Pokemon Go had only been introduced in Peru a few days ago. But it had already transformed public life. Selva Alegre Park in Arequipa suddenly saw more teenagers, but they didn’t see anything of the park. Outside of Santa Catalina Monastery hundreds of people stood lined up against the wall, staring at their phones with no interest for the historical convent on which they were leaning. I thought these Pokemoners would go home again, but the next day there were so many that the police had to regulate the traffic and mobile food vendors had set up their carts to feed the addicts. You couldn’t ride on a bus anymore without seeing red and yellow monsters on the phones next to you.
Probably these Pokegods are so popular in Peru because they are modeled on Inca gods. Pikachu and Pachamama. Aerodactyl and Apocatequil. Croconaw and Coniraya.
Maybe I should have expected that a girl who plays Tinder also plays Pokemon Go. Still, I was slightly taken aback when the otherwise rather mature girl pulled out her phone to check for Pokemonsters as soon as we entered Brujas Bar. “Isn’t this something for children?” I asked, trying to get her to stop and, more importantly, to focus on me. She quizzed me with a bewildered look. Putting on the most serious face I could, I expressed frustration about being ignored on a first date. With visible consternation, she put her phone away, but kept glancing at it every minute.
She didn’t wear her glasses that day, claiming cockily that they made her look too sexy and making the somewhat worn-out joke that she didn’t yet know if I was a serial killer.
Each time it beeped and feeped and vibrated, she hastened to reach for it, as if happy about not having to listen to me anymore. Or maybe it made her feel more important. Really important people (like me) of course don’t have time to answer their phones at all. The fact that I stopped talking and eating each time the busy lady replied to a WhatsApp message or downloaded a spreadsheet was interpreted by her as my failure to multi-task, it seemed, not as the silent protest it was meant to be.
“Dating websites shouldn’t ask whether you smoke or drink, but if you are addicted to phones,” I suggested dryly. But she smiled a smile that melted my anger. Until two minutes later, when her phone rang. “My best friend,” she said, as if that would explain why she was impolite enough to answer. Good that I had ordered a salad which wouldn’t get cold.
A few minutes later the same procedure. “My other best friend,” devaluing the concept of friendship, I thought. I was close to taking out my notebook to start writing this story, but she might have interpreted it as permission to continue her phone conversation until late at night.
“I prefer not to,” I replied after she had hung up and asked me to continue the story I had been telling. “With that many interruptions, I won’t be able to finish it today. You will have to wait for the book.” “Oh, come on,” she replied, with a sheepish attempt at a seductive look. “Or,” I suggested, “the next time, let’s meet some place without a phone signal. Maybe we have to drive to the desert. Or get on a boat to the Solomon Islands.”
After the weekend, she sent a message: “Andreas, I have been thinking about your proposal. Let’s go for a trip to Atacama Desert.” Maybe she had already caught all Pokethingies in Peru. Or run out of best friends.
When she picked me up, she was wearing her glasses. It didn’t turn me into a serial killer. But then, every serial killer has to start small.
Three days later, she is still considered missing.