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MIT student blogger Yan Z. '12

Alternative Transportation by Yan Z. '12

Fast ride in a short machine

At approximately 11:20 pm on Tuesday night, Charles stepped on the pedal and accelerated the motorized shopping cart from 0 to (approx.) 25 mph in the gaspingly brief time required to scream barely the first two syllables of your preferred interjection/expletive pairing. My stomach recoiled along a vector perpendicular to Massachusetts Avenue as I gripped the plastic-shelled handlebar (?) at the cart-pusher end of the grocery cart and vociferously spewed a sonic soup of bloodless terror and regret for not having purchased better life insurance into the humid, unsympathetic night. Two graveyard-shift workers of indescript employment stood leaning against the back doorway of a warehouse in a cigarette-break tableau, arms crossed, watching us in the uncanny manner that someone watches lemmings gleefully leaping to their deaths on YouTube. I shift forward and let the streetlights ricochet like bullets through the thick thrill of naked velocity. It’s dark and the asphalt is a gooey chocolatey blur underneath. I pay little attention to this because I am certain that a bone-crushing death is sitting somewhere with me in the toddler basket of a supermarket shopping cart that Charles has hacked into a battery-powered road vehicle capable of speeding along four-lane traffic at 35 mph.

We’re in the middle of a less-than-silky ribbon of deserted street outside the parking lot of MITERS headquarters. Charles is driving, which leaves me to enjoy the LOLriocart‘s G-force simulations backwards in a seat designed for children of weight 15-35 lbs.

I am fully aware that the shopping cart in whose toddler-basket I am dearly clutching to my remaining threads of life has been spotlighted in about a bajillion techno-fanatic blogs in the past three days. To anyone with the mildest glimmer of engineering-lust, the LOLriocart will induce prolific and involuntary drooling. Charles claims that the design is still in progress, but it’s already beautiful in the same way that Gmail was beautiful when it was unveiled. Glowing blue lights, check. Ignition-like turn-on mechanism, check. Steering wheel, check. Ability to make R2D2 whirring noises and generate smoke by friction of wheels against concrete, check. Brakes? Um, it looks like those had evaporated.

Hence I am also nail-bitingly aware that the LOLriocart’s current method of not-going-at-25-mph-anymore requires performance of “the s-shaped thing that planes do.”

Grocery shopping will never be the same again.

(Photo and survival of the author both courtesy of Charles Guan.)

20 responses to “Alternative Transportation”

  1. Yan says:

    @ Katelyn:

    It was 1 Heck of a Lot more comfortable than the cardboard box that I inhabited during the last part of finals week.

    @ Kim:

    Watch for pizza delivery cars behind you. The drivers won’t be happy.

  2. anon says:

    Snively already did this. A video is worth a thousand adjectives.

  3. NathanArce says:

    I’ll pretend to be an upperclassman and comment* on how amazing it is that you’re smiling in another picture!

    And now I’ll pretend to be me and complain* that there aren’t any food pics :'(

    Still, epic blog post, lol.

    *actual comments and complaints are implied

  4. Anonymous says:

    First – sounds cool.

  5. Vinay says:

    Second, which is half of four, which is my favorite number. wink

  6. Katelyn '12 says:

    Oh you can still fit into those things? I didn’t realize you were THAT tiny. ^__^

  7. cHaRlEs says:

    snively doesn’t fit in the baby seat, so yan still wins.

  8. Cam says:

    Snively could probably fit in the baby seat, it would just take more inventive packing.


  9. ismith says:

    I regularly cruise down the bike lanes of Mass Ave in a vehicle whose top speed is ~5mph on a good day. Is that more, or less, badass than the electric grocery cart?

  10. Kimberly '13 says:

    Yan, you describe your ride so fascinating I really would like to try out this cart in August.

  11. NathanArce says:

    Since when do you link to your old blog? Though I’m glad I got to see it for the first time, lol.

  12. charles says:

    you guys are weird

  13. Yan says:

    @ Cam:

    Snively could fit, just not Snively and Snively’s legs while attached to him.

    We should have a contest: complete the sentence “Snively could fit . . .” Best answer gets a prize.

  14. charles says:

    on a boat with a goat
    in a box with a fox
    in a house with a mouse
    on a train in the rain
    here or there, or anywhere.

  15. Please tell me the title is a reference to the John Adams piece. He’s probably my favorite composer ever, especially for “Harmonielehre.”

  16. Yan says:

    @ Sam:

    Yes!!! So glad someone caught it.

    I met John Adams last year when he was rehearsing the premiere of Dr. Atomic Symphony with the St. Louis Symphony. Excellent guy, cool glasses. Dr. Atomic is chillingly good.

  17. Ooohh, now I’m jealous. I’ll have to capitalize on MIT as an opportunity to meet lots of famous people. There seems to be an impressive list of guest lecturers, and perhaps the BSO or Pops will even premiere an Adams piece (or Glass, or Reich, etc. etc.).

    Dr. Atomic is pretty amazing. Did you get to attend the concert as well?

  18. Yan says:

    @ Sam:

    Yep, I’m definitely going to keep my ears peeled for new music concerts in Boston. BSO is premiering a MacMillan piece and an Elliott Carter flute concerto next spring! And a concerto by John Harbison! (All of these are fantastic composers who happen to be undead. Harbison teaches at MIT too.)

    You could have a contest with other frosh to see who meets Noam Chomsky first. (Hint, sometimes he sits in on the orientation auditorium sessions.)

    Not only did I get to attend the premiere of Dr. Atomic Symphony; I sat about four seats away from John Adams* and snuck in backstage after the concert to get his autograph.

    *Long story.

  19. evedizzy '12 says:

    Although I would hardly describe a helmet as a device I do think one is worth using in such an “unsympathetic night” or any night for that matter that might have had me so near to “bone-crushing death”.

  20. Lainers '12 says:

    I am going to continue advocating helmets until I see pictures of LOLriocart drivers and passangers making use of such devices!