Maybe you’ll remember the 2001 buzz about the Segway, the invention that would change the world as we know it: replacing cars in urban areas and increasing efficiency in the workplace. Fifteen years later, it has obviously fallen flat, or less than flat, maybe concave, winning a spot on Time’s list of the world’s worst inventions. Inventor Dean Kamen, who maintains unwavering certainty that science can “fix the world,” bore the brunt of the Segway’s flop, and he now spends a great deal of time embracing his failures and fighting off rumors that he drove his invention off a cliff. The Segway was unquestionably a technological feat, but it nevertheless failed primarily because it’s expensive and (probably the main thing) goofy-looking.

Even though popular media has totally crucified the Segway (and used it as fuel for countless memes), it has enjoyed a marginal resurrection among tourists like myself who, this past week, partook in a ten-person Segway-wolfpack in the streets San Francisco. We were kind of like a tour bus without the bus, gliding two-by-two through city traffic. Our tour guide, wearing a floral skirt, ankle weights, and a foam Shark Week fin on her helmet, affectionately told us that we were no longer tourists but tourist attractions. Crossing six lanes of traffic, we waved at cameras and gaping mouths; truckers craned their necks to look us up-and-down. We had to do an obstacle course in the beginning to get the hang of it, but it was easy; if a chimp can do it, you can, too. It’s ten percent driving, our tour guide said, and ninety percent Zen.

53000-Dean+kamen+famous+quotes+2Afterwards, my comrades and I sat in the sunny NorCal air, sipping wine and reveling in the day’s triumphs, and our Segway-tour guide quickly became the focal point of discussion: “She had an engagement ring; it’s hard not to imagine her riding down the aisle.” “You wonder how she ended up here.” “She’s got to be some sort of aspiring comedian.” She was hilarious, really, but ultimately mysterious—we wanted to know her story. Because who wants to be a Segway tour guide? It was an exercise in humility even for us, to ride the fail-machine for just one day: put on the highlighter vest, strap on the wiggly helmet, interrupt traffic patterns, and draw attention from all sides (luckily it was San Francisco, so we weren’t that embarrassed). Nevertheless, if you couldn’t handle bewildered stares and semi-malicious laughter, you had to get out of the kitchen: one of the tourists dropped his Segway in the middle of the street and absconded on foot, late for a “business meeting.” It was a challenge for my ego, to say the least—but our guide? What would she say at parties? “Yeah, I’m a Segway-tour guide.” Meanwhile, we were aspiring doctors, writers, lawyers and humanitarians; sure, we might feel justified by our “meaningful” work, but every morning she puts on some ankle weights, grabs her shark fin, and literally rolls to work.

As we sat there that afternoon, with our sparkling glasses, laughing at/with/on behalf of our Segway guide, I realized she probably wasn’t a Christian but that there was something innately Christian about her. The way of the Segway is foolishness to those with self-image issues (3 Cor. 1:18). And the truth of the matter is that, despite their silliness, Segways are awesome: dang expensive, but so fun. I laughed till my stomach hurt and coasted along the bay; I did a synchronized Segsy dance at a red light; I cruised through the breeze and learned to ride with no hands. Dean Kamen sure didn’t “fix the world,” but he gave us a gift. A native Californian said, “I’ve always seen Segway tours, and always thought how silly they look, but never imagined it would be so fun.” There’s grace in that.