The Battery Operated Fan Beanie!

So, way back in my formative youth, I remember the great saga of Calvin and Hobbes’ Battery Operated Fan Beanie. In the comic, Calvin sees that he can turn in Cereal Box Tops for a plastic, child-sized beanie with a fan on top that would be spun by battery power. Bill Watterson perfectly captured the young child lamentation of having to wait for something to be snail-mailed from some large corporation from another state, which meant weeks, which to an 8 year old might as well be decades. He showed Calvin’s imagination running wild, dreaming of using the beanie to fly through the sky and generally Be Awesome. He captured the glee of the “some assembly required” beanie arriving, the weird protective anxiety over the New Shiny which accidentally caused damage to the new shiny beanie, the lamentations of the damage, and finally, when everything was re-assembled with a bit of glue and placed on his head… doing little more than blowing a gentle breeze… the utter disappointment at, well, the reality of a dumb cereal box toy.

I think the thing I love about this comic is I still Very Much have that cycle: The imagination around something which will surely be amazing when I get my hands on it, only to be disappointed by reality once it arrives. The latest thing that my imagination and General American Capitalism keeps trying to convince me will be awesome is “An Electric Moped.”

What I’ve honed in on is not actually a moped (which are low-power, pedal-less motorcycles that are pretty much restricted to road-but-not-highway use) but a class-2 electric bicycle, which can be used pretty much anywhere a bicycle can be used (side of road, sidewalk, bike path, random grassy bits and dirt trails where bicycles aren’t explicitly restricted). It is limited to 20 MPH on level ground, has pedals chain-driven to the rear wheel which are really only going to be used if the battery runs out or there is a particularly steep hill, doesn’t have turn signals, and either has suspension or very fat tires to absorb bumps at speed. The front runners of my moped/scooter lust are the segway emoped c80 at the top end and the Razor rambler 20 at the low end.

In my imagination, I could use it for all the little trips I take on the daily now that I work remote and don’t have a regular commute: I could take it to the gym, I could take it to the grocery store, I could take it up to the little strip of overpriced restaurants and shops in my lil’ suburban downtown without having to worry about parking. I could spend a day wandering down to a Riverside Park and plonking along the riverside path. It would be fun an breezy and nice.

The problem is… I already tried all this when I borrowed a friend’s electric bicycle seven years ago. I played with it for a weekend, and then handed it back, and then got an old bike from my parents house to be like “Okay, if I consistently bike to the gym for months and months and like it enough to get some more power/oomph behind it I can get an electric one” and the bike mostly sat in my garage collecting garage dust and the few times I did take it out (which always involved refilling the tires and re-greasing the chain since I let it sit for so long) I was always frazzled by driving it on the connecting road which everyone uses as a shortcut and speeds-on so it’s always chewed up with the bike lanes full of gravel… and while most everyone is good about not running me over, I always feel like I am being a pain-in-the-ass slow biker forcing everyone to wait a little bit before they move on with their day… and the more I use the bike, the more likely someone isn’t paying attention causes an incident/accident. So I put it back in my parent’s house next to all the bikes my dad had because he has always been more into biking than me.

So, if I get one of these 20 MPH bikes, I will still be a hazard on the shorter route to the gym, and while I could take a long route that has more bike paths and such to the gym, there isn’t anything that would get me to the grocery store, also, the restaurants that I like to go-to on the few times I go to local restaurants, have never had any issue with parking and it’s well within electric (read: Efficient non-polluting) trips of my plug in hybrid car. Also, if I really want to experience Outside, I can walk to these places, and I’m not pressed for taking the extra time a walk/jog would afford me.

The other appeal of this is, of course, looking cool: Calvin, in his imagination of having a propeller beanie allowing flight, of course ventured over the park and school so that all the other kids could look and be like “Wow! Look at him!” I definitely would love to be seen on my pastel moped or fat-tire bike that made Marta train noises as I whizzed by. One of the reasons that a weekend with my coworker’s electric bike made me attempt the “use a bike regularly, then!” was that kids were literally like “wow! that bike is *different*” when I tooted on along next to the river.

But here’s the thing: I am a 6’3″ man with lady-ish hair and occasionally painted nails that regularly tips the scale over #250 and it is NOT muscle. Most everyone else seen riding a scooter or a kinda-smallish hybrid bike with my general build doesn’t signal as “cool dude out riding for fun” so much as “Weird Gay” from charitable observers (which, I mean: accurate) or “alcoholic who lost his license with multiple DUIs but still has to get places faster than walking, hence the license-less motor vehicle which my brother told me are often called ‘liquor-cycles.'”

So while I feel a mighty need to get a cute lil’ class 2 electric bicycle, I know in my heart I do not *need* a class 2 electric bicycle, and I am also rather sure that if I gave in and got a class 2 electric bicycle, I would just let it languish in the garage and instead just take the Garage Queen Miata when I wanted to feel zippy and cute, as it has the ability to suddenly become an air-conditioned no-rain-on-me car should it get too hot and/or start raining.

I think what I REALLY wanted was to go back to Key West when I was 16 instead of 14 and therefore could have rented and played-with a moped for a couple of days.

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