For a little over 16 years I was part of an organization (let’s call it FOJ). I was part of a group in FOJ that use to go to a Denny’s location every Saturday night for about 7 years. This large, loud group would be seated in the back of the restaurant so as to minimize disturbing other diners. This meant that every week we had the same waiter named, Hipolito.
Hipolito was a Hispanic gentleman in his 30’s with a light accent and a fantastically trimmed mustache. Always friendly, and always patient, Hipolito always managed to keep his sanity as the majority of the group took forever to order, asked for separate checks and almost always ordered water instead of a regular drink (The running gag was “H2O 4 U?”). Every time he would walk up to our group to welcome us he would almost always say, “Never fear! Hipolito is here!
Because of the proximity of this Denny’s to FOJ’s location main activities took place, I had many lunches, dinners and late night milk shakes, all the while forming bonds, discussing life and it’s struggles and hatching harebrained schemes to conquer the world. For years that Denny’s was a place of refuge, comfort and fellowship.
Until it wasn’t.
A little over 10 years ago I went through what can only be described as a bitter divorce with FOJ after I was falsely accused by one of it’s members. I maintained my innocence with FOJ but from the very beginning reason, logic and even physical proof was not enough to satisfy them. FOJ’s leaders sought my destruction as a member, as a person, as a son and as a citizen. At a certain point it seemed things had cooled off and I felt that I had gained ground in proving my innocence. But then a series of incidents led me to believe that the leaders within FOJ would do anything to break me down. My car was broken into and vandalized, but nothing was taken.
My apartment was broken into and vandalized but nothing was taken. My personal information was used to open up false cell phone accounts, false utilities and even unemployment benefits (some of which I have still have not been able to clear off the credit bureaus).
I told what was left of my friends and my family that I felt there was a highly organized attack being directed and executed by FOJ. I was called paranoid. I was told it was just a coincidence. I was even told that I was allowing my anger at the situation cloud my better judgment about FOJ. That there was no way this was a coordinated effort by any one person or organization.
A little over 2 years after the false accusation was made I learned that a key player in the early stages (let’s call him Dansk) of the incident had been let go by FOJ under mysterious circumstances. On a hunch, and with nothing to lose, I contacted Dansk and asked him if he would be willing to meet with me. At first he refused. But a week later he called me and asked if we could meet. Wanting to meet in a public place, I suggested that we meet at Denny’s by FOJ and close to his house. Dansk agreed and a date and time was set.
I showed up an hour before to make sure the restaurant was clear of any FOJ spies and to settle in a booth toward the back of the restaurant where it would be difficult for others to bother us. Dansk showed up exactly on time and we made small talk. We both ordered coffee and made it clear that’s all we would be ordering. Dansk was largely unaware of the dire consequences of the false accusation after his brief involvement. After I mentioned the car vandalism, and the vandalism to my apartment he was visibly upset.
He then proceeded to confess that he knew from the beginning that the accusation was false and was intimidated and threatened into going along with the accusations. He apologized for not doing the right thing from the beginning and vowed to help me in any way he could. Furthermore, Dansk knew for a fact that the car vandalism, while not perpetrated by anyone in FOJ leadership, it was most definitely sanctioned by them. And while Dansk did not have proof for certain about the break in to my apartment, he was ordered to cut a check for a private investigator who may or may not have been hired to gain my personal information for someone in leadership at FOJ.
At first I could not believe that my suspicion about a coordinated effort by FOJ to destroy me was actually true and that written proof existed and had corroboration from an inside source. But that feeling was immediately replaced by heartbreak and sorrow that an organization that I loved and dedicated 16+ years of my time, talent and treasure to was capable of this level of evil.
I had several more conversations with Dansk and eventually he offered to testify on my behalf should legal action ever be taken against FOJ for their actions. It was his confession and cooperation at that Denny’s that afternoon that allowed me to finally be free of FOJ and it’s evil and to secure my safety and future from future harm or mental molestation by their leaders.
As Dansk was leaving from that meeting, who should come walking in to start his shift? None other than Hipolito, who I had not seen for the duration of the firestorm. When he asked how I was doing I was completely honest with him. I told him that I had received some news that was unpleasant to hear and that I was greatly troubled by it. “But,” I said to him smiling, “Never fear… Hipolito is here!”
For 8 long years I never returned to that Denny’s…
Until last week…
Last week I was in the area on business and was desperately hungry and needing a break. I was going to drop by another restaurant that was open but as I was about to drive by the Denny’s I felt a sense of strength and courage come over me and pulled into the parking lot. At first I scanned the cars in the lot seeing if I recognized any of them, or looking for bumper stickers giving away that FOJ people could be lurking inside. But as I parked my courage grew even stronger and speaking outloud I said, “F*** it… I don’t care who is or isn’t in there.” As I walked in the Denny’s was mostly empty, but in the back I saw an older gentleman sitting at a table reading.
I immediately recognized him as Hipolito.
As I walked over to him, he looked up an also recognized me. He got up from the table and we shook hands warmly. It turns out Hipolito is still working there as a night manager doing his best to keep the late night and early morning crowds fed and watered. He then offered me a table and went to grab a menu. As he handed me the menu he asked, “H2O 4 U?” I laughed and said, “Never fear… Hipolito is here…”