If someone gives you the opportunity to ride shotgun in a very tiny “car,” you take it. Brittany and the engineers at Segway gave me such an opportunity as I assumed the coveted position of passenger in the reveal of GM and Segway’s joint project, the PUMA (Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility). What’s more is that prior to my stint as demonstrator of eco-friendly vehicles, Meredith Vieira warmed the passenger seat during an early reveal on The Today Show. And so I continue to edge ever closer to my goal of replacing Hoda Kotb.
Because I arrived at the venue before the Puma, I was assigned the job of acting as the vehicle during several program run-throughs. Attempting to mimic the Puma’s routine, I walked up the ramp at a brisk pace, spun around several times with my arms out, rocked back and forth awkwardly, and then stopped and hung out in the spotlight while the suit-clad execs rested their arms on my shoulders as if they were leaning against their design. These run-throughs went smoothly, aside from the initial confusion I caused among all viewers who were unaware that I was the Puma in human form.
When you’re strapped to a risky-looking set of wheels, less than an inch away from the designated driver of said wheels, it behooves you to establish a solid relationship with the driver. Jon Stevens and I got to talking. We discussed architecture, bowling hot spots, cooking meals in under an hour, and my tendency to stutter when I get really excited. We also discovered a mutual respect for tofu. If there was an award for the smoothest driver of battery-operated vehicles that closely resemble those red plastic Fisher Price cars we all drove as children, Jon Stevens would win it. He maneuvered the Puma with such grace I almost forgot we were spinning around in circles, performing moves I tend to avoid by choosing inflatable slides over roller coasters at summer fairs.
Unfortunately my eyes are closed in a majority of the photos taken during our zippy demonstration. I can’t say I’m surprised. I was known by the high school photographer as the girl who had to get eleven photos taken in order to find just one that didn’t look as if she was on some kind of illegal substance or had recently endured a painful eye procedure. One of the few photos in which my eyes are in fact open while on the vehicle seems to hint at a romantic secret I’m sharing with the driver. I now understand that my two photo options are to look high, or enamored. I think I’ll take the latter.
I had essentially two responsibilities. I had to be small, and I had to smile. Those who know me well are aware that I have remarkable difficulty smiling. This is not because I am never happy. I like to think that my mouth simply favors some positions over others. My eyes may be closed in most of the photos, but you better believe there’s a smile on my face.