Hysterical…ahem…Historical Sites

Something mysterious is happening at the historical sites, streets and parks around us. Well, not really mysterious. It is all over the news and my daughters are participants, but it looks mysterious! Seems like everywhere I walk, people are looking down at their cell phones. I know, that’s not mysterious or even unusual. But they are showing up in really large numbers individually and in groups. And they are displaying an unusually tense and focused demeanor. Or, in more lively displays, they’re calling out frantically to their group, “There’s a Zapdos over here!” I’ve looked over their shoulders and I’m telling you that there is no texting or social media involved. It’s a craze on a magnitude I’ve never seen. You guessed it: “Pokemon Go”.

It’s living up to its name. It does get players to GO. They go to murals they’ve never noticed, river front parks that they’ve missed out on in the past, city statues that have been overlooked, and even National Monuments. Apparently hundreds have found their way to the FDR memorial late into the nights. It even motivates them to go to church. Albeit, it may be outside of a historic church to catch a pokemon next to a beautiful statue of Mary.  (Is that sacrilege)?

I’m prone to look at the positive side of this crazye. Gamers are not sitting alone in a dark room consuming mass quantities of pizza they had delivered. Gamers are going on long walks! They even lift their heads from time to time and articulate comments such as, “Wow, I never knew this was here”. They even – get this – talk to each other! They talk to friends and strangers alike!

This craze does also bring out the uncharitable side of me. This week, when I walked to two different parks along the Potomac I wanted to yell out, “Wow, what a gorgeous night! Look at that view!” and see just how obsessed these gamers might be. (Really, you should have seen the view). I also wanted to cheer for the young people playing volleyball in one of those parks. Which reveals my bias that they were taking positive advantage of their surroundings while the gamers were glued to little screens.

The more I write about my sitings, the more I’m realizing that there’s no real justification for judging here. (There is justification for judging, with outraged horror, those who have played in sacred sites such as the Holocaust museum. But I won’t go there because it’ll suck all the fun out of this particular blog post). Back to the parks, city streets and monuments. There are all manner of pastimes. I’m spending quite a few hours of my week watching the Olympic coverage on TV. I’ve been known to play solitaire. No more examples; you get my gist. So, why judge?

It’s way more fun to observe! Think of it. Imagine people from the past taking a time machine that pops them up at Waterfront Park in the historic city of Alexandria, Virginia. They look around and the strangest site is not the amazing structure of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge in the background, nor the tour boats going up and down the Potomac, nor the towering hotel being constructed across the river, nor the odd clothing of the modern day people around them. The strangest site is groups of young people, parents and children, and lone individuals looking down at a small item in their hands, swooping their finger over it and then moving to another area of the park to repeat the ritual.

“Pokemon Go” has even provided entertainment for those of us who don’t play the game: watching gamers. Will they, or will they not, see what I’m seeing on these beautiful summer nights? Let the games begin!


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