A couple of years back, and we don’t really remember the details of how it happened, my beau and I were tipped off by his son, the IT director at a fine local hospital, about this new game that all the brainiacs were playing, as often happens when games are being beta tested.
It wasn’t like your average video game where you sat in a room by yourself and stared at a screen — it was an app on your phone that sent you to locations, known as Portals, throughout the real world.
Teams within the game were competing to capture Portals to maintain their edge on world domination. But most of the rest of us just continued to drive around in our daily haze, oblivious to the secret world beneath our own.
All kinds of places on the East End are portals in this game, which is called Ingress. The Flanders Firemen’s Park is one of them. So is the Big Duck and so is Bug Light.
Every couple of months we have to find a way to get Jimmy out to Bug Light to recapture the place for his team. Sometimes we try to send him on the East End Seaport Museum’s cruise to the lighthouse. In good weather, we send him off in a kayak.
Back a couple years ago, we thought it might be fun to ask Jimmy to make the New Suffolk Post Office an Ingress Portal.
You see, the corner of First and Jackson streets in New Suffolk is actually called “The Most Beautiful Place In the World.”
Some afternoons, we sit on the brick steps of my beau’s front porch, drinking coffee and watching the way newcomers roll up to the stop sign next door to the Post Office at that intersection and just sit there, amazed at the strange energy of the place, as if they’d been transported through the portal to another world.
My beau’s mother and my stepfather both sat in The Most Beautiful Place in the World in the final days of their lives, sighing at the beauty around them as they let it sink in that they soon would be passing through a portal to another world.
So, it seemed only natural to make the New Suffolk Post Office, a landmark on the edge of The Most Beautiful Place in the World, into a portal to another world.
This was just a swimmingly nice secret for a couple of years, but three weeks ago, as you may know, something dramatic happened to all the Ingress portals in the world. They became PokéStops.
It started with a couple pre-teen boys sitting on the park bench in front of the post office staring at their phones. Then more pre-teen boys began weaving around in traffic on BMX bicycles and Razor scooters, also staring at their phones.
A week of this went by and then packs of older boys began roaming First Street late at night, walking up and down the block, like the cast of “West Side Story,” occasionally shouting words like “Bulbasaur!” and “Squirtle!” instead of snapping their fingers, pulling out knives and singing.
We stood in the middle of the street at 10 p.m. and watched the armies marching up and down. My 20-year-old son texted me to see if I was in New Suffolk…. He was planning after he got off of work in Southampton at 11 to spend the rest of his evening wandering up and down First Street, chasing creatures into the New Suffolk Waterfront garden and getting some loot for the game at the Post Office.
This was all an amazing time. We saw more kids than we thought existed in all of the East End, and they were all here because we had decided that this block was a portal to another world. I hope somewhere on the other side of the divide between the living and the dead, Figgy and Frank are happy that so many people know about this portal.
My beau went off on a musical pilgrimage to Assisi, Italy, the home of Saint Francis, for a few days in the middle of all this, where packs of teenagers roamed the streets in groups of 100 or more, singing religious songs until the wee hours of the morning. The biggest church there has marble pigs running down its façade and statues of lions eating the heads of human beings holding up the front railing. That place is also a portal to another world, one that pre-dates our current fascination with technology.
But back in New Suffolk last week, like happens with all really fun things, the grown-ups started thinking they should be playing Pokémon Go too. But they weren’t on foot and they weren’t on skateboards. They began weaving in and out of traffic in their Priuses (Prii? Priora?) and Mazda Sixes. They began backing up into traffic, backing up into the path of boats backing up into the boat ramp, and just generally making a mess of things.
Jimmy (whom, you might remember, made the Post Office a portal for us) told us that we could remove the Post Office from the PokéStop list, if we really want to, but we really couldn’t bring ourselves to spoil the kids’ fun.
But then, last week, a teal Optimum cable van pulled up to The Most Beautiful Place in the World and sat there with the engine running and the windows rolled down, air conditioning the street. We thought for the first 20 minutes that the driver was sitting in traffic enjoying a cup of coffee and the view (this often happens in The Most Beautiful Place in the World), before we realized he was staring at his phone.
Then a lime green Optimum Sprinter van pulled up next to him and both Optimum guys sat there in the middle of the road showing each other their phones and talking about stupid little cartoon creatures.
They drove up the block and then they drove back. Sometimes they did this in reverse and sometimes they did it in drive. They came back the next day and next day and the day after that. It was like a bad rerun of the Three Brothers Moving commercials, except that the Optimum guys were the moving company.
I began to have nightmares about those horrible drills and dripping caulk guns that Optimum movers bring into your house to make a mess of things when you’re moving and they try to install new cable lines.
We considered calling Optimum to complain, but every company with a fleet of vehicles that I know of seems to know exactly what their drivers are doing at all times, and if Optimum can’t figure out what’s going on their own, they don’t really have any business joining the 21st Century.
If my cable bill goes up this year, mark my words, the Most Beautiful Place In the World will no longer be a PokéStop.
Sorry, kids. It was fun while it lasted, but when you pick up your backpack and sharpen your pencils in September, you will always have fond memories of the summer of Pokémon Go.