Thursday, August 16, 2012

. . . the Life of a Modern Day Pokemon Master

Depending upon who you are speaking with, most adults who are not gamers do not think much of Pokemon if they think of them at all.   Although they know what Pokemon are and what a Pokemon Trainer is, more often than not they personally define the world in which Pokemon exist and the respective video games, animated television shows, and feature movies, as realms created exclusively for children in which adults do not belong.  

At least part of the reason for that rather harsh assessment may be due to the disconnection that exists for most adults between the person that they are now, and the person that they once were when they still understood the joys and vivid outlook that I believe is wasted upon children, who have it in such abundance that they can blithely ignore it.  I am not saying that kids do not deserve the gift of that almost magical point-of-view, I am just saying that adults could do with a bit of that themselves.

Recently I found myself in the position of having to explain to a disgruntled and suspicious security agent in the employ of the federal Transportation Security Administration (TSA) the presence of Pokemon video games, a vintage Pokemon electronic Pokedex, and a small notebook containing page-after-page of tiny hand-scribbled notes created by me that among other things included my observations on the locations in which I had encountered each Pokemon, and my assessment for the best tactics to be used in their capture.  In addition to that very useful information and notes of my observations was included a series of addendum that outlined what I thought was the best method for leveling and training each of a short list of core Pokemon whose type and natural abilities struck me as making them ideal members of a regular Pokemon tournament team.

This smiling and friendly TSA Agent was NOT the Agent who was inspecting me...
The occasion that brought the contents of my carry-on bag to the scrutiny and the attention of that TSA Agent was my annual trip to Los Angeles to cover the Electronic Entertainment Expo for the different publications that I write for.  I am sure that I do not have to tell you that E3 is perhaps the most important expo event in the industry and for most gamers, and while there is always plenty to see, think about, and write up, once your work day is over it helps a lot to have something unrelated to the job to use as a way to relax.  In my case these diversions took the form of a nice thick paperback mystery novel and my Nintendo DSi XL with a handful of Pokemon games and the aforementioned accessories and paraphernalia.

Approaching The Security Checkpoint at Boston Logan

One of the cool things about living in New England is that under normal circumstances the people who live there are a friendly and gregarious bunch who enjoy pleasing and being pleased by the strangers that they meet.  Well, normally that is the case, but it turns out that there is a small -- nay, tiny -- segment of the population that pretty much always feels angry and  suspicious towards the world: they call them Transportation Security Administration Agents.  

Imagine, if you can, approaching the security checkpoint between the public areas of the airport and the restricted area where the gates are located, and finding a vision straight out of Zombieland -- a long line of passengers being examined by a cadre of security agents, and to a person every single body occupying the security checkpoint have no emotional expression on their faces.  If there had been a few frowns or a smile or two to be had perhaps my impression of the situation would have been different -- but the total lack of emotion on all of the faces (including a few young children) was disturbing on a level that it is difficult to explain.

 These were not the planes that I flew to LA to cover E3 on...

When we approached the entrance to the checkpoint shoes came off, plastic bins were lined up, computers taken out of bags, and watchful eyes tracked the bin holding my day pack with my wallet and other valuables.  I found myself being directed to the side due to my power chair -- where I would be subjected to a hand-pat-down which I was not surprised by because I was expecting it -- but then something happened that I was not expecting: the TSA Agent picked up my day pack and then began to empty it, setting each item on the desktop.

When he got to my game case he opened that and thumbed through the games inside, glanced up at me and asked me why I had so many Pokemon games?  Like an idiot I made a joke out of it, and asked if that was part of the standard security screening -- and was informed that yes, it was.

He then asked me why I played kids games?  I thought about my answer -- how I could just as easily have replied that it was part of my job, that I had to review a lot of games, not just the ones that most people think of as appropriate for adults.  I could have said that they belonged to my son, who was traveling with me, and is perhaps young enough that he would have accepted that...   Instead I told him that I really liked the games.

His reaction to that declaration was to begin removing the games from the case and lining them up on the desktop.  Then he opened my Pokedex and turned it on, and asked what it was.  He did the same for the small notebook full of notes, asking a series of questions that were, as near as I could tell, was intended to be insulting. 

TSA Security moonlighting as the Head of Security for the Electric Company
I briefly flirted with the idea of offering him a cup of tea -- but clearly even the guards in Saffron City have nothing on this guy with respect to grimace -- and then it hit me...  

"I challenge you to a duel!" I screamed, slamming my Pokemon White cartridge down on the desk.

Just kidding...  What I did was smile and nod and refrain from saying what I really thought...  Celadon Mansion was clearly too far away from the security checkpoint, and I was not sure that tea from anywhere else would work as a bribe for security, and a fantasy involving his actually accepting the bribe flitted through my head, closely followed by one in which he pulled out his DS and he and I did battle -- I won of course -- and then I noticed he was putting everything back in my day pack.

"Have a pleasant trip" he said, and that was it.  I was through security and headed to the gate.

It's not easy being a Pokemon Trainer.

No comments: