Step back and squint
Occasionally, when I have no pressing engagements, I like to play a little private mind game. Actually it’s more of a mental exercise than a game, in that it involves time, popular culture, imagination, historic preconceptions and perspective, not necessarily in that order.
I tend to engage in this sort of mental gymnastics when I find myself sitting in a parked car, staring idly out a window, strolling along the sidewalk, or otherwise occupying the space between life’s more immediate, vital and challenging activities.
Here’s how it works: I imagine that I’ve just mysteriously been plunked down in the current era from some other point in time, usually the recent past, perhaps 50 or 60 years ago.
Depending on the circumstances, I might even close my eyes for a moment to enhance the illusion of having made a journey through time.
After closing them for a second, I open my eyes and look at the surrounding landscape, attempting to see contemporary life from the fresh perspective of one who has suddenly materialized here from a half-century earlier.
You might try it sometime. It’s surprising how bizarre the most mundane details of 21st century life seem when you step back a few decades and squint.
Here then, are a handful of observations compiled from recent voyages in my imaginary time machine.
OK, it’s the future, so I have to ask, what’s with all the tattoos? Back when I come from just about the only tattooed people we ever see are sailors, carneys and ex-convicts.
Here in the future apparently everybody from your kid’s Kindergarten teacher to the cop on the corner to the latest Oscar-nominated Hollywood starlet seems to have at least a dozen of them prominently displayed.
And was that actually a piece of metal I saw lodged in my waitress’s tongue? Ick! Did somebody do that to her or is it possible she actually paid someone to have it done? Either way it’s too weird to contemplate, especially while I’m trying to decide what to order from the lunch menu.
I have to admit that I’m more than a little bit disappointed about the whole car thing, too. After all, this is the future right? Did I miss something? Everybody back then knows exactly what cars are going to look like in the future.
Frankly, it’s one of the few things we all seem to agree on. So, where are the bubble tops, folding wings and clean safe efficient nuclear engines, huh?
I’ve been in the future for several minutes now without spotting a single flying car! I thought they’d at least be zipping around on a monorail while the occupants chatted and sipped martinis. Most of them look like rocket ships anyway so what’s with the wheels? Wheels are so mid-20th century. Very disappointing!
And while I’m on the subject, I couldn’t help noticing that three-quarters of the vehicles these days aren’t even cars at all.
Giant jeeps? You must be kidding. When did people start driving massive four-wheel-drive trucks with huge metal brush guards to the grocery store for a loaf of bread? Should I be keeping an eye out for stampeding rhinos?
Speaking of keeping an eye out, I’ve also noticed plenty of those skinny space aliens with the wires sticking out of their heads, blue-green eyeballs and skin-tight stretchy outfits running all over town. What year did their spaceship touch down anyway? Are government agents trying to chase them down? Is that why they’re always running somewhere?
I’ve noticed they’re not particularly friendly. But they don’t appear to be dangerous either unless you consider their self-absorption level, which probably causes lots of accidents.
Speaking of which, I’m puzzled to note that despite the fact that cars still have turn signals, almost nobody uses them. Are people telepathic in the future? If so, they apparently still have to move their lips when practicing brain-to-brain communication, all the drivers seem to be talking non-stop, even when there’s nobody else in the car.
Although I always expected time travel to be disorienting, I’m pleased to report that not everything here in the future is new, different and confusing.
One quick glance at the headline in the local newspaper (thank goodness you haven’t gotten rid of the newspapers!) convinced me that our politicians have hardly changed at all.
Back in my time, they saw communists under every rock. These days they seem convinced that working together to solve our nation’s financial problems is “unpatriotic.” Still pretty nutty, huh?
Apparently the old saying from my time is still true in yours: “The more things change the more they remain the same.”