December 11, 2002
It was exhilarating! The trainer guides you in your first shaky steps onto the Segway. Shaky in that you find yourself needing to trust something other than yourself for balance. I began by creeping forward in my first seconds on the machine. I was not quite fully centered so couldn’t come to a complete stop.The Illuminated Donkey: bringing you the future right damn now!
Then the trainer simply tells you "think forward." Ha. Sounds silly, right? But sure enough, you move forward. "Think backward" the trainer calls. Yep, back you move. Leaning (rather than thinking) is the key. But they don't tell you to lean because exaggerated motions aren't needed. A simple thought of forward is enough to slightly shift your center of balance & off the Segway zooms.
The hardest lesson was to "think stop." There are no brakes!!! I have only a basic understanding of the mechanics, but the Segway will stop when you are fully upright / evenly balanced. That's a tough concept to embrace, first as I was slowly moving towards a Segway sales representative who was standing directly in my path & calmly telling me "just think 'stop', just think 'stop'." But it worked! And while my worry for the sales representative was sincere, my first real fear happened when I found myself zooming near 6mph, needing a stop before crashing into an approaching wall. Trust issues. Instinct had me stick out my butt and pull my arms back — as if I could reign in the wild beast. Nope. You gotta have faith that standing tall and proud will really stop the Segway (and thankfully I accepted that premise before hitting the wall).
Dean Kamen was in attendance, of course on a Segway, entertaining us with facts and stories while we were waiting in line. He mentioned how most first time riders flash the "Segway smile" — the brain's delight at experiencing basic balance and movement differently for the first time since you learned to walk.
My favorite moment was gracefully spinning around 360 degrees.... guided by a simple turning out motion of my right hand. From completely still to a pirouette! Sure enough, I couldn't help but break out into a huge Segway grin.
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