HomeLife & StyleTale of a street car washer

Tale of a street car washer


Imagine 21 people jostling for the attention of driver of a passing vehicle — all of them with the intention of washing it.

This has become a daily struggle for some young people as they try to eke out an existence from the demanding environment with a high degree of unemployment. Car washing spots have sprouted all over the city in recent months with unemployment remaining high.

Not only have the unemployed become desperate, but daring and willing to try their luck in any activity just to earn a living.

NewsDay spent some time with a group of men who depend on washing cars at an undesignated place in the city trying to understand what really goes on from morning to evening.

The interview was disrupted on several occasions as interviewees had to jostle for business during the session.

One of the “veteran” cars washers, Douglas Musami, said he has been operating along Kwame Nkrumah Avenue for the last five years.

“The challenge is when we approach some cars for business. They take us for street kids because of the way we dress,” said Musami.

“We tried selling sweets and fruits, but were not as successful. Washing cars pays more.

“We are not in this service business by choice. We have kids to support. Some of our wives do not know this is the kind of job we do,” added Musami chuckling.

He said the trade had several challenges like evading council security police in addition to the demanding efforts to secure clients.

On a good day one can take home between $10 and $20.

Musami said although they would want to charge as much as $5 per vehicle, this was not possible as such charges could force them out of business.

“There are, however, times when one can go for two days without having obtained even a single dollar. This situation can be compounded by an arrest and one does not have money to pay a fine. It means a night behind bars!”

Asked about where they get water to wash vehicles they said: “Water is very accessible; from open ponds around the city, from offices. In the worst-case scenario we buy the water. There is no way we can fail to wash cars because of lack of water.”

The group of car washers wants their “territory” along Nkwame Nkrumah demarcated legally to enable them to conduct their business without harassment.

Some have ambitions of expanding into formal car washing and acquiring premises so they develop into full businesses.

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