You may be surprised to learn that I own an electric kick scooter.
This may be at odds with my image as a diehard petrolhead but it doesn’t hurt to entertain alternative means of transport. Actually, ‘own’ may be overstating the case somewhat. More correctly, I have been in possession of an electric scooter ever since a minor traffic incident and it’s been rattling around in the back of the Bongo van ever since.
I’d been driving along the Auckland waterfront when I caught a blur out of the corner of my eye. A hipster on a kick scooter was expertly gliding through the traffic and was doing so with style and grace.
“That’s pretty cool,” I grudgingly acknowledged, “but I’d probably want a helmet at that pace.”
As I approached the permanent speed camera near the heliport, I subconsciously dabbed the brakes and was alarmed to feel a thump and the accompanying sound of metal and plastic grinding into the pavement. But no obvious flesh noises, fortunately.
I slammed the van to a halt and ran back to find the pony-tailed rider looking dazed but relatively unscathed on the grass verge.
“Mate – that was not cool! Don’t you know that safe following distances apply to all road-going vehicles, including kids’ toys?”
He looked at me uncomprehendingly, still coming to terms with retaining most of his body parts.
“What were you doing on the road anyway? Is that thing even road-registered? The council’s just spent millions on a waterfront cycle track but you want to get your kicks dicing with the big boys?”
Astute readers may have detected I was probably overreacting to a high-stress situation but I had to blame the adrenaline. This same failing has seen the cessation of the monthly NZ Autocar poker nights after I once stood on the table and urinated on the chips.
While the pair of us gathered our thoughts, I wandered back to the van to check for damage. There was a fluoro paint streak on the mudguard but more significantly what looked to be part of a houndstooth sleeve dangling from the rear bumper. Clearly the scooter fiend had drifted into my blind spot and it all turned to cactus from there.
I had to admit it, though – my venerable magazine workhorse had not helped the visibility situation. The wing mirror was already badly cracked, after I’d clipped a motorway barrier while trying to retrieve a lit oxy-acetylene torch rolling around in the pedal box. The monsoon shield was nearly opaque now, after being doused repeatedly with insecticide to try to eliminate the resident white-tail spider population.
But probably the biggest issue was the A-pillar deadzone. Ignoring whatever the structural designers at Mazda had intended, successive users of the Bongo had multiplied the blind spot with a variety of stickers. As well as the obligatory warrant of fitness, there were at least a dozen other decals blocking my sightlines.
There was parking for a health food shop (not mine), gym membership (definitely not mine) and a gentlemen’s club (with the worrying subtext ‘Entry Through Rear’). There was also a VIP drive-through pass from Georgie Pie which I’m pretty sure closed in 1998.
There were lots of service stickers too – alerting when oil changes were due (isn’t that what the yellow light’s for?), battery (replace when it dies is my motto) and tyres.
Perhaps I should accept some level of responsibility in this, I decided. I’ve got about as much clear vision as Andrea Bocelli driving this damned thing.
I walked back to the rear and carefully extricated his suit sleeve from the bumper to offer as a gesture of peace.
But he’d scarpered. Maybe I’d come on a little strong with my bad cop/bad cop routine and he’d hightailed it before I’d attempted a citizen’s arrest. Or perhaps he’d worried about the cost of repairing damage to a modern motoring classic like the 1980 E2200 Bongo Multi Wagon.
Regardless of which – he’d gone and I was left with a lesser problem.
Does anyone want to buy a slightly used electric scooter, one semi-careful owner?