They would understand my plight in Old Europe. In ancient, barbaric days when local vassals managed petite armies, brute knights often swept into villages, declaring the inhabitants subject to new laws and new lords before riding off again with the changing of the season.
When this latest army invaded my village, it seemed no different than the rest. I had heard rumor of it for weeks, had feared and resented it, had assured friends that its occupation would end as soon as all its predecessors. But when its foot soldiers finally arrived, I was shocked to find myself charmed. Now, I cannot imagine life without them.
I speak, of course, of the electric scooters.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. It was not rumor exactly that first warned me of these conquerors, but The New York Times. Months ago, its heralds announced that electric scooters had overtaken cities across California. These vehicles looked like the Razor scooters of yore, though they had small, zippy, battery-powered engines. You could rent one with your smartphone; ride it down the street, around the neighborhood, or across the city; and then get off, tap your smartphone, and walk away. They cost about $3 per ride.
They were a public menace, that much was clear. A certain kind of young man—the type who might bring a Wi-Fi-enabled water bottle to the climbing gym, say—could be spotted whirring atop them. In a mad bid for market share, the start-ups behind the scooters had dumped thousands of them on city sidewalks, frustrating San Francisco’s cyclists and terrorizing its wretched NIMBYs. A worrying story, certainly, but the threat seemed distant until this April when I spotted a scooter in my neighborhood in Washington, D.C. Hoofing it to the subway one morning, I caught its silhouette out of the corner of my eye: unused, teetering, a putrescent green. Immediately I despised it.