Balancing act pays

AT WORK

His job is selling rides on two-wheeled Segways, the self-balancing electric vehicles

Working

August 09, 2006|By PAT MCGLONE | PAT MCGLONE,SUN REPORTER

Alex Makell

Segway instructor

Segs in the City/Segs at the Maryland Science Center

Age --18

Salary --$9 an hour, plus tips

Time on the job --Almost nine months

Learning to lean --Segways are self-balancing, battery-operated vehicles resembling a scooter with side-by-side wheels instead of in-line wheels. There are four models. Maximum speed is 12.5 mph and range varies between six and 24 miles. Riders move the Segway forward or backward by leaning in the desired direction while steering left and right with a hand grip.

How he got started --Makell used to work in a restaurant and would walk past the Segs in the City rental and sales office in Fells Point every week to cash his paycheck. Fascinated with the vehicles, he began stopping at the shop. After a summer of expressing interest, he was offered a job in November. His first day on the job he copied down the basic instructions of a Segway. "I couldn't really get the job if I couldn't ride a Segway, so I had to learn in 10 minutes. I shut my mouth and opened my ears."

Typical day --He gets to the Maryland Science Center around 9:45 a.m. He opens the booth in the lobby of the center. If it's a Friday, Saturday or Sunday, he checks the Internet for tour reservations. He also sets up a course of tiny traffic cones outside the building. In the morning, or if business is slow, he will jump on one of the Segways and run loops around the lobby or in front of the building to attract customers.

"If I see someone smile or show an interest, that is an opportunity for me to sell a Segway ride." He shows riders the basic movements of the Segway and then leads them single file through the lobby like a mother duck. "My two favorite words are gently and slowly," he repeats often. Makell's day usually ends about 6:15. He works seven days a week.

Group leader --On an average weekend Makell will see about 45 people a day.

Wants one --He owns a 22-speed bike but wants a Segway. "I'm going to get one in the near future, in the next year or so." Segways cost between $4,000 and $5,500 depending on the model.

Thrills for $7 --A 10-minute ride is $7 a person. It costs $45 for an hour. No government license is needed to drive a Segway. They are sidewalk legal in the city and can be driven on roads without sidewalks where the speed limit is under 30 mph.

The good --"The best part of this job is meeting many types of people, Greek, French, European, Nigerian, African and communicating to them through a Segway."

The bad --"The worst part of my job would have to be a Segway customer who doesn't want to ride the way I want them to: gently, slowly, attentively. They want to go fast, fast, fast."

Philosophy on the job --"My saying for Segways is, `What you do it does; if you run into the wall it runs into the wall.' "

pat.mcglone@baltsun.com

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