Lisbon… Part 3

(I’m grinning!)

We went on the scooters! It was great fun! And SCARY! It all really started last year… We were in France in a pretty town called Honfleur, Denis had read an article on the internet about scooters. Seemingly, this group of people had an idea to put a load of scooters into a town in California (can’t remember the town) and have people rent them. A bit like the city bikes in Dublin and loads of other cities. But different…

(Downloading the app)

First the similarities, you use your smartphone plus your credit card to rent time on the scooter just like the bike. You pay for the time you use it, just like the bike. The difference is you don’t have to bring the scooter to a particular place like the special bike racks for the city bikes. You can park your scooter anywhere, sign off on your phone and walk away. Oh and it’s electric, so the power comes from the scooter battery and not you! But, I hear you asking, how do you charge the scooter battery? You don’t have to, there’s plenty of locals all over the city who have signed up to keep the scooters charged because… you can earn money charging scooters!

(Very happy Denis with 25th April bridge in background)

Back in Honfleur I thought this was an amazing idea. Scooters all over the place, you just pick one up and off you go. Standing in front of a scooter in Lisbon, it seemed like a crazy idea… they go fast, you might run into people, there’s cars everywhere! So I said no, couldn’t possibly do that, let’s go on a tram. Denis thought I was saying “maybe”… and downloaded the app. Oh look it’s really easy to use. No I can’t, it’s dangerous, I’m serious. Denis couldn’t hear me. He was connecting his credit card.

(Too many people…)

No idea how it happened but I found myself downloading the app and getting up on the scooter. Then a funny thing happened, I must have remembered what it was like to be on a scooter when I was small because I couldn’t stop grinning. Even as I was saying, I’m only going for a little spin, just a few minutes.

(The shade under the bridge)

We went to Belém on the scooters, nearly 8km! It was great fun and it was annoying at times (completely smooth bicycle paths are the best, Lisbon has a lot, a LOT of cobblestones) and it was scary (people walk on bicycle paths!) and it’s dangerous (speed, no helmets, cobblestones, other scooters, people) and I loved it.

(The park in Belém)

When we got to Lisbon’s huge red bridge (25th April bridge the one we drove over the previous Thursday, 25th April?) it was hot, there’d been loads of people on the bike path including a tiny toddler (aaah) I was tired and ready to give up. So we signed off on the scooters, parked them beside a cafe and walked away.

(There’s Paddle Bat courts under the bridge)

Eventually we found a place to sit in the shade and drink water. We still had a couple of kilometers to go and a choice of bus or tram… or we could pick up some new scooters? We picked up some new scooters! The next stretch of bike path was better. We got all the way to Belém station where we parked the scooters, signed off and walked away.

(Promised queuing at the Nata bakery in Belém…)

There’s a subtle difference about the way you rent these scooters that made me think about ownership and freedom. While we sat in the shade drinking the water I had a feeling. You know the one you get when you’ve forgotten something like your keys or to turn off the kettle or to lock your car? I realised I was thinking about the scooter. Where is it? When you own something a little part of your mind stands guard making sure no one takes it away from you.

(The freedom to walk away… hang on where’d I leave my bag?)

Owning seems like the way to have more freedom but maybe that’s changing, We didn’t need to own a scooter to use one when we wanted to… Freeing up the part of my mind on guard seems like a new kind of freedom.

Free your mind, Mairead.