The way I see it, there are three reasons to ride a scooter. It's fun - that almost goes without saying; it's an efficient, economical means of urban transportation; and it's a beast of burden.
Beast of Burden? When you hear those words you probably think more of this:
Donkeys in the Dadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya used to carry needed loads of firewood.Photo: Debi Goodwin
Donkeys, horses, elephants: they are the beasts that save people's backs in much of the world. In North America, cars and trucks have become the beasts of burden for most of us. They're how we get our lumber, our food, our patio furniture to our homes. And in countries where scooters and small motorcycles outnumber cars it's astonishing to see the extent to which they are used as beasts of burden.
In Vietnam, watching riders pass by, loaded down with everything from toilet paper to trees to - yes - flat-screen TVs, I was impressed by just how much they could load on their vehicles and how ingeniously they managed to strap their loads down.
All photos: Debi Goodwin
I've been thinking a lot about how to use my scooter since I came back from Vietnam. Being a practical person, I like the things I own to be useful. So now that I don't ride my scooter for my daily commute, I'm looking for different ways to use it and justification for owning it beyond the fun rides. More and more I am taking my scooter for errands that I used to use the car for. With a backpack, a bag between my legs and storage under the seat I am now able to carry home a week's worth of groceries.
However, I still have a far way to go to match the riders in Vietnam. Sometimes, I think about the men with the door. I saw them on a busy street in Ho Chi Minh City and had to laugh - I just couldn't imagine anyone trying to carry a door through a busy North American city on a small motorcycle, but there they were. Who knows how far they had to go with the passenger sitting on the very back of the bike - the equivalent part of my scooter says: "do not sit" - holding tight to the door squeezed between them.
Photo: Debi Goodwin
Not that I plan to try carry doors. But I would like to figure out a way to carry odd-shaped things: strips of lumber and flats of plants and that sort of thing. Yesterday, I thought I'd give it a go. I had a coupon that was running out for the expensive furnace filters we like. I thought I'd try to find a way to bring a package of them home on my scooter. I had bungee cords and some rope, but when I tried to lash down a similar filter I had at home onto my scooter, I couldn't seem to keep it from sticking out too far on one side, or too far off the back of the scooter. It was also too high to stick between my legs and two wide for a backpack. In the end, as rain threatened, I just got in my car. But I've been puzzling over it since and realized I was thinking of the scooter with my North American brain. As soon as I thought of the seat as part of a transportation platform, I had the filters on in no time. Strips of lumber: I still have to think about them.
Photo: Debi Goodwin