Happy Pretend to be a Time Traveler Day

This is just a quick reminder that on Sunday, September 12 we will be celebrating the International Pretend to be a Time Traveler day. Or we celebrated it on the 8th already. I’m not actually sure which one is the official date, but for some strange reason it does seem very fitting. You know how it is with time travelers.

Anyways, the way to celebrate this holiday is to go to some random public place (preferably in a big city where no one knows you) and act like you are a time traveler. But you can’t be obvious. I mean, if you really were traveling through time, you wouldn’t just walk around advertising that fact, would you? So you have to really get into a character and think how someone displaced in time would subtly stand out.

For example, a casual time traveler could reveal himself by his wardrobe which would probably would be assembled based on archival movies and TV shows from our period – though you might have picked the wrong decade. For example imagine you were traveling back to 14th century Italy. Would you know what was appropriate in say year 1310? Or would you just throw together something with a Renaissance type vibe and hope you could blend in? What if you overshot your target and landed in 1350 instead. Would your 1310 clothes seem appropriate or would you stand out like a sore thumb?

That’s probably how time travelers from the future would view our time period – they’d have a vague idea of what people wore in the 20’th century but the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and 00’s fashions would probably look all similar and interchangeable to all but historians and period enthusiasts – just like Renaissance fashion looks all similar to us. So a time traveler would probably wear oddly mismatched clothes – most likely stylized on popular culture icons.

A real time traveler wouldn’t actually walk up to a stranger and blatantly ask them for the year. That would be too weird. How would you deal with that situation? Let’s say you traveled back in time, and you must verify the date but you don’t want to reveal yourself. Non-social methods such as finding a current newspaper and reading the date are impractical – let’s say you don’t really know how to work these weird paper based devices. Or maybe there are none at hand and time is of the essence. How would you convince someone to tell you what year it was without actually making it sound like a weird joke?

I actually have a method that works like 80% of the time but I want to hear how would you go about it. In the movies this sort of conversation is usually ramped up for comedic or dramatic effect but try to think about how would one handle the situation in real life.

Please don’t ask me how I came up with this method. I assure you that I’m definitely not from the future, and my mission is definitely not to observe the First Iteration Event. Also I assure you that I have no knowledge of the fateful event known as The Incident. And even if I was from the future and knew about it I’m not allowed to prevent it. I mean I would not be allowed – you know, if I was from the future. Which I’m not.

Anyways, the holiday was inspired by the Dresden Codak comic. If you haven’t read it, do it right now. It is probably the smartest web-comic in existence and you are missing out. Also this post from last year seems appropriate for the occasion. If you missed it, check it out.

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3 Responses to Happy Pretend to be a Time Traveler Day

  1. Liudvikas LITHUANIA Mozilla Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    The webcomic you’ve linked is so awesome :) Thanks a lot :)

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  2. The Doctor UNITED STATES Mozilla Linux says:

    This schtick works for me:

    “How strange.. my media player seems to have gone on the fritz again.”

    *picks random person nearby not wearing earphones*

    “That update seems to have gone bad – it really is not 1970, is it?”

    “No, it’s 2010.”

    “Why, thank you.”

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  3. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Linux Terminalist says:

    @ The Doctor:

    Well, look at that – a comment from The Doctor himself. :)

    Anyways, since no one but you seems to be sharing their time traveling secrets let me share mine like I promised.

    In most cases when you time travel you can usually figure out a ballpark date range where you are going to be based on available technology, fashion and etc. Once you got that, you pick an important event people would remember in that era: 9/11, World War starting/ending, etc.

    You find an outgoing person or group of people and you get into conversation with them, steering it towards a topic related to your event. Then at some point you sigh and say:

    “Man… I remember [event] as if it happened yesterday. I can’t believe it’s been… How many years now?”

    At that point you pretend you are slowly counting down the years in your head. Chances are the person you are talking to will chime in with the correct number before you finish.

    I think this has to do with human psychology – people don’t like long pauses in conversations. So if you stop talking and start counting, the other person may get uncomfortable and will just give you the number to keep the conversation going. The longer you keep this up, the higher the chance is that they will speak up. It’s like a game of chicken – and the only way to lose is if you lose your nerve out of fear of looking stupid or silly, That or if the other person does not feel like talking about [event] and will use the pause to change the subject to something completely different.

    The problem with your method is that my natural response to your cue would be:

    “Nope, I’m afraid it’s not.”

    I wouldn’t actually offer the year because… Well, why would I want to do that?

    Another good method is the “year switchover” conversation. Sadly it only works in January/February. You basically go to a bank or other place where you have to fill out and date forms. You stand in line, then take a form and start filling it out – close to another person. You scribble something in the date column, cross it out, then throw out your form and start again saying:

    “Can you believe it that I still keep putting the wrong year on everything?”

    The usual response you get is:

    “OMG, me too. I keep putting XX on everything out of habit”

    It’s not as good as the first method but it might work if you are in a pinch. Added bonus is that if you are at a bank, you might actually see the date displayed somewhere – like on a calendar or some display screen on the wall.

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