Latest 3 Things

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

3 Wheel Abuses

For some reason, I've written a lot about cars lately. It's hard to avoid the topic. I've lived in two very car-centric cities of late (Los Angeles and Las Vegas) and grew up in a small Colorado town where a motorized means of personal transportation was as essential to living as oxygen and regular access to ESPN. Of all the things that I might identify as quintessentially American, the personal automobile is probably the most quintessential amongst them. You can keep your apple pie, your baseball and your cowboy culture. Without cars, we're just another post-Soviet eastern European nation with cooler stuff and fatter kids. The auto is the ultimate means of freedom and expression. It is "I go wherever I want, whenever, and however I want to." It is sometimes loud, sometimes understated. It is sometimes big and sometimes small. Sometimes it is completely ludicrous, and other times it is painfully and horribly pragmatic (can you hear me, Toyota?). But it endures, and remains the last great frontier for personal expression, as the rest of them are slowly taken from us in the name of political correctness, environmental protection and corporate responsibility. However, like most freedoms, it can be abused, and as I've often said, just because you can do something doesn't always mean you should. And to that end, here are 3 ways to roll along that should roll away:

1. Scooters. Simply stated, unless you are a woman in her early twenties living in large city, or a young Italian man living in Italy, there is no acceptable reason to be driving a scooter. No other means of transportation so completely and utterly eviscerates the American car tradition like the scooter. It's not simply that it's feminine - there are plenty of feminine cars that enjoy their proper place in our car culture (e.g. the Volkswagon Cabriolet, the Mazda Miata, any Jaguar, etc.), it's just that it is so tremendously weak, that makes it so insufferable. To be clear you could wrap a scooter in Sean Connery, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Clint Eastwood and it would still be about as tough as a Jonas brother in a dress. I've seen tougher lace doilies in my grandmother's sitting room. No matter what your gas mileage, parking or other transportation concerns are, a scooter is not the answer. If you must travel on two wheels, ride a bike or buy a motorcycle, because every time someone rides a Vespa, we all suck just a little bit more.

2. Segways. Remember how this was supposed to "revolutionize the way people travel"? Remember when John Doerr (the guy who put up the money for Google and Amazon) opined that this would be "more important than the internet"? In a world of over-hyped and failed debuts, the Segway reigns supreme. The Segway is the Ryan Leaf (er, JaMarcus Russell) of technology and the 20-sided dice of wheeled devices. Sure, you can have one, but if you do, it means you probably also have a cape and a fairly substantial World of Warcraft addiction. If you have a job that requires you to drive one of these, it's a safe bet that your employer (a) hates you and (b) secretly laughs at you every time he sees you drive it away. The only people who are truly happy about this wheeled atrocity are bicycle cops, who as a result of police departments buying Segways, now look like a Harley gang compared to the bicycle-helmet wearing douchewads who have to try to and look authoritative on one. Seriously, I think I'd have easier time commanding authority while wearing a pink tutu and singing showtunes. If you ever have the urge to buy one of these, take the opportunity to poke yourself in the eye with something very sharp, it'll hurt more, but an eye-patch may be the only thing you can wear that will make riding one look cool.

3. Trikes. Let me just say, I still love my Big Wheel. No vehicle I have owned since then has matched the sheer visceral joy of pedaling down my driveway at the helm of that molded plastic powerhouse. Just being positioned behind that large, plastic mag wheel with all the power and control I'd ever need to get around and impress the neighborhood kids is a feeling I've never matched. It was safe enough that my parents would allow me to drive it around unsupervised, and its tricycle design made even my most daring power-skids completely risk-free. At nine years old, this was the coolest vehicle I could have owned. Unfortunately, this was the last age at which driving something with three wheels was acceptable. Long-removed from the well-known dangers of the three-wheeler, the recreational vehicle industry appears to have decided that the way to make three wheels ostensibly safer and more appealing is to turn them around, and make you drive with the two wheels in front. This is about as visually appealing as Kirstie Alley in a bikini, and only slightly less functional. Espousing the virtues of "control", you get all the discomfort of a motorcycle seat and precisely none of the cool. You'd be better off mounting a cycle seat and handlebars inside of your car. No matter how they market this to me, no matter who they get to do the voice-over, no matter which supermodel they drape across it (yes, even you Carmen Electra), they will never, ever sell me one of these.

* * *

As long as there are freedoms, there will be those that abuse them, and the freedom of the road is no different. Just as there are people who drive regular (or even exceptional) vehicles ridiculously, there are people who drive ridiculous vehicles regularly. And for what it's worth, I much prefer sharing the road with the latter. One of the greatest American freedoms is the freedom to look as stupid as you'd like, as long as your stupid doesn't get in the way of anyone else's. Besides, without all the stupid running around, I'm not sure I'd have much to write about. But that being said, as the old slogan goes: friends don't let friends drive stupid (or something like that). And to that end, here's hoping I never see anyone I know on one of these - because the only thing worse than being caught doing something ridiculous is being caught doing something ridiculous by someone who will write about it.


Brian said...

A non-profit called Segs4Vets has given over 500 Segways to wounded warriors returning home after Iraq or Afghanistan.

You better add prothetic legs to your list of what makes a rider look cool.

Yeah, they were overhyped, and the real market is folks with a mobility issue - or folks who appreciate 1/2 cent per mile fuel cost.

Glenn H. Truitt said...

Brian... Agreed. But if you've got prosthetic legs you earned in war, you are a bad ass on WHATEVER you're driving - even if it's a My Pretty Pony bicycle with a pink banana-seat.

Hawkman said...

I'm a Gulf War veteran with 3 scooters in my garage. But, I've got a 300rwhp Turbo ZX-14, also, to balance out my gayness. LOL

Anonymous said...

I've just never really gotten Segways.


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