Scooter is just not my ‘thing’

“I like your thing!” This mild, possibly confusing declaration from a young woman couldn’t have come at a more needed time. My hands were frozen solid and my nerves were shot, but I will always cheer up when a woman compliments me on my thing.

The “thing” in question this time was my Gio 500w E-Scooter and we were just on the final stretch home after a massive trek across Toronto.

Hours earlier, I was in the parking lot of the National Post, receiving a demo of this electric-powered bike. It looked remarkably like a full-on gasoline-powered moped, something sleek and powerful, clearly requiring a driver’s licence. This is an important point as I have no licence — no licence to drive, no licence to kill, no licence to own an exotic animal. Nothing. This did not feel right. The woman who was dropping it off for me, however, assured me it was fine. It’s a bicycle! Assisted by a wee motor! See? Look at the pedals!

And there they were, jutting out at a distance impossibly awkward for cycling, as I learned from wobbling its 76-kilogram body across three metres of pavement. Frankly, they’re there for show, and the show was called 100% Legal, Nothing To See Here. They can be removed, but they are not to be for fear of ticketing/imprisonment/lashings.

Now, there’s a good reason I don’t have a driver’s licence. When I was seven, under my father’s defective supervision, I drove a motorized three-wheeler straight into the only bush on our acreage. When I was 16, I backed our car out of the driveway, straight across the street, up onto the sidewalk and centimetres from our neighbour’s fence. Last year, I killed almost a hundred gang members and prostitutes while driving around in Grand Theft Auto 4. My instinct when in danger behind the wheel, virtual or real, is to gun it toward disastrous results. So, I remain a cyclist. Lucky for me, and all those around me, the Gio scooter only reaches a top speed of 32 kilometres an hour and that’s when you aren’t confronted by a dastardly incline. Our citizens would remain safe.

But would I? Leaving work for the first time on the scooter, I was giddy from the novelty of moving without physical exertion. But that was short-lived. The route home was ambiguous, amplified by the fact that I was 20 km away from my destination and starting off from a bike-unfriendly section of the city. Entering traffic, I treated the scooter like a bicycle, staying off to the right, being mindful of the passing vehicles. But the passing vehicles were not having it. I could feel their indignation as they whizzed (very closely) by me.

I was a confusing sight, clearly. If I was on a bicycle, they’d know what to expect, but I was so obviously riding a sleek, motorized instrument that I must just be a jerk going slowly to drive everyone nuts. I was now trapped on a major road, centimetres separating me from judgmental motorists. Left-hand turn? Impossible! How would I putt over to the proper lane without meeting a Frogger-like demise?

The main roads of rush hour are harsh and my heart is weak. Several times, I physically hauled the scooter off the road and onto the grass-lined sidewalks, swearing and sweating like a teenaged pirate. I would try and take side streets only to find myself back on the main streets, right where I started, like I was in a suburban Blair Witch Project. I would attempt to stay on the main roads, only to be confronted with signs telling me that my devotion to staying to the right was about to be rewarded with a highway.

The sun was setting, the temperature dropping and I was starting to get scared.

My respites were at intersections as I patiently waited behind cars preparing to turn. I warmed my hands and activated my turn signal, which, unlike a car’s, emits a terrifyingly loud shrieking sound, an SOS of the damned. If I wasn’t turning, people would look at my scooter with curiosity and jealousy. But with the signal active, people stared in shock and confusion, one woman actually asking me what the sound meant, as if I was in danger.

Nearing home, my comfort level grew. This slick beast was meant for the familiar, for a quick scoot to the store on days when your legs need to be preserved for a marathon, or for a commute to a nearby workplace where cycling sweat stains are frowned upon.

As I pulled into the driveway, I realized my non-marathon, sweat stain-appropriate lifestyle didn’t have a big need for this machine. But I also realized that I’ll never get this kind of attention for my beat-up, rusty bicycle. But at least admiring women and potentially angry motorists know what it is.

Photograph by: Peter J. Thompson, Canwest News Service