So, I was rushing from a Select Board meeting to an election training session in Vermont’s state capital Tuesday night when I got out of my car and stopped dead. There, right behind the fire department, was a freaking Ivysaur taunting me like a privileged frat boy with an untreated emotional control problem. It didn’t matter that I was already five minutes late; he would be mine. And after 20 wasted Pokeballs, he was.
Leveled him up immediately – thanks to a crap load of stardust left from a 10km egg I’d just hatched – and made plans to take him to the gym outside my work at the United Methodist Church where Y3kthunder and his slutty Pidgeotto was ruling with their Team Red nastiness. That is, if I could get in the necessary training first. Next to my Venomoth (aka Venusmutha, at CP445), this latest catch was my boy.
“You got him?” asked a 20-something who was accompanying a friend desperately flicking away by the Montpelier Fire Department ramp.
I showed him Ivysaur whom I had already renamed Ivybitch. He gave me the thumbs up just as their own crafty Ivysaur took a powder with a cloud of loss. “Shit!” they cried in unison.
My heart thumped once in sympathy. Sure, I am 53, a mother, an elected public official, an author with 17 books and one Lifetime movie to her name. Yeah, I have a mortgage and my husband and I pay college tuition and our daughter is old enough to be getting married next year. But I am a Pokemuthafinda.
I blame my son, age 20 and far more responsible. For him, the Pokemon Go! craze is a childhood dream come to life. First there were the piles and piles of trading cards, then the DS games and now this. Too bad he had an engineering internship and a 65-mile/week running schedule. Otherwise, he’d be where I am. (Closing in on Level 9, thank you very much.)
At first, I was unimpressed when he showed me the game last week. Pokemon? Who cares? And then….shit happened. Bad shit. Cops shooting innocent people for Driving While Black. Cops getting shot. Not to mention the ongoing karma drain of the presidential election. It was as if in the overused boiling frog analogy, some evil being had just cranked up the heat of our collective pot.
So, I downloaded the app, got Charmander on my side. (Not realizing, sadly, that if I’d avoided the first three Pokemon, I could have had Picachu!) And headed to the farmer’s market last Saturday. Though it began to rain, I didn’t return home for three hours. I don’t know what I did in that time. Hit up a lot of Pokestops and collected my share of easy Weedles, Krabbys and a few Oddish. I kind of came to my senses when it began to pour and I found myself in a cemetery about two miles out of town spinning the disc of a monument. I checked my Fitbit. It was almost 2 p.m. I’d clocked 11,000 steps.
And that’s when I noticed something else: a strange, light feeling of pure, unadulterated, childlike bliss. Maybe it was the endorphins resulting from constant walking. But I think it was the absolutely joy of seeing a Venonat dancing on the tombstone of an oblivious soul or the surprise of a Krabby snapping his claws on my steering wheel. For that morning, there were no cop shootings or wild, cruel income disparities crushing 80 percent of the populace. I didn’t think once about Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. I didn’t worry about bills or insurance or what that pain was in my right side.
And now I’m wondering if, really, there’s any reason to leave this world. Why not just immerse ourselves in virtual unreality until death? Because this real reality…..it, frankly, sucks.
“Don’t you have a book to write?” asked my son who started it all and bitterly resents that I have a Poke Stop within reach of my desk.
Right. There are other types of virtual unreality and it’s my job to bring them to you, just as Niantic brought me a Jigglypuff.
After the election training session (during which, much to my chagrin, I observed the pink hearts of a lure floating around a Poke Stop a mere stone’s throw away), I took a stroll downtown to collect more Pokemon, nearly bumping into the Assistant Secretary of State in charge of elections who was also focused on his phone.
“You playing Pokemon Go?” I asked.
He squinted in confusion. Last fall, his wife gave birth to their second child. He is up to his eyeballs in Pampers and sleepless nights. “Huh?”
I explained. He smiled. “Not yet. Someday!”
As if this was a game for his kids.