Faced with the tragic and oh-so-meta news of the untimely demise of Jimi Heselden, the 62-year-old owner of the Segway company — for whom things ended with a fall off a 30-foot cliff into a river while riding a Segway, we weren’t sure how to react, exactly. This is sad news. Of course. Death is. But it’s also…well…complicated.
See, our immediate, involuntary reaction to anything “Segway” is a disbelieving hilarity, a bemused sense of bewilderment. This, to be brutally honest, is why we even care about this story — if there was no Segway, it would just be sad, and probably have garnered less than a third of the media attention it has.
But, seriously, people are still riding around on those goofball “human transporters,” once touted as the wave of the future, now the purview of cranky old men?
See @CrankyKaplan, who tweeted today:
I GET IT, GUYS, THE WHOLE SEGWAY STORY, AND I HAVE A SEGWAY (NOW IN THE PAWN SHOP), HA HA, IT’S VERY FUNNY. O.K., LISTEN CLOSE. FUCK YOU.
Why does @CrankyKaplan, the fictionalized Twitter alter ego of former New York Observer editor Peter Kaplan — his character is “old, drunk, perpetually in all caps, and mostly on a Segway” — mostly on a Segway? Because it’s funny. Segways are funny. Like, George-Bush funny.
Until they kill people. Yet, given the poetry in this story, maybe even when they do. There is no small beauty in dying the way you lived, right? On a people-mover?
The police do not suspect foul play in this case, which adds to the Thelma-and-Louise-esque quality but takes away from any future rendering on Law and Order: UK. Which needs to happen anyway.
On the other side of the emotional coin, we have the super-serious ABC News, who, in their health section, asks the hard questions: Are Segways safe? The short answer to the hard question should be obvious given the context, but we’ll say it anyway: Not if you’re riding them on a cliff.
But anyway, servicey, servicey:
Emergency room doctors said in a study released on Monday that cases of Segway-related injuries “are significant and seem to be increasing,” with inexperienced users perhaps bearing the brunt of these injuries.
The number of Segway-related injuries seen at The George Washington University Hospital Emergency Department rose from just five in last nine months of 2005 to 25 in the first 11 months of 2008.
Most shocking thing about these stats: Really, 25 people were using Segways in D.C.? Er, tourists? Second most shocking thing: ABC News finally got to use these stats, which are, it bears noting, from 2008.
By the way, this is not the first Segway-related death. That dubious honor goes to a 59-year-old man who fell into the pit area at a SKUSA SuperNats car racing event in Vegas.
People on Segways: Please, do us a favor and stay away from cliffs, crevasses, pits, and the edges of things into which you might drop, like volcanoes. We are ill-equipped for coping with this sort of tragicomedy on a regular basis. Because while we know this is wrong, it’s also pretty funny. But sad. But funny.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 27, 2010