handed out on a street corner.
We’d say the way out of this mess is clear to see – but then again, our windshield is still smudged and dirty.
But we’ll clean it ourselves.
We wouldn’t want it any other way.