May 2003

Broken Down

There I was beside the road putting the key into the ignition and getting a weak little chime but nothing else, no little happy face on the indicator light. In fact, no indicator light. The crowd watched silently as I tried the intermediate key…and the measly beginner key. And then, mercifully, they began drifting away, not gonna be nothing to see here.

I was out eclipse chasing. I should, of course, have followed through on my original plan to drive over to Mt. Diablo in the early afternoon with a hamper of delicacies and a good book. But I’m back on my meds and sick and just didn’t feel like doing that. Here in the City it was a bit too hazy for a really good show, and I saw in the late afternoon that driving up to Twin Peaks would be pointless.

Alas, I’m so damn gaga that I couldn’t even get it together to set an alarm, so of course I lost track of time and didn’t think about going out to the top of Dolores Heights until the best part of the show had already passed. But I went, anyhow. All I had to do was grab my field jacket and jump on the Segway to get up 21st Street.

At 21st and Sanchez a house was blocking the view, but as I balanced there speculatively, a passing woman volunteered, “There’s a good view of it at the next corner,” pointing south toward Hill Street. Sure enough, a pleasant little crowd of locals was watching the eclipse, and I glided up and casually performed my flying dismount to join them.

We stood there and talked of previous astronomical phenomena as the eclipse became more and more ordinary, and we all pretty much simultaneously began to leave. This was when I discovered that the Segway wouldn’t start.

Good thing I was only a block and a half from home. Even better thing that after a very gentle upgrade during the first third of the return trip, it was all downhill.

So I dragged the dead Segway ignominiously behind me. It didn’t deserve being pushed ahead of me. Got it inside and took the Handle Bar/Control Shaft assembly off so I could check whether the two wires in there were still connected. They were. Still wouldn’t start. So I plugged it into the wall, thinking, why not? It shouldn’t need a charge, but who knows?

I woke up in the middle of the night and had to pad in there and try the key. Still dead.

This morning, it was still dead, so I called Segway Technical Support and got this excessively cheerful young woman. When I told her the symptoms, she inquired whether I had by now had the Segway long enough to start messing around with flying dismounts, not that she called them “flying dismounts,” but that’s what she meant.

Good grief. The Ayatollah Ashcroft’s measures are sure not necessary for this Subject. The most ordinary customer service rep off somewhere in New England can read me like a book and catch me trying to get away with things I didn’t know I was trying to get away with. How was I to know that flying dismounts could involve dangers other than scraped knees and humiliation.

But now I’m clear that if I wish to perform flying dismounts, I must unobtrusively but scrupulously perform the Standard Shutdown Procedure described on page 43 of the User Guide. Otherwise, I will confuse the Segway and get some of that humiliation without even falling to the ground.

Unconfusing the Segway requires violating it with a #4 hex wrench.

I’m thinking a little chrome-plated model hanging on a chain around my neck. Ummm, naw, matte black. All the guys’ll have ’em.

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