Anyone who has ever crossed the border from Tijuana to San Diego has seen them: The “squeegee” cleaners dart between moving cars, deftly scrubbing your car’s exterior with their grubby rags and jogging in synch with the tires. They often look like they could use a good cleaning themselves, but I’m sure that a work place full of dust and exhaust is probably not conducive to a white lab coat.
At first, when I first started commuting to and from Tijuana regularly, I found them slightly annoying. They didn’t seem to take “no” for an answer, but then someone taught me the magic signal to decline their services: Briskly wag your index finger at them.
One day I ran into a major traffic tangle near the Tijuana border and the cleaners sprang to action in a new and interesting way. They became traffic Super Heroes, waving cars in and out of the troublesome spot and restoring peace to a frenetic situation. I’ve seen this several times now in the absence of any other official authority and it has made me look at the cleaners in a whole different light now – as sentinels of order.
Photo of squeegee cleaner at the Tijuana border. I use the term liberally, since most don’t use the rubber blade tool.