WORTHINGTON — Experts say it’s healthiest for adults to sleep at least seven hours nightly, but try telling that to David Moreno.
“My record for going without sleep is seven days,” grinned Moreno, although the memory isn’t necessarily a pleasant one.
“When I finally had time to sleep, I slept 18 hours straight.”
Moreno, 26, is either a born hustler or one of the most determined, hard-working young men you’ll ever meet — not to mention one whose keen sense of familial duty drives him.
A native of the south Texas town of Edinburg, Moreno is an older brother to three younger siblings. His parents valued both education and family cooperation and involved the Moreno kids in the family’s (vehicle) windshield replacement business.
“I studied French in high school and college,” said Moreno, who is also completely fluent in English and Spanish.
“French isn’t too useful around here,” he jokingly observed.
David was in his second year as a scholarship student at Texas Tech University when an unthinkable, life-altering tragedy struck.
“My parents died together in a car accident,” he reported soberly. “I had to leave college to help take care of my siblings.”
His younger brother, Alejandro, was then 12, and his sisters (Camelia and Alejandara) were still in high school.
Not only did Moreno have to abandon college (he was maintaining a 3.8 GPA at the time), but he was also required to pay back portions of his scholarship due to his premature departure.
In order to support his siblings and himself, retain the family business and meet his other financial obligations, Moreno began working practically non-stop.
“I had five jobs,” he tallied, again flashing a good-natured grin.
From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, Moreno worked at an O’Reilly’s Auto Parts store in Edinburg; from 11 p.m. to 6 or 7 a.m., he was on the clock at a convenience store. On Wednesday and Saturday evenings, he put in time selling concessions at a local soccer stadium.
“And I replaced glass and windshields on the weekends,” Moreno said.
Other available evenings were spent working as a nightclub bouncer.
“That’s where I got this,” he said, pointing to a scar on his forehead. “It was from a Corona bottle.”
With a schedule like that, when could he possibly sleep?
“I slept two hours every two days,” said Moreno.
Coca-Cola was his caffeinated lifeline of choice.
But clearly such a pace couldn’t be maintained forever, and when Moreno learned from friends that wages were higher in certain northern states, he put his oldest sister, Camelia, in charge at home and prepared for a change.
“I decided to buy a bus ticket to New York,” said Moreno.
On Dec. 1, 2018, the guy who’d grown up mere miles from Mexico’s northern border was about to encounter winter.
“The bus had a six-hour layover in Omaha because of a blizzard,” said Moreno, who had never before even seen snow.
During the long layover, the diehard New England Patriots fan heard from other travelers that the Patriots would be playing the Vikings in the Twin Cities.
“That turned out to be wrong,” he smiled. “They were actually going to be playing in Boston.”
But Moreno, thinking “What the heck,” changed his ticket to accommodate a stop in Minneapolis. Mother Nature — and fate — had a different idea.
“We got as far as Albert Lea when the snow was so bad that the driver told us he wasn’t going any further,” said Moreno.
After sitting at a frozen truck stop for over an hour, an older couple talked with him, learned how he happened to become stranded in a snowstorm, and offered to drive him — with great care and well-honed Minnesota winter road skills— to their Worthington home.
“They gave me a ride to Worthington and put me up at the Day’s Inn for a night,” said Moreno.
He knows his Good Samaritans’ first names were Jan and Thomas, but despite being very grateful for their assistance, he failed to get their last name.
“They had also told me there were good-paying jobs in Worthington,” he added.
When the weather cleared the following day, Moreno visited the local Workforce office and was hired on the spot for a job at JBS.
“I started right away, working full-time on the loading dock.”
Moreno rented a room in a house on Diagonal Road from Alfredo Vasquez — “a fantastic landlord,” according to Moreno — and that connection led to his second local gig.
“Alfredo had a medical appointment and I went along to help interpret for him,” said Moreno.
The clinic receptionist, immediately impressed with Moreno’s calm demeanor and bilingual abilities, suggested he become a medical interpreter. She handed him papers with the necessary information.
Moreno followed through, earning his certification for interpreting a few months later and thus adding “part-time medical interpreter” to the ever-expanding list of jobs on his resume.
Currently, Moreno’s two sisters are attending college at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley; his brother Alejandro is now 16. Moreno hustles to help pay his sisters’ college and living expenses, and through cooperative effort they’ve to date been able to hang on to the family’s windshield repair business (his oldest sister now handles the business operations).
While Moreno has recently transitioned to different positions — he is working a day shift at Highland Manufacturing and an evening shift at Hy-Vee, while still fitting in occasional medical interpreting appointments on his off-days — he found time this winter to craft a few snowmen and snow sculptures, proudly sending the photos home to his marveling siblings in snow-free south Texas.
“I’d like to return to college and eventually become a lawyer,” said Moreno, who has two years of undergraduate education in political science and paralegal studies yet to complete.
“My goal is to finish once my sisters earn their college degrees.”
With a work ethic like Moreno’s, gambling that he’ll someday achieve his dream — with or without adequate sleep — is as safe as a bet on his beloved New England Patriots.