If you work in an office, the last thing you want to do at lunch is usually what you get stuck doing: joylessly eating at your desk, looking around to see if anyone will notice if you lower your mouth to the Caps Lock and lick the last drop of ranch directly off the keyboard. If you're lucky enough to leave the building, your minutes are spent waiting in a takeout line for something you'll hurriedly shove into your mouth on the way back.
And then there's John Pawlowski, a Tonawanda, New York man who has eaten his lunch on the same quiet, residential street at least once a week for the past year and a half. He's also been questioned by the police, covered four times in the local press, and chased back to his office by a pair of disgruntled neighbors.
Pawlowski gets the same ham, turkey, and Swiss cheese sub from the same deli every day, then he drives to a nearby street, parks under the same tree in front of the same house, eats his lunch, and heads back to work. "[My spot] is kind of set back from any driveways, not across from any and really only kind of in front of one house," he told MUNCHIES. "It seemed like a good spot, so it just became a part of my routine."
That seems like the most innocuous daily ritual that someone could have, but a set of armchair McGruffs decided that he had to be up to something, and they followed him back to work to confront him.
According to The Buffalo News, the couple got into their car, followed him to a gas station and waited while he topped off his tank, then pulled into his office parking lot and immediately started questioning him. They told Pawlowski that they'd been watching him eat lunch every day for the past year, so they sound normal and fun. "[The wife] said they had the police looking into me, and then she asked my name and where I worked," he said. "At that point, I had to kind of shut it down. I didn't want them causing me any trouble at work. I told them I couldn't answer that, but they had my license plate number and know where I park so they could surely pass that along to whomever they felt needed it."
Pawlowski said that he did his best to convince them that he'd just been eating lunch, not doing anything creepy, like staring at a complete stranger while he chewed a mouthful of deli meat. (We're all in agreement here, right? Eating lunch in your own car is not weird, but following someone to their workplace to interrogate them is pretty fucking weird.)
A week later, not one but two police cars arrived during Pawlowski's lunch break, having been called by a neighbor. (HUH, WONDER WHO WOULD'VE DONE THAT?). Pawlowski showed the cop the Buffalo News article, they both had a good laugh, and the officers left him to finish his lunch in peace. And—just a guess here—but a decorative ceramic figurine was probably angrily thrown across someone's living room as they peered through their blinds and saw the cruisers drive away.
But this isn't over yet—no way. The Buffalo News' breathless coverage continues: in the most recent update, another neighbor expressed her support for Pawlowski's ritual. Barbara Tucker—who actually owns the house that Pawlowski parks in front of every day—said she doesn't care that he's out there. "I don't own the street," she said.
Pawlowski saw her comments and, in an adorable turn, that might have signaled the start of a new friendship. "Last Thursday, I was going to introduce myself to her, drop off some flowers for her and hopefully share a quick laugh with her about all of the attention this thing has gotten," he said. "When I arrived, she was sitting on the porch waiting for me. We talked for about 15 minutes."
He said that Tucker urged him to stay, and even the male half of the McGruff couple waved at him. "I might as well stay in my spot now," he said. "I would hope that finally, the mystery is gone, and I can go back to eating in peace."
Thank you. Throw that car in park, eat your sub, and enjoy it on behalf of everyone who's sitting in an office, picking crumbs out of their keyboard.