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The Conscious Commuter

On a Scooter, Cruisin’ for a Bruisin’

1:05 PM EDT on June 5, 2008


My guitar saved my spine.

I was scootering along on my new Cruz Ultra Xootr scooter, mentally writing this column about how incredible this new (to me) mode of transportation was, how it was even better than a bicycle in many ways, how it showed how graduated transportation is or should be, how it showed we need to travel at different velocities and in different vehicle sizes, and how thoroughfares should support this, when suddenly I was flying in the air, soon to land on my posterior.

I had bought the Xootr just the night before at Paragon Sports by Union Square for $199, largely to accompany my three-and-a-half year old son who had already (proud parent here) learned to ride a two-wheel Razor scooter, the kind big kids ride. He had learned this because his wise parents had bought him a two-wheel model when he was all of three, rather than the training kind of three-wheel model. And he had taken to it.

At the time of my calamity I was rolling along Sixth Avenue between Sterling and St. John’s Place in Brooklyn toward my son's school, having gone about a mile and thoroughly delighted with my new mode of travel. You barely had to give a push with your foot, and you were coasting along for a good block or so. It was fun. You didn't have the feeling, like on a bike, of being trapped with and on this large device. And perhaps best of all, you didn't feel like you were about to be killed at any moment by large metal objects weighing many times what you did. You rode on the sidewalk, where you were the biggest guy in terms of mass and speed. (More on this later. Or maybe not.)

So there I was, mentally composing, when I approached a broken sidewalk corner at St. John’s Place and Sixth Avenue, right where the sidewalk dipped to go down into the street. Having already successfully negotiated a few cracks and bumps, I decided to risk these. I leaned and pulled back on the handle of the scooter, thinking a slight lift of the front wheel would help me negotiate this rough terrain. Suddenly, without warning, probably just as my back wheel descended into one of the ruts, my scooter flipped up and went flying into the air, the front wheel going vertical and the back wheel going underneath. Now underneath my scooter, I landed on my ass.

Or actually, my guitar. Luckily, in retrospect, I had been scootering along with my Taylor mini travel guitar strapped around my back, open air, troubadour style. I didn't just want to make a romantic figure. I had been invited to play "Farmer in the Dell" at my son's daycare center, as the accompanist for their year-end play. Wanting to ride my new Xootr there, but not wanting to carry the case, I thought at the last minute to carry the guitar by itself, solely by its strap.

So when I came down on the broken asphalt, I landed not on my coccyx or L-5 vertebrae, but on the convex bottom side of my guitar. Which came out quite the worse for wear. A corner of it was crushed, two strings broke and a peg popped out. But better it than me.

My crash caused quite a reverberation around me. Drivers stopped and asked if they should call someone. Passersby approached me. This being Park Slope, a mother with a child in a stroller asked if I wanted some Arnica. I accepted it, placing the white pellets under my tongue directly from the case with her admonition not to touch them with my hands. Any port in a storm.

As I sat there feeling what I suspected would be a major bruise, I reflected that my guitar might have saved me from breaking my 49-year-old back. Not a good way to go.

I haven't spoken much of weighty transportation matters. I still am a very enthusiastic proponent of my new mode of travel. But I rode home much more cautiously. I'll have to leave for another day debates such as whether scooters belong on sidewalks, the merits of them versus bicycles, and what they say about our need for many modes. For now, I'm content to live to ride another day.

Photo: ephramjames / Flickr

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