Tag Archives: border wait

Unsung heroes: Tijuana’s “squeegee” cleaners


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.

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‘Tis the season – for long waits at the Tijuana border


syportentry1This is the time of year when street vendors in Tijuana sell mini Santa hats that people stick on their car windshields. It’s also the time of year when border waits turn the city’s streets into a tangled pretzel of cars trying to get out of Mexico and into San Diego County so that Mexicans can do some holiday shopping.

The waits can suck the ho-ho-ho out of even the most seasoned border veteran. Heading back north from Tijuana this weekend, I realized belatedly that I was going to have to join the seasonal exodus. Oh, if only Rudolph could have guided my way! Instead, I got in the “fast track” SENTRI lanes along with hundreds of other cars and nosed my way slowly to the border. Waiting an hour in SENTRI is no fun, but I couldn’t help but feel grateful towards the other north-bound travelers willing to endure this long wait to spend money in our sputtering economy. So, instead of being glum I cranked up some Christmas carols on the radio and wondered how much of this money was going to end up in cash registers north of the border.

A figure that’s frequently quoted is that an estimated $1.6 billion in goods and services were purchased by Baja California residents in San Diego County in 2002. This is attributed to Kenn Morris of Crossborder Business Associates in the insightful Blurred Borders report put out by the International Community Foundation. Even though it’s unclear to me how much of that money is spent during the holiday season, it illustrates the ties that bind our cross-border communities.

Photo taken during normal traffic – not seasonal holiday traffic.

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