APRIL FOOL’S: Vail greeter robot injures 18 | VailDaily.com

APRIL FOOL’S: Vail greeter robot injures 18

Edward Morbius
Forbidden Planet Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado
Photo illustration by Amanda Swanson/Vail Daily"Friendly John" was supposed to be part of Vail Valley, Colorado's march into the future

VAIL, Colorado ” “Friendly John” was supposed to be part of Vail Valley, Colorado’s march into the future, not the cause of a Saturday-afternoon bloodbath.

John, the nickname given to the county’s new tourist-welcoming robot, had a benign mission ” welcome tourists flying into the airport, and hand out whatever tourist-related information they needed via custom-printed brochures.

The cost of the robot ” an $18.7 million one-year lease payment to a Guatemalan consulting firm ” caused some controversy last summer, but county commissioners defended the purchase by saying they were really, really high when they signed the deal.

While never able to coherently defend the cost, the commissioners said the robot would be a shining example of Eagle County’s mission to “be a shining example of customer service, enlightened sustainability and not killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.”

And Friendly John’s first season had been as advertised, so far. Vail-bound tourists marveled at the robot’s ability to recommend restaurants and shops, as well as its apparently comprehensive knowledge of on-line zebra pornography.

Support Local Journalism

Then, Saturday, it all went to hell in a microchip.

While performing his usual duties, Friendly John apparently suffered a serious software malfunction that caused his printer to start shooting flaming brochures at tourists. Ballistics experts estimate the brochures were flying out of the port at roughly 1,500 feet per second, enough to amputate an arm and simultaneously cauterize the wound.

By the time Eagle County Sheriff’s deputies could pump enough lead into Friendly John to knock him down, 18 tourists had been injured, one man lost an arm, and one woman lost a pinky toe.

“It was one hell of a mess,” tourist Scooter Mongrel-Habitat said. People were running, some of them with really bad cuts. Then the sprinklers went off because of the flaming brochures, so people were hysterical and wet.”

County Commissioner Jane Scabie said she and her fellow commissioners can’t say much, under advice from the county attorney.

“All I know is that we’ve apologized to everyone at the airport,” Scabie said. “We’ve given out a bunch of free-pizza and carpet-cleaning coupons.

“And I’m pretty sure we’ll never hire a Guatemalan consulting company for our greeter-robot services ever again.”

Support Local Journalism