If you saw the 60 Minutes piece yesterday on Amazon and its founder Jeff Bezos, I was reminded of the time I ran into him. Literally. And jokingly, I think that if I had played my cards right I could have retired for life.
It was at the Consumer Electronics Show in 2001. I was wandering around the Central Hall, minding my own business, making my way through the massive, packed crowd of 250,000 people.
All of a sudden -- WHAM, I was knocked to the ground. (Okay, that was for dramatic effect. It was more of a "Thud, I was bumped to the ground.) Turning to look up, I saw one of the Segway electric vehicles that had just been introduced a month before.
You've probably seen them, or at least seen videos of them. I've tried them out at CES, and it was sort of fun. They were wildly overhyped, but do serve a purpose and are used in a variety of pursuits. They can go fairly fast -- maybe 15-20 MPH on an open straightaway -- but in enclosed areas, speed is very limited.
Anyway, standing on the Segway was a sheepish Jeff Bezos, someone quite wealthy enough to have bought an early vehicle. (60 Minutes said his wealth is estimated at $20 billion.) He was very embarrassed, and apologized, and I laughed it off. We traded a couple quips about tumbling over, and that was it. He scooted on.
To this day, though, I know that if I had flopped around on the ground and writhed in pain, grabbing my neck and hollering "Whiplash!!" with agony in my voice, I might right now be writing this from my private island in the Caribbean.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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