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Adams Morgan, Friday night. A young woman and her blue Ford Escort are trying to beat the odds and snag an 18th Street parking space when she almost runs over John Bowman. As cars inch up and down past the restaurants, Bowman, 36, stands in the middle of the street, pointing to a space. He is not the woman’s friend, nor some kind of Adams Morgan angel: He’s a parking jockey. Six months ago, Bowman lost his job as a brick washer, became homeless, and left Camp Springs, Md., for D.C. These days, he points at parking spaces in return for a buck or two. Bowman says he sleeps in an abandoned station wagon.
How much do you make a day?
Who are the best tippers?
When it gets crowded at night and you can’t find no spacesthose are the best tippers.
Do certain cars give better tips?
I don’t know cars. It’s the spots. Eighteenth Street has, like, $10 spots.
Are there rules?
You don’t block anybody out that’s doing this. You don’t block anybody out, because we are all homeless.
What about the cops?
They sort of run you away. There are rules in the city….I know a lot of people probably disapprove of it. You got to do what you can out here. It is a necessary need for parking. When people pull out, two or three cars are waiting for the parking spot.
What about competition from other jockeys?
Some guys are nasty; some guys are not. They’ll tell you, ‘Nah, this is my spot.’ I don’t own the street. I ain’t built it. I don’t own it. If your friend was here and you both see it at the same time, maybe neither one of you is going to back off.
How do you solve it?
I let the other guy have it. He may need it more than I do. I’m not proud of what I do, but I don’t let it get me down.
What do you say when people don’t give you money?
I don’t say anything. I don’t worry about it if they give, if they don’t. I’m a peaceful person. If I walked up to you and I said, “Can you spare any change?” and you say no, what can I do? Jason Cherkis