Whenever Kyle Verity rides to work on his bike along Main Road in Mattituck, he waves at passing drivers. And most of the time, the motorists — who can easily identify the 25-year-old thanks to his neon orange safety vest — wave back.
“He should be the Queen of England, the way he rides and waves at everybody,” his mother, Patti, said during an interview last week.
Her son, who was present, was quick to interject. A queen, he pointed out, is a woman. He would be the king.
“Or the mayor of Mattituck,” his mother joked. “You say hi to everyone.”
For nearly a decade, Kyle — a Mattituck High School graduate who has autism spectrum disorder — has worked part time at McDonald’s on Main Road, greeting and high-fiving customers with his trademark warmth.
“I love to meet people and I love to make them happy,” he said. It’s part of his motto: to be “lovely and happy every day.”
Kyle comes from a family of educators. His father, Scott, was a chorus teacher at Mattituck High School and his mother is in her final year as a music teacher at Cutchogue East Elementary School. Kyle even had both parents as teachers when he was a student.
“I try whenever I can to make them happy,” he said.
Kyle’s older brother, Mark, is an elementary school music teacher in the Shoreham-Wading River School District. Growing up, he worked part time at Michelangelo’s in Mattituck.
His brother’s job is one of the reasons Kyle said he felt inspired to apply to McDonald’s. The other, of course, was that he loved the food.
He still does. Before and after every shift, Kyle grabs a bite to eat at the fast-food restaurant three days a week. He stays wafer thin thanks to his five-mile round-trip bike rides to and from work.
Kyle began working at McDonald’s when he was 16. He’s since outlasted four of the eatery’s managers and has worked everything from the cash register to the cooking stations, his parents noted proudly.
“One of my other managers says I’m the ‘manager of the lobby,’ ” Kyle said, laughing. He’s received job offers from other nearby fast-food restaurants, but has turned all of them down, saying he’s loyal to the golden arches.
“It’s not full-time hours yet, but we’re working on that,” Ms. Verity said.
While in school, Kyle studied how to work different jobs through a BOCES program — but none interested him.
“[McDonald’s] was the only job he had in mind that he wanted to do,” his mother said.
McDonald’s is the best job he’s ever had, Kyle said, just like how the bike he rides back and forth to work is the best vehicle of his life. Actually, the bike is the only vehicle in his life, he stated matter-of-factly. Kyle’s parents couldn’t get him to stop using it if they tried.
“People compliment [me] on the bike,” he said.
Kyle also understands the importance of helping to dispel the myths and misconceptions surrounding his condition. Each April, he stops by his mother’s music class to teach her students about the disorder for Autism Awareness Month.
“We talk about how people who have disabilities like that also have abilities,” Ms. Verity said.
For Kyle, that ability is a nearly encyclopedic memory. As a child, he would pore over maps and memorize exits on major highways. When he visits his mother’s classroom, each student is given an index card marked with an exit on the Long Island Expressway and where it leads.
For fun, Kyle likes to memorize facts about presidents — like the name of Howard Taft’s wife — or name episodes of “The Big Bang Theory” using just a line of dialogue.
Good luck trying to stump Kyle. Every year, his mother’s students try, one by one, to trip him up. They never succeed. It just comes naturally to him, as if the information was right in front of his eyes. The tradition may not continue since Ms. Verity is retiring, but Kyle’s brother plans to invite him to speak with his students.
“He’s going to take him into the classes to do the same thing,” Ms. Verity said.
It’ll be another opportunity for Kyle to do his favorite thing: meet new people. It’ll be another lovely and happy day.
Top photo caption: Kyle Verity has been spreading smiles for nearly a decade while working part time at the McDonald’s in Mattituck. (Credit: Paul Squire)