2188: E Scooters
Title text: Obviously battery technology and prices have driven a lot of the scooter explosion, but I feel like Dean Kamen must be at least a little grumpy about how much people laughed at the idea of the Segway.
At the time of publishing, motorized scooters or e-scooters were very popular, especially with the rise of ride-share companies such as Lime and Bird that use apps allowing users to rent the scooters by the minute. (Randall uses "e scooter" or "E Scooter" for the comic's title. But in the comic White Hat does say e-scooter, which is also the way the Wikipedia article on e-scooters mentions them.)
Cueball drives up to White Hat on his e-scooter. White Hat asks him for his thoughts on the scooter; he is interested as he has heard so much about them. However, instead of just waiting to hear Cueball's response, White Hat then goes on to list four opinions he has heard other people say about e-scooters:
- Are they impractical and unsafe toys?
- Or a last-mile transit revolution?
- A low-carbon car replacement?
- Or Silicon Valley sidewalk clutter?
When White Hat finally stops talking, Cueball tells him that he has given this a lot of thought and says he will give him his opinion on e-scooters. But instead of choosing an opinion from White Hat's list, or any logical opinion at all for that matter, Cueball starts making engine/vehicle sounds. This may indicate he doesn't care about any of White Hat's complicated opinions and is just excited about the fun of riding an e-scooter. In the last panel Cueball also makes "pew pew pew" sounds and other sounds from shooter-type video games, perhaps indicating that for him, riding a scooter is akin to the fun he gets from playing such video games.
Some people consider e-scooters as a "low-carbon car replacement", as they are better for the environment than polluting gas cars (while others consider the resources used in their creation and their disposal a bigger threat). Additionally, e-scooters have been touted as a form of "last-mile transit" - used to cover the "last mile" to your destination after taking other forms of public transportation. However, others consider e-scooters a public nuisance, as users often leave them on the sidewalk haphazardly; hence the question about them being clutter. The comment about them being specifically "Silicon Valley" clutter is due to the expense, the city-infrastructure needed, and the high-tech nature of these devices. Many of the e-scooter companies are also from the Silicon Valley area. Scooters have also been seen as dangerous ("unsafe toys"), as many users do not wear helmets when riding e-scooters (though Cueball is seen with a helmet in the comic, although not wearing it) or ride them at high speed on sidewalks with many pedestrians. Some cities have gone so far as to ban e-scooters from their communities.
Cueball's response of making onomatopoeic sounds which mimic the e-scooter is humorous for two reasons. First, e-scooters are fun and may seem futuristic, like something from his childhood. This would bring out a youthful and childish joy children have when making engine noises when playing with toy cars. He is acting like a kid because riding a scooter makes him feel like one. The second reason this is funny is that the scooters, being battery-powered, are nearly silent. He is making the sounds a traditional motorized scooter makes to fill in the audible gap. It is unclear why the scooter has lasers. Part of the joke is that there is no good or logical explanation for them. This forces the reader to come up with their own devious or honorable plan Cueball is executing. Not knowing why makes it more sinister and mysterious.
The title text refers to Dean Kamen, an American inventor best known for founding the Segway company. At the time of the invention of the Segway, it was billed as a revolution in personal transit, with articles (and Kamen himself) speculating that future cities might be entirely rebuilt around it and similar personal transporters. That buzz quickly died down, and Segways became the subject of a great deal of mockery. The text implies that Kamen might resent the fact that a similar vision has re-emerged and is once again being taken seriously, but without his invention. However, Segway actually manufactures scooters for e-scooter rental agency Lime.
- [Cueball is getting off his e-scooter, with his bicycle helmet hanging on the handlebars. He has stopped right in front of White Hat who addresses him.]
- White Hat: Hey, you got one of those e-scooters!
- Cueball: Yeah!
- [Cueball is now standing next to the e-scooter holding on to the handlebars with one hand. Both he and White Hat look down at the scooter.]
- White Hat: So what do you think? I hear so much about these things.
- [A large panel with just White Hat who is spreading his arms out.]
- White Hat: Are they impractical and unsafe toys? Or a last-mile transit revolution?
- [Closeup on White Hat holding both arms out and up with palms held up.]
- White Hat: A low-carbon car replacement? Or Silicon Valley sidewalk clutter?
- [In a frame-less panel only Cueball and his e-scooter is shown.]
- Cueball: Well, having given it lots of thought, here is my opinion on scooters:
- [Cueball is bending at the knees and holding on to the handlebars with both hands as White Hat is looking at him. Cueball starts making machine noises.]
- Cueball: Zooooooom!
- Cueball: Neeeeeoooormm
- Cueball: Vrrrm Vrrmvrmm
- Cueball: Wheeee!
- [Cueball continues making sounds as in the previous panel. White Hat seems to have taken a step back.]
- Cueball: Pew pew pew!
- Cueball: Bzzzzt Kaboom!
- White Hat: Wait, why are there lasers?
- Cueball: Pew!
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