Sunday, August 03, 2014

Scooter boy of the apocalypse

Speeding toward us, I saw a vision of the future so bleak, so alarming, I almost hid in the bushes and waited for it to pass. 

“BUZZZZZZ,” said the future as it approached.

“It’s okay, buddy,” I reassured my two-year-old son Zack, who was riding in my backpack, as he shifted to the side to get a better look.

Finally, the grim future arrived in the form of a twelve-year-old boy, zipping past us on our neighborhood street, riding what appeared to be a battery-powered bike with no pedals, signaling the fall of our civilization.

I waved to the kid, since he still had a couple of years before he became a surly teenager who would return a friendly wave by pretending he didn’t see it, and he nodded, ho-hum, looking extremely bored for somebody riding something about two steps down from the hoverboards in Back to the Future 2. 

Is this what we’ve come to, giving our kids bikes that they don’t have to pedal?  What’s next, video games that play themselves?  You’ll just turn on the game and the zombies’ heads will start exploding all on their own, freeing up your hands for shoveling in more Cheetos.

I could feel Zack trying to turn around in the pack to continue watching our society collapse. 

“Don’t worry.  You’ll never have one of those,” I told him.

“Binky,” he replied, still proud of himself for pulling off the coup of keeping his pacifier after his nap.  We normally make him leave his binkies in his crib, but on this day, he was feeling sick, and I was feeling soft. 

A few minutes later, I stopped to chat with a neighbor in his driveway.

“Ha, boggy,” Zack said, offering garbled salutations to the neighbor’s dog.

“We’re still working on getting rid of the binky,” I explained.

“When our kids were that age, we waited ‘til Christmas, then told them that Santa took their binkies.  Nobody can be mad at Santa,” he told me.

At first blush, this seemed like a genius idea.  You could painlessly remove your kid’s most cherished, speech-impeding possession without incurring any negative consequences, all through the simple power of lying to your children. 

As I thought more about it, though, I didn’t really want our kids to grow up worrying about a magic elf stealing their stuff while they slept.     

“Lock it down!  Santa’s coming!” they’d scream, running around with bike locks on Christmas Eve, chaining their stuffed animals to the fridge.

Just as I began to formulate a response, a faint buzzing sound began to grow louder.   

“BUZZZZZZ,” said the childhood-crushing machine as it rounded the corner, carrying its bored occupant zipping past us again.  The device he was riding, as I’ve learned from subsequent web queries (Googling “end of the world, causes”), was a seated electric scooter, the “perfect device for teens or adults wanting to run errands or zip around the neighborhood, or have their souls extracted.”  I’m paraphrasing, of course.

He appeared to be doing laps around the neighborhood, suggesting that riding that scooter was a form of recreation, though his expression said “thirty-three minutes into an algebra lecture.”

I must have reacted so negatively to that device because some of my fondest memories from childhood involve riding bikes with the neighborhood kids.  We’d accidentally ride our bikes into pricker bushes, or walk them up steep hills, slumped over, wheezing, or sometimes we’d fall off and break our arms.  That’s how we liked it.

Like the kid on the scooter, we weren’t going anywhere, either, but we had fun getting there.  Finding new ways to add indolence to our kids’ routines just seems backwards.

Anyway, if I were that kid’s dad, after Christmas, there’d be one less scooter in the garage.

You can steal Mike Todd’s toys at

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