Starting a new life, on a new bicycle

In this Friday Aug. 24, 2018 photo, Jonathan Clouse, a host at Applebee's, poses with the bicycle that coworkers purchased for him, to get to and from work with in Burlington, Iowa. Before the bicycle it would take about an hour for Clouse to walk to work. (John Lovretta/The Hawk Eye via AP)

BURLINGTON, Iowa (AP) — Jonathan Clouse’s Applebee’s co-workers gifted him a bike when they saw him walking a long distance to and from work.

Jonathan Clouse has a unique, passively brash personality, which makes for an odd fit for a dining host.

As his boss at Applebee’s, Lisa Gosney, put it, the 19-year-old Burlington High School graduate will say whatever is on his mind. If he’s seating someone who is left-handed, for instance, he will tell them which side of the booth to sit in, to ensure they don’t rub elbows with their fellow diners.

“He catches himself sometimes. He’s come to me and said, ‘I probably shouldn’t have said that,'” Gosney said.

Sometimes, Clouse’s unfiltered honesty leads to awkward moments. But more often, it ends in laughter with the staff and customers he serves. His good intentions always are etched on his face, and in the month since he started his first job, the Applebee’s staff already has adopted him as one of their own.

“We all like Jonathan, and I think everyone deserves a chance at working,” Gosney said.

Clouse would be the first to tell you he’s socially awkward. He was placed on the job by Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services, which finds jobs for Iowans with disabilities so they can achieve independence.

“I’ve actually placed two clients here now. Lisa has been wonderful. Her team here is beyond fabulous,” said Rebecca Luers, the rehabilitation counselor who got Clouse the job at Applebee’s.

As Clouse quickly found out, work families often are as caring as relatives. He lives by Crapo Park, and it took him an hour to walk to work each day. He didn’t complain. He didn’t even mention it.

But his lack of transportation was obvious.

“When it was hot, he would come in all sweaty,” Gosney said.

The Hawk Eye reports that Applebee’s cook Jerry Woodsmall first noticed Clouse walking to work during a recent thunderstorm.

“One day, it started raining really bad, and the street was flooding. He came in, and he was soaked,” Woodsmall said.

Woodsmall, Gosney and a few other employees pitched in to buy Clouse a bicycle and helmet. He’s been riding to work on it ever since, arriving 15 to 30 minutes after he leaves home.

That earned the Applebee’s staff signs of affection from Clouse, who does his best to please his boss.

“He’s fun. He’s a high-fiver,” Gosney said.

The job and bicycle have opened an avenue to a whole new world for Clouse. He wants to make it on his own, and realizes there’s only one way to do that.

“Why would anyone want to get a job? So they can live their life,” he said.

So far, Clouse has avoided any accidents on the bike, though he did scratch his leg on a bush he ran into. He also fell off the bike while riding in the Applebee’s parking lot for a photo shoot.

As usual, Clouse covered the gaffe with a quick, self-deprecating quip that rides the line of appropriateness.

“I swung around too fast, and I was like, whoop, and I fell right” on his backside, he said.