When 18-year-old Jhaqueil Reagan set out on the 10-mile trek to a job interview at Dairy Queen Friday morning he had no idea that a chance encounter would change his life.
Art “Papa” Bouvier, the owner of Papa Roux, a Cajun restaurant in Indianapolis, Indiana, had decided to delay opening his reataurant because of an ice storm the night before, and was out front laying rock salt when Reagen stopped to ask him how much further it was to 10th and Sherman. Bouvier said, “I’m thinking we’re at t 10th and Post. I said, ‘Buddy that’s probably six, seven miles. You’d be better off on a bus especially in this weather.” TheBlaze reports that Bouvier later posted on Facebook, “He thanked me and continued on. He could have asked me for money for a bus. In fact I quite expected him to. He didn’t. He just started walking.”
A short while later, while driving with his wife, Bouvier saw Reagen still walking in the ice and cold, determined to get to the interview. So they pulled over and offered him a ride. FOX 59 reports that on the way to the Dairy Queen Reagen told the couple that he wouldn’t have money for bus fare until he got a job, and that he had already walked three miles before he reached Papa Roux. Bouvier told reporters, “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. That’s the kind of story your parents used to tell, my parents used to tell, up both ways in the snow.” Minimum wage in Indiana is $7.25 an hour, but Reagen, who had to drop out of school and get his GED two years ago after his mother died, has been taking care of his younger siblings and needed a job. Any job.
Bouvier got Reagen’s phone number, advising him to keep the interview with Dairy Queen, but he said in a phone interview with TheBlaze he told the teen that whatever the other job offered to pay him, Bouvier would double it. Bouvier said he knew, when he saw Reagen walking two hours before his interview to make sure he was on time, that Reagen had a strong work ethic. He said, “It’s been a while since I’ve met someone so young with a work ethic like that … I tell every single applicant, I can show you the ropes, but what I can’t teach is work ethic. Show up. Be on time. Don’t disappoint your crew … You know before 9:55 you aren’t going to make that [10:00] shift. … I don’t think I’ll ever get that 9:55 phone call from [Reagan].” Bouvier admits that he “wasn’t even sure [Papa Roux] would have enough work to justify a new employee,” but after a local writer for the website Positively Indy, shared the story business is booming.
Bouvier also posted the story on his Facebook page, and the status has gone viral. It currently has over 22,000 “Likes” and has been shared over 5,500 times. Bouvier said the messages of encouragement and support for Reagen, and thanks and admiration for him have been pouring in from all over the world. Reagen told FOX 59, “I’m lucky I met him. I’m really lucky I met him. It’s crazy. I don’t even know. It’s really crazy. My heart’s just racing right now. I’m just too excited, just excited to start.”
According to FOX 59, after the story went viral and hit the news, the Indianapolis’ public transportation authority, IndyGo “stepped up” and gave Reagen a bus pass which is good for unlimited rides for a year.