The University of Walton rides again

On Sept. 14, all 23,000 Segways sold to date were recalled.

Every.

…………Last.

…………………..One.

The picture on MSNBC.com showed a group of tourists riding the machines on Pennsylvania Avenue.

At that moment, I had a sudden and crude fantasy. I saw every Segway lurch backward and the horde crumble to the ground. Their heads cracked on the sidewalk as steam rose from their heads like city sewers. Meanwhile, the others and I just laugh and laugh.

Cheap American fun.

Basically, the problem is that Segways have a “speed limiter” which prevents the rider from leaning too far and exceeding the 12.5 mph limit. The “glitch” is that some of machines – six recorded accidents – suddenly go in reverse once it hits that limit, hence my fantasy.

How does the university fit into this story?

The UAPD obtained two of these fantastical machines in June 2005 and has now put them into semi-retirement until a representative from Segway installs software to prevent the glitch.

The problem is rare but UAPD’s Lt. Gary Crain said the department didn’t want to take any chances.

Sitting outside RZ’s, I would watch purdy lil’ things walk to class and the awkward-looking cops zip through the crowd on their new wheels. These were the little things that made my day.

I dreamed of tackling a Segway cop before jumping on my own and leading a 12.5 mph police chase down the senior walk.

What other purpose could these silly things serve?

Obviously, with the glitch, Segways aren’t meant for good ole fashion rundowns.

“The public has been very receptive to them. … That contact [with the public] is what we strive for,” Lt. Crain said.

During our quick conversation, Crain seemed to say that the Segways’ biggest importance is that it helps with developing relationships between police and the public. I asked him why the UAPD didn’t expand their bike services, consider skateboards or, hell, even scooters, to get closer to the public.

He said the Segways can go places bikes can’t and that the bike is a bigger piece of equipment.

What?!?!?

First time I climb some stairs or pass through a slender space to elude The Fuzz, the Segway has to stop dead in its tracks. The Segway is 2-feet wide and is exactly 105 pounds, as opposed to the average 30-pound weight and the thin-as-crack width for a bike.

Aside from his wildly inaccurate statements, what Crain stressed was the importance of the Segways in developing public relations.

The Segway company says on its Web site that it has put focus on police departments in selling its product. In doing so, the company has sold its product to more than 160 security departments.

Two trade journals, “Security” and “Law Enforcement Magazine,” point out the two most appealing things about the Segways. Laziness seems to play a big part as walking or riding seems unthinkable to Segway users. This is more of a reflection on our society in general and less on police departments.

Although each Segway costs $4,000 to $5,000, cost doesn’t seem to be an issue. Crain said the UAPD spends a lot of money repairing and fixing its bicycles and the Segways would provide a cheap alternative in the long run. Then again, the bikes haven’t been recalled because of a “software glitch.”

The second reason for the Segway use by security personnel is what “Law Enforcement Magazine” calls the “visibility factor,” which attracts the curious public to the odd little machine.

The machines are P.R. for a technologically savvy generation raised on Ruff McGruff – nothing more.

If the UAPD had purchased the Segways, a written rant would be like shooting squirrels on the campus lawn, but the money for the Segways was given by Wal-Mart and the Sam’s Club Foundation. It would be hard for anybody to refuse such a novel gift.

It’s simply more evidence that the university is quickly becoming a cheap whore that will turn any trick just to get the green.

And I mean that in the best way possible.

I’d be hard-pressed to be proven wrong, too. The largest structures on campus are named after donors. The ones falling apart? Named in honor of educators and leaders.

This is the University of Walton.

The UAPD did nothing wrong in asking Mall-Wart for cool, free stuff. But the recall of the Segways brings up several important questions.

What purpose do the Segways serve besides good P.R.? We laughed at the D.A.R.E. officer in sixth grade. What makes a malfunctioning mix of metal and plastic any different? I appreciate our officers, at times, but couldn’t the begging for money go toward a better cause?

Right now, the new cross-walk signs seem like a good idea. It’s a good example of what I want to see from those who protect and serve my needs.

Like everybody else I pass on campus, I don’t know you. I don’t want to know you. Just do your job well and with intelligence and you will gain my respect.

I’m not a 2-year-old. A new toy won’t get my attention.

[Original piece available here.]

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