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Pokemon in the Age of Distraction 

Wednesday, Jul 20 2016
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Last week some strange things happened in San Francisco. Some were bad, like the appearance of legitimate recruitment fliers for the KKK. Others were worse, even if they did not directly involve white supremacists.

Pokemon Go took over the town. People were playing the game everywhere, and that's no exaggeration. Places like the San Francisco Zoo welcomed players to "catch them all" — with general admission, of course — begging the question of which animals were really on display.

Numerous Pokemon events were planned, including a "Pokemon crawl" that might have generated the most buzz. As of press time Tuesday night nearly 8,000 people on Facebook said they would attend the Wednesday night event while 28,000-plus were "interested" in going. They should have been forced to get a parade permit.

But Pokemon as a societal barometer was in clearest focus in the Richmond District, where the police station there was forced to issue a very unique public service announcement. SFPD had already warned people how to properly play the game in public to avoid being robbed of their smartphone, but the Richmond Station went a step further:

"I'm sure everyone has heard about Pokémon Go, a new smart phone app phenomenon. The game is getting people outside, which is great, but it has also created a few problems."

You don't say?

"There have been reported incidents of people walking into holes, trenches, lakes, creeks, and even in front of moving vehicles."

Moving vehicles? C'mon.

"People have also been wandering into restricted areas such as private property, police and fire stations, military installations, and other government facilities."

Military installations and government facilities? Oh.

"In fact, we experienced such an incident last night."

Do tell.

"On 07/12/2016 at 11:27 PM, a Richmond Station Officer found a person wandering in a restricted area of the Police Station. When the Officer asked the person what he was doing he said, "looking for Pokémon," not even looking up from his phone to acknowledge the Officer."

Uh-huh.

"If the person would have looked up from his phone he would have realized it was a restricted area of a police station."

There is no time to look up from the phone. The phone is life, and life moves too fast.

"The driveways and parking areas inside of Richmond Station are restricted to Police personnel only. Additionally, our emergency vehicles often need to exit rapidly and distracted people walking in these areas looking for virtual Pokémon creatures could be at risk. This is especially true for children."

The station bolded that last part, in hopes that we'd all get the message. Except we don't get it.

Last week a lot of news happened. The stories were covered by news outlets, but not with the same ferocity as Pokemon. Some stories were noteworthy: a long-anticipated report on the state of SFPD was released (the department is a mess, if you care to know), and more protests against police brutality nationwide were held. And the KKK felt like it could find a few soulless wanderers in San Francisco. Supervisors also decreed that City College should be free for residents and public employees.

Yet none of it really mattered, because Pokemon.

"Please have fun, but always look around and be cognizant of your environment," the Richmond Police Station warning on Pokemon concluded. "We are asking everyone to be aware of their surroundings and not to wander into places they shouldn't be. Play and enjoy Pokémon Go with a buddy, if possible, for safety."

Time to pair up, everyone, the world's a scary place full of scary monsters.

About The Author

Max DeNike

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