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Odes

Ode to Scootering

As my good friend Dani, who sold me her scooter, once said, “Scooters are the simplest machines.” That is true. Of all the motor vehicles, scooters are simply: right hand controls go faster and slower, two breaks like on a bicycle, turn the handles where you want to go. The most complicated thing is finding where to open the seat (either with a key on the left side or by turning the key back toward the left. Gasp!). Scooters come in different sizes and power, so you can feel the power if you want to just putt putt along saying “ciao”. Driving scooters is a way to cool down on the hot summer days because, as open air motorcycles, they allow a breeze to blow and cool you no matter how hot and humid. I like to think of it as breeze on demand, and there were days in the summers of Taiwan that I would go driving just to get the breeze. Scooters have amazing gas efficiency. I had an old, inefficient scooter that was at least third hand and it still made 78 miles to a gallon driving up and down mountains. The scooter gave me freedom to go where I wanted, and coupled with the small country size of Taiwan and my outlook from the southwest of America, I took it practically everywhere. I went around the island both towards north and south, took all the cross-island highways, on day trips across the island, off-roading to get to study sites, through rain and a tiny bit of snow and ice, to work, to school, to the store, deep into the misty mountains, over hills and under tunnels, camping, hiking, day, and night. I learned how to best pack for a trip on a scooter, how to take people on it as well, how to navigate dark tunnels, how to drive with a reversed rain coat, how to sleep on it. All told, I spent more time scootering than I did actually surveying for my master’s degree. Thus I like to joke I have a master’s in scootering. My best adventure was probably when my host mom, Janine, wanted to give a giant teddy bear to a kid-friend I had who had recently been suffering from leukemia. Thus, I scootered half way across the island with this bear clutched in front of me as you would take a small child. When it rained, I would cover the bear with a rain coat and passers-by would think I actually had a child suffocating under there. I had one kid turn around on the back of his mom’s scooter and then promptly turn back and urgently tap his mom’s shoulder demanding that she look. A girl working in a tea shop next to the light I was waiting at yelled, “You are so handsome!” at me. One of those silly adventures that make my life a fantasy.