3/2 - Four Wheels Bad, Two Wheels Good
It was just a few years ago it seems that Segways were a product shrouded in mystery. Known for a long time only by a code-name, they eventually were unveiled. Everybody agreed that they were a marvel of technology and design, and unlike any other product every developed, had the revolutionary ability to make anybody using one look like a total doofus.
I have never had a problem looking like a doofus before, personally. Its just one of those skills I’ve been born with. But I wanted to try out this gyroscopic two-wheeled dynamo. So I visited SegWow, the site of a local businessman who has made a name for himself offering Segway tours of Los Angeles.
The guy’s name, no joke, is Axel, and he is passionate about Segways. One of the best things about All New Year is meeting people with this level of passion about the things they do - whether it be the study of words, or their chosen religion, or their devotion to fitness through bitchy workout routines. I am a cynical writer who looks at everything askew, so when I encounter somebody who wholeheartedly loves what they do, I am always amazed and impressed. Axel loves Segways.
My sister Kate, Jennie CC, and I met Axel in Beverly Hills for a tour of the hills. He brought out a consent form (how many of these things have I signed in the past year?) saying we weren’t responsible if we hurt ourselves, or, more importantly, the Segway. These little guys cost at least $4500 a pop. He also asked us over and over if we wanted helmets. Being vain, we demurred, and he continued to ask. Axel is a man who does not worry about how he looks in a helmet. I think for the entire time we spent with him, he wore his, even during the extended periods we were not actually riding the Segway.
The Segway operates this way - it is a little platform on two wheels. Inside the platform is either a computer, or a magic elf, which keeps the platform upright at all times. The Segway also knows when you are leaning slightly forward on the platform that you want to move forward, and when you are leaning slightly backwards, it is time to move back. This is either because the computer inside is very sensitive, or the magic elf is reading your mind, or some unholy combination of both.
After we got used to these crazy future machines by driving around the park a little, passing each other and yelling, “Hello from the future!”, we made our way up into Beverly Hills.
Our first stop was a house that Axel said belonged to “one of the Stallones, probably Frank,” which did not fill me with confidence on the celebrity-level of the tour. However as we went along and saw houses belonging to Steve Martin, Kurt Douglas, and David Geffen, the celebrometer rose.
Except we didn’t actually see many houses. We saw a lot of gates, fences, hedges and walls. But not a lot of houses. Axel enthusiastically encouraged us, “look through the bushes here, you can see part of Jay Leno’s house!” But none of us felt really all that inclined to spy on a celebrity we were only marginally interested in to begin with.
But that being said, we were having a blast. Segways are crazy fun. I know, I still agree, people look pretty dorky on them. But as long as you can admit that and put it aside, you’ll be a dork with a smile on your face.
Axel continued the tour. It struck me that he normally gives tours to tourists, and so his quips were aimed towards those who might not know the industry. Now, I work in television, Jennie CC in management, and my sister owns her own DVD player, so we proved a little more knowledgeable than Axel may have been prepared for. “Greta Garbo…” he asked, “Have you guys heard of her?”
As the tour stretched past two hours, it began to get colder. Segways can go up to 12.5 miles per hour, and that can get a bit nippy.
Around this time, I had a bit of a crisis of Segway faith. We were heading downhill from the huge Greystone estate, trusting this little computerized platform on wheels would keep us from shooting down slope at a rapid rate into oncoming traffic. It was a lot of faith to put into a tiny computer. The same sort of computer that loses my work after three hours of writing, that wrongly books my airplane tickets, and causes power outages due to a software glitch. I was overcome with a very strong urge to jump off. The only thing that kept me on was the fact that I had signed a form saying I’d pay for the little machine that would go skittering away from me if I did jump off. I had never put a price tag on my own life before, but I guess if I did it would be less than $4500.
All in all, the Segway tour was fun - not because of the tour, really, just because we got the opportunity to zoom around the empty streets of Beverly Hills on the two weeled wonders. And all without helmet-hair.