Have I talked about my late-winter toy? No, not the Segway. This was just before the Segway, sort of a warm-up. I had read with great enthusiasm Jeffrey Steingarten’s It Must Have Been Something I Ate. Steingarten observes, regarding those folks who avoid the skin of chickens for fear of the fat it contains, “If you can’t stand the skin, stay out of the chicken.”

During his chapter on the development of the perfect pizza-cooking technique, Steingarten mentions acquiring a Raytek Minitemp non-contact thermometer, using as an excuse his need to closely monitor the temperature of his oven.

I somehow glossed over this instrument in my excitement in reading of Steingarten’s gourmandizing. But then somewhere else I ran across a mention of it and did a little Internet shopping and in no time at all for a mere hundred bucks or so had one of my very own.

We all know it’s just a guy-gadget thing, but it’s so much better when you can spin the acquisition as a practical necessity. Like this morning when I gathered myself together and went on an adventure downtown to the Grand Restarting Ceremony for the recently-restored, original, turn-of-the-twentieth-century clockworks in the Ferry Building. I stuck my vehicular handicap placard in the exterior breast pocket of my field jacket, not wanting to get hassled for riding the Segway on the paved concourse area in front of the Ferry Building, since it might be construed as a sidewalk and the Supes have made it illegal on sidewalks even though I can legally take an electric wheelchair capable of the same speeds and weighing several times as much onto the sidewalk.

Well, nobody hassled me. And having that placard partially in sight attracted large numbers of folks my age and older who had disabilities or were developing them and were interested in the Segway as an aid to mobility. I told ’em all about the woman in front of the cheese store on 24th Street and dilated upon the practical aspects of zipping around the city darting in and out of traffic at 12 MPH balanced on a 13×16″ platform eight inches above the asphalt.

But yes, the Raytek. The best use of the Raytek by far I’ve found is to aim it at the heart of a visitor and pull the trigger. He sees the red light of the laser pointer and knows that he’s been somehow zapped. Then I tell ‘im his temperature and say, “The next setting is Stun… don’t make me use that.” They know, of course, I’m just kidding…of course. But then, it does have a distinctly weapon-like look to it.

Everyone relaxes when I point out its practical uses. Like for example just aiming it at any window to take the temperature of the inside surface of the glass, which you can use to instantly estimate the exterior air temperature without bothering to go outside.

The clock, by the way, is big and loud, qualities we appreciate in clocks on towers.

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