2188: E Scooters

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E Scooters
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.
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:

  1. Are they impractical and unsafe toys?
  2. Or a last-mile transit revolution?
  3. A low-carbon car replacement?
  4. 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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This comic came out early. They don't usually go live till around noon my time. It's 1:20 AM. Blacksilver (talk) 05:21, 12 August 2019 (UTC)

Yes, quite early, but about once a month or something it happens. Randall never has fixed upload times. So it is not really uncommon. --Lupo (talk) 07:46, 12 August 2019 (UTC)
It used to be that the comics would come online in the early US hours (morning for Europe), but about 1 year ago this shifted to morning US / mid-afternoon Europe, with some exceptions. 10:26, 12 August 2019 (UTC)

Please tell me I'm not the only one who thought Cueballs first "sound" in panel 6 was 20000000M and was wondering what that number meant? :D Bischoff (talk) 09:29, 12 August 2019 (UTC)

You [where] were the only one I think :-p --Kynde (talk) 09:55, 12 August 2019 (UTC)

he wasn't

I have noticed that in several comics Randall doesn't draw a frame around every panel, like panel 5 in this case. Is there any meaning behind this or is it just a random artistic choice? Bischoff (talk) 09:32, 12 August 2019 (UTC)

I think it is a choice, but not random. It gives a certain flow to the comic. He does this a lot. I have begun writing it in the transcript, as I did here (someone else did it partially but I corrected it to "frame-less panel". A quick search showed 79 pages using this sentence. So it is quite common, as I have certainly not been around all of the comics doing this. However, I'm probably the one that have edited most transcripts (as the one with the most edits on this wiki, who on top of that has specialized in making the transcripts complete. ;-) --Kynde (talk) 09:55, 12 August 2019 (UTC)
In this instance it could mean "Zoom Out" again after panel 4 zoomed in (so basically it looks like a combined panel 4+5 with the zoomed in panel framed). Sebastian -- 12:36, 13 August 2019 (UTC)
Randall also could be using it to save space. Omitting the two vertical lines of the frame saves a bit of horizontal space, which helps in a comic like this one where there's a lot to squeeze into the bottom row of frames. DKMell (talk) 18:29, 13 August 2019 (UTC)

I didn't really get this explanation. It doesn't really _explain_ why the response is made of whizzing sounds, no? Wouldn't the point of the explanation be to explain the comic? 16:10, 12 August 2019 (UTC)

Why seemed obvious to me. It could be that there is no *serious* reason for it, that he did it for fun. 17:24, 12 August 2019 (UTC)
I added an explanation for his sounds.

"Obviously battery technology and prices have driven a lot of the scooter explosion"... While faulty battery technology has also caused its fair share of scooter explosions... And maybe it also needs to be said that otherwise popular electric scooters are actually not legal in the UK, to be ridden either on the road (with the cars, lorries, busses, bikes, etc) or the footway (with the pedestrians; and the illegally ridden bikes, who have both their own occasional problems and/or occasionally problematic users to contend with - a whole conversation in itself), which may have helped delay the occurance of the first UK fataility. 05:52, 14 August 2019 (UTC)

Part of the explanation currently says something like "It's unclear why the scooter is making laser sounds", I'm feeling more and more convinced that it's like the rest of the article and transcript indicates, that Cueball is making the sounds himself, seeing as the speech line is going to him, not the scooter. (Earlier I wasn't sure whether they might be electronic sounds from the scooter like kids' toys). This should probably be amended to asking why Cueball would make laser sounds on behalf of the scooter, but then we're just repeating White Hat's question from the comic, LOL! NiceGuy1 (talk) 03:39, 17 August 2019 (UTC)

I think it is just repeating White Hat's question from the comic. Why does the scooter in Cueball's imagination have lasers? The real scooter obviously does not. -- 14:19, 2 October 2019 (UTC)