What’d you pay for that Segway?

What’d you pay for that Segway?

How much did that thing cost you?

It seems like a fairly innocuous question. I get asked that question every time I am out gliding about on my Segway. I know it’s an unusual device, especially where I live – I think I’m the only one in Plumas County, CA that has one, or uses one regularly. But I sure wish people would think about that question before they blurt it out.

What would be your reaction if a stranger walked up to you and asked how much you paid for your car? A person you have never met comes up and asks, “what’d you pay for your watch?” Someone stops you in your tracks and says, “how much you pay for that bike/ring on your finger/bag of groceries?

Maybe some people don’t mind personal questions like that. Maybe they even like to brag a little – either inflate what they actually paid or prove they are quite the bargain hunter. But it is a personal question. Only if you are family or close friends would those questions be acceptable to most people. From complete strangers, it’s just plain rude.

I guess I reached the boiling point today. Someone saw me gliding down the sidewalk on my Segway and blocked my path just to ask me what I paid for the Seg. I didn’t know her, she was prob’ly a very nice lady and I tried to avoid the question. I just said “a lot.” She persisted, “how much is a lot?” So I came up with a smart-ass answer of “$19.99 at Walmart.” Unfortunately, when you say “nineteen ninety-nine” out loud, it could mean 1,999.00 and she replied, oh, that’s not bad.” I told her I was just kidding. I shouldn’t have done that. She wanted to know why I wouldn’t tell her. I was irritated by then and said it was a personal question. She snipped back that it was not personal to ask the price of something that is publicly available on the open market. That’s when I turned into an asshole and told her, “well, look it up at segway.com then!”

One of my friends from The Bay Area answered that question, while we were out gliding in his neighborhood one day recently. It’s something I should have remembered: “Ten bucks at Walmart.” He says it with a big grin and just keeps on gliding. That’s what I should have done. It doesn’t sound like anything other than what it is, just a smart alecky, all-in-good-fun answer to avoid the question.

The Segway has changed my life in ways I would have never anticipated. It has definitely been a 1 Foot Out, as opposed to a 1 Foot In sorta feeling. It gives me mobility that I could not have enjoyed with the late stage emphysema that has made every exertion a struggle. I can go shopping, take a “walk” and even dance, in my own fashion. But better yet, it has given me social interaction that I hadn’t known before, not even when I was healthy. Even though I could talk flooring (my business for 35+ years) until I was blue in the face, I was always a clumsy conversationalist. But the Seg has provided many enjoyable discussions. It has been the conversation starter and they usually evolve into other areas of interest.

Seg into American Valley Hardware Segging the back alleys of Quincy

Anthony, at American Valley Hardware in Quincy, CA, is the kind of person you can ask price of – what’s the price of these PVC fittings – but I wouldn’t think to ask what he paid for the nice hat. Chrissy, of The Knook, in Quincy, I can ask how much for that sandwich in the window (and oh man, does she make a great samich), but it would be rude of me to ask her how much the cool sneaks cost her.

But that persistent question keeps coming up. People of all ages that don’t know me from Adam think it’s perfectly acceptable to ask that personal question. When it comes straight out of the blue, it bugs the heck outa me. When I get stopped on the street only to be asked what kind of money I had to have to get such an intriguing device, it’s just too personal. If you do that to me, you risk confronting the unknown. Will I answer with a big grin, “ten bucks at Walmart” or will I be the ass who says, “none of your damn business”? Better you just don’t ask the question.

Jim McClain

Born 1949 and not dead yet.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Karen H.

    Jim – I empathize with you. Complete strangers always comment on my height, you’re so short is a common ice breaker (or maker) haha. I never say to anyone, you’re so fat! Especially in the case of height as a set trait and which can be changed somewhat by heels; whereas weight is mostly a manageable trait….lose weight. My Mom always taught us to accept everyone, see the good in all, and to be polite, so I guess it’s a matter of upbringing in some cases. I find common courtesy lacking nowadays.

