YOU’VE GOT TO GET BACK ON THE SCOOTER
MAKING THE DIRECT connection between speed and physical pain is not one of life’s inevitabilities—even one spent compulsively operating motor vehicles. But when the connection is made, it’s just, well, brother, destiny has come calling.
I got my first lesson in big sudden hurt on New York’s George Washington Bridge one night back in 1982 when I drove my 1967 MGB at 55 mph into the back of a stalled late ’70s Chrysler (gory details in the November 1992 edition of Automobile). It hurt and pulverized my sweet mug, but thankfully no others were injured. After making a miraculous recovery, I didn’t think I needed any more clarity on the association between speed and pain. But I got some anyway.
Just the other day I was riding an electric scooter I received a few years back called the Uscooter. It’s a clever little thing, surprisingly useful, and I’ve enjoyed it a lot, though I hope I never get to use it in its most perfect application—getting as far offstage as fast as possible the next time something like 9/11 happens. Call me paranoid. While everyone else is stuck and steaming in traffic, the rider of the lowly scooter has a fighting chance of finding the gaps and holes that make a getaway possible.
At first glance, the Uscooter looks more or less like any other stand-up scooter, no different than one the Little Rascals would’ve ridden around movie sets in 1930s Hollywood. It works the same as the old push scooters, too, except for the fact that it is collapsible (for easy transport and storage) and heavier (23 pounds) because it has an electric motor with a battery pack that can be called upon to propel it surprisingly rapidly to a not inconsiderable 22 mph. It has an observed range of 15 to 20 miles and a two-hour recharge time.
Fast, fun, and strangely practical, the Uscooter has not been without its quirks. Its brakes stop fast enough to upend you if you’re not careful, with a control lever that demands the steadiest of thumbs. Over the course of a couple years, however, I figured I’d mastered that, along with the rudiments of safe, linear, electric scootering.
Running late one day, I had only pulled the Uscooter from my garage, popped its folding front fork into place, and set off on a half-mile ride to collect my MGA from a nearby garage when it dawned on me that I’d forgotten my helmet. I always wear one. I lecture other people on the necessity of helmets—especially my children—to the point of torture. Yet this time I forgot mine. And, proving nothing, this time it didn’t matter.
What mattered was that the front fork collapsed unexpectedly when I hit a small bump, and the scooter folded like it was being put in the back of a high-mileage hatchback. Except it was still being used, now to send me hurtling at 22 miles per hour onto the pavement. It may have been operator error. Uscooter theorized that while trying to fold it over the course of years without following instructions and failing to roll it forward while disengaging the locking mechanism, I’d damaged it. That it had become necessary to hammer the release should have told me something was up. In any event, when the fork went south, the front wheel flopped to one side, launching rider headfirst onto the road.
This time, I was many times blessed. Crashing hadn’t meant falling under the wheels of a passing car. Mercifully, I’d had the road to myself for a brief moment. Secondly, I somehow managed not to hit my head or hurt my face.
“So this is what it’s like to crash a motorbike, only I’m hoping not quite as bad!” I thought in that slow-motion split second when my twowheeled rig was slowing and I wasn’t. As the tarmac came up, I put my hands out. Through some miracle I managed to keep my head erect while braking with bare hands and arms, T-shirt, jeans, and sneakers—22 to 0 in no time.
People ran from all directions asking if I was all right. I bounced up and assured them I was right as rain. Aside from scraped and bleeding knuckles, palms, elbows, and forearms, plus two sprained wrists, two sprained thumbs, and a baker’s dozen of black and blue marks about my hands, arms, legs, and big toes, I was all good.
And so it can be told: Flying through the air and striking the pavement is not like crashing a car. It’s a whole new can of peas when it comes to pain and trauma. No matter, Uscooter is sending me a replacement, its new Booster model. I expect to love it and hope I have nothing more to say on the matter. AM