Ever and Always
Chapter 7: Going to Work - June 21, 2021

Copyright© 2015 by Banadin

It was Rick's first day to work the street. At seven-thirty in the morning, he set out as this seemed to be the best time to catch the going to work crowd. He dressed in his old, but clean clothes.

He was armed with a plastic bag which contained several hand towels, a spritz bottle with water bleach mixture, a handheld squeegee all borrowed from housekeeping, an umbrella found in the storage room, and an eighteen-inch length of rebar he had bummed from the construction site.

His first step was to swing by the other three beggars where he found them all to be on the job. A small wave let them know he was holding his end of the bargain. After that he proceeded to his intersection.

He set up on the island in the middle of the road, so he could work the turn lane. One of the things he noticed was the vehicles turning here looked more prosperous than those stopping in the straight-through lane.

His intention was to work this lane for the week, then change if needed. With squeegee and bottle in hand, with a towel hanging out of his back pocket, he approached his first car. Instead of charging in, he raised his bottle and looked at the driver.

The driver a young man shook his head no. Rick did not fuss, gave a small smile and moved onto the next vehicle. This driver was more proactive as they had their windshield wipers turned on. Rick gave a small wave and smile and moved on to the next car.

The windshield on this one was pretty nasty looking, and the driver nodded his head yes when Rick raised his bottle.

Rick went right to work spraying the window and squeegeeing it down. He hustled around to the driver side and held his cup out. The driver dropped some change in the cup. He turned to the next car and got a no. The light turned at that point and the cars all moved forward.

Rick checked his container and found he had one dollar and fifteen cents. The man must have emptied his change without counting it.

The next cycle went the same. It took six cars to get a yes, and he was barely finished when the light turned. He got a dollar bill this time. After the first hour, he had nine dollars and eighty cents.

Not bad! He had found that it wasn't worth going past the sixth car in line. If he tried to clean any windows after that he couldn't finish or worse yet, finish and not have time to collect.

Half way through his second hour he realized that he was tired. The work wasn't that much and the walk short. He just was old and out of shape. He finished the second hour and instead of doing the planned three headed back to the rest home.

Once at the home, he trudged to his room and lay down. After an hour's nap he freshened up, and then counted his money. He made twenty two dollars in his two-hour stint. He went down to lunch and ran into Marsha. She had taken to eating with the office ladies, so he did not see her at lunch every day. It was obvious that she was waiting for him.

"How did it go Rick," she asked?

"Very good," he replied, "I got twenty two dollars in two hours."

"Wow, I did not think it would be that good."

"I meant to put in three hours, but it was just too much. I am going back later and spend another two hours. I need to know the best times to work my corner. At the same, time I have to pace myself until my endurance is built up."

"I have had the same problem in the office. I am now up to four hours a day."

Rick asked, "Have you made any progress on finding our IDs?"

"I think so; those files are kept in a locked cabinet by Silvia. She has to lock it to maintain patient confidentiality under the HIPAA rules. I am not sure how I am going to get into them. I am hoping she will leave them unlocked one day while she goes on an errand."

"Well it isn't if we have any time constraints," Rick said. "Be careful because if you get caught, we will really have a hard time getting to them."

"I will," Marsha replied.

Later in the afternoon, Rick went back to his corner and netted another nineteen dollars and seventy eight cents. People would just give him all their change. He kept this up for the rest of the week. On Friday night, he went to the Mission to check up with Charles and the gang of three as he thought of them.

Charles gave his normal booming hello and high five. He asked Rick how his first week had gone. Rick told him he had brought in one hundred and eighty seven dollars.

The gang of three joined them and told Charles, that Rick seemed to have his act together. They had been watching him off and on. They were impressed with how few wipers he had turned on.

If you aggravated people that was what they did. For someone really obnoxious there would be six or seven cars sitting at the turn signal with their blades going on a sunny day.

Rick explained that he really did try to do a good job and his technique of holding the bottle up and giving them the choice. The guys thought this was radical but would think about trying it that way.

As Bill put it to Rick, "I'm not sure if I want my customers to expect that level of service. Next thing you know, they will want me to wash their side mirrors."

Rick laughed at this then got a thoughtful look. He shook his head and asked the guys how their week had been. They replied same old, same old. They then wandered over to get in line for dinner.

Charles told Rick. "They will never tell you how they are really doing. It is like gold miners not talking about their claim or even lying about it. They don't want anyone getting ideas about jumping it."

Walking home later, Rick wondered how someone like Charles ended up where he was. He seemed intelligent and helpful, not as bitter as he was the first-time Rick had spoken to him. Something about the picture did not add up.

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