My neighbour rolls past in his car, en route to Woolworths. A portly chap, middle-aged. He takes one look at me, brings his car to a halt. The window rolls down with a hum. He peeks out smugly. “You’re gonna kill yourself on that thing,” he says, before driving off into the vanishing point, towards Woolworths, groceries and the rest of his life.
You know the type. The kind of guy who tries talk you out of doing anything. The same guy who warned me when my son started trying to climb trees. The same guy who told me I shouldn’t go for a jog because it looked like it might rain.
This time he might have a point. Maybe.
I’m zipping around on a Kaiser Baas Revo Glider. Or, in the common parlance of concerned parents and Current Affairs hosts: a 'hoverboard'. Despite the fact it isn’t a board. Despite the fact that it doesn’t actually hover.
For the sake of this article (and my sanity) I’m going to call it a ‘Glider’.
Yes, I like that. A Glider.
This little Glider of mine: it's the Clockwork Orange of harmless traversal gadgets. It’s Manhunt. It’s mainstream media panic. It can't move faster than any able-bodied person can run but it’s banned everywhere.
Technically it’s illegal for me to use it, in this moment, on this street in this sleepy, enclosed cul-de-sac -- a homely space so safe I allow my almost three-year-old free reign on weekends. The cars drive slowly, no-one really comes in or out. If my two-year-old son can dart about this area unsupervised on his scooter without Johnny Law chucking him in a cell, surely I – a 'responsible' adult -- should be allowed to fuck around for a bit on my stupid Glider.
This Glider is banned on the street. It’s banned on my street. It’s banned in my goddamn office for christ's sake, after a ‘risk assessment’ deemed it too ‘risky’; after ex-Gizmodo Editor Luke Hopewell gave himself a concussion trying to cross an intersection.
I haven’t fallen off yet. Not really. Not in any serious way. You can probably tell. The above paragraphs ring with the hubris of a man whose early confidence has transformed into a warped bulletproof conviction in his own ability to pilot this thing at tremendous speeds. I’m spinning round in tight arcs, darting forwards, zipping backwards. I am from the future. I am an accident waiting to happen.
My portly, middle-aged neighbour comes back from Woolworths. He doesn’t say anything this time, he simply makes eye-contact then gently shakes his head. I know what he’s thinking.
“He’s gonna kill himself on that thing.”
The Kaiser Baas Revo Glider has been a central part of my life for the last two weeks.
People ask me about it. A lot. Friends, family -- they all want to try it. It’s one of those toys, a water cooler thing. An expensive Furby, essentially. Everyone has an opinion on it.
I tell people I hate it. It’s overpriced, it’s stupidly heavy. In a lot of ways it’s fucking useless. Legalities aside, you can’t take it on the streets really. I wouldn’t ride it in the city. I wouldn’t ride it downhill for a sustained period of time and it doesn’t necessarily have the horsepower to move uphill either. It’s not good for exercise. I guess you sort of use your core to navigate the thing, but nah -- you’d burn more calories walking.
You’d probably move faster walking too, especially at a brisk pace. I beat my two year old on his scooter last weekend, but it was an embarrassingly close race.
You can’t go over major bumps. The wheels are too small and feedback affects your footing, which in turn affects your speed and direction, which in turn has the disturbing potential to send you flat on your arse (or worse: your head).
And it’s expensive. Ludicrously expensive. $799 at JB Hi-Fi might be the best price you’ll find at retail. You could buy a decent bike at that price, or three longboards. Both are far speedier, practical means of traversal on just about any possible surface you could imagine.
So yes, I tell people I hate the Kaiser Baas Revo Glider.
But I secretly love it.
I made a race track inside my house. This is my record lap time!
The Kaiser Baas Revo Glider makes you look like a wanker. It’s fairly difficult to argue otherwise.
Glide around on this thing and you’re one step removed from wearing sunglasses indoors. You're driving your convertible top-down in a bus lane during peak hour traffic. You’re in that ball park.
But it’s the good kind of wanker. I’d make that argument. You’re walking that fine line. That arrogant, aloof type of wanker that people hate but secretly want to impress.
I zip effortlessly up and down my street and my son’s friends make chase, desperate for a turn. Desperate for a go. Supervising parents stand stoic, repressing that same urge. There's a tacit understanding at play -- I am a flash bastard and this device is getting all the attention. I am a wanker. In my peripheral vision I imagine my portly next-door neighbour, peering through the shutters, shaking his head in disdain.
“They’re gonna kill themselves on that thing”.
It’s another barrier to entry. If you want to use the Kaiser Baas Revo Glider you must be at peace with your own inner wanker. You have to embrace it. You’re also going to have to have to shed a layer of ego in anticipation of looking stupid -- because your first try is going to be clumsy. You’re gonna look drunk and/or stupid. You are Bambi on ice. The worst part -- your reward for time spent looking stupid? Looking like a wanker. Prepare to go from barnyard-hobo-clown to banker-wanker-Bono in one fell swoop. There’s no in-between here.
But children don’t think like that, they only want to surrender themselves to the sublime experience of effortlessly gliding over concrete, and that’s the key here: your ability to enjoy and embrace the Kaiser Baas Revo Glider is almost entirely dependent on your ability to think like a child. To value play for play’s sake.
There’s almost a tactile, video game charm to the whole experience. When I think about the best video games I think about the subtleties of simple movement, the ability to find pleasure in the most basic activities: jumping like Mario, firing a Battle Rifle like Master Chief, swinging a sword in Dark Souls. I think of that base pleasure: the stickiness of movement and the ability to revel in it. Playing video games isn’t going to get you to work faster and it isn’t going to replace your daily commute, but play is central to the human experience and it’s important to experience it.
And that’s why I hate the Kaiser Baas Revo Glider, but secretly love it. The acquisition of this useless skill, the practice of it, the rush of going faster and faster and faster. It’s useless -- it’s absolutely fucking useless on every possible level, but it’s so much bloody fun.
So you're essentially left with one of two choices: live your life as a wanker: sunglasses on, hipster-scarf blowing in the humid breeze of a 43 degree day, or a life spent peering through the window of an air-conditioned car, shaking your head en-route to Woolworths.
I’m probably gonna kill myself on this thing.