Friday, September 16, 2016

Pokemon Goes and Saves Us From Ourselves

My kids are very avant garde.  They were deep, deep into Pokemon at least a year before the Pokemon Go craze.  And I was deep, deep in confusion about why weird-looking, poorly done Japanese animation with a taxonomic system more complex than anything found in actual science was so awesome.  The kids have a book 2 inches thick with entries on each of the millions of Pokemon, their multiple evolved forms, and what their special moves are, the meaning of which is not given and which I can barely fathom. What, for instance, is Cotton Guard? Do you smother your opponent with cotton balls? Crab Hammer?  Frenzy Plant?  Some of them make more sense, and in fact, I think I myself may have these powers, such as Belly Drum, Dragon Breath, Spite, and obviously, Captivate and Charm.  My mother-in-law could crush any Pokemon out there with her Worry Speed powers.  Some Pokemon have powers I can only pray they use on me, such as Aromatherapy, Happy Hour, and Zen Headbutt.  The whole thing is just dizzying, and clearly shows that children have a capacity for mind-numbing detail that might be better applied to something useful, like editing the tax code or hunting for Donald Trump's charitable donations.

Given my lack of enthusiasm for the world of Pokemon, I was not that eager to download the Pokemon Go app.  I managed to keep the news of its existence a secret through the summer by keeping them locked in the house and cut off from the outside world, which wasn't hard to do, since they apparently want to live out their time on earth sitting on the sofa.  Which is of course part of our problem around here, but I'll get to that.  But of course September came, and they returned to the vibrant cultural exchange that is elementary school.  Their little friends told them about Pokemon Go.  They were immediately enraged at me for keeping this earth-shattering development in human history from them, as if I had watched them struggle with a horrible disease while sitting on the cure the entire time.

And at that point I realized I was indeed sitting on some kind of parenting kryptonite--I could give them something they wanted badly.  This kind of thing comes along once in a rare while and has a finite life, and when it does, you must squeeze every last drop of power out of it.  Thomas the Train bestowed upon me a good 4 months of benevolent dictatorship.  Star Wars has offered me some intermittent authority.  But their desire for Pokemon Go seemed to eclipse all of their previous addictions.  I put aside my many fears of falling off a cliff, getting mugged in my driveway by tech-savvy street gangs, or being stalked by Chinese hackers and downloaded the app.  I briefly perused it before informing the kids, thinking how hard can this be? You walk, you see Pokemon.  No big whoop.

My children greeted the news of our first Pokemon Go outing as I would Bono's arrival for dinner at my house.  Shrieks were heard. Minds were lost.  Then Mom couldn't figure out the app.   I thought you were supposed to see the real world instead of a cartoon version????  Where are the Pokemon?? There's a Pokemon!!! Catch it!!! How do you catch it?? figure it out!!! Now!! Hurry!!!  Give me the phone!!! No, Give ME the phone!!!! Cut to me, going into PTSD flashbacks to that ambush in the Mekong Delta I barely survived.

Finally, we left the driveway (and without being mugged, I might add, so I counted that as a win).  We accepted that the world would just be animated.  We walked and walked. No Pokemon.  We grew restless.  We decided to go toward a Pokestop even though we had no idea what that was. It turned out to be a spinning blue circle.  We clicked on it. Nothing happened.  We googled, "What is a Pokestop?"  It said there was supposedly a bunch of useful crap in there that would fly out.  We clicked on it again.  Nothing flew out.  We got angry again.  This was not going well.

We decided to walk over to the park.  Not only was there another Pokestop there that we could futilely click on in hopes of useful crap flying out, surely there would be a bunch of Pokemon going down the slides, because everyone loves slides.  We walked and walked.  We got to the park.  No useful crap and no Pokemon.  Then, all of a sudden, we hit an apparent Pokemon convention, I'm guessing they were nominating a presidential candidate, in which case, I'm with Her/Him/It.   We started hurling  Pokeballs at things.  We had some philosophical disagreements about technique that involved yelling and grabbing at the phone.  Then, WE CAPTURED A POKEMON.  Yes.  I felt an instant surge of success.  It was a non-evolved, grass type Evie, genus grassius maximus, species Evienovitch with special powers of Belch, Zap Cannon, and Parabolic Charge, in case you were wondering.   We threw more and more balls.  We captured more Pokemon. And then...We ran out of Pokeballs, a great tragedy I did not even know was a possibility, like a major political party nominating a sociopathic, self-tanning circus performer.   In both cases, there was much weeping and wailing and pressure on good Americans to come up with some kind of solution before we are all destroyed.

Then, the miracle we were all waiting for finally arrived.  No, Jesus did not return, yet, he's waiting for all the Pokemon everywhere to be captured first, and I hear there are still quite a few left in the Central African Republic.  But Mom did finally have a scientific breakthrough!  Actually TWO.  There WAS indeed useful crap at the Pokestops, namely Pokemon-attracting incense that has the added side benefit of putting everyone in a really good mood.  I figured out how to get that stuff out of the spinning blue dot.  Also, you can BUY more Pokeballs (and a bunch of other stuff)! I should have known the app wasn't actually free.  There are no free apps or lunches or government programs.  You will be separated from your money eventually, of that you can rest assured.  But some things are worth paying for, and Pokeballs are definitely one of those things.  The jury is still out on the Osprey helicopter.

With our renewed stock of Pokeballs and our mood-mellowing-Pokemon-attracting incense, we were in business.  We caught Pokemon left and right.  One of them tried to smother us in cotton balls, but we caught that little deviant, too.  We were finally having a good time.

And, secretly, we were walking for an hour and a half.  No juveniles who would ordinarily be pretending to have contracted polio and left for paraplegics even noticed.  They were too busy scooping up strange Japanese animation.  And the next day, they wanted to do it again. And the next day.  And they began going to bed on time and eating vegetables when threatened with a Pokemon Go moratorium.   I now had absolute power.

To review, Pokemon Go has caused my lazy children to walk for hours without complaining, revived my dictator status thereby restoring order to the household, and given us a family activity that does not give me panic attacks (now that we have figured it out) or leave me bored out of my mind (because I can actually look at trees instead of the phone).  True, my children still have no real contact with the natural world, but baby steps, people.  Perhaps once we prove to them they have functioning legs, we can at least shut down their complaints while hiking Yellowstone or force them to come up with excuses so ridiculous, it becomes a form of entertainment.  And, if the Pokemon do nominate a presidential candidate, we may even get a decent leader out of the deal, maybe even one with powers of Pay Day, Recover, or Amnesia.  Aurora Beam might also be nice.

Who says technology is all evil?  Pokemon Go clearly demonstrates that if we can figure out how to destroy ourselves with it, we can just as easily engineer our salvation.

Until the children lose interest.  Hopefully not before they develop some muscle tone.