Friday afternoon. Northbourne Avenue. Traffic through Canberra is heavy and slow. Motorists crawl away from work. Home. Away to the weekend.
The lights do their job, directing and dispatching the vehicles with precision. This is a harmonised business:the reflection of an ordered society.
Weaving on foot through the traffic is Lindsay. This is his office. His profession is washing car windscreensin return for a couple of coins.
As those in the queue contemplate escalating fuel costs, and their radios blare the associated hysteria of politicians, there is little to intersect this man's life with their own. To most, he is one of the invisible ones. A hand outstretched for change, a brief and inconsequential service. A passing blur.
Raise the subject of people such as Lindsay, a member of a small army found at busy intersections around the nation, and you will find opinions that run deeper than the surface impression of suds and glass. It is an unresolved dispute whether the presence of these foot soldiers is part of a rich social fabric or an inconvenience, an intrusion on personalspace and property.
Today a woman angrily waves away Lindsay and his squeegee.
Uninvited but undeterred, Lindsay economically clears grime from her windscreen. She fixes her gaze in the mid-distance, her window firmly rolled up. Uncomfortable and confronted, another motorist hurls a well-worn phrase: ''Get a real job, mate. Bloody junkie.''
There are those, too, who answer Lindsay's raised eyebrow and squeegeewith a nod, pressing coins into his palm as the lights change. A small-business owner, who overlooks the crossroads, vents frustration that this man is an outsider to the regulations that bind his own operation.
''I don't understand why everyone in the working world has to pay tax and abide by the law and these blokes get away scot-free,'' he says.
''What makes them so different from us?''
It's been three weeks since The Canberra Times visited this corner. At times Lindsay declines our interviews: ''I'm busy. No time to talk.''
And he's right. It's peak hour. Work to be done. But slowly trust grows and he shares his story. Born in Melbourne, Lindsay has a worn face and body of indeterminate age. Maybe 40, 45, could be 30: he won't say. Whatever the number, those years have delivered some hard living.
''Moved here in 1990. Had to get away from it down there. Pretty bad times, you know?''
He is skittish, nervous. Hunched over, he hardly makes eye contact.
''Been doing this corner, this job, for 10 years now. And I've earned it too. Us blokes [window washers], we have a bit of a code. We all know where everyone is and we stay put. Earn your corner, earn respect, you know?''
Ten years is a long time standing on the same traffic island. He says he has turned up almost every day, around lunchtime. Ready to work.
''I tried me whole life to get another job. And sometimes I had one. But'' and he pauses, unsure whether to go further ''but I got a pretty bad record. A bad crim record and, once they know that, I'm gone.
''Sitting at home drives you mad. The sheer boredom, it gets to you, you know? And so it was wash windows or climb through one. With this and me dole money I support myself. Gives me a drink at the end of the week, pays for the smokes.
''I don't mind it. And don't expect to be paid neither. Just gives me something to do, you know. ''I'm here and I got nowhere else to be. I'm not a charity.''
It is those unsolicited few seconds Lindsay takes that incite the most objections.
''It's intimidation. I don't want these people to wash my windscreen, so why should I have to feel guilty when they do and I don't pay,'' says one agitated driver. ''I just want to be left alone.''
He is often derided as a drug addict, a charge he denies.
Predator. Junkie. Dole bludger. Outsider. Other people's conceptions of him. Do they offend?
''People will always judge blokes like me. You got to choose what you want to hear. I take that sort of stuff like a duck, you know, water off me and all that. But I come out every morning and I'm out there giving it a go. I'm not just sitting back taking me handout and pissing it away. Doing me best.''
Lindsay steps off the kerb, oblivious, into the still moving traffic, as if his path is so divergent from those of others at this intersection that he might as well be on a different plane altogether. And perhaps he is.