All Together Now!

I was driving by a church one day last week, when I saw a crowd of people, some standing, some sitting on the steps of the church. Thinking they awaited a service or were the members of a wedding party, I continued on my way. But I happened to glance at my phone, which had the Pokémon Go app (developed by Niantic, Inc.) open. That’s when I realized why the people huddled on the church steps: a Pokémon raid was about to happen. They were trying to catch a legendary Pokémon. (For more information on legendary Pokémon, click here.)

The church is a Pokémon gym, a site where Pokémon Go players can battle, and hopefully catch, the legendary Pokémon released in the game after the Pokémon Go fest held in Chicago last month. I parked my car and joined the crowd in front of the church. We exchanged cursory greetings, then got down to the business of beating Lugia (see below), the legendary Pokémon that had taken over the gym. We had to work together—you need a crowd of players to beat legendaries, since legendaries have ridiculously high CP (combat power)—much higher than that of the Pokémon an average Pokémon Go player might have (for example, 2000 to 3000 CP as opposed to the 41,000 CP a legendary might have).

We cheered each other on. The battle took a while, but we were victorious. Once that was accomplished, we each had the opportunity to try to catch Lugia. Once more, we cheered each other on. Some were successful. I was unable to catch him, sadly.

By now, you’re probably wondering why I’m telling you this, especially if you could care less about the game. I can’t help thinking about how few social interactions I have had with total strangers outside of random encounters at the library, on the commuter train platform, or the occasional quick conversation in checkout lines at stores. I can’t think of any other time recently when I worked together with a crowd of strangers to accomplish a goal.

Protests over rights violations or times of fear and sadness have brought people together over the years. In recent years, you’ve undoubtedly read stories of strangers working to rescue others after terrorist attacks or uniting to comfort those who grieve. Some of you have participated in those events. These stories remind us of how much we need each other. They remind us of our humanity—that we’re not just avatars on the internet.

That’s why I chose to write about that experience playing Pokémon with a group of strangers. I left pumped that day, despite my failure to catch the legendary. Though we hadn’t done anything earth shattering, a group of strangers and I had made a connection, even for a brief time.

What social interactions have you had with strangers lately? What did they mean to you?

Lugia from sonicpokemon.wikia.com. Pokémon raid images from gosunoob.com and itechpost.com.

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43 thoughts on “All Together Now!

  1. Early this year (or possibly late last year) my family and I were sat in a pizza place in Manchester city centre when everybody’s attention was captured by a large, excitable crowd gathering outside. A few diners thought that there was some kind of fight happening until we discovered (yes, I had to go out and find out!) that such a Pokémon hunt was taking place. And as for the interaction of strangers-I know you’ve read my posts about how the people of my city responded to the bombing at the Ariana Grande concert. That was a very positive experience.

    • I thought of the bombing in your city as I wrote this post, Andy, and how everyone rallied to help each other. What a beautiful thing. I also thought of one of your recent posts when you had the video of the musicians playing with everyone gathered around.

      • Yes that was great. Visited Manchester recently but there was no sign of that group. I wish I had been there to witness it, though I think the days of me joining in a conga are gone. Perhaps I’m getting old and too self-conscious 🙂

      • I remember everyone sat in a line for James’ Sit Down in the 90’s. Did that reach your side of the Pond.

  2. I haven’t really dealt with strangers and crowds much this year. I’ve gotten into brief conversations with people on the checkout line and those who want to compliment my son on how he acts in public. I think people generally stick to themselves these days. We go out to run errands, work, etc., while staying in our own bubble. This could also just be an American thing because I hear from friends in other countries that interacting with strangers is fairly common. We are a people who rush around and remain busy.

    Another factor could be social media. I know many people who prefer this to physical interactions, so they stick to their phones outside. Kind of like this bizarre rise of the introvert, but I don’t think people are using the term correctly.

    • I agree that social media gives us all a sense of connection, especially with friends who live far away. I like it for that reason. But I find that I crave face to face connection with people.

      And yes, we stay in our bubbles. My neighbors and I exchange brief hellos before zipping away. I have more interaction, however, with my next-door neighbor, because we feed the stray cat who has claimed the bike shed as his occasional home.

      • It’s also a safe connection because you can avoid the fear of physical and visual contact. I think people can gather Internet friends easier than real world friends too, so you fill a social void quicker and almost at a higher status than in real life. Imagine what it would be like for most of the people you know with large friends lists if they had to go out and create it face-to-face. It would be a lot more nerve-wracking and end up with a tighter circle.

        I say hi to neighbors and those with kids we talk to more if the kids are playing. Seems people are running around a lot more too these days.

      • I see kids playing outside more. But I live near playground equipment. Parents can easily watch their kids in that area.

        I can’t imagine having to maintain a face-to-face connection with 600 people. I can even maintain my social media connections. Which is why I usually shake my head when someone asks, “Did you see my latest photos on Facebook?” as if all I do everyday is go to every person’s timeline to see what updates he or she has.

      • I don’t see it much around here. We have to drive to one of the parks. Wish one was in walking distance.

        I have no idea what’s going on with Facebook. Since its set up for only some people to see your posts, you end up missing a lot. Pretty sure most of my friends don’t even see my stuff. Amazing how Facebook ended up becoming less social.

      • I agree. Everything gets lost in the chatter. I usually get overwhelmed by it all, and wind up getting off Facebook very quickly or avoiding it.

      • I hunt for stuff from friends about their actual lives. People don’t seem to share that as often as they used to. Now it’s just a series of echo chambers. Twitter is even worse in terms of social interaction. You ever run into someone who talks like they tweet? It’s bizarre because you can’t keep their attention for very long.

