Another Sign of the End of Civilization as We Know It!

September 2nd, 2006 | Posted in General

Yesterday morning I was at the Mall of America pushing a two wheel cart loaded with boxes of heavy glass frames to deliver to my caricature booth in the “Park at MOA” (formerly Camp Snoopy), when I am suddenly confronted by a sure sign that civilization as we know it is coming to an end. Coming towards me through the amusement park part of the mall is a security guard. That’s not unusual, the place is crawling with them anytime you don’t need one, and I didn’t need one at the time. It would have been odd had I been looking for one at that moment, because they have the uncanny ability to be elsewhere at those times. But I digress… what was strange was that this guard was not walking, but riding on a motorized vehicle called a Segway, just like this one:

segway.jpg
Yep, hotties ride Segways! Buy one today!

Now, before I go any further, I want to point out that this security guard was not overweight, old, infirm or handicapped in any way that I could see. He was in his late 20’s or early 30’s, lean and looked to be in reasonably good shape if a bit skinny (actually he looked a little like Tim Kazurinsky’s character from Police Academy 2), so there was no physical limitations that would require he ride a vehicle like this. No, he simply just didn’t want to walk. This is not the first time I’ve seen this. In a recent trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, I saw dozens of apparently able bodied park staff riding around on these things.

Now, to be fair, maybe this hit me so hard because it is roughly 1/3 of a mile one-way from the loading dock at the Mall of America to my booth in the Park, through the bowels of the place waiting for freight elevators, though hallways and finally into the mall. That is not an exaggeration. 8 boxes of frames weighs about 280 lbs, my little two-wheel cart had low tire pressure, and I had two loads to drag up. Plus, I’d just left the gym before coming to deliver the supplies, and had completed a grueling shoulder workout. So, maybe I was cranky and this bothered me more than it should have.

This struck me as a symptom of what is wrong with this country. Somebody, somewhere decided that the simple act of walking is just too much work, and there is a need for a “personal transporter” to relieve people of this terrible burden of moving under our own power. Is there any function we as humans perform that isn’t subject to being rendered unnecessary by some invention? Nobody is going to complain about the invention of the sewing machine that relieved tailors and seamstresses of the time-consuming need to hand-stitch clothing, or the invention of the telegraph that saved mankind untold miles and days of travel to deliver communications. But this is different. Walking and moving under our own power is what humans were designed for. Are we really that lazy that a vehicle like this is marketable?? If it is, no wonder Americans have the largest incidence of obesity of any country in the world. 57% of Americans are overweight, according to the Center for Disease Control. Take away or need to walk around and see where that number goes. Maybe in the future we’ll have full body support vehicles that will relieve us from the unspeakable need to lift our arms or turn our heads also.

This argument does not apply to those who have physical limitations and cannot manage to walk well or at all on their own. That is a totally different animal. I applaud the use of technology to help people overcome their difficulties or handicaps so they can do or enjoy activities or things that those without such limitations can do and enjoy. Not everyone is overweight because they eat too much either… it’s genetic in many cases, and I understand that. A machine like this is just what the doctor ordered in those cases (literally). I thought about what my reaction to this security guard would have been had I been in a wheelchair, having lost the ability to use my legs. I can imagine in that instance I would give just about anything to be able to stand up and walk around, even for a little while… yet here is a perfectly able-bodied man who can’t be bothered to use that power. I’d be very angry, I think.

I understand how the use of a Segway makes sense in certain instances, like when a person needs to oversee a very large area of ground over and over again and there is ample room and space to use the speed (about 12 MPH) of one of these things to cover the area faster and more efficiently, like in a huge warehouse. That is about the only advantage I can see. When you are talking about a person like a security guard or cop who is overseeing a group of people who are also on foot, especially in a crowd like in a mall or theme park, Segways are ridiculous. You can’t use the speed because you’ll run into some kid heading to the roller coaster. Navigating a crowd takes the ‘fast response time’ selling point away. After that there are only two other selling points Segway uses for “police and security” advantages of their product. One is, get this, “become more approachable”, According to Segway’s website sales pitch: “The Segway PT is the ultimate icebreaker. Its presence facilitates conversation and encourages effective community policing. Officers are more approachable on a Segway PT than when they are in sitting in a cruiser or riding a bike. ” Oooookay, people think it’s bizarre and aren’t afraid to say so. The other big selling point is that you are 8 inches taller on the Segway, and can see above the crowd better… that is unless you are only 5 foot tall, then you are still SOL.

Maybe I’m ranting incessantly about nothing, I’m totally wrong and the Segway is the greatest gift to mankind since the pencil sharpener. It just seemed to me as this mousy little security guard rolled past me on his ridiculous looking toy that here was the ultimate example of human invention being used to serve the needs of nobody but the laziest of humanity. It did serve one purpose for me.. it caused me to consider how lucky I am that I can walk, run and use my legs normally and to realize it isn’t something that should be taken for granted. That counts for something.

I wonder if that security guard complained to his wife last night about the blister he’s developing from having to press the Segway’s brake handle all the time. Maybe someone could invent something to do it for him.

Comments

  1. Matt. says:

    What’s next? artists using photoshop?

    But seriously, I thought those things died in 2003 as a passing fad. I guess not..

  2. zwallenfang says:

    There’s a place down the street from me that rents these beasts out. I’ve seen field trip-sized parties of adults and children riding along the “historic St. Anthony Main”, and across the Mississippi on the Stone Arch Bridge. There certainly is a lot of history from the city to see down here, and at 12 MPH, I’m sure the Segway will ensure that you take it all in.

    But what I am really waiting for, is THESE things to be on the market! I believe they are ready to do the jobs Americans won’t.

    http://world.honda.com/ASIMO/new/

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