Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Hello Kitty Biker Gang

Here’s something I don’t quite understand: An elementary school student riding a motorcycle to school. I’m not talking about in China or Cuba, or one of those other fun countries like France where little kids smoke unfiltered cigarettes and have full-time jobs. I’m talking about my kids’ elementary school here in America. Now, I’m also not talking about a big, heavy, Harley-Davidson either, but the kid rides a motorcycle to school, no question. Actually, there are two kids that do. I think they might be a gang.

The motorcycles in question are the Vespa scooter type, with the platform for your feet in front of the seat so you don’t straddle the bike, you sit with your knees together and bent at a 90 degree angle, with your feet flat on the floorboard. Much like how elementary school children are supposed to sit at their desks or the dinner table, but don’t.

The Vespa-type scooters in question do not have gasoline engines, either. They have electric motors. I’m guessing that’s because an elementary school kid these days can’t afford to buy gas. Elementary school teachers can’t even afford to buy gas these days. I’m also guessing that’s the reason the two kids are allowed to ride the scooters in the first place; because they are rechargeable electric scooters, and not “motorcycles.”

That logic probably explains the brand names on the two scooters in question. One of them is made by Razor, the company that pioneered the two-wheeled stand-up scooter that recently assaulted my middle son’s left wrist, and consequently, my wallet. The other scooter is a Hello Kitty model. You heard me. Hello Kitty. Way back when I was a young kid and saw a Hello Kitty notebook for the first time, I didn’t understand it. Now that they make motorcycles, I still don’t understand it. Nothing has changed with regard to my understanding of the Hello Kitty empire in the last 35 years.

So here we have two elementary school kids riding motorcycles to school.
Well, not motorcycles. They’re more like Vespa-type scooters.
Well, not really Vespa-type scooters, because they don’t have engines.
They’re electric, so they’re like pretend Vespa-type scooters. Toy Vespas, if you will.

Truth be told, the Hello Kitty “toy Vespa” scooter is probably no more dangerous than a bicycle, but I have to draw the line somewhere. A while ago I started seeing kids riding Razor-type two-wheeled stand-up scooters that someone had retrofitted with small gasoline engines, probably off a leaf blower or an edger. It’s technically still just a scooter, but I always thought, “That kid is riding a homemade, really crappy version of a motorcycle, without a license, on the sidewalk. If he was actually on a commercially-built motorcycle, he’d be stopped by the police and marched back home to his parents. Why is the motorized scooter any different?”

If having or not having a gasoline engine is our benchmark for motorized vehicle versus toy, then I have a few questions:

My children cannot legally operate an airplane, but under the new rules, should they now be able to fly a glider or a hot-air balloon to school?

Well, of course not. That would be silly. My kids are terrible at aerial landmark navigation, plus there’s no good place to land at their school.

So flying is off limits. How about one of those new Teslas? Stays on the ground? Check. No gas engine? Check. Can do 0 to 60 in 3.7 seconds? Check. Whoops... That kind of raw torque might be a little much for any elementary school student whose last name is not Andretti.

So, if the lack of a gasoline engine is not the deciding factor, what is? Size? The Hello Kitty scooter isn’t as big as a regular Vespa scooter. It’s kid-sized.

Well, a Toyota Prius isn’t as big as a Camry, and when compared to my Ford Expedition, a Prius is kid-sized, too. Of course a Prius has a gas engine, so that’s obviously out, and the Tesla, while small, is way too powerful… but what about a golf cart? They’re really small compared to cars, kids can reach the pedals easily, and they’re electric. Check, check, and check.

No, you say? Why not? If the Hello Kitty scooter can be considered a toy Vespa, a golf cart would have to be considered a toy car, wouldn’t it? That argument could easily be adopted by the logic-savvy middle-schooler.

“You let me ride this electric toy scooter to school, so why can’t I drive your Nissan Leaf? It’s an electric toy car.”
“No it’s not. It’s a real car.”
“OK, then I’ll just take the golf cart.”

Like I said, the Hello Kitty scooter is probably no more dangerous than a bicycle, but I have to draw the line somewhere. One thing that helped me draw the line at electric scooters was the complete lack of exercise. If I’m going to give my kids a mode of transportation, I want it to tire them out. They are far too difficult to deal with when they have an excess of energy. I prefer them lethargic.

Another thing that swayed my opinion was when I saw the kid with the Razor brand scooter try to ride it with his trombone case tucked under his feet, balancing on the floorboard, wildly protruding out both sides of the scooter. He got going, and I lost sight of him, but I knew if he leaned into a turn, the trombone was definitely going to drag. I doubt that ended well.

I am having enough financial issues with injuries from the regular non-powered Razor scooters. I don’t need to add broken ‘bones into the mix. Trom or otherwise.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2013 Marc Schmatjen

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