Wheeling-and-dealing Melvin

The Seattle’s Best coffee shop on campus has received a valuable asset through the hiring of a unique employee in November. His name is Melvin Bush, and he comes fully equipped with horsepower and coffee power.

Born with cerebral palsy 55 years ago, Melvin is the oldest of two boys and four girls and is very proud to have been the big brother.

“I’m the oldest,” he said with pride as he flashes his trademark grin and taps himself on the chest.

Not afraid to turn his disability into mobility, he has managed to not only join the work force but to also prove that his efforts are needed as much as they are appreciated.

“We have received a couple calls on really rainy days from his regular customers wondering where he is,” a co-worker at Seattle’s Best said, referring to the days when Melvin couldn’t complete his usual rounds. “People not only enjoy him but come to depend on him because he is so dependable,” she said.

Perhaps he has provided plenty of guidance and inspiration to his family, for he has overcome his condition by refusing to be excluded from society for reasons beyond his control.

Although he is the only person in his family living in Oregon, he has formed a surrogate family with the small community around Portland State University. Since being hired in November, he has received gifts and plenty of attention from both customers and people outside the store who want to show their appreciation for the great efforts he makes. He also gets free food fairly regularly and is said to be “hooked up” and “pretty well taken care of.”

One day he returned to the store completely elated and had to brag to everybody about his accomplishment.

“I got a phone number,” Melvin said with a sheepish grin of pride on his face. “It was from a girl.”

Just the mention of girls makes Melvin’s face turn a bit red, as he bashfully laughs and buries his face into his lap. He apparently is quite a hit with the ladies and he likes to flirt with them by pretending that he is going to run them over with this motorized wheelchair.

“He can be quite a character sometimes,” said one co-worker. “He’s always trying to run people over and he takes swings at me ’cause he only likes the ladies,” he says of Melvin’s fun-loving personality.

“Yeah, he just ran my foot over today,” one of his female co-workers chimes in with a laugh.

“I’m sorry,” replies Melvin with his head hanging in apology and a playful smile on his face.

There seems to be a good chemistry between he and his crew. They fire one-liners back and forth and play off each other’s enthusiasm for a fun environment.

Melvin keeps a regular schedule with the coffee shop, working from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on most weekdays, and takes Tri-Met each day. He serves around 25 cups of coffee each day and works on the honor system, as customers pour their own coffee from the rack on the rear of his chair and make change in his money box.

His current job is his second gig working in the coffee industry. He previously worked for a privately owned shop in the Jantzen Beach Mall where he would make deliveries at various stores from inside.

On most days he can be seen breezing along in his decked-out coffee mobile, a set-up that has earned him the nicknames “Motorin’ Melvin” and “Greased Lightning.” He makes daily deliveries to the AAA building, Wells Fargo Bank and many offices in Portland State buildings, which keeps him very busy.

His position was created especially for him and is known as the “Mobile Barista,” a service that was not offered at this Seattle’s Best location prior to his hiring. He got the job through the help of a job placement agency that finds employment for physically and mentally challenged individuals who have job skills that can be utilized.