Metatalktail Hour: All those moments lost in time, like tears in rain May 16, 2021 3:31 AM   Subscribe

Our Metatalktail topic this week come courtesy Kristi, who asks "Time travel has become easy and commonplace. Everyone's already done the big time travel things. What mundane, low-priority time travel trips would you take?"

"For example, there was an old diner on Fillmore Street that had been closed off and maybe turned into an apartment. I would go back to see what that diner looked like shortly after it opened. Also, I would go revisit the playground of my childhood; all the cool, dangerous playground equipment has been replaced, and I'd love to have another visit with all the old swings and rides.

This is similar to the excellent MetaSpaceTimeContinuum, but I think I'm thinking more of specific moments you would want to visit, or things you would like to learn, that are nonetheless not momentous — the sort of thing no one would ever do if time travel were difficult and rare."

Or just tell us what's up with you, what you have been doing lately, what's on your mind (aside from politics)? And if you have ideas for future Metatalktail topics, hit us up!
posted by taz (staff) to MetaFilter-Related at 3:31 AM (76 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

i would become the wittiest motherfucker in existence, erasing every example of esprit de l'escalier/treppenwitz/staircase wit from my goddamn history
posted by lalochezia at 5:29 AM on May 16, 2021 [11 favorites]

I'd use Ask Metafilter as a "to do" (well, undo) list. At the very least, maybe I'd end up with two extra cars in my driveway.
posted by emelenjr at 6:09 AM on May 16, 2021

I’d find out how those people got their cats wedged into their scanners, and why.
posted by googly at 6:23 AM on May 16, 2021 [18 favorites]

Depending on how long I can stay in the past, and how much I can affect...

Grown-up me indulgences:
Have a beer with maternal grandpa in the 40's in the garment district.
Convince maternal grandma that if she stops smoking in 1970, she'll get to meet both my younger brothers in the late 80s.
Blue Oyster Cult performance at Hammerhead's in my home town in 1980. (Given that I was 10 at the time, and had no idea of hard rock.)
Early Metallica gigs in the early 80s.
Early Donnas gigs in the late 90s.
20 copies of Giant Size X-Men #1 at cover price from the newsstand.
She-Hulk #40 at cover price from the comic shop.
Fletch soundtrack on cd.
Signing on with Allan Sherman or Weird Al as a writing partner?

Personal indulgences based on me being an angry man, but unable to change the broad trends of history:
Punch Thomas Midgley Jr in his nose.
Punch Harry Anslinger in his nose.
Punch Anthony Comstock in his nose.
Punch de Gobineau and Chamberlain in the nose.
Punch Lee Atwater in the nose.
Punch Robert Welch in the nose.
Punching Thomas Edison in the nose once a year for twenty years.
Punching Robert Moses in the nose once a year for twenty years.
Punching Walter O'Malley in the nose once for my dad, and two or three more times for some of my other friends' dads.
Wedgie William F. Buckley once a week, at random times, for thirty years.
Wedgie Dick Cheney once a week, at random times, from the time he joins the Nixon administration to when he dies.

Helping younger me:
Periodic visits (somehow) to guide me through a world I didn't really understand, encourage me in the right directions, so that I'd be a lot more pleasant person as a child. And teenager. And adult. (I didn't listen to anyone, and believed everyone did things specifically with the goal of making me unhappy.)
Convince younger me to get guitar lessons, and channel all young-me's energy into learning rock songs and learning the business side of gigging.
If nothing else, get younger me to keep to-do lists, and to record conversations with my grandmothers and my grandmothers' siblings, so that family knowledge doesn't get lost.

Bordering on savior complex:
Help Nora Louise Kuzma to stay in school and to get involved in her acting classes/drama club.
Find out who gave Ms. Kuzma the fake id, and punch that person in the nose. Repeatedly.
Helping Nicola Tesla navigate the business world.

