Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Affective Disorders Common Among Time Travelers and Other Sad Notes

Typical Symptoms

You feel dizzy.
You feel disoriented.
Nothing seems to have any point.
You have no appetite.
You cannot really tell if this has happened before, or, how many times it has happened before.
You feel so sad it feels like physical pain.

Time Travelers strangely often feel anxiety or discomfort upon revisiting the same event over and over. This is the primary reason for avoiding returning to the same event: it becomes increasingly creepy.

It is the Second Time Traveler Convention. No one came to the first because: no one came to the first. You are coming out from beneath a red and white striped tent. You are blinded by your emergence into full sunlight. As always, you feel dizzy and distracted. Your steps to the refreshment tent are clumsy like you’ve been sitting, a long, long time. You feel anxious crossing the lawn. You scan the crowd anxiously, as though looking for someone, though you are not sure who. Fortunately, this is the campus of MIT so it is nearly all entirely robots. Robots are tolerable. Except the ones that wear bow ties.

The dizziness only gets worse, so you consider lying down, but you do not want to appear unseemly and lie down just anywhere. There could be dog poop in the grass and this seems like a silly worry and you remember it as a concern from your childhood. You haven’t seen a dog in ages. You lean against a tree, trying not to attract attention to yourself. You don’t want to appear to be one of those homeless time travelers who keep coming back to the convention for more cake. You don’t want anyone to help you, but you are afraid people will notice. As you slump against the tree, you spill some peanuts off a little dish onto your leg. It seems you made it to the refreshment tent, after all. A band plays distantly. The whole thing has the feeling of a college graduation where you are not graduating. But every time traveler feels this, feels like an interloper, wherever they go. Time travelers are sentimentalists, wanting the pleasure of a feeling but not the lifetime of cost. You would really like to lie down now. You wonder if you are at all allergic to peanuts. You wonder if you have had any. You smell something awful, a stale personal smell, a sort of body rot. You worry that perhaps you smell bad. It has taken you a long time to travel here. It was interminable, really. You slept when you could, which is to say, a lot. Other times you just lay there.

Insomnia is the second most common complaint of time travelers.

Dreams in a time machine are often disturbing, but not for any special or technical reasons. It often has to do with the time machine itself (noise, motion) or the time traveler himself: Where is he going? Why? Time travelers who are traveling through time expressly to kill themselves, their parents or grandparents have the worst dreams of all. But these are not well people.

Time travelers often dream of their destination. These dreams are usually the fulfillment of a wish. In the dream, they arrive at their destination and it is sunny and bright and has the feeling of a college graduation. People they were not expecting to see there are there: fathers, mothers, friends they haven’t kept in touch with. Distant music plays from a band. Conversations are emotional, and yet irrational. The scene jumps around. The time traveler awakes inside his or her time machine. They look at the clock. They are nowhere near their destination. They try to go back to sleep, but they can’t. They are also too tired to really get up and look at the time rotor or whatever and get any work done. Often they try and masturbate to get back to sleep, only their masturbation has a distracted, jerky quality that doesn’t focus on one thing. This happens more often than is generally admitted, in fact it forms a near universal trait among chrononauts.

There are people that you dread meeting. For one thing, nearly any time traveler whose time travel device is some sort of other vehicle, like a plane, a spaceplane, or worst, some sort of hot car or superbike. These people are the second worst, and they are almost always traveling through time for the wrong reasons, like they joined a club or they want to bang their mom. The worst is anyone who has a really tiny time travel device, like a bracelet, or god forbid, a time belt. These people are sneaky. They are never who they say they are. They act like you’ve met before or they know what’s going to happen and wear designer shirts that are well cut. They finish your sentences. They are always the ones to end the conversation. You want to kill them, but they might be you, or your son or something so you are just left standing there, steaming. You big phony, you think, I bet you don’t have a time machine. You’re a fraud. There is no such thing as time travel.

The Time Traveler’s Convention is conceptually flawed: everyone would logically be from someone’s else’s future and this would be extremely socially awkward, worse than trying to score at your kid’s (or progenitor’s) high school reunion. In fact, it is pretty much the same thing. This is what later scientists came to call an Attendance Canceling Socially Catastrophic Event (ACSCE).It is for this any many other reasons that the Second Time Travelers convention is considered by many to also be a failure. This, and the psychic dinosaurs. The first was a moderate success (read: total failure) because no one came, because: no one came.

