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Segway human transporterI feel like my feet are hovering 8 inches over the floor. All I have to do is think, and my body moves effortlessly in that direction. Others are joining me in this dance. They call me"Jonathan", and I answer, even though my name is Davide. A dream?

Sunday morning. I'm slowly waking up at a very lazy 10:30 AM, listening to the Car Talk guys on the radio (why, I don't know: I don't even own a car). I turn on the phone, and it immediately rings. It's Jonathan. "How would you like to pretend to be me today?". I accept, he gives me instructions. There's very little time. I throw on my clothes, reserve a CarShare car, get on my trusty bicycle, ride to the CarShare car, stop by a convenience store to buy a disposable razor, go by Jonathan's house to get the airplane's key and $ 500 for fuel, and head to JeffCo airport, where Richard, the pilot, is waiting for me. By the time we take off, it's noon. I'm supposed to be in Fort Worth in 1-1/2 hours, and this flight alone will be more than 2 hours.

Jonathan and I have been friends for many years. He can be difficult, but boy is he fascinating! He likes toys; big, expensive, geeky toys. And he likes to be the first one with them. The first day the Segway went on sale, he plunked down $ 5 K, to be first in line to get one. The Segway is a "Human Transporter", straight out of a sci-fi movie. He was promised one in March. It's now March. One is ready for him, but he first has to take a safety course, and there isn't one here in Denver for another month. But, Aha! There's a course in Forth Worth, this very afternoon! So he has signed-up for it, since all he has to do is to hop over there in his $ 2 million, turboprop, pressurized cabin, all-the-latest technology, 6-seater plane. Except for one more problem: one thing that Jonathan doesn't have is time to hop around the country after a silly toy.

Plan B - Use an impostor: me.

So, my job is to fly to Texas, pretend to be him, take the Segway class, enable him to get his Segway right away, and then teach him the class.

I'm flying in the clear mountain air, in the co-pilot's seat, pretending to understand the nine computer screens in front of us, and Richard's jargon ("Meridian N-8-0-4 Julie Hotel requesting a squawk"). After a 2 hour flight, we land at Spinks, a small regional airport, 5 miles from the hotel where the Segway class is held. It's 3:15 local time, and Jonathan's slot was at 2:30. A cab can't get here for another 30 minutes. Luckily, the young woman at the FBO counter offers to give us a lift.

I approach the Segway welcoming table at the Holiday Inn. Will I really be able to pull this off? "Hi. I'm Jonathan Sawyer. We just flew in from Denver. I know I'm late, but I hope you can still squeeze me in." I hear myself, playing this game, pretending to be somebody else. "This is my pilot, Richard. Can he attend the class too?" Do you know how it feels to say "This is my pilot", especially for an unemployed, car-less bum like me? I feel like Leonardo diCaprio in "Catch me if you can".

The Segway folks let us attend, after all the other students are done. The ballroom is divided into a classroom, a beginners' area, and an obstacle course complete with orange cones. Richard and I watch a safety video. We take a test to show that we understood the safety issues. The staff's pride in their product is contagious. In the next section, Gerry, teaches us the first steps of using a Segway, with a patience and interest undiminished by the fact that she has probably trained hundreds of people before us. She firmly holds a Segway by the handle, while I climb on to it. She pulls her hand slightly off and waits to make sure that I don't start drifting: if I were to lean forward or backwards, the Segway would move in that direction. As I seem stable, she helps Richard do the same. It pleases me to see Richard (the accomplished pilot of a plane I couldn't even turn on, much less fly), be at my same level, as we are both taking our first baby steps in a far simpler vehicle.

After some time on our Segways, Richard and I become more or less comfortable moving around. I yell to Richard:"I bet you Davide would like one of these!" We laugh at our private joke.

That's when I realize I have undergone a transformation. Neurons have reconnected in my brain, and now I feel that this silent, effortless hovering over the carpet is totally natural. I'm no longer conscious of the Segway as a separate entity. This is just how I scuba-dive! Yes, this is just how I fly in my dreams!

03/09/03 Davide Andrea