Yvette Dobbie was on her way to pick up her dog at the vet's when she turned onto Newport Boulevard from 17th Street and noticed a man in a wheelchair sitting in the sun and holding a sign that read, "Pay It Forward — God Bless."
The Laguna Beach woman suddenly found herself taking a detour into the Ortho Mattress parking lot, where he was positioned.
Dobbie's response to the sight of the man might have interrupted her day's routine, but reaching out to him would change her life — and his.
"When I saw him I felt compelled to pull over," she said. "I thought, 'I gotta get to him.' It was hot, and I felt bad for him. My reaction was instant. I saw this gnarled figure [with twisted] arms and legs, and his physical being touched me."
When she got out of her car and approached him, she asked him what was going on, and that's when she discovered that he couldn't talk. Dobbie escorted the man across the street to an umbrella-shaded spot on the Starbucks' patio and began the challenge of communicating.
Bobby Landfair, 49, alternated between struggled attempts at verbal communication and one-word explanations written on a dry-erase board.
What she learned about Landfair during their 10-minute encounter went something like this: abandoned, Ohio, lonely, isolated, tired, motel.
With her dog waiting at the vet's, Dobbie delivered Landfair back to his spot, where she gave him a big hug, told him it was going to be OK, and then handed him the $40 she had in her wallet. "I'll be back," she told him.
Dobbie said the meeting was difficult emotionally and even harder to process, but she knew he didn't belong there and that she had to do something.
"It's easier to throw down money, keep driving and hope for the best, but how many have stopped their life in order to help him?" Dobbie asked.
She picked up her dog and went to meet her husband, Steve. By they time she arrived she was in tears and all she got out was, "I want to introduce you to someone."
Without telling him anything more they went back to the parking lot.
Dobbie said her husband would have cheerfully greeted anyone else, but as he shook Landfair's hand and promised he would check on him later, she could see he was upset.
Landfair's situation broke their hearts, and on the ride home to Laguna Beach, they discussed ways to help him.
Dobbie, a political consultant, is no stranger to advocacy. She served under former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson's administration as an advisor on animal issues, such as banning gas chambers for euthanasia and preventing the slaughter of horses.
Dobbie's dedication to Landfair doesn't surprise Bill Radovich, who has known the couple for more than 15 years through his work as a veterinarian at the Airport Irvine Animal Hospital.
"Both are the type of people to help others without expecting anything in return," he said. "It doesn't matter if it's people, dogs, cows, horses — whoever needs the help. They take it as a mission in life and get it done."
"[This is] new for me advocating for a disabled person," Dobbie said.
Around the community, people know of Landfair and some do what they can to make his day a little better, including Daniel Sandoval, who manages the Panera Bread on 17th Street.
"Bobby comes in quite frequently. I'd call him a regular," Sandoval said. "He always orders mac and cheese and brings his own pork and beans for me to mix for him, which I always do."