Trader Joe's Parking Lot Peacekeeper Returns After Horrific Bike Crash

Egee Mabolis, in the Silver Lake Trader Joe's parking lot, where he's kept the peace since 2009EXPAND
Egee Mabolis, in the Silver Lake Trader Joe's parking lot, where he's kept the peace since 2009
Hillel Aron

EgeeMabolis, the beloved parking lot peacekeeper of the Silver Lake Trader Joe's, is back to work, following a lengthy recovery from a horrific bicycle accident last November

The freak accident during a nighttime bike ride left the 31-year-old with a broken neck. Doctors weren't entirely sure if he'd ever walk again. 

John Eder, a Trader Joe's crew member (the store has this wacky nautical theme where employees are called "crew members," the manager is called the "captain," the assistant managers are called "mates" and so on), started a GoFundMe page to help out with Mabolis' rehabilitation. People — many of them Silver Lake residents and loyal Trader Joe's customers — donated more than $30,000. 

"I would like to say thank you to everyone," Mabolis said when we spoke to him in the parking lot Friday morning. "To all the Trader Joe's employees, and the Silver Lake community." 

"When I went to hospital," he said, "people, in the morning, were bringing me food and drinks. People I didn't even know. This community is the nicest community I ever seen."

One customer even bought him a new safari hat. 

Egee, left, and Trader Joe's crew member Rick Melendez, rightEXPAND
Egee, left, and Trader Joe's crew member Rick Melendez, right
Hillel Aron

The famously crowded parking lot wasn't the same without Mabolis, according to his friend and crew member Rick Melendez.

"This place is a madhouse without him," Melendez says. "Everyone came in asking for him. Him being here makes a big difference. Just his presence, his energy."

Indeed, Mabolis has a strange, almost ethereal quality about him. His calmness can be infectious. 

"This used to be the worst parking lot I ever worked, man," says Mabolis, recalling the days he first started patrolling the lot in 2009. "Some people give you a hand like this —" he holds up his middle finger, chuckling. "Now, they're very nice. I trained so many people in this parking lot."

Mabolis says he's about "90 percent." He moves stiffly. A small scar is visible on the right side of his neck. He spent two weeks in intensive care, where doctors inserted a piece of titanium, shaped like a hand-size staple, into his spine. He spent another 20 days at Rancho Los Amigos Rehabilitation Center in Downey. Mabolis had to relearn how to do the simplest actions, like brushing his teeth or putting on clothes. 

Fortunately, he was able to sign up for health insurance while he was hospitalized, and the majority of his medical expenses was covered. But the money raised from customers and crew members helped pay his expenses during the 10 months he was recuperating. He even got to go home to the Philippines to see his family and three sons. 

But Mabolis says it's good to be back in the Trader Joe's parking lot. 

"People are very nice," he says. "They're giving me hugs."

Says Melendez: "He's a really kind person. He didn't let this bring him down. We're hoping to get him back on two wheels soon!"

Hillel Aron

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