Meals On Wheels of San Francisco

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A Life on the Road: 30 Years and 300,000 Miles

Posted May 26, 2016

MOWSF Blog | Senior Issues

Alex delivering one of tens of thousands of meals he delivered over a 30-year career as a driver.

“The show never stops.”

These were the words out of Alex’s mouth moments before he officially retired from Meals On Wheels of San Francisco (MOWSF). We couldn’t have summarized his distinguished 30-year career as a driver any better.

He vividly remembers the aftermath of the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake. “People were very nervous. The Marina District was the worst. Most of the buildings were broken.”

He also recalls the uprising that followed the Rodney King trial in 1992; and the massive flooding that drenched the city during the winter of 2010. Through all of these calamities – both natural and manmade – Alex canvassed the city of San Francisco, making sure he never missed a beat (or a turn). No earthquake, riot, or flood would prevent him from delivering meals to our city’s homebound seniors.

During his 30 years as a driver, Alex was on the front lines of major changes for MOWSF. “I got the first hot meal route,” he recalls, chuckling as he tries to remember the details, some of which grow a little fuzzy over time. “It was mostly downtown, part of the Mission. Not much at first. There were no more than twenty, twenty-five deliveries. Today, there’s sixty to seventy.”

Alex is thinking back to January of 1988, just over a year after he started. Since then, MOWSF has grown from delivering 100,000 meals annually to over 1.6 million meals in 2015.

Alex’s path to becoming a driver first started on the open ocean. For years, he worked as a pianist on cruise ships, entertaining hordes of dancing and drinking passengers from the Port of New York City to the southern tip of Argentina.

Alex (seated at the piano) and fellow musicians entertaining passgeners on a cruise ship.

Luckily for MOWSF, Alex traded his sea legs for land legs. Based on some back-of-the-napkin calculations, our Home Delivered Meals department estimates he drove 300,000 miles over the course of his career – the equivalent of driving across the country 100 times, stopping every few minutes along the way.

After recounting many changes to his routes over the past 30 years, Alex recalls more sentimental memories. He holds a note from one of his longest-served clients, relishing the feeling that he made such a profound impact on her over the years.

“Most of these clients live alone,” he explains. “So they are waiting for you to come there.”

A young Alex, playing piano.

Memories of our clients – especially those who live alone – stir up memories of his own parents, immigrants to San Francisco from war-torn El Salvador. “In my culture in Latin America, we have to keep our parents with us. I see my father take care of his mother and father. Same thing with my mother. I did the same with my parents. No one forced me to do that. I think it’s part of my responsibility as a son.”

After so many years on the road, Alex is ready for the next phase of his life. He’s eager to get back into a routine of exercise, taking care of his health, traveling to El Salvador, and enjoying some well-deserved leisure time.  And despite the ups and downs of life, he has no regrets.  “I see Meals On Wheels as an extension of my house. I’ve got very very strong feelings about Meals On Wheels. It is part of my life.”

Recognizing this transitional moment in his own life, he ends by saying, “When you are old, you need to be around people who really love you and who take care of you.” Advice he readily dispensed in his tenure at Meals On Wheels of San Francisco.