My weekday commute is simple. I don’t have to worry about rush hour traffic because I don’t have to be at work until 11am. *grin* Even if there was traffic, there are several detours I could take along the way to avoid it. Sometimes I’ll just take an alternate route to work just to add a little excitement to my commute. Today’s route put me at an intersection on Pennsylvania Avenue right across from Anacostia Park in Southeast DC.
The light had just turned red. The car in front of me had apparently disregarded this as it trailed close behind another car that was also turning left – a maneuver that motorists like to use that is supposed to create the illusion that they didn’t, in fact, just run the red light. So, I ended up being in the pole position. You can actually get a lot done at this intersection. You can buy a bottle of water for a couple of bucks, purchase a few roses, or have your windshield washed for a donation. All you’d have to do is make eye contact with any of the characters on duty and you’ve essentially just solicited their services regardless of whether you meant to or not.
Today’s character was a man with a bucket and a window washer. He looked like he could easily be in his 50s. His skin was mildly dark with an aged face that told vague stories of hardship, yet it was mellow as if he knew better days would come. He was slim and stood about six feet tall. His clothes weren’t dirty and disheveled; just baggy and simple in the familiar urban style. He was standing on the median at this intersection as I came to a stop right next to him. I knew the rules of engagement. I didn’t have any cash, but I incidentally made eye contact with him as I naturally observed my surroundings. He pulled the dripping window washer out of the bucket and returned the glance.
“Hey man…can I wash ya windows for you, ” he asked in this calm city accent.
“I don’t have any cash on me, man…sorry,” I replied.
“Aww you ain’t got no spare change…anything?” he inquired in response…not pushy, but rather in a way that made it quite obvious that he’ll take anything I could give.
‘Spare change’….? Well, I did actually have a small stash of change in my door that I reserve for DC’s lucrative arsenal of parking meters. I hadn’t thought about it before, but it was clearly an option to consider.
I obliged; and by the time I had reached for the quarters, he had already completed one lap across my windshield. The whole process took less than 30 seconds. No streaks. No trails of beaded water. This guy had skills….like, more than ‘a $1 for his troubles’ skills.
I gladly dropped the change into his open gloved palm as I surveyed his face for the inevitable signs of gratitude….or displeasure.
“Aww thanks man… I really appreciate it, brutha. You have a nice day,” he said with a sincere glare as he stepped backward onto the median; just in time before the light turned green.
It felt good. It really did. It was almost like any encounter I’d had in the past when I gave a little money or food to a guy holding a piece of cardboard with “Hungry” written on it with a black sharpie. But this time, the exchange of a favor for a little charity added an extra something to it. The fact that he gave me something in return seemed to instill a level of dignity inside of him; and I could see it. And the clean windshield that I was left with was like a gift, a crystal clear reminder of how rewarding it is to give. It all just turned out to be a really refreshing experience.