Dante: Part of the Squadron
“Hey Zak,” hollers Dante from the back of the counter as I walk into Harry’s. He is busy at work on a buttered bagel. Dante quickly and methodically slices the bagel in half as he has done a thousand times before.
It is hard to imagine a Harry’s without Dante. They go together like peanut butter and jelly; like nutella and a slightly toasted bagel. Dante runs a seamless operation, serving countless hordes of hungry Packer students. He is there rain or shine, 24/7. It is tough to think of someone more perfect for the job. There was a time many years, however, when Dante had not yet discovered Harry’s.
Dante grew up in the providence of Morelos, just outside of Mexico City. It is the second smallest state in Mexico, known for being densely populated and violent. Dante was shielded from this grim reality, though. His hometown was secluded in the winding hills and creeks of Morelos; violence rarely reached those parts.
“It was fun,” said Dante, reminiscing about his hometown. “Just a little town, so you could make a lot of friends, everyone’s close with each other.”With a slight smile, Dante told me about his countryside school. “The classrooms were meant for, maybe, 25 people, but they would fit 40 or 50 people in it. The school itself was big though. There were soccer fields and a basketball court.” He paused for a moment. “I miss it.” He spent most of his childhood on the streets playing soccer. He would spend hours running up and down the village roads with his friends and family. Dante was a little bit of the class clown. He used to make his classmates laugh with his funny voices, something he does to this day. Anyone who frequently visits Harry’s has heard his high pitched impressions he jokingly does with Packer students in attempt to get a laugh out of them. “That’s just me being me,” He said with a grin.
Dante’s dad was not present in his life. His mom had to raise his four siblings and him as a single mom, and as a result he is really close to and protective of his mother.
“[My mom] is the biggest influence in my life,” he told me. I asked him how his mom was, and he told me about her ongoing battle with diabetes. “It’s tough,” he said with a sad smile and a distant gaze. “I [want] to be a doctor and cure every sickness in the paper…. I just don’t want to see people sick, you know.” Dante sends a portion of the money he makes back to his mom. When I asked him about his dad, he quietly told me, “We lived with him until I was two… then, you know, stuff happened.” He did not want to talk further on the subject.
Dante moved to the United States just over nine years ago. He came because “you get what you work for [in the U.S], the pay is much much better here than when you are in [Mexico], and you can help your family when you’re here more than when you’re there.” He has not returned to Mexico since he left nearly a decade ago. I asked why he does not go back, and he just smirked and shrugged. “I do miss it sometimes though,” he said.
Dante’s initial plan did not involve him being a cashier.
“When I was a kid, I used to [dream of being a politician],” he told me with a smile. Growing up, he really just wanted to make a difference. He would see powerful politicians in the newspaper and dream of being among them one day. He figured he could really help a lot of people if he was in charge. However, not everything went according to plan, and Dante ended up working an assortment of odd jobs in Mexico and the U.S before settling at Harry’s.
“Now I’m not sure [what I want to do] because the time is passing, my dreams are changing,” he said. However, Dante is very happy at Harry’s. It turned out to be the perfect fit for him, and he is now on his seventh year working there. “I really [like] Joe and Joe’s dad, and all of the customers, they’re always friendly,” he said. “[Especially] Packer Students. They are probably the main reason I’m still here.”
For the sake of our perfectly buttered bagels and deliciously toasted BLT’s, let’s hope he stays here. Harry’s would be hard pressed finding a cook as lively and skilled as Dante.