I've noticed that I've some of my most recently memorable moments of Zen
have happened while driving the three blocks to the local Chick-Fil-a
. This drive allows me to observe patterns of lunchtime traffic
, behavior of individual drivers, and the relative expediency of your local fast-food bot
. Some of these epiphanies
even resulted in groundbreaking new laws such as evilkalla's law of fast-food drive-thrus
Driving to Chick-Fil-A at lunch is extremely frustrating. This is because everyone else is trying to do the same thing, and each person uses their own vehicle. This is compounded by having to make two left turns, and other drivers not using the turn lane to expediate their merge into traffic. So my car idles. For five minutes.
I've come to see from my regular lunchtime trips that driving to Chick-Fil-A is incredibly wasteful in terms of time and natural resources. My Subaru WRX requires a constant supply of gasoline, engine oil, gear oil and other lubricants to make this simple trip possible. These same elements are required by every other vehicle making this trip. Tremendous amounts of manpower and energy are required to extract the petroleum from the earth, transport it to a refinery, refine it into its various forms, and then distribute it to where it can be purchased by me, the consumer. What a tremendous waste of money and time just so I can go down the street and get a $3 sandwich.
Dean Kamen has, on paper, solved this problem by inventing the Segway. I believe the Segway is one of the most well-intended inventions in human history when it comes to solving the ever-growing problem of roadway congestion and resource depletion. The Segway does not, to my knowledge, require any petroleum, besides any that was perhaps used in manufacturing its constituent parts (the tires, for example). They do not pollute, they are easy to drive once you've learned how, and a single charge will allow you to travel a modest distance before requiring a recharge.
People were quoted as saying the Segway would revolutionize the way cities were built, and the way people lived their lives. Well, let's consider, at least in my mind, how the world would have to exist to exploit the Segway as the preferred means of travel:
1. Cities will have to be highly urbanized. Considering the slower speed of the Segway, and their limited range, people will have to live very close to their place of employment and most other places they travel to regularly (grocery stores, places of entertainment, etc). They would have to rely on public transportation to reach farther destinations (other towns). Since automobiles require space to simply store them, they would have to done away with to accomodate an integrated urban living. Parking garages and parking lots will have to become a thing of the past. Segways are potentially small and clean enough that they can be stored inside a person's living and work space, eliminating the need for outside storage.
2. Segways will have to become the Model-T of our day. They will have to become dirt-cheap to manufacture, so that they can be dirt-cheap for people of all income levels to obtain.
Unfortunately, Chick-Fil-a overrides Dean Kamen, and I forsee the Segway dying away in America in the next five to ten years. Here is why:
1. I believe the level of urbanization required for the Segway goes against the very nature of most Americans. Anericans enjoy having a place to call their own. They do not like the idea of being crammed into 10x15 foot living spaces. No matter the reason. Most Americans want to have more space to themselves. A reasonably large apartment, or a house with a yard. This will simply not be possible in an urban environment. Consider also that many people already own homes that require travel by car to get to work; these people are not going to simply give up their home for the greater good. This is known as greed.
2. Most people enjoy the relative freedom of being able to go wherever they want, whenever they want. The Segway will limit the maximum distance they are able to travel at one time without resorting to publicly available transportation, which generally does not operate according to an individual's own timetable. In this information age, most people live their family life and do their chores around the schedule dictated by their ever-increasing workload. They cannot afford wasted time.
3. People are accustomed to using gasoline powered vehicles every day. We have shaped their lives around it, we have chosen where they live based on the amount of time required to travel to and from work by car. We use gasoline engines to power everything from farm equipment to lawn trimmers. It is difficult to get people to want to change or give up things that they use to run their lives.
4. The infrastructure we have that supports the internal combustion engine is staggering. Oil companies. Gas stations. Highways and interstates. Millions of cars already in possession by consumers. City grids and building locations defined by streets. How much money is tied up in this? How many trillions of dollars? You can bet that evilkalla is not going to open up his wallet to pay for the infrastructure change.
I do not see the reliance on cars and oil going away any time soon. I hate it, and it pains me every day to see so much gasoline wasted by idiots sitting in the drive-thru at Chick-Fil-a because they are too lazy to walk inside to get a $3 sandwich. But people are happy the way it is, some of us being less happy with it than others. We will have to grow up and face this situation the day that the last drop of oil comes out of the ground. Most likely before the year 2100. Probably while I am still alive. And you know, I bet people will be making comments such as "What the fuck do we do now?" and "Remember that Segway thing a lonnng time ago? That was a really great idea! Wish it had caught on .." Until then, Chick-Fil-a wins, Dean Kamen loses. :-(
I talked to some colleagues today about their opinions on the Segway and a common thought between them was that it would be extremely inconvenient to use one in the rain
. I agree.
made a comment about the battery
in the Segway being harmful to the environment. That is a very good point. Most batteries contain some nasty chemicals. Battery tech
seems to have progressed at a much slower pace than has other tech areas, as well. The battery in a Segway is much smaller than the lead-acid batteries used in most consumer automobiles, though, so there would be potentially less contaminating chemicals per unit.