Not your typical windscreen wiper

Not your typical windscreen wiper

Observer writer

Thursday, July 05, 2018

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WHILE the view that young men who wipe windscreens at major intersections across Jamaica are jobless and desperate is widely held, that is not the case for one 20-year-old who “hustles” at Portia Simpson Miller Square (formerly Three Miles), St Andrew.

Demar Williams, who was seen wiping windscreens at the heavily trafficked intersection last Thursday, says he is not a typical windscreen wiper as he is neither jobless nor desperate, but chooses to work at the stoplight “once in a while” when he needs a “break” from his full-time job.

Williams told the Jamaica Observer that he is employed at a chemical plant, where he works from Monday to Sunday and is paid $2,000 per day. However, he revisits the streets to hustle as a windscreen wiper occasionally, because it is a source of additional income.

According to Williams, the business of wiping windscreens can be profitable.

“Out here so, mi can get more than two grand ($2,000) a day. Mi nuh say mi want deh pon stoplight fi the rest of mi life... mi just say mi want do more than one thing,” he said.

“Nuff time police run we down, enuh. If mi never a do no work and all the roadwork a gwaan, maybe mi woulda bawl worse than how them man yah bawl. Some of them have all pickney fi take care of; mi affi set myself first before mi do that,” Williams said, pointing out that he does not yet have any children.

The intersection has become a work zone of the National Works Agency as it continues the Hagley Park Road Improvement Project under which double overpasses are being built and 3.6 kilometres of road from Portia Simpson Miller Square to Maxfield Avenue is being widened. The work will also include the installation of a number of traffic signals, drainage improvement, installation of a sewer main, street lights and sidewalks.

The NWA has said that approximately 33,000 vehicles pass through the intersection daily.

The upgrade is one of five legacy projects being undertaken by the Government and is valued at US$56.5 million. The work is scheduled to run for 18 months and is expected to be completed by June 2019.

Due to the roadwork, many of windscreen wipers say they are not earning as much as before and expect to be impacted even more when the project is completed.

Williams, who is from Majesty Gardens, just a stone's throw away from the intersection, told the Observer that whereas other windscreen wipers are being affected by the roadwork, the fact that he has a job means he has a second source of income.

“It [road work] affect mi sometimes when mi come out here and can't mek the money mi fi mek. You know, you waan come out here and mek money,” he said. “Sometimes it affect mi when mi see them (other windscreen wipers) nah mek no money, enuh, cause the whole of we a one.”

According to Williams, he dropped out of high school when he was 15 years old. Without parental support, he said he landed on the street to do the only job available to him — wipe windscreens.

He recounted that over a year ago, he was able to land his first full-time job by socialising with a motorist at the intersection.

“Simply like how you would a see somebody at the light, and mi say, 'Beg you something', and him say, 'To how mi thirsty right about now, mi woulda beg you something'. Mi just go buy him two juice fi him and one person weh did inna the car. A so mi get fi know him, and a so the link tek time mek,” Williams said.

“And mi say, 'Mi feel like mi want a work', and him say him a go give mi a work; mi a work 'bout one-and-a-half year now,” he shared.

The 20-year-old said he is now trying to save enough money to go back to school.

However, other young men who wipe windscreens at the intersection are not as fortunate.

According to another windscreen wiper, who gave his name as Derion Campbell, the road construction has severely affected his ability to earn money.

The 22-year-old said he could make up to $4,000 on some days. However, that amount has dropped to a meagre $800 per day.

Campbell told the Observer that he is fearful that the loss of income will push him to a life of crime, as he is unskilled and unable to get a steady job.

When asked how windscreen wipers can position themselves to access better opportunities, both Campbell and Williams agreed that learning a trade is the best option.

The two also shared that they do not think the Government is doing enough to help youths on the streets to learn a valuable skill.

“The Government, them wicked too, enuh, 'cause them have the youth them out here so; most of them nuh have nuh education and them thing deh, enuh. Send them back to school, man. Police them call we over Hunts Bay [Police Station] and a talk 'bout Heart [Trust/NTA] and all now mi nuh hear back nothing from them.

“Like how mi woulda want go back to school, a so most of them want to go back to school,” Williams said.

Williams, who is an aspiring recording artiste, said he will continue to work as a windscreen wiper for now, as he believes that: “In this world you can't mek one hand clap.”

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