Sarah Nowak is obsessed with Pokémon Go.
She’s not alone. Players across Western New York have become engrossed in the augmented reality smartphone game. But Nowak has taken it a step further, finding a way to earn a little dough using the game she loves.
Nowak charges a $35 per hour “donation” to chauffeur Pokémon Go players from one Pokéstop to another. She helps players make better time, safely capturing Pokémon while the car is moving and capturing a more diverse range in farther-flung locales than players might be capable of reaching on foot. Nowak helps them completely immerse themselves in the game without worrying about logistics.
Oh, and she does it all while wearing a banana suit.
Nowak is a gamer herself, but doesn’t play while she’s on the job. She keeps her eyes on the road so her passengers can play in transit. Once they get to their destination, she keeps an eye on her clients so they don’t, say, walk into posts or fall into manholes.
She advertises her service on Craigslist and Facebook, touting the spaciousness of her five-passenger SUV.
“Picture me as your Pokémon designated driver,” she writes.
In order to advance in the game, players have to travel to different physical locations. For players that are young or don’t have driver’s licenses, success in the game is limited. Driving helps players cover more ground quickly, since they might spot activity along the drive.
For Nowak, connecting with other players has been the best part of the game. The chauffeur gig lets her do just that, while earning a little money for a dog rescue operation she runs on the side.
And the banana suit? It’s just part of the fun. It also represents her Pokémon team, which is Team Yellow.
“I wear it because it’s yellow,” she said. “And it’s funny and cute.”
She is known as Bananamama in her circle of friends, and appears in the costume as a comedienne and actress.
Elsewhere in the country, there are reports of other ordinary people capitalizing on the craze. Several different players have set up lemonade stands at Pokéstops near their homes, selling drinks and snacks, reports the Daily Dot. And there are other Pokémon Go chauffeurs.
“I will follow your navigation and pull over for you to jump out if it is safe to do so,” reads one Craigslist ad in Boston, Mass. “I have phone chargers and two USB in my compact SUV. I have Pandora and iheart radio for any special music request.”
A New York City woman has offered to play Pokémon for her clients in up to four-hour intervals, for $20 per hour. Another New Yorker has undercut her price, asking $8 to keep your game going while you’re at work.
But for Nowak, who has been playing Pokémon Go since the game launched July 6, the chauffeur gig is more than a side hustle.
“I just want to game and have fun and keep us all safe,” she said.