What started out as a miserable day battling an icy 10-mile walk for a job interview, ended with a job offer and social media fame for an Indianapolis teen.
It was all thanks to a chance encounter along the way.
Art Bouvier decided to delay the opening of his restaurant, Papa Roux Cajun Cooking, due to the snow and ice. It was when he was salting down his sidewalk that he noticed a young man, 18-year-old Jhaqueil Reagan, walking toward him with a determined look on his face.
“He came walking through the parking lot and cutting the corner to get down westbound on 10th Street and he says, ‘Excuse me, can you tell me how far it is to 10th and Sherman?’” said Bouvier, who also goes by Papa. “I looked at the ground, it’s all ice, and I said, ’10th and Sherman? That’s about six or seven miles away. You’re not going to get there anytime soon in this weather. You’ll probably need to take a bus, and he said, ‘Okay, thank you sir.’ And he just kept going.”
Not only was 10th Street icy, it doesn’t have a sidewalk for an extended stretch on the east side. Papa said that’s why he was surprised to run into Reagan again while driving down 10th Street 20 minutes later.
“I said, well how come you’re not on the bus?” Papa said. “He said, ‘I can’t afford the bus until I get a job.’”
Reagan told Papa that he was walking to a job interview for a minimum wage job at a local thrift store. Though Papa knew the interview was at 10th and Sherman, he soon found out that Reagan was actually living at 42nd and Post, nearly 10 miles away.
“I’m thinking to myself, here’s a kid walking almost 10 miles in the ice and slush and snow for the hope of a job at minimum wage,” Papa said. “That’s the kind of story your parents used to tell, my parents used to tell, up both ways in the snow.”
Papa gave him a ride the rest of the way, gave him money for lunch, and told him he’d try to see if he could find room for him in his kitchen if he still needed a job after the interview.
Papa then shared Regan’s story on Facebook. Within a few hours he had more than 7,000 likes.
“More likes than I have friends,” Papa said. “It’s been shared 1,200 times. I have no explanation for that.”
On Friday night that promise became reality. Papa, called Reagan and offered him a job. He also offered to pick him up and bring him in for his first shift.
“I’m lucky I met him,” Reagan said. “I’m really lucky I met him.”
Reagan said it’s been hard finding opportunities. He was forced to quit school two years ago when his mother died. He completed his GED while staying home to care for his siblings.
Now that he has a job, and a following on Facebook?
“It’s crazy. I don’t even know. It’s really crazy,” Reagan said. “My heart’s just racing right now. I’m just too excited, just excited to start.”
“I can show you the ropes tonight if you want. We’re really busy in there,” Papa said to Reagan.
“Thank you very much,” Reagan said.
Reagan’s story inspired an outpouring of support on Facebook. Several people offered to buy him a bus pass in order to make it to his new job, but that won’t be necessary. After seeing the story on Fox59, a representative with IndyGo offered him a complimentary one year bus pass.