TAMPA — They're techies who work in front of computer screens building databases for Verizon Wireless.
Their colleagues? Faceless voices on conference calls scattered throughout the country. But Wednesday, 30 of them met, some for the first time, for a team-building scavenger hunt called GeoQuest.
Clutching GPS devices and a list of 32 clues, they set out at 8:45 a.m. on a three-hour tour of downtown Tampa unlike any they'd find in a travel book.
One group of five followed the digital compass along Kennedy Boulevard, its arrow pointing west across the Hillsborough River. It led them to a bench in front of the University of Tampa, where they pondered a clue:
Sit here. Inspect closely. Tell me what other famous city you could be in.
A man in sunglasses and a baseball cap sat close by, shaking his head. Dave Yunghans was the only guy with all the answers, and no one was asking him a single question.
"The only way they can solve this is to work together," he said.
Yunghans works for Team Builders Plus, a New Jersey company that organizes activities across the country. This was his third Tampa scavenger hunt of the month. More may follow, which is why he likes to keep his answers under wraps.
He put the hunt together in a day and a half. He examined the imprints on bricks and names carved in cement. He counted the crescents atop the silver minarets.
He gave each team a jar of Play-Doh and asked them to re-create the statue known as the exploding chicken. Malcolm Rausch, a 40-year-old manager from Ohio, snapped a photo on his camera phone to help him sculpt it later.
With less than an hour left, Rausch's teammates ran up a spiral staircase at the university. They stopped in front of a historic schoolhouse and copied words from a plaque.
When another team came up behind them, all but one took off. Milton Bennett, 52, lingered. He wasn't helping the other team, was he?
"Milton!" Jay Jadeja, 52, yelled.
Rausch called out, "What team are you on?"
Milton hurried to catch up.
Back at Ole Style Deli, where all teams were ordered to meet at precisely 11:47 a.m., Rausch sculpted a last-minute hot pink abstract pheasant while Yunghans posed a question:
How many of them had figured out how to use the "nearest" button on their GPS, which would have enabled them to find more clues? Rausch and his teammates raised their hands, victorious. They were the only ones.
"And how many of you shared that information with the other teams?" Yunghans asked. They lowered their hands and hung their heads.
Did they know this wasn't a competition? That if all teams had worked together, they would have solved the puzzle in less than an hour? That this is what causes problems at work?
Then Rausch piped up. "But look at my chicken!"
Alexandra Zayas can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3354.