Extraordinary, My dear Wells, Extraordinary!”

“Look at those monoplanes! And motorised ordinaries!”

“And that young lady! Why she’s practically naked!”

“Look those children and that dog are playing with a spinning disc! It’s made out of some brightly colored artificial rubber!”

"Try the Roasted Peanuts!"

"Do I like Pea-Nuts?"

“Why the future is fantastic!”

“Isn’t this better than staying in London and perpetrating all those ghastlty unthinkable Whitechapel murders, Doctor?”

“I’ll say. What do you think Monsieur Verne?”

Ecoutez-Moi. Now that we are in the future I can tell you: I am totally gay.”

Avoid these three in wool. Avoid, avoid, avoid.

Typical Behavior of Time Travelers

Finishing other people’s sentences, but not your own.
Lack of interest in seeing a new movie.
Tendency to sit toward the back at public events.
Irrational purchases.
Fits of crying and outbursts of emotion.
Not rising for the National Anthem.
Insufferable or unaccountable familiarity with strangers.
Talking to oneself
Talking to inanimate objects
Wanting to meet certain people, really really badly
Dressed in Groucho glasses
Dressed as giant hot dog.

Rules of Time Traveling

Wear a disguise
Scholia: No one who has time traveled will question the wisdom of always wearing some sort of disguise.

Wear a cheap disguise
Scholia: For reasons that are unclear, the farther you travel in time in either direction, the cheesier and more unlikely your time travel costume needs to be. Some attribute this phenomenon to some unquantified fashion law. Plastic noses and Groucho Glasses, if available, are highly recommended. Travelers who are going any great distance are advised to rent (not buy) a full body Halloween costume, preferably some sort of talking animal or giant hot dog.

We’ve been through this, it is manifestly taboo, unwise, unethical and unsavory and I don’t know how many times we have to stress this, but don’t bang your Mom.

If you must bang your Mom, wear a condom.

Bear in mind: Nothing is as demoralizing as time travel; it’s either like a remedial history class with period plumbing or Abe Simpson going to a "rave". There is no happy medium in time travel. This is because there is no happy medium in human life, history or civilization. Humans experience a quotidian form of time travel called aging. Talk to an old person; the effects are nearly the same.

Scoring as a Time Traveller

Where ever you go and whatever scenario you encounter, the manifestly unwise, unethical and unsavory practice of trying to score comes in two varieties: the imprudent and the catastrophically imprudent. Even the most cursory survey of human history and customs gives clear indications why this is generally to be avoided. The farther you go in time, the differences in customs, mores and ages dooms nearly any relationship. This, and the continual disorientation and diachronic nausea experienced by most time travelers.

Despite this, scoring, or attempting to score, is surprisingly common among time travelers: first of all, because it is one way of learning the local language and customs, but mainly because of the supreme loneliness and sense of overwhelming personal loss associated with time travel. It is this sense of entirely deserved existential despair that drives many time travelers to extreme and unwise behaviors, such as hitting on their mom.

Did you sleep? You’re not sure. You feel as though someone has changed your name tag, though you cannot tell. You wonder why you picked this name. You wonder if it is your name. You adjust your Groucho glasses. Overhead, you hear a sound, but unlike any sound you’ve ever heard. Looking up, you see nothing. It is neither darker nor cooler, which is good because you were hoping to wash yourself a little in a public fountain. You think to get up. You hear little sniveling sounds, close by. You look around, but again cannot find the source. It is a grotesque lonely piping, like a child’s, but longer and deeper, full of adult misery. It’s quite strange and disturbing. A robot regards you. At this point, humans still exist, and they still believe in helping them. You want to say to the robot: find the one that is crying. Help him. But before you can say this the sound stops. You have risen to your feet. The day is still bright and dazzling, perfect. If you focus on the leaves of trees, you feel a little dizzy. There is no point. There was never any point in coming. You think to leave, before anyone recognizes you, though you cannot remember who that would be, just now. You feel you’ve seen it all before: the striped tents, the distant music, the fountain a block to the east, the robots, the landing pad, the giant hot dogs hitting on somebody’s mother. But you know you will not wander the party any further. No matter where you look, or how far you go, you will never find the band.

be brave, time traveler