The Cross-Border Cross-Decade Complete Archive of Everything (snappy name to be determined) - go back far enough, build a massive fortune (somehow), and from 1700 on, employ a large dedicated international staff (LGBTQ+ a plus) to:
- staff Preservation Centers in every major city to buy the non-refuse things people get rid of (technology, family records, clothing). $5 an item.
- buy 50 copies of all published materials ever.
- properly archive and document everything, copying information to redundant backups.
- staff Memory Centers in every major city, where any person can walk in and have a recorded interview with a trained and dedicated researcher, documenting what that person's life and family are like. All interviews are legally exempt from government interference of any sort, and locked away for fifty years.
I think the staff interview process must be a three-beverage evening meal with me, so I can figure out how trustworthy the person is.
posted by Mutant Lobsters from Riverhead at 6:24 AM on May 16, 2021 [17 favorites]

I would love to visit the 1970s or 1980s as an adult and get parenting advice from my grandmothers. I don't know if I'd apply it directly, but I think I'd learn a lot about where I come from.

I might traipse through a few different decades of the 20th century to meet the previous owners of my house. I live in an historic district, so there've been a few. I'm told that the first owner was a film projectionist, in a time when that was sort of a classy job. At one point it was owned by some kind of seed magnate or one of their children. At another point it was owned by someone who appears not to have understood that those vertical 2x4s in the garage were actually structural. Some colorful characters here, I think.

I'm looking over at our records now and remembering how dull I found my music history courses, and thinking man, wouldn't it be fun to make a music history course that is basically weekly field trips to premieres of famous pieces? I'll never be able to hear old music with an ear that doesn't know what followed, but hearing it with the people for whom it is new, in the rooms as they were, on the instruments as they were, would still be pretty darn cool.
posted by eirias at 6:38 AM on May 16, 2021 [4 favorites]

A pointless pastime that springs to mind would be showing up for claimed paranormal/psuedoscience/cryptid-related events. Bring a decent telescope and camera for the 1896 airship sightings. Grab a sandwich at that great Vietnamese place that closed down twenty years ago and go bigfoot-watching. Offer the crop-circle makers some beer. Pet Barny and Betty Hill's dog, Delsey.

But, really, just ordinary tourism would be plenty. Pick a city and spend half a day there chosen at random from each century, just walking around and smelling things. I'm not sure the pronunciation guide in the Olmec travel book will be enough to let me blend in as a native speaker. But, perhaps they'll be used to tourists, since I doubt I'll be among the first tens of millions to get my hands on time travel gear. (Travel medicine is going to become a lot more challenging.)

Concerts and art events are going to be high on my list. The Antheil and Stravinsky Paris riot performances, Ella Fitzgerald's Apollo Theater talent show entry, Keith Jarrett's Köln Concert, Klaus Nomi in the East Village before he was famous (I'm going to have to show up early and read the papers to sort out where to be.) Leaving politics out of it - even if the politics between 50 and 1000 years old - there are a lot of events that would sure be fun to see in-person. It'll take me a lot of vacation time to just get through the notable world's fairs, subway and bridge openings, and natural disasters.

I'm not sure I'm really all that excited about personal events. It would be kind of neat to see my grandparents as teenagers, or the villages where their parents grew up. Bringing a video camera to my own past is an obvious idea; however, as when re-watching favorite childhood films, I might actually prefer my own deeply flawed memories. Spending an afternoon playing with long-dead pets would be hard to resist, though. I can't see any down side to that. Taking my childhood hound for a walk among dinosaurs would be a hell of a lot of fun.
posted by eotvos at 7:39 AM on May 16, 2021 [3 favorites]

I want to go back to the mid 70's and get a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Mr. Redstart and I both remember KFC of the past being much better than today's KFC, basically the perfect fried chicken experience. Is that because they changed the way they make it or because our tastes have changed? Let's hop in the time machine and find out!
posted by Redstart at 8:25 AM on May 16, 2021 [3 favorites]

lalochezia: "i would become the wittiest motherfucker in existence, erasing every example of esprit de l'escalier/treppenwitz/staircase wit from my goddamn history"

Steven Universe had that exact power in his pilot episode.
posted by signal at 9:00 AM on May 16, 2021 [2 favorites]

Over Memorial Day weekend in 1983, The Copa, a now-closed gay bar in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, hosted shows by Divine on Saturday and a new up-and-comer named Madonna on Sunday, and I think that would be a good weekend.

