Many of you are already aware from previous post of my time of employment as a manager at Taco Bell some thirty or so years ago. Although this was not my experience, I recall a time when people who worked in the fast-food industry were deemed as less than. However, of all the jobs I’ve held over the years, Taco Bell was indeed my favorite and for various reasons. One main reason was some of the unique customers I encountered. On occasion people would come in like Tina Macuha, one of our local news anchors from Good Day Sacramento. Then there were the regulars who came in, like Dave. During my time at Taco Bell, I’d been employed at two different locations. Both were on Folsom Blvd. which stretches several miles through Sacramento into other nearby cities. Neither of those locations are still there today, but because Folsom is one of the city’s major streets; you can find several taco bell restaurants while traveling this particular boulevard. To my surprise while out running errands one day nearly 7 years ago also feeling defeated, I saw a familiar face and suddenly my mood changed from wanting to give up, to becoming overwhelmed with hope once recognizing it was Dave.
What’s so special about Dave? Well, I recently found out a few weeks ago after seeing him again and finally gaining the courage to engage in a conversation with him. When he came into taco bell all those years ago, I knew there was something different about Dave. There were no obvious physical challenges and like back then, he still walks and takes the city train everywhere. He rarely made eye contact with the restaurant employees, and never with other customers nor people on the street. Dave seemingly always walked with his head down, but never appeared to be sad yet simply didn’t care to engage. He speaks clearly; however, extremely loud and a bit exaggerated with each word. Because there were no obvious signs, I came to the conclusion that he was shy and very reserved. With that conclusion and without realizing it, to an extent I’d become Dave’s protector back then and now, which was part of my excitement when seeing him again after all these years, alive and well. I never really spoke of Dave to anyone other than my children or other former taco bell employees I’d encounter from time to time, none of whom remembered Dave. He visited the taco bell the same time Monday through Friday, so I’d have his favorite table by the window cleaned and always prepared his order myself; 3 bean burritos no red sauce and a medium drink. Aside from taking his order and saying “hi Dave” over the years when seeing him in passing, (always within the same 2-mile radius), Dave and I had never had a conversation until recently.
The difference this time was first my shock to see him in my neighborhood, nowhere near Folsom Blvd. It has always been a pleasure to see him and as usual, I smiled to say hello. By the way, with all our encounters even since the taco bell days, he seems to not remember me at all, but I’m not certain. On this day, it so happens that Dave and I were standing across from yet another taco bell while waiting for the train. I asked if he went there to eat and he responded with disgust, “no, no, no” I would never eat there”. I wasn’t surprised because nor would I at that particular location. As the train approached, I said bye thinking he was boarding the first cart but to my surprise, not only did he join me on the same cart, but he also sat directly across from me. I took advantage of the opportunity in getting to know him better. I learned that Dave, who looks the same as he did all those years ago, is 68 years old, wow! I was amazed, thinking in that moment he was no more than 45ish. His wardrobe was consistent, plain jeans, button down short sleeve stripped shirt and still sporting the same short cut with his extreme pearly white hair. Dave struggles with mental health challenges and lives with a brother and their father. Whenever his current taco bell location closes for business, he finds a new one to frequent, still on Folsom Blvd. I’d always been hesitant to spark a conversation with Dave for fear of invading his space, I never want to push or trigger him. This time though, he initiated the conversation, I simply followed his pace and to my surprise he was very open.
All these years I’d worry about Dave and pray mainly that no one bothers him while he’s out walking around and wondering if he had any support or if he was alone. The questions in my head regarding him were never ending. Once we arrived at his destination before exiting, Dave gave me the tightest hug and said, “God bless you always”! Stunned, I broke down in tears. The people sitting in ear shot of our interaction during the ride had looks of confusion on their faces, some smiling in awe and in that moment, I realized while always thinking that “I” had been the one looking out for Dave, he had actually been helping me. Even when he used to come into taco bell sometimes on my hardest days, seeing him helped me strive to get through the day. His presence had a way of changing my attitude for the better. As it turns out, Dave wasn’t necessarily the one who needed blessings, he was/is a blessing. Whenever I see him now, the following word comes to mind:
Beatitude: The noun refers to a state of great joy. / Supreme blessedness. “The expression of beatitude the religious sometimes adopt”
literal meaning: a state of utmost bliss