      • I’m hardly ever on Twitter. I keep getting notices from Twitter about how to grow my business–a hint, I guess, to tweet more. 😦

      • I’m on there because it’s fairly easy to retweet and I feel like I”m doing more than on Facebook. Once FB made it more difficult for everyone to see my posts, I kind of stopped.

  3. I LOVE that you stopped the car and joined the fray! It would be so easy to keep driving, to tell yourself that maybe those people don’t want you, to hold yourself back. But you went and they welcomed you and you helped the group achieve something. Though it is – of course! – noble and inspiring to hear of people who come together in times of crisis, I’m delighted by this example of people coming together not over something fraught, but over something simple fun.

    • I was too, Laura. It’s great to see people having fun. I can’t help being reminded of the Harry Potter festival. Thousands of people chose to assemble to celebrate a book written for kids. How awesome is that???

  4. You crack me up! Since my flip phone doesn’t have an ap, I probably would have drive on by. Yay you for stopping and joining in the fun! As for my social interactions with strangers, although I’m shy in groups, I love talking one on one with people I don’t know.

    • 😀 Pokémon Go raids have a tendency to draw people to certain locations. People from all over the world came to the event in Chicago. A YouTuber from Australia, whom I follow, actually came here for it. 😀

      I don’t mind talking to people. Except in the morning. I can’t say I’m very lucid in the morning.

  5. How fun! Good for you. L. Marie. Sometimes stopping is what it takes to keep on moving. 🙂
    I actually have a tendency to interact with strangers. Yesterday, I had an interesting one on the escalator, which I’m thinking of posting about.

  6. Hi L. I connect with people in person more often here in the burbs than I did in Florida. On Friday I needed to go shopping for a dress for an upcoming wedding. I wished my mom or bf was with me to help me decide (their schedules were full). Long story short, I found a dress and went to find earrings to match. There were two lady friends there who were strangers to me. I approached and asked them their opinion. They were so nice. We chatted and laughed. They thought I was young. HA! Treated me like a daughter. They may have been only 10 or 15 years older than me. On my drive home, I thought how grateful I was to be back here in the Chicago burbs. In Florida, I would not have felt comfortable talking to strangers. I tried it a few times when I first moved there and it didn’t go well, so I gave up.

    Maybe I’ll bump into you one day. 🙂

  7. I interact with people all the time ~ on the beach, at Disney, in the grocery store, at rest stops along the interstate, etc. Last week, we helped a mom find her missing toddler on the beach ~ turns out, he had climbed the lifeguard stand to say “hey!”

    Glad you enjoyed!

  8. “They remind us of our humanity—that we’re not just avatars on the internet.”

    I know you said you hadn’t done anything earth-shattering, but I consider this close enough. It’s so easy to get stuck behind the screen(s) and not take real people and their real feelings into consideration these days. I’m glad you posted this. Thanks, L. Marie!

    • I’m glad to get away from my screen every now and then, Phillip. Like today, when a friend called to invite me over for a slice of cake. I’m always willing to abandon my computer for cake. 😀

  9. (You Pokemon people are all crazy, BTW! 😉 ) A few years ago there was a fire in a block of flats next to where I worked and the locals all got involved in helping the residents – it was a block specially designed for the elderly and disabled. I worked in a doctor’s surgery and we became a kind of community centre for the day and night, both for residents needing minor medical attention and for the social workers who were working hard to find them all alternative accomodation. It was nothing like the big fire in London a few weeks ago, but when that happened it reminded me of how people come together over these events.

    • Yes, Pokémon trainers are a special breed. 😀

      How awful about those fires. I hope no one was badly injured. Are you still doing that kind of work?

      My niece is going into social work. A very tough job.

      • Sadly, the woman in whose flat the fire started died, but everyone else was got out safely. Fortunately it didn’t spread like the one in London. No, I’m a lady of leisure these days – not sure if I’ve completely retired or am just on a very, very long break… 😉

        It is very tough working with people with problems of any kind, but it can also be the most rewarding thing in the world. I hope she enjoys it. 😀

      • Oh my. That’s really tragic. 😦 I’m glad everyone else was okay.

        I know what you mean by a long break. Sometimes that happens to me between freelance assignments. Not that my landlords like those breaks. 😦

  10. My recent fun encounters with strangers moment took place in June when I left my husband to the museums in Vienna and took the train to Bratislava because it was there. No, I don’t know a word of Slovak (though now I know “most” is “bridge,” “mesto” is “city,” “stare” is “old” and “novy” is “new.” But I helped pick up abandoned water bottles from a park and then handed a young mother a hat that her baby in a sling had dropped, joined forces with a group of students from Philadelphia who were trying to find the train station, and talked to a young man headed to a demonstration who pointed us in the right direction, even though he didn’t speak much English and no one in our group spoke Slovak.

  11. Yesterday I went shopping for a new bathroom fan at Home Depot and a new printer ribbon at Office Max. By the time I returned to my car, I was feeling really good. At Home Depot, a woman helped me find a powerful fan. We chatted a bit, and when she couldn’t answer all my questions, she called a young man over to help out. He was also delightful and helpful. At Office Max, someone helped me find the right ribbon. I’d forgotten to save the box or note the number, and he looked it up for me. At the cash register, no one was behind me, so I talked to the clerk about the European trip he was planning for December. He told me about the great deals Norwegian Airlines is offering.

    These were individual interactions, but of the pleasure of everyday life. I can see that your Pokeman Go cooperation would be delightful.

    • I love Home Depot for the reasons you cited, Nicki. Everyone is very helpful. Sounds like you had a great visit there and at Office Max. I wish the Target store near me would take a lesson from both stores. I’m really tired of being glared at by employees who insist that I use the self-checkout lanes instead of being checked out by one of them. How dare I expect service in a store!

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