(though honestly typing that I realize, though it might not be qualify as a momentous occasion, if time travel were mainstreamed, I certainly wouldn't be the only middle aged gay with an anachronistic haircut there)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:18 AM on May 16, 2021 [9 favorites]

I would sneak into one of the real Wittgenstein's lectures at Cambridge just to hear him lecture. I've always wondered what his voice sounded like.
posted by wittgenstein at 9:20 AM on May 16, 2021 [6 favorites]

I would settle arguments. There is a lot, an awful lot, of family lore surrounding long-dead relatives on both sides of the family that I don't really believe. Was grandpa really the first white Go master in America? Was he really the first person to import/smuggle Charolais cattle into the US? Was his last name Khan before he came to America? Did Aunt Caroline really date Howard Hughes? Did great great great grandad Bennett West really abandon his wife and child to go become an itinerant horse preacher? And why did he get warned out of Corinth Vermont? Was my dad part of the team that invented the barcode, or barcode scanner, or something? Did he really teach Buffy Saint Marie to play the guitar? I love a lot of these stories, but I feel somewhat duplicitous passing them along as if they are true when I suspect they are either outright not true or embellished versions of something that really happened.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:20 AM on May 16, 2021 [13 favorites]

I’d go back and join one particular online game that I used to love on launch day, and I’d regularly use time travel in case I missed a day of playing. That would keep me engaged in the amazing community in a way that I miss.

I’d also research and go back to a day that had particularly amazing weather so I could go enjoy it. I’d probably also have a thunderstorm day to go hang out in while reading. OH MAN! I could use time travel as a way to read literally anything I’ve ever wanted to , then come back and resume life with no time missing.
posted by Night_owl at 9:28 AM on May 16, 2021 [5 favorites]

When I was in elementary school, one of my assignments in third grade was to come up with some kind of future invention. I decided on a "time ball" which would be a giant hamster ball that could take you back in time to observe, but not interact--so as not to contaminate the timeline--I think I had read some sci fi that spoke to how that would be a real problem. I didn't want to change history. After a lifetime of thinking back to various periods/moments in my life and trying to guess how things would have turned out if I'd just done this or that, I have come to the conclusion that my "time ball" is the best answer--there are so many factors that could make things turn out horribly, that I wouldn't want the responsibility of being able to interact.

That said, it would be great to go back and observe things in both my personal and family history and in world history.
posted by agatha_magatha at 9:34 AM on May 16, 2021 [3 favorites]

I know I've come up with a lot of these over the years, but I don't seem to remember any of them. The one I linked above I found through a self-search of my Twitter history, but I just realized it turns out I've come up with a few of them on MetaFilter too over the years:

1) "go have drive-in burgers and cheesecake with Hedy Lamarr"
2) make it so there are no longer any 'lost episodes' of classic Doctor Who
3) go to the Saturday Night Live writers room for the time when Amy Poehler told a dirty joke, and Jimmy Fallon said it's not cute when women tell dirty jokes, and she "went black in the eyes for a second and wheeled around on him” and said "I don’t fucking care if you like it!”

And yes, I would also visit the set of the Charles Nelson Reilly/Brett Somers episodes of the Match Game at various times during its run.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:37 AM on May 16, 2021 [7 favorites]

I'd go just a few years into the future and browse local places on yelp/wikipedia/whatever and make sure I go visit hole in the wall places before they close. I'm still burned I didn't ever get to go to the Museum of Holography.
posted by phunniemee at 9:44 AM on May 16, 2021 [7 favorites]

In 1971, friends of my father's got together and started a night club called "the Shaboo Inn" in my hometown. They invited my father to join them as a co-owner, but he didn't want the hassle and asked them to give him a cheeseball job instead so he could show up free on his nights off; and for the next couple years he had his day job at Electric Boat and then a couple nights a week he was assistant bartender or bouncer or whatever they needed.

He quit after a couple years when a double-job schedule got annoying and my brother was born, but kept showing up anyway because it was his friends running the joint, and also because they were getting some amazing talent; many of the big blues acts, plus some bands that were up-and-coming in the 70s but hadn't quite "broken" yet. My parents made a point of taking each of my babysitters to a night out at The Shaboo when they hit drinking age as a sort of "thanks for babysitting" treat, and my father was really looking forward to being able to do the same for my brother and I - but the club closed when I was about twelve and then burned down a few months later.

Still, I've been hearing about some of the gigs there for years - and some personal anecdotes. So I actually have a short list of Shaboo Moments I'd want to see.

* Dad has been telling me for years that once when I was about three, he and I dropped by in the afternoon to hang out a bit and Arlo Guthrie was there as the act, and was doing his sound check when we walked in. He claims that when Arlo saw little three-year-old me wandering around, he started serenading me with the theme to "Sesame Street". I don't remember any of this, and once when my father told me the story it was James Cotton instead of Arlo. So I'd want to go back and see if that really happened.

* Another story Dad tells is of one night when Bonnie Raitt was there, and after her gig, instead of heading to the green room she head over to the main bar, where my father was tending, and just looked at him and chirped "Hi there!" He didn't know what else to say, so he just offered her a beer, and then marveled that "she just sat there drinking a beer like a normal person." This was enough to start a 40-plus year celebrity crush in him and I wanna see that happen.

* Dad also talks about some EPIC Thanksgiving dinners they had there - the owners would see if there was some band touring in the area which wouldn't be able to head home to their respective families for Thanksgiving, and would invite them to spend Thanksgiving at the Shaboo - if they did a quick gig. Then they'd close the place down for a staff-only Thanksgiving dinner, with the band joining them. Dad's memories of these events are a little hazier (probably because drink was involved), but it sounds like there were some epic jam sessions that happened.

* There is a tale I've heard about how someone on staff had this little white dog that they'd bring to work, and the story goes that one night when B.B. King was there, he fell head over heels for this dog and sent someone out to find another one like it for himself.

* Dad says that two of the best gigs he saw at any point at Shaboo were Janis Ian and Hall and Oates, and I'd wanna see those gigs.

* There is a live Tom Waits bootleg that was done at The Shaboo, that still gets reprinted (the gig was in 1976). I wanna see that gig.

* Apparently, sometime in January or February of 1978 the club booked this up-and-coming band called "Dire Straits" - they were booking things several months in advance at that time, so they offered the band a date sometime that June. One month before their gig, Dire Straits' first song hit the radio - a little number called Sultans of Swing. Sales for the Dire Straits Shaboo gig started FLYING out the door then and they were almost over capacity. I'd like to try squeezing in.

* When The Police were just starting out, they had the idea to come over and play every damn last club in the US they could to build a following, and then release their first album over here. The Shaboo was one of those clubs, and I believe it was the third stop on their tour - but they had the bad luck to book a date during the World Series, on a Monday. So only five people showed up, and the game had gone into extra innings, so the owners made the band wait until the game was done so people could finish watching the game first. (Apparently Sting was so annoyed that as the van was pulling out of town, Sting started singing a improvised fuck-you song called "Goodbye Willimantic"). I would love to be in the audience for that gig - to round things out - and would also love the ability to be a fly on the wall in that van for that song. (Someday, if I ever meet Sting, I will also ask him if he remembers this song because I REALLY WANNA HEAR IT.)

* A couple other random people who were at Shaboo I'd like to see - Taj Mahal was there a lot, Talking Heads were apparently there once.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:03 AM on May 16, 2021 [6 favorites]

It's probably not very environmentally friendly, so I'd just stay when I am.
posted by aniola at 11:02 AM on May 16, 2021

My uncle almost finished building a kitplane in an old barn on my grandparents’ farm in the mid-1950s. The barn burned down under questionable circumstances, destroying his work. My father’s theory is that their mom was afraid my uncle would hurt himself trying to fly it, and set the fire herself. I’d like to find out for sure, and given what we know about the rest of my uncle’s life (a really crappy marriage, and dying from lung cancer way too young due to asbestos exposure from working in demolition not too long after), I’d be at least a little tempted to try and stop/put out the flames to see if a bit more success there changed things.
posted by Alterscape at 11:12 AM on May 16, 2021 [3 favorites]

One of the things that attracted me to MF and caused me to lurk here for a long time before joining up was reading the Kaycee saga. Her reported demise was twenty years ago the other day.

I wouldn't mind taking a time travel trip to the midwest of that period, before 9/11. Drive around from town to town with the top down. Stop at gas stations to refill on drinks and snacks. Have meals at small town diners. Just observe what kind of world would spawn some mother to create a fictional girl on the web.
posted by Fukiyama at 11:51 AM on May 16, 2021 [3 favorites]

I'd like to go back and enjoy a bowl of goulash in my grandparents' kitchen. I'd also like to figure out the most opportune moment to have the following talk with my grandfather:

"Gramps, I know you've smoked since you were 10 and it's hard to give up. But let me tell you what happens in the future. You get a diagnosis of mild emphysema when you are in your 50s, and that's when you quit smoking for good. This almost certainly buys you some extra years of life; however, when you are 83 you die of lung cancer. Grandma never gets over your death, she is never the same. She lives to be 95 and is miserably depressed and sad for the rest of her life. Maybe if you quit now you could tack on a few extra years and spare her some of that misery.

Also, just so you know, once you are gone your buddy Al spends his remaining years after his wife dies trying to get in Grandma's pants. He dies unsuccessful at 92, but possibly only because Grandma broke a hip, for which she credits Jesus with saving her from the sin of fornication."
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 11:52 AM on May 16, 2021 [8 favorites]

Try to guess the hundred year span where humans are definitely gone but recently, so you could see all the cool overgrown cities reclaimed by wildlife and also hopefully learn what exactly happened.
posted by tiny frying pan at 12:54 PM on May 16, 2021 [2 favorites]

I would go back to last Monday and get a guestbook to put out for when all the people came to my backyard to see a green-tailed towhee
posted by oomny at 1:40 PM on May 16, 2021 [7 favorites]

Mutant Lobsters from Riverhead, I'll buy you a beer at that Soft White Underbelly show.
posted by Lyme Drop at 1:44 PM on May 16, 2021

I'd go back to one million years BC to meet Raquel Welch.
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:50 PM on May 16, 2021 [5 favorites]

One of the things that attracted me to MF and caused me to lurk here for a long time before joining up was reading the Kaycee saga. Her reported demise was twenty years ago the other day.

To post a MetaFilter-adjacent topic that I'd been debating making a very thin MetaTalk post about but will instead hijack the cocktail hour, the whole Kaycee saga was covered on a podcast recently that started playing after I was listening to something else and had fallen asleep. So I dreamt that something similar was happening now and that my mother was mostly fooled but questioning some of the details. And within the dream, I was like "mom, mom, mom, my internet friends already figured this out like a long time ago" but was also confused that it was happening again.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:20 PM on May 16, 2021 [3 favorites]

Like a lot of people, I'd go hang out with my parents before the kids were born.

Mine were bumming all over Europe on a motorcycle, evenings in the pubs, and generally being more social than I ever remember them being. Other than a few stories and a photo or two, it is all lost memories.
posted by madajb at 2:20 PM on May 16, 2021 [2 favorites]

I've been watching Time Team reruns recently.

It'd be interesting to go to the various sites in the relevant period and see how close they got.

Maybe leave some hints to guide them in the right direction.
posted by madajb at 2:24 PM on May 16, 2021 [4 favorites]

19.9 billion years.
But to test memory. I recall a meadow when I was 4.2 yrs old, a series of them. A path behind my house as on the right, chain link fence to the "grey pond" went on for what seemed...on the left hedges then houses but one fence blocked off those meadow's. So I googled it and low and behold same fence. Astronaut Ed White lived near by when going to UofM. many years back. In that meadow I fell on love with space and would watch the moon through this monocular with tripod.
my father had a picture. but I'm sure going back in time would not have the same effect, the photo was lost and to see it again seems a reproduction.

this is how dimensional portals are formed:)
posted by clavdivs at 2:27 PM on May 16, 2021 [4 favorites]

My grandfather on my father's side passed away before I could remember him (except for maybe seeing a picture of a toddler with an old man). He had owned a gas station and there are two things that I'd just like to observe.

I'm now the proud owner of an old 5¢ slot machine that my father tried to re-paint with some of my model paints. I'd like to see that in it's original condition so I could restore it a bit better maybe. And maybe warn a few rubes that it was rigged to never hit the big payouts. Ha!

I'm also the proud owner of this WWII era .45 pistol. It's a bit special, half was made by Singer Sewing Machine Company and the other half by Remington. War production. Singer only made a few thousand guns. It's also engraved, chrome plated, and has ivory grips with Chinese dragons carved into them that evidently once had little ruby eyes. It's pretty. The story goes that grandfather bought it off of a returning G.I. for a tank of gas and some extra money to help him make his way back home. I'd like to be around to see that story play out and find out some more details. As it is, it's mostly story and speculation.

If we mostly stick to the non-butterfly effect possibility of just changing something minor that probably wouldn't make much/any difference in the long run except for some more good memories...

I'd go and smack myself at the start of that last summer before going off to university. You fool, you have a job and it's lifeguard at an outdoor private pool no less, you have your grandfather's truck. You've escaped from your evil mother. Why the hell