Ricky was darting between the cars stopped at the lights on the via Roma in downturn Palermo. As he passes each car he raises his window-wiper and engages with the driver, inviting them to let him wash their windscreens.
Invariably the drivers wave emphatic “Noes” or activate their wipers to prevent Ricky’s best efforts.
As the traffic moves away on the green Ricky returns to the footpath. “Australia is good,” he tells me “I have cousin there.” More of his window-washing comrades emerge from the traffic and listen into to Ricky’s faltering English and my pathetic Italian.
“Can you help me get to Australia? Is very good.” I try my best to communicate the difficulties he and his friends may have getting there. He mentions a boat. I tell him that is a very bad idea. He looks perplexed. “Australia is very good. Italy very bad, very hard.”
Some drivers allow the team to wash their windows and then refuse to pay. Ricky looks and me in despair. I ask how much people pay. “One Euro?” He laughs a bitter grunt. “No, venti centesimi. Maybe.”
I dig into m pocket and pull a handful of small coins and place them in his hand. He smiles. “Molte grazie.”
I move away down the via Roma to the cafe and meet up with Ricky’s mates patrolling the western end of the team’s three block patch. “You take photo, you must pay. 20 Euros.”
“I gave my Euros to Ricky” I say and move off.