  2. Michael Masters

    I don’t believe it is that bad or strange to ask someone what something costs, even if they are a stranger, I have asked a lot stranger questions in retrospect. I am overly aware of how people can react in so many different ways as I deal with so many different people in my job. If it were me asking I would have started by making a nice comment, judged your reaction, and then asked or not asked. Personally it would not bother me for someone to ask as she did, but everyone is different and I try to start out with kid’s gloves when dealing with people because as I have seen you never know how someone is going to react to what you say or ask of someone. Whether it is their personality, or mental issues that everyone seems to have these days. With that said, if I were asked everywhere I go the same thing, it would start to get annoying and would probably have reacted as you did out of frustration, not that it is my personality. Everyone is different, and you just have to do the best you can, and then some times that is just not enough care, you just smile and walk off.

  3. Deb McBride

    Jim, I like to give most people the benefit of the doubt. Of course, that depends on where I am. I’d like to share a story with you. When our daughter returned to Toronto in March of ’11, our parting at the airport was devastating. As she was no longer visible after going though security, I turned away, tears streaming down my face, and an elderly gentleman passed me, commenting that “this is a teary moment”… I said nothing.

    When Tarah left after her visit for Christmas last year, we were waiting at the train station waiting for her to board. I told her the story about the airport, and her first response was “did you tell him to f*koff?” I told her that if it had been Toronto, those words would have been out of my mouth at Mach 6, because people there are very rude, but I explained that here in Manitoba, people are far more grounded and caring than we are used to.

    If it had been me seeing you travel down the street on your Segway, I may have even been one to stop you to ask about it, only because it is about the coolest means of getting about that I have ever seen. Here, they drive Vespas in the snow.

    Don’t let it ruin your day. 🙂


    1. Jim McClain

      But if it HAD been you, Deb, it wouldn’t have bothered me a bit. Because, although we’ve never met, you have been a regular and valued participant on The Floor Pro Community for a long time and I feel I do know you. Friends are allowed to be personal.

  4. JD

    Hi Jim. Glad you’re still on both feet via Segway.

    I have a different question about your Segway. Hope you don’t mind. How do you transport it from point “A” to point “B”?

    My very vibrant and independent 77 y/o mother has COPD. I’d love to get one for her to go to … wherever she’d like to go. She clearly cannot lift or move it — but it would allow her to do … whatever. Just curious.

    By the way Jim, if she were asked about the cost of her Segway, she would engage in an hour-long verbal dissertation about the device (and maybe even other non-relevant topics) that would make those who asked, eternally sorry they ever asked. 😀

    She might even lecture on the tennants of appropriateness!

    1. Jim McClain

      Seg in minivanWhen I first got my Segway, in 2007, I was driving a minivan. I found the Seg would fit easily inside, if I removed one or both rear seats. With both rear seats out and the stock wheels and tires of the i170, I could actually wheel the Seg in the side doors. The larger tires I installed necessitated using the lift gate at the rear of the minivan. Although you can buy ramps of all kinds, I made my own out of redwood boards. My particular model of Segway has a “power assist” mode – instead of using the twist grip on the left handlebar to turn left & right, you can use it to power forward and back. That makes it very easy for me to roll it up and down the ramp (I do have to push on it with my hip when going up a steep incline).

      Newer models of Segways don’t have that feature, but there are still ways to get a Seg in and out of a vehicle, even if it is one with a large enough trunk. And now I drive a Jeep, which is smaller and taller than my minivan was. I made a new ramp, but it’s still a steep incline to stow the Seg. My lung disease has progressed and many things are more difficult than they used to be, but I still don’t have any trouble getting my Seg in & out of my Jeep. I hope you will consider giving your mother a tryout on a Segway. I’m sure there is a dealer in Cincy that rents or has a group tour. Within 20 minutes, she will be loving every minute.

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