By Jeanne Arnold
With great expectations early on our first full day in Paris, Cody, Jody and I left our tiny apartment in Montmartre, rode on the Metro, got off at the correct exit and walked under the Eiffel Tower toward residence areas. We wondered if we were lost. Finally we found a quiet storefront office with a subtle sign, Wheels & Ways, Segway’s headquarters. Mike, a tall, healthy young American man, greeted, fitted and clasped on my helmet as soon as I walked in the door. It was heavy and tight around my chin but all of us had to wear one on our first Segway adventure—in Paris!
I would be the first to train for the Segway. “As the eldest,” he told me, “you have more to unlearn.” Cody at 12 would be the last. That meant that I was learning to stand still and/or scoot around their parking lot on my personal Segway an hour more than anyone else in our group.
Ten nervous Segway amateurs followed Mike in single file on a narrow sidewalk to a cobblestone street that would lead us to the blocks-long park behind the Eiffel Tower, a safer place to really get going. I was tired already and uncertain even before we started following Mike, and I almost knocked over an indignant French couple, their table and chairs while they were trying to eat a delightful breakfast at the sidewalk café. The waiter wasn’t happy either.
Mike helped me keep upright and said, “The Parisians don’t like Americans and our Segways.”
We quickly got into in the park between the Eiffel Tower and the Ecole Militarie where Napolean marched while he was in basic military training. We could finally feel freer and safer for ourselves—and others. Mike would stop us at many sites like this and we’d stand and balance on our Segways while he gave us information, some irrelevant, and entertained us. It seemed easier to balance than to get on and off. With the breeze cooling us, our sun-blessed trails through parks and walkways filled me with joy in spite of our traffic-stopping, curb-hopping, iron-post-maneuvering that made me tense until I got used to it all.
What a beautiful day! The parks were filled with people soaking up the spring sun. It had snowed three weeks before. How fortunate we were. The domes and statues on the bridges were never more golden; the Seine never more sparkling. People took our pictures and videoed us; they were probably tourists. Once in a while someone else on the tour would get too close but nothing serious happened.
It seemed way past lunchtime when we reached the gates of the Jardin des Tuileries toward the awesome Place de la Concorde. Mike told a story about the Egyptian gold-capped obelisk in the center of the most beautiful square in the world with the Arc de Triomphe at one end of the Champs and the Louvre at the other. He said that the obelisk was either stolen by the French or given to them by the Egyptian government. Like a smarty, I told them what I had learned from our Egyptian guide in Luxor while standing next to its twin obelisk; that the French traded the Egyptian obelisk for a large French clock that never worked.
I was getting so good that I could balance when we stopped and take photos at the same time.
At the Tuileries, Mike explained that we had us get off and put the Segway on its gliding power. We were to steer and walk behind it like pushing a stroller because park rules forbade the use of any wheeled vehicles. It was tricky. The Segway would go too fast and pull me or it would go too slow and I’d bump into it.
We stopped for a very welcomed lunch in the famous park. Fortunately, I didn’t order any wine because I got disoriented without alcohol after that push/pull through the Gardens and a full morning Segwaying. My brain seemed to have tripped a switch. After a bit of reorientation in front of the Louvre with its glass pyramids, we headed back on the sidewalk toward the Eiffel Tower by way of the Seine.
The wall on my left protected us from falling onto the cobbled walks next to the Seine below. On the other side was a narrow, gravely, tree-lined parkway between the sidewalk and the street.
Just when I started to relax again, I looked down to see my right wheel getting too close to the sidewalk’s edge. The parkway dirt was four inches below the sidewalk. My long-term memory took over my short-term learning and Ireacted by trying to turn the Segway like any good bike rider would do. But that isn’t the way it’s done. You only twist the handgrip with wrist action on the stationary bar.
Within an instant, yet in slow motion, I saw my wheel spin off the sidewalk and felt my Segway and me fall to the ground. My helmet protected my head from impact, but my right shoulder and my hip—my right hip with the four-year replacement—hit the dirt.
Jody turned to check on me just then, saw my embarrassing mishap and called full volume to Mike leading thegroup. The mature couple behind me reacted quickly. She jumped off her Segway and he grabbed hers to keep it from spinning out or falling on me. She looked me in the eye, held out her hand to help me, and said with determination, “Take my hand and I’ll help you get up.
“Oh. Can’t I just lie here awhile and get my bearings?”
With the commanding voice of a nurse or an Army drill sergeant, she demanded, “No! You have to get up now!”
Her voice was so strong that I, like a flustered little kid, did exactly what she told me to do, and she got me standing up and on the sidewalk. It happened so quickly. While I was thanking her, Mike appeared, and Jody, too. I told them that I was all right as I brushed the dirt off my clothes and shook the fuzziness from my brain. Just as I learned from Western movies, I got “back up on the horse” on my Segway. Mike made me follow him and watched me so closely that I was afraid I would bump into him and cause another blunder.
We still had several stops to make and places to go, and finally we paraded through the crowds around the Eiffel Tower, giving a Queen Elizabeth wave before posing for an official picture with the Tower.
Back at the Segway office, I checked for any injuries and found I’d only scuffed hand a bit under a knuckle. I knew I’d be sore and stiff and I was most thankful then for the helmet. I went to wash my sore hand When I finished, I asked Mike how to get a copy of the picture taken on our Segways at the Eiffel Tower. When he offered to email one to me, I gave him my email username.
“’Mocourage’ stands for Mother Courage.”
He shook his head and remarked, “Well, you certainly are a courageous mother.”
When we left, Jody said she admired how cool I was about my fall. It had been scary for her, but I didn’t understand why. “Mom! Your head and shoulders were in the street—and a bus with lots of other traffic around couldn’t change lanes and it was heading right for your head!”
“No way! I didn’t know about any traffic. Cool!? Hell! I was completely oblivious! Now I know why that woman was so abrupt with me. Goddess Bless! I’ll be forever thankful to her. She and her husband saw the bus coming. But where they now?” When I asked another tall, healthy young American man where they could have gone, he said he saw them leave about ten minutes ago. When I looked so disappointed, he said he had their name and California address.
Their last name was Arnold! They were Glenda and Jerry Arnold. And I didn’t even get a chance to thank the Arnolds for saving my life! They just walked away into the extraordinary atmosphere of Paris.
When we got home, I told many of the amazing coincidence of Glenda Arnold saving my life. The Arnolds responded twice to my thank you letters. One reply was after I sent them a couple of Racine kringles for keeping safe from the Paris bus crushing my head.
It only hurts
when I laugh
and I’m laughing
all the time
and I hurt so good.
Graphics by Mary Nelson
UNsung Women: the UN-known Herstory History
Loreen Greene Mohr and Samiera Gdisis are our SUNG woman for March and April. Nominate more UNsung women to be selected for May & June, 2022.
Submit written nominations about past or present women from Racine/Kenosha whose contributions to the wellbeing of our families, churches, schools, communities and beyond who have not or have been UNder acknowledged.
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