One Thursday morning a couple of months ago, a short, heavyset woman with gray hair and glasses walked (well, waddled) in through the volunteer entrance where I work.
I looked up from the email I was composing, took a quick glance at the clock (the volunteer department doesn't open until 10am and it was only 9:30) and said, "May I help you?"
"Can I use your bathroom?"
I smiled and pointed her down the hall in the right direction of the facilities. After about five minutes I heard her coming back down the hall and then pausing in the break room. Soon followed the sounds of a soda clunking out of the vending machine, and she emerged with a Coke in her hand and a smile on her face.
"Thank you," she said as she walked right back outside.
"Have a good day," I said, barely glancing up to give her a smile in return.
My coworker Kelly (who has a work-related blog here) entered the room just as the woman was leaving and waited to make sure she was gone before saying, "what was that about?"
I shrugged. "Guess she just needed to use the restroom." And that was that.
The following Thursday morning at around 9:30am the same woman came in and repeated her request to use the restroom. I kind of quirked an eyebrow as I said yes, and she went on her way. This time after she left (again with soda in hand) Kelly and I chatted briefly about the coincidence, and then got busy working and forgot about it.
Sure enough, the following Thursday she showed up around the same time. And the next week. And the next week. In fact, she has been coming every week for the last two months.
After about three weeks we began discussions about what exactly her story was. And about the fourth week, we decided to find out by sending Kelly to follow her and see where she goes.
I manned the volunteer desk while Kelly kept me posted by sending me text messages about what was going on. He eventually returned to report that she went across the street, cut across the parking lot of the building next door, stood and stared at a tree for a few moments, and then entered the next building over (an electrical supply company). After a few minutes in that building she left and dodged between two buildings where Kelly lost sight of her.
And so began our weekly game that we've come to call the Grandma Hunt.
The week after Kelly's initial venture he decided to try and follow her in his car, but he lost her as he got caught in some traffic. The next week I decided to try and follow her on foot, and lost her as I tried to go around a building to cut her off. Then the next week I followed her in MY car and parked outside the building she enters, but I never saw her leave. Since then we've recruited more employees to help us in our venture: one person stays outside to see which direction she comes from, another will alert us when she sees Grandma coming, and another person will hang out at the Maverick across the street to see if they have a better angle at watching her.
After each week more questions arise. Is she going on a long walk that requires a bathroom stop? Is she walking to work? From work? Does she work in the second building she enters? Why does she stare at the same tree each time she walks by? Is she vending-machine hopping? If so, does she prefer the chocolate bunnies from our machine (which is her regular purchase as of late) to whatever else she buys?
Of course, we could just ASK her these questions. But then, what would we do with our Thursday mornings?
By the way, rest assured that these Grandma Hunts are done off the clock. Also, we're aware of the illegal and shady nature of what we're doing, but we mean absolutely no harm to Grandma. We just want answers.
Well, that's a lie. We want adventure. And so the hunt continues...