Three days ago, I was shooting basketball at Kirkwood Park by myself and something utterly amazing happened: In an area behind some heavy brush near the court, I heard this very, very loud commotion – it was a whirring sound followed by a loud “boom.”
I walked toward the sound and, nervously, I crouched down and pushed aside some bushes and peaked at the scene. There were two men sitting there in the seats of a large contraption that looked like it was from a science fiction film or an H.G. Well’s novel or whatever.
One was older, perhaps 45, and the other looked to be about half that age – and he was kind of groaning in the seat. The older man looked lightheaded but alert, and as the smoke cleared and the whirring from this strange machine wound down, I ran over to them, and called out, “Hey, are you guys OK!?”
The older man unbuckled himself, stood up and got out. His hair was going every which way and there were smudges of soot on his face and on his torn clothes from the “accident” – or whatever in the world it was that had just happened. He was wearing a neon-green sleeveless vest jacket.
“What year is it?” he asked me very excitedly. “What year is it!?”
“What year is it?” I said, perplexed. “Everyone knows what year it is: It’s 2017.”
“I know this sounds incredible,” he said, “but we are time travelers from 1989.”
He said his friend, who was still in the seat, was experiencing a bad case of “time travel lag sickness” and he said it was all very complicated but they had to get back to the year 1989 soon before the condition got worse. He said he had to ask some questions and take the information back to his year.
I said I found his claim impossible to believe and told him I needed to see if he was telling the truth. So I asked him a series of questions about 1989 – Who was the president in 1989? What were some popular hit songs? Who won the national championship in college basketball? And so on.
Amazingly, he knew the answers to all my questions. Some were things no one could possibly know unless they were from the year 1989. The billowing MC Hammer pants he was wearing and the chain wallet attached to his pocket also helped convince me.
“Look,” he said, “there’s no time for this! We only have a few minutes and I must know about 2017. For instance, who is your president?”
“I’m happy to answer your questions,” I said, “but I don’t think that one is a good one to start on. How about leading off with something else.”
“Did civilization make it through Y2K? How many men and women died in Y2K? Just round it off to the nearest million.”
“I don’t think we lost anyone,” I said.
“Wow!” he said. “We didn’t even know if we would find anyone left alive!”
“OK, What about your music? Did Milli Vanilli go on to become the world’s number one selling recording artists of all time? Did they surpass the Beatles?”
“Uh, no,” I said. “Actually, I hate to tell you this, but it wasn’t really even their voices – it’s a long story.”
“So, in 2017, Milli Vanilli doesn’t even have videos playing on MTV?”
“Music videos? On MTV?” I chuckled. “Uh, yeah, music television doesn’t really have anything to do with music anymore. It’s basically game shows and reality shows.”
“Wow, no music on music television? How strange.” He looked utterly perplexed. “What else is peculiar about your times?”
“Well,” I said, “Right around 2000, things started getting weird. We just woke up one day and the world’s greatest golfer was black and the world’s greatest rapper was white. It’s been getting stranger ever since. Baywatch’s Pamela Anderson got knighted, for instance. And do you know Al Franken?”
“Of course, “he said, his face lighting up. “I love him – and the ‘80s are widely known as The Al Franken Decade.”
“Well, it’s US Senator Al Franken now.”
“You’re kidding me,” he said.
“Has there been a black president yet?”
“I knew it!” he said. “I knew that was coming! Wait, don’t tell me: Let me guess. It must have been a really well-loved and universally respected African-American of impeccable character to become president … Was it Bill Cosby?”
“Uh, no, not him,” I said.
“Oh, wait, I know. It must have been O.J. Simpson?”
“No, O.J. didn’t exactly get elected president,” I said. “The president’s name was Barack Obama. He served two terms; I don’t think you know him in your year.”
“There was a black president for eight years, wow? So I guess that means, in your time, racism is pretty much over and race is no longer an issue?”
“Well, er … not exactly.”
“So, I must know. Who is president now?”
I paused a moment and shrugged. Finally I said, “Donald Trump.”
“Donald Trump!? You mean the rich WrestleMania host who played in Home Alone 2?”
“Trump-Trump? With the hair?”
“Yep – one and the same.”
“So you’re telling me he’s president in 2017 and Ivana Trump is first lady?”
“Ivana was actually two wives ago,” I said. “Where have you been? Oh yeah, never mind. So, anyway, tell me about yourself. For instance, are you married?”
“Yes,” he said, a smile of contentment spread across his face as he thought. “Suzie. She worked in the same research lab as me and she was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen. The first time I saw her I fell head over heels in love with her and asked her out. She said no twice, but the third time I asked she finally said yes and the rest was history. It’s a wonderful love story.”
“Interesting,” I said, “that’s actually something called ‘felony stalking’ now.”
“So, anyway, if there are no music videos, what is entertainment like?” When we left 1989 last night, the Eagles were in concert at the Coliseum and Blade Runner was playing at the theater at Friendly.”
“Yep,” I said. “2017 – The Eagles at the Coliseum and Blade Runner at Friendly.”
“What type of futuristic new music is being made in your year of 2017?” he asked.
“Umm, let’s see; who just put out albums?” I said, having to think a moment. “Well, the Rolling Stones just put out a new album and Bob Dylan, Shania Twain, Madonna and Tony Bennett also have new albums out right now.”
“So it hasn’t changed in three decades?”
“Not really – well, we do have Taylor Swift, the most perfect beautiful magical recording artist of all time. She’s new.”
“What was her last album called?”
“1989,” I said.
“Do you have a CD of her music I can take back with me?”
“We don’t really use CD’s anymore.” I told him. “We just ask our phone to play us any song we want to hear. I’d show you – and I’d love to get a picture of you two and your time machine as well – but one thing we haven’t quite mastered yet is smartphone battery life. Anyway, when we want to hear music, we say to our phone, ‘Siri, play 1989 by Taylor Swift’ and the phone says, ‘I don’t see any stores selling a trailer hitch for $19.89 near you? Would you like directions to the nearest AutoZone?’ and then you ask it again and on the fourth or fifth time, it plays the song you want.
“President George Bush,” he said. “Did he win a second term?”
“Yours didn’t, but his son did later,” I said. “And I think you mean serial molester George Bush.”
“Bush? You’re kidding me.”
“We call him ‘President Cop-a-feel now.’ But, no, he didn’t win a second term – he lost to another serial sex offender president.”
“Yet, even with that kind of competition, Bill Cosby never became president?”
“You mean serial rapist Bill Cosby …”
“What the [deleted]?” He looked flabbergasted. A rapist? Dr. Cliff Huxtable Bill Cosby?”
“Pull-up-your-pants-and-respect-your-mother Bill Cosby?”
“The one and only.” I said. “Forty women or so. Yeah, I know, it is weird, isn’t it?”
“And O.J. Simpson never ran for president?”
“I think the double murder he committed also killed any chance of elected office.”
“Wow, what else is it like in your world?”
“Well, let’s see, the Boy Scouts have girls now and men can go into the women’s restroom anytime they want and, get this: Not only is it not illegal anymore – it’s against the law if you try to stop them!”
“This is all too much to take in,” he said. “I need a smoke.”
My time traveling friend took out a cigarette and asked if I had a light.
“Wow, you really are from the past,” I said. “They got rid of smoking years ago.”
“Wait a minute? Smoking is illegal in 2017?”
“Well, I don’t think it’s technically illegal; it’s just not allowed anywhere.”
“McDonald’s, the shake machines,” he said. “Are they still always down in 2017?”
“Every time,” I replied, “just like in the ’80s – and the ’70s, and the ’60s. I don’t even think they really have shake machines.”
“Yeah, me either,” he said.
There must be at least some great technological advances by 2017.”
“Well,” I said, “in the early ’90s we got the World Wide Web – the ability for anyone in the world to share knowledge, photos, videos, reference materials or anything else instantly with anyone anywhere in the world.”
“How do those of your time use that amazing ability – to spread word of medical advances and teach modern farming techniques to people in Third World countries?”
“No, mostly we use it to share videos of cats doing funny things. Like cats playing piano.”
“Is that all?”
“Sometimes dogs too, but really it’s mostly cats,” I said. “And we do use the new technology to hurl insults at one another and spread celebrity gossip. Oh, and there’s porn of course.”
“That’s it? You’re kidding.”
“No, You can Google it if you don’t believe me.”
“I can what it?”
Then he looked at his watch and said, “Oh my! I must get my friend back! One last question: When I get back, I’m going to sock some money away in an investment until 2017. Would it be better to buy AIG or Apple stock?
“AIG,”I said, “Put everything you have into it and enjoy the ride.”
He thanked me and ran back to his time contraption.
I smiled and ran after him as he was shutting the door to his extraordinary vehicle.
“I’m just kidding,” I called out over the noise of the machine. “I’d go with Apple.”
I shouted to him and asked if taking all this knowledge of the future back to his year and telling people wouldn’t mess everything up and throw the future off track.
“Probably it would,” he said. “But I’m not going to mention a word of this to anyone,” he said. “The part about time travel they would probably believe – but they’d lock me up in a second if I tried to convince them of what’s going on in 2017.”
I waived goodbye as the giant machine rose off the ground with a whir and then, poof, with another loud boom, was gone – hopefully, arriving safely back in 1989.