It's a sunny afternoon. You pull up to the traffic lights on your drive home from another grinding day at work. The boss doesn't respect you, your colleagues ignore you and at home you suspect your wife is having an affair with your richer, more attractive neighbour. Then, suddenly, ahead near the lights a scruffy teenager wearing a pair of Kappa pants, an exhausted grey hoodie and a black Adidas hat appears. In one hand he carries a Pump bottle containing what you presume to be heavily diluted Windex. In the other, a short squeegee — the type you've seen at Kmart for $6 a dozen times and each time considered buying before coming to your senses. Who really needs one of those? Why not just use the free one at the servo?
The kid saunters towards your car, raising the bottle half-way above his head while making direct eye contact. Do you take up his implied offer? Why not, you think to yourself. After all, once your wife comes to her senses and leaves you she'll get half your money anyway.
You grimace at the offer as the window cleaner walks ever closer. Raising two fingers from the wheel, you beckon him over. But does your windscreen even need a wash? Didn't it rain yesterday? Nevermind. It's too late now. The deal is signed. Besides, he can get rid of that brownish-yellow dot which has landed just above eye level on the glass some time since yesterday. What even is that stuff anyway - is it a dead bug, or bug crap? Or bird crap? I guess we'll never know, because before you know it the mystery liquid in the water bottle is splashed over the windscreen.
He starts with the driver's side. Not a bad job. He even cleared up that bit at the top where the windscreen wipers never reach. You know what I'm talking about, that triangle just behind the rear view mirror. A hundred times as you've been driving you've designed in your head a new wiper mechanism that does a better job that the standard one — but who would you sell it to? Who would listen to you? You're a nobody. And even if you weren't, you don't like talking to car people ever since that blinker fluid incident at the mechanic nine years ago.
The cleaner wipes over the mystery dot. Most of it goes, except for a faint outline. It's a little bit frustrating. Couldn't he go over it again? It's right there. Can't he see it too? Alas, you're hardly going to be paying professional cleaner rates here. Plus he looks like he might get an attitude if you question his work. You wonder where his parents are. Could they be window washers as well? Is your window cleaner just the latest in a dynasty of proud traffic light window washers? Probably not, you concede.
Next is the passenger side's clean. Not too bad at all. It's clean-ish. You suppose that's really the bare minimum expected of this service. But at least it's not dirtier than it was before he began his work. That's a plus. Or at least, it's not a negative.
As he's wiping away the last dregs, you think to yourself - how much do these guys get an hour anyway? The lights go red every two or three minutes. Presuming there's at least one window to clean each stop, this guy's probably earning more than you are. He works the hours he wants, doesn't pay a cent of tax, gets to be in the beautiful sunshine all day. Is this what freedom looks like? Could you do it? Tomorrow morning you could tell the boss you're leaving for good. In one final bridge-burning act, tell him his inflated sense of importance is the only thing between him getting up every morning and him driving himself into a tree at 200km/h. No, you accept. You don't have the confidence to approach strangers at the traffic lights, and looking at your hands you shamefully concede you've never done a day of physical labour in your life. Well, except that time you built a chicken coop for the girls. You've got the photos to prove it. Also, you think, the boss dying might cause people to feel sympathy for him. That would be too painful. For him to be a martyr. You frown in the driver's seat. Damn.
The window washer ambles over to the driver's side window. You press the button to your right and the glass steadily retracts into the door. No more roll-down window for you — you saved up your simoleons and picked up this 2008 Camry at the height of the COVID second-hand car boom last year. Just $12,000. He opens his hand expectantly, and hangs it forward towards you. In your coin holder you know there's a good assortment of silver and gold. There's at least a couple of 20s in there, maybe a 50, and two or three golds. You know there's a pink meanie inside your wallet, but you'll be damned if you're going to give up that baby for a window wash. Or will you?
"What's a fair price for a window clean?" You ask yourself as your hand moves away from the window switch and towards either the coin tray or wallet on the passenger seat.
The window washer watches your movements closely.