By Andrew Biggs
It has been a week of addiction and idiocy, as your columnist comes to grips with one of the grossest wastes of time he has experienced since standing in line for Krispy Kreme donuts when they first opened here in 2010.
Pokémon Go has been in Thailand just two weeks and already there have been reports of players crashing cars on Sukhumvit, walking into the path of oncoming semi trailers, and finding themselves under the wheels of Northern-bound buses. Is there any better example of people eliminating themselves for the sake of humanity?
Thailand is no worse than anywhere else. Last week I was in Australia and the whole country has turned into Pokémon Zombies, defined as people who get off on capturing non-existent creatures and putting them into little round balls for future use. It is the modern-day Dungeons and Dragons for the dumb.
Hoards of normal Australians (if you can forgive that oxymoron) now wander the streets with their foreheads pressed against their smart phones. Meanwhile in New Zealand one guy gave up his day job to devote his life to hunting Pokémon monsters. His mother was quoted in the media as saying she supports him whole-heartedly, proving that your parents’ genes have the greater influence upon your intelligence, or in this case lack of it, than your environment.
Before Pokémon Go hit Thailand there were rumblings from authorities that the app might have to be banned, because it could be a threat to the nation’s security. Wrong; it is a threat to the nation’s stupidity.
Idiots, I kept hearing myself say. How could a reasonable person waste time with such insipid nonsense?
“Strangle me if you ever see me download such a thing,” I announced in my best holier-than-thou voice at a meeting.
Skip one week into the future.
Prepare the rope.
Monday, August 15, 2016: Download Day
Put it down to journalistic curiosity. Or a case of keeping up with the Somchais.
At 1.15 pm I downloaded the Pokémon Go. And my world completely changed.
First of all, there are TWO Pokémon Stops right outside my school in Phrakhanong! TWO! It explains why so many people have been wandering towards my school, stopping, looking at their phones, and then walking away. They were stocking up on Pokémon balls! And here I was thinking it was my face on the school sign that was sending them away.
Within five minutes I have caught a Bulbasaur, a fat green monster with a seed on its back. At 3 pm I have an appointment at Exchange Tower, and as I wait a Weedle appears on the reception sofa. It takes me three balls to catch the thing, though a little ill-timed, with the chief executive witnessing the event and being diplomatic enough not to comment on what I was doing.
At 4.30 pm I give a speech at a university; in the carpark I manage to catch a Vulpix, three Pidgeys and a Rattata. The feeling is exhilarating; all those creatures in one single area. I contemplate a return trip to the uni at midnight tonight.
In the auditorium prior to the speech I feign a full bladder and ask to go to the bathroom, where I snare a Sandslash at the urinals.
Tuesday, August 16, 2016: Addiction Is A Disease
My home in Samut Prakan is a wasteland for Pokémon monsters. I set my alarm for 4.30 am so that I can catch a few before the day starts, but I may as well be living in the desert. I contemplate moving into an inner city apartment. I send a message to my secretary to check rent prices.
But oh my goodness, if Samut Prakan is a wilderness, Suvarnabhumi Airport is the opposite!
It’s the Patpong Road of the Pokémon world, full of weird snarling monsters just waiting to inflict their venom onto you. I nab Magikarp along with some more Rattatas and Pigeottos. The thrill of the chase is electrifying. I accidentally slam my suitcase into the heels of a Chinese tour group leader chasing a Nidoqueen.
But the day has some bad moments, too.
At the security checkpoint I am angered when I spot a Paras but a killjoy official tells me to move on. There is clearly a Goldeen in the women’s toilets and I contemplate running in but an obscenity rap would do nothing for my career.
The runway proves to be devoid of creatures, too. Maybe it’s the price I pay for choosing a low-cost airline. I reluctantly switch off my phone upon taxiing, realizing I have paid no attention to the flight attendant explaining how to buckle and unbuckle a seat belt, as well as how to properly tie a life vest around myself in the event the plane goes crashing head-first into the Gulf of Thailand.
“Congratulations! You have caught 10 Pokemons!” I am told upon snaring a Spearow at Big C Srinakharin later that evening. I’m up to Level 4 … one more level and I get to pit my strength against others in the Pokémon Gyms! Just thinking about that gives me a tingle in my loins. Which is when I start to get worried.
Wednesday August 17, 2016: Nothing Matters Anymore
The ghost of Nancy Reagan has been whispering in my ear all morning: “Just say no. Just say no.”
But I can’t.
No matter where I go I need to check for Pokémon Stops because like a serial sex addict I am on a constant quest for balls. The more creatures I catch, the more strong is my desire to capture all 151 creatures.
I stare into the small screen of my cellphone all day, all night. I cannot remember my life before Pokémon Go.
“Congratulations! You have caught 10 flying-type Pokemons!” the game flashes at me tonight, only I get a different feeling from the night before. I hear this faint voice in the back of my head, not unlike Nancy Reagan’s, asking: “So what?”
I skipped lunch today. I refused to take two important calls on my cellphone because they came right when I was snaring a Pikachu and Squirtle. When my secretary calls right in the middle of throwing balls at a Metapod, I scream at her for the first time ever, asking what the hell she wants.
“I have a list of inner-city apartments for you,” she says meekly.
Thursday August 18, 2016: Deleted
I have a moment of clarity upon awakening this morning. It is long enough to realize the folly of the last two days.
I quickly delete Pokémon Go.
As I write this it has been six hours and yes, I admit there is a hole in my life.
I have the urge to download it again but I check myself. There are too many things I need to do in my life that are meaningful. One of them is not being a slave to my smart phone.
Pokémon Go withdrawal is not easy, but I’ll get through it. If only this were something less addictive, like alcohol or narcotics. At least there are support groups for those things.
Alone, as a recovering Pokéholic, I am following the two steps toward freedom from this game; that is, delete, then find something less intoxicating to replace it, like methamphetamines. I’m doing lots of deep breathing, meditation, and reading Buddhist Dharma books and it’s all good.
Besides, I’ve just been introduced to League of Legends. It’s fantastic. You see it’s this international war game where you fight in teams against people from all over the world and you get to assume all these identities as you smash and kill and throw bombs and …