This Segway’s into
a whole new century
Digital Slobs know happiness is a journey, not a destination. But for Respectable People, happiness would be a lot happier if everyone could just get their bladders in sync so they didn't have to pull off the interstate every 15 miles.
Respectable People tend to treat all commutes like the Indy 500, whether their objective is Sixth Avenue or Six Flags. For them, the Grand Canyon would be a lot grander six minutes sooner, though I believe geologists will tell you that, as the Colorado River continues to cut into it, the canyon will actually be a bit grander six minutes later. (But don't tell Respectable People this as they dig their fingernails into their steering wheels en route. It won't help.)
On the other hand, not only do Digital Slobs have no idea when we'll get somewhere, we have no idea where we're going. Our impatient stomachs make us hit the road before our heads choose the drive-thru du jour, so we wander the streets like a psychic in a haunted house. "Let's see, I have 20 places I could go ... now I turned left, so I'm down to 12 ... just turned right, so five ... another right ... ah, Burger King!" For us, it's not just a fast-food run -- it's fate.
So as we all drive these agendas into the 21st century, we can explore our traveling dementia with a new toy: The two-wheeled Segway (www.segway.com). If the 20th century ushered in the "horseless carriage," the Segway is this century's "horseless chariot." And it may pack the same socially transforming wallop as its 100-year-old predecessor.
In the 1900s, cars were open-air contraptions driven by handlebar-mustached men who not only forced their pre-Suffrage Movement wives into the back seat, but also made them face backward like so much subservient livestock. This habit set in and is why, even today, you pretty much have to be eligible to vote to call dibs on shotgun.
So with due reverence, I recently test-drove the Segway. I grabbed the T-shaped handle bar and stepped on its flat axle platform that houses several gyroscopes (which are not Greek pita bread sandwiches, as I discovered with slight disappointment).
The electric-powered Segway moved forward when I thought forward, back when I thought back, and stood still when I had no thought in my head whatsoever. It benevolently reads your mind via your feet the way a hustler malevolently reads your poker hands via your eyes.
The Segway may be a true "paradigm shift," which is a euphemism for "outside-the-box thinking," which is a euphemism for "you would buy into this if you weren't so old and stupid."
It has a top speed of 12.5 mph, weighs about 80 pounds and can take you 11 to 17 miles per charge, depending on how often you supersize your value meals. It's no open-road speed demon, but it can still get you around town 700 times more efficiently than a car, which might make us less dependent on certain oil-producing countries that shall for now remain nameless and/or indefinitely occupied.
And just like the horseless carriage, it's causing quite an initial stir; some fear it will turn little old ladies into sidewalk roadkill. But if you can make it down the street without your own legs assaulting anyone, the Segway shouldn't pose any further social disorder unless everyone is immediately forced on them like circus bears on bicycles.
That's unlikely, since they retail for a steep $5,000. So for now, it seems, commuting on a Segway requires our bank accounts, if not our inner ears, to be more than sufficiently balanced.
Curt Brandao is the Star-Bulletin's
production editor. Reach him at