Saturday, May 9, 2015

- Manhattan Transport (an Airwheel review)

The image you see here is something called an "Airwheel". It's an American designed, Chinese built electric powered unicycle, that works like a Segway. Lean forward it goes forward, lean back it goes back. Once you breach the learning curve, its about as easy to ride as a bicycle. And it has confirmed for me once again, something that has been mentioned on this blog many times:

All journalists are lying pansy scum.

I can already hear you. "OK Tom you're really stretching it now. How in the world can a relatively harmless looking little electronic toy prove that all journalists are lying pansy scum?"

My response to that is quite simple, but requires a little backstory.

I bought one of these things for my 15 year old daughter so she can tool around on it while I run in Central Park - thus giving us one more activity we can do together. But before I could give it to her, I figured I had better learn to ride it myself. So I and a few of my coworkers spent a couple of hours taking a whack at it in our office, the hallway of our building, and eventually Lexington avenue.

None of us is a professional athlete. We're businessmen. In my case a middle aged business man. We're in pretty good shape but aren't unusually coordinated or anything. But with a few hours of dedication we mastered it. The betting in the office now is that I'm going to end up buying another one for myself, and since it was only $300, I'd say the odds of that are pretty good.

So how does this prove that journalists are lying pansy scum who chose their profession mainly because they were incapable of honest work?

There is a review on Slate right now talking about how awful a toy it is because the doofus "journalist" on Slate couldn't figure out how to ride it in just a few tries. There is another on the telegraph, and a third on the daily mail. They all say the same thing, that it's a horrid device that no one can master.

But reading those reviews from the perspective of a man who has accomplished the very thing they say is impossible, they all sound like petulant children. Had they started with a bit more character or determination, I'm sure they could master it as well as I have. But... they are all journalists. So things like character, determination, and the ability to stick with a task until they complete it successfully is totally beyond them.

If you hang around New York City's Union Square or Madison Square park long enough, you'll surely see me go floating by, a mammoth grin on my mug. In New York City where the whole world is paved, it's literally impossible not to enjoy this thing. With a little practice you can easily get adept enough at driving it to manage both auto traffic in the street and pedestrian traffic on the sidewalks. And the only thing I've been unable to do on it in the few weeks I've owned it, is figure out how to hop it up a curb.

Segways, like all other harmless fun in New York City, are illegal. But this device is still new enough so that the totalitarian instincts of the local government haven't yet caught up with it. These days I often ride it to work, and take it out just for the fun of it on the weekends. It easily handles most potholes, cobble stones, and other surface terrain issues. The only really tricky thing about it is that the pedestrian traffic is sometimes so high that there is literally nowhere to go, but I honestly have that problem when walking too.

Top speed is about 10 miles per hour, which is a pretty brisk run. And even if something unexpected happens, like say... a group of tourists jump out in front of you while your traveling at top speed in order to try to make a light at the corner of 42nd and 6th... you simply step off of it and land on your feet. When you do, the device itself crashes about a little on the ground, but it's built pretty sturdily and will almost certainly be able to weather it. You'll be unharmed, the device will be more or less unharmed, and the only real shock will be to the tourists, which as a Manhattan resident I obviously think they deserve.

When you're on it, it feels like you're skiing and the whole world is a bunny hill. Stopping and starting is the hardest thing to learn but has gotten so easy for me that it's barely noticeable. You can't go fast enough for it to be really scary, and now that I'm good at it I find myself wishing it were just a tad faster. But considering the safety issue, it's probably fast enough.

And then there is all the attention it gets. In the 5 or 6 cumulative hours I've spent tooling around New York on it, I've gotten maybe 50 questions about what it is and where I got it. The "hey look at that!" comments and the "That thing is so cool!" shout outs from the crowd as I float by have been too numerous to count. I suppose that will die down as people get used to seeing them, but at the moment it's a massive giggle.

There's something else too. I live in the neighborhood called 'Flatiron', so named for the historic building on 23rd st. Carrying a 185 lb man, the Airwheel has a range of about 12 miles or so between charges. And from where I live, both Battery park and the reservoir in central park are both less than 6 miles away. That means I can travel virtually anywhere in the bottom half of manhattan and home again on a single charge. I can go against traffic on the sidewalks and bike paths and that means I can get around all the parts of New York that I can think of an excuse to go to, much faster than a cab or the subway. I wouldn't mix it with alcohol, but so long as I don't plan on drinking, this has had the unexpected effect of making Manhattan much smaller for me.

My office near Grand Central? 5 Minutes tops. My sister's apartment in Soho? Maybe 7 minutes. Central park? Less than 10 minutes and that's if I take the scenic route. All of a sudden the big apple is a little apple, and I can navigate the whole thing in a wink. The payoff on the few hours I invested in learning to ride this thing has been fantastic. But if you believe the professional journalists who have reviewed it, you'd think there was never going to be an upside.

On this topic (as all others) you should ignore them. As I've always said, journalists are the scum of the earth. They call this an unlearnable device that makes you look like a doofus. I and the hundreds of people in New York who have seen me all disagree with them. Google it and watch the videos. Then get one. Get two. It's very much worth the trouble.