We turned the corner and people where everywhere. A row of double-parked cars had turned the Chalet’s small parking lot into chaos.
One gamer told me this specific location, being close to water, forest and wildlife makes fertile ground for a wide variety of Pokemons. The game has labeled the windmills on both sides of the Chalet as 'electricity spots', which attracts special 'electric' Pokemons.
Some people were gaming inside of their cars, having a shelter from the ocean wind. A few had brought out beach chairs and set up shop in front of the Chalet. Others were in the warm quarters of the Beach Chalet lobby, surrounded by historic murals. A staff member was trying to keep an eye on everyone. Luckily, all everyone did was stare at their phone. For the first time I didn’t feel self-conscious using my phone in public. Pokemon Go has turned screen-staring into a massive group activity.
Cops showed up once after the manager called them. They used their bullhorn and slowly got the double-parked cars out, but the double- and random-parking routine continued as soon as they left. No one minded being stuck in traffic as they were all gaming, except for the ones who were trying to leave, or enter the parking lot in order to eat. These restaurant customers looked as if they had to make their way through a jungle of aliens. One guest used the gathering to his advantage and asked a player for a quick tutorial.
The eery tune of ice cream trucks entered the parking lot. It was someone selling ice-cream from his car. This spot has been packed by gamers since Pokemon Go launched a week ago, and vendors have caught on.
Someone was ordering the random parked cars to move. The manager, Geoffrey, although he knew he couldn’t keep up with the cars streaming in, told people not to park in the lane, and not to smoke in smoke-free Golden Gate Park. Still, cigarette butts lay everywhere. The Chalet is hiring valets today because the downstairs-restaurant has been rented by a wedding party. But without added measures, none of the guests will be able to park. A pricy decision. They should send the bill to Pokemon.
I saw one gaming couple walk to the downstairs bar and receive a menu, but since half of the crowd are teenagers, I doubt that the Chalet is getting much out of this. Most gamers who wander beyond the lobby are trying to catch Pokemon inside of the elevator, according to Geoffrey.
One wonders why hundreds of people can gather in front of a business and prevent its customers from parking there, but peaceful protests or political gatherings are watched by police that are armed to the teeth.
Does it have anything to do with Google, a company known for receiving special treatment from San Francisco, being the main investor in the game’s developing company Niantic? Anything goes when it’s tech, in SF. And anything goes when it’s consumerism, in the USA.
Update Friday night: The valets reserved spots for guests and the wedding party, and sold the rest of the parking spots for $10 to gamers. That way the Beach Chalet made the gamers pay for the valets. Nice way of turning a problem into profit.