07 February 2011

The Paranoid Time Traveler and How It All Worked Out in the End

This post is my contribution to the "Smiley Sociology Study" happening on my friend Rachel Hoyt's blog as we speak! You can visit it at this address:



So there is that song that says, “I had a million dollars but I spent it all…” I do not really care for the song, but I figured that describes my experience with time travel. You see, I did have a million dollars, but I spent it for a chance to travel back in time to any date of my choosing. It was a one shot deal. Since I am a historian, I had a lot of eras I wanted to visit so I poured a lot of consideration into my choice.

Initially I was drawn to ancient times, way back on the edge of human history when the lines of the known and the speculated become pretty blurry. I reasoned that it would be a huge boost to my career to spend some time as a tourist, then hurry back here to deliver stunning works of academia on little known subjects. But then I thought it through. The chances some guy would split me in half with a sword seemed pretty likely, my sword skills not being what they used to be and their fascination with the subject and all. Then diseases, natural hazards, and the immense amount of work just to keep from starving entered into the equation and I remembered that the average life expectancy was only about 28 years old. So it might have even been a big joke on me. You know, showing up and having them say, “Surprise” you are 45 years old, so in this era you’ve been dead for 17 years. That just didn’t seem like it would be worth a million bucks. All that for a few books seventeen people might thumb through.

As I scrolled forward through time, a lot of the same worries kept resurfacing. I saw myself popping into the middle ages just in time to catch the plague. Or maybe I was burning at the stake for spilling the beans on the whole geocentric vs. heliocentric debate just a little too soon for the church’s tastes. After a while, I thought that maybe I was being selfish and instead of thinking about what was in it for me; I should instead try to do some good for all of mankind.

So of course this led me to think about going all the way back to the Garden of Eden. Yes, to the very cusp of creation, arriving just in time to slap that apple out of Eve’s hand and bash the serpent in the head with a large lump of rock. That thought started to appeal to me, because, with my work done, I would have of course been hanging out in a perfect paradise. But then doubts started in.

What if all went as planned, but then some sort of weird sexual tension ensued between Adam, Eve, and me? I know it sounds unlikely, since you have two perfect beings and then me, somewhere on the scale below perfect. But what if Adam was just not a very reasonable guy or Eve liked to walk on the wild side; like she had already demonstrated with that whole apple and snake episode? Now I am faced with either getting my butt kicked by a twelve-foot tall superman, or having all of humanity blaming me for whatever happened next. Then of course there are issues of religious theology. What if I asked them to set the time machine for the point of creation and arrived in deep space just in time for a front row seat to the big bang? After thinking it through, I lost my zeal for the idea.

Maybe I could not help all of humankind, but what of some? What if I showed up in the Americas in 1490? I could travel up and down the coastal regions saying, “Look, some guys are going to show up here in a couple of years. Trust me when I tell you that as soon as you see them, set them on fire!” “Do not hesitate for a second, just do it, you will thank me later…” Of course nobody would have understood a word I was saying so it probably would not have turned out very well for any of us.

So now I had a full blown phobia about time travel. No matter how great I thought an idea was at first, cracks immediately appeared. I began to be terrified that I would be hurling through the space/time continuum when I suddenly remembered, “Wait, I do not even know what Da Vinci looks like, what if I give these airplane plans to some random idiot?” I imagined showing up in 1950s America, ready to soak up the golden age without the fear of nuclear annihilation that was on everybody else’s mind. Then I would have found out that there was no Mayberry, or that main street America never was, father never knew best, and that it was impossible for me not to notice all those “other” people who do not seem to be enjoying the times as much as a few folks were. That and let’s face it, “The Fonze” would have just been annoying after a while.

So in the end, I just ended up going back to 1974 with a bag of cash and investing it all in some dude building a strange contraption in his garage. While I was there, I soaked up some of the 1970s flavor that I was unable to do the first time around when I was only 9 years old. You know, caught a few incredible concerts, rolled down endless roads with a few crazy dudes on bikes, and generally just stayed mellow. When my visit was over, I was sucked back to the present, none the worse for wear. As for how it all worked out? How do you think I had a million bucks to blow on some time junket that never even left my own lifetime? That guy’s contraption ended up being the start of the whole technology boom that led to my ability to write this post.


  1. A time for me to reflect. I agree with you in respects it would be safer to stay closer to home, as in time-wise. I would just go back a week with the right lotto numbers!

    Cheers, so what was the contraption exactly? lol

  2. I love it! Your writing is beautiful and I love the thought process he went through. I would love to go to a few concerts in the 70s and to find a way to play a game of adult poker with my grandpa. Thanks so much for participating!

  3. Not a bad story. No body died. There were no boobs. But still - a good story.

  4. AG, I figured 10 million shares of Microsoft founding stock was sort of a lottery win with a Led Zepplin concert thrown in...:)

    Rachel, thank you very much. I am glad you find it worthy of your idea:) Real poker is a vanishing art...

    Doug, sorry, no killing in this one, but there may have been some boobs in the Eden bit and most definitely in the 1970s part...

  5. That was a good year to go back to - I was born in 1974 LOL

    This really got me thinking though, all those times and the reasons why you would and then wouldn't go there. If it's just time travel I think I'd go forward to a time rather than back - just out of curiosity.

  6. SJ, thanks for reminding me how old I am...

    I agree that the future is appealing. But what if it was a nightmare of epic proportions and then you had to come back here? Trying to live with that sort of knowledge would be tough.

    As always, thanks for reading and supporting my work...

  7. Transported me back to that time. Would love to go back in time during the french revolution. To be a bystander and watch.....

  8. YogaSavy,

    1760s-1800 France would have been a great spectacle as long as you didn't end up shorter by about the length of your head...:) Quite a bit of mob action to contend with during the active phases of the revolution...

    Enlightenment Salons would have been incredible to participate in though and maybe even worth the other risks.

    Thanks for your comment and support....

  9. There may have been implied boobs, but that subtle stuff does do it for me. I like my boobs right in my face.

    I liked how your traveler was afraid to choose an era to visit. That's not a side of time travel I've ever thought of before.

  10. Ha! Really loved this story, very funny. I kept thinking about the prime directive (no, I am not a Trekkie. No, really...). I bet you could take Adam. I imagine the first couple to be smaller than average. :-)

  11. Sweepyjean,

    Thanks for loving the story and commenting. Also, thanks for the vote of confidence on the whole Adam vs. me thing. Maybe if I work his rib area, which is bound to still be a little sore...:)

  12. Utterly entertaining and insightful read! Scratched my head about 1974 though. Had to google it to find out anything significant about it. I knew more about what supposedly happened at the "very cusp of creation" than in the 70s! :))

  13. AJ, thank you sir! 1974 was probably most remarkable for being unremarkable...:)

  14. Was that some sort of "fruit" company that you invested in?

  15. Bryan,

    No, I went with the "other" PC company...Nothing spells profit like an evil empire...

  16. Funny how every action causes a reaction:) Great post! Wonderful content:)

  17. oops, mine was at: http://allergiesandceliac.blogspot.com/2011/02/what-if-i-could.html

    My apologies for being late to comment. Have been away for awhile:(