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Bad Segway

Listen, Segway. We've had a great run.

Well, "run" might not be the right phrasing. "Whiz along the sidewalk, almost knocking over an old woman" might. But I think it's time we put you down. You turned on your owner, and you're just a liability at this point, given that your only real function is to make police officers look more foolish than ever. Since police officers used to ride horses, which presumably stop pursuing miscreants on occasion to eat roughage or relieve themselves, that's saying something.

segways.jpg

I remember how excited we all were when we brought you home. "This thing is going to revolutionize transportation," we told ourselves. "Using gyroscopes." That was how we always had pictured the future -- like the present, but with more gyroscopes! And, sure, you were fun to use. You were perfect for all of us out there who wished walking were more like standing. Riding a segway says, "I don't feel like walking, and I'm too out-of-shape to bike. But I'm still wearing a helmet, because I enjoy being mocked by passersby."

Sure, I rode you a few times. And it was delightful. You could move forwards and backwards at a moment's notice! I could feel those gyroscopes at work! I wanted to buy one, but I figured that if I were going to pay more than $500 for a segway, I would want the one that allowed me to get from conversations about the birds and the bees to conversations about anything else, such as how I was misspelling "segue" in order to make that joke.

But now you've turned on James Heselden, that interesting and thoughtful man who was generous enough to buy you. "Owner of Segway Segways off a cliff"? Wasn't that a headline in the Onion a few weeks ago?

This is deeply uncomfortable for everyone involved. We want to laugh. At the top of twitter right now is the remark from @wire "Owner of Segway company plunges off cliff in Segway accident. http://tinyurl.com/37s4dkm. Plus... it remained upright during entire fall."

As Mel Brooks said, "Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die." Replace that with "Segway off a cliff," and you should have some idea of the spate of jokes that are going to emerge from this. Who Segways off a cliff?

It's hard to figure out how to commemorate the brave owner of the Segway. I'm thinking of giving up the segue. Whenever I want to move from one topic to the other, I'll just jump abruptly.

Twitter is the Too-Sooner State. The worst thing about it is that it assembles 145 million people in one place, talking about the same things. For every 141 million people who would wait until, say, Thursday, to start making ill-timed jests about the owner of Segway falling off a cliff, there are those incorrigible 4 million who will start right away. If you held funerals on twitter, they would be terrible. For every hundred people sitting in respectful silence, there would be eight guys making erratically capitalized fart noises. It's strange that, now, the way you learn something has happened is by learning that @BorowitzReport has made a snarky 140-character remark about it. "Why are 'nuclear segways' funny?" I asked, logging on this morning. "Oh."

Still, so far, most of the responses have been expressing awe that this is a true story, not some sort of fictional concoction. Stephen Colbert testified before Congress last week -- in character! And Jon Stewart is having a Glenn Beck-style rally on the mall. Maybe fiction has decided to give up the fiction of being fiction. "Colbert testifies before congress... very comforting. Who could be scared in a world this surreal?" Rally4Sanity tweeted, this past Friday. Who indeed? Funny because it's true? How about true because it's funny?

I wish I could think of a transition to put here.

By Alexandra Petri  | September 27, 2010; 2:05 PM ET
Tags:  Alexandra Petri  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Stephen Colbert testimony: a mockery, but of whom?
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Comments

While I agree with you that the time has come, it seems a bit insensitive to bash a company when it's already down. You have to admit that segways are certainly more efficient for police than horses...not to mention more humane. Anyways, my condolences to the Heselden family.

Posted by: modlife | September 27, 2010 3:25 PM | Report abuse

While I agree with you that the time has come, it seems a bit insensitive to bash a company when it's already down. You have to admit that segways are certainly more efficient for police than horses...not to mention more humane. Anyways, my condolences to the Heselden family.

Posted by: modlife | September 27, 2010 3:25 PM | Report abuse

"The multi-millionaire owner of the Segway company died in a freak accident yesterday when he rode one of the high-tech two-wheel machines off a cliff and into a river."

Is Ms Petri having a good laugh?

Posted by: kitchendragon50 | September 27, 2010 3:38 PM | Report abuse

For sure he's on the list for consideration for the Darwin Awards.

Posted by: 809212876 | September 27, 2010 5:16 PM | Report abuse

New title perhaps:
'Journalism Sinks to New Low"

Well Ms. Petri, you've can be considered with the 'in' crowd who were first at finding humor in this mans death. Would you react so fast had that been a relative? Close friend?

You've done little with this article except cement peoples idea that the media are bottom dwellers.

Posted by: WRBinCA | September 27, 2010 5:54 PM | Report abuse


It is a tragedy and a shame that a self-made man who contributed something like 25 million pounds to charity should so soon. He was a good man and will be missed by a world in need of all the kindness it can get.

Jokes at the expense of a man's death is an example of just how course the world has become.

Posted by: Georgetowner1 | September 27, 2010 6:17 PM | Report abuse

An all terrain Segway? What is the point? I suppose the next evolution will be one that travels on water? Walking is healthier than riding a Segway. With our obesity problem the Segway is the wrong way to go. And a crowded sidewalk is not quite the proper place for a vehicle that must manuever around those who aren't as hip. What I am trying to say is that the Segway is and always will be a novelty. It is not the revolution it was touted as.

Posted by: bobbo2 | September 27, 2010 6:32 PM | Report abuse

There is no mode of animal or mechanical conveyance that has not been associated with accidents, some of them fatal. Humor about such things easily becomes depraved if it remains superficial and the equivalent of whistling past the graveyard. There are archetypal motifs in this story capable of inspiring chthonic awe and dread, but these seem to have been submerged and kept at bay by the trivial mindset and cynicism of late night TV comedy. Such shallowness is troubling. Those who snicker and make verbal hay with this tragedy do not show themselves in an attractive light. They should remember that the bell also tolls for them.

Posted by: Teleologicus | September 27, 2010 6:56 PM | Report abuse

I do not find your column a bit newsworthy or amusing; it is sick. You are no reporter.

Posted by: libertymeanslife | September 27, 2010 7:10 PM | Report abuse

Seems the WaPo put some pond scum in a petri dish and came up with, well, a Petri.

Really sad article.

Posted by: rcubedkc | September 27, 2010 7:22 PM | Report abuse

This is perhaps the most foolish editorial I have ever seen in this otherwise estimable paper. Segways are perfectly viable and safe. Had the gentlemen in question been driving a car this would simply have been written off as another sad statistic. I do not see that his death was attributable to the machine. To denigrate one of the ONLY alternatives to the automobile which has even entered the market recently is both irresponsible and retrograde. The Segway may not be perfect, but it is certainly safe.

Posted by: rwb1122 | September 27, 2010 7:35 PM | Report abuse

There are those of us who own/use a Segway because we have difficulty walking. You can take walking for granted.I cannot. I can stand and am eternally grateful to Dean Kamen for inventing this machine that balances me allowing mobility without a wheelchair. In nearly four years of riding to work, I have never knocked anyone down. You are deprived, Ms. Petri of looking down on a handicapped person, because I am at full height on the Segway. It is not "time to put you down" the Segway. Consider instead,Ms. Petri of making a donation to "Segways for Veterans" in exchange for not mentioning in your article of how life changing this invention is for the handicapped.

Posted by: lojojo | September 27, 2010 7:38 PM | Report abuse

@lojojo:
Thank you for making that point.
We went to a state convention this summer and for the 2nd time, saw Segways in operation on the sidewalks around the Convention center.
Like you, I'm getting close to having a hard time walking distances (I used to be a hiker).
At the convention, I had to stand around for 20 minutes to half an hour, while my husband went to get our van, leave the parking lot and drive around to get to the turn-in to the Convention center.
I kept thinking I could have probably made it, even in the heat by resting several times along the way.
But with a Segway, I'd have been at the car in no-time at all.
I want one,
If I got one, I'd be the first in my town.
My only problem is:
What do you do when you want to go into a store?
How can you guard against vandelism or theft?
We haven't investigated owning one quite that closely.
But still ...
I think it's a genius idea.
And I was so very sorry to hear of the death of James Heselden.
I certainly hope that his death will not deter the development of this interesting new invention.

Posted by: Judy-in-TX | September 27, 2010 9:24 PM | Report abuse

Ok, for the police and the disabled, but, for the fun folks who look good enough to walk and exercise their thighs and hearts.., but, please get that look of fear of their faces...especially when I step out of their way so they can own the sidewalk...get a life! Be strong, walk and enjoy the sky, the views , the sounds and do not promote Fear...walking is not against the law! Are all those riders Republicans! Join Mr. Colbert on Oct. 30th! Keep Fear Alive!

Posted by: judithclaire1939 | September 27, 2010 9:32 PM | Report abuse

This is sad news.

PS: How do you spell irony?

Posted by: MadamDeb | September 27, 2010 9:40 PM | Report abuse

@lojojo:
Thank you for making that point.
We went to a state convention this summer and for the 2nd time, saw Segways in operation on the sidewalks around the Convention center.
Like you, I'm getting close to having a hard time walking distances (I used to be a hiker).
At the convention, I had to stand around for 20 minutes to half an hour, while my husband went to get our van, leave the parking lot and drive around to get to the turn-in to the Convention center.
I kept thinking I could have probably made it, even in the heat by resting several times along the way.
But with a Segway, I'd have been at the car in no-time at all.
I want one,
If I got one, I'd be the first in my town.
My only problem is:
What do you do when you want to go into a store?
How can you guard against vandelism or theft?
We haven't investigated owning one quite that closely.
But still ...
I think it's a genius idea.
And I was so very sorry to hear of the death of James Heselden.
I certainly hope that his death will not deter the development of this interesting new invention.

Posted by: Judy-in-TX | September 27, 2010 10:03 PM | Report abuse

Which Model? SAFE?

Perhaps THAT Segway model was produced by Toyota.

Good grief! IF the CEO can't control his own product, then....

Posted by: gglenc | September 27, 2010 10:34 PM | Report abuse

I THINK Petri is trying to provide trenchant social commentary on the phenomenon of inappropriate comments on Twitter. But I can't be sure because it's so incoherently written that discerning any particular point in it with confidence is impossible.

Can I have mt five minutes back?

Posted by: mhardy1 | September 27, 2010 11:11 PM | Report abuse

This is bad. Please stop.

Posted by: Itzajob | September 27, 2010 11:18 PM | Report abuse

How in the world did Petri get this job? She gets paid for this? I have to say everytime I actually read one of her "columns" it is ill reasoned, poorly written, and most of the time lacking in any thought or thoughtful commentary. WAPO is certainly hitting newer lows every day with this kind of trash.

Posted by: fwillyhess | September 27, 2010 11:55 PM | Report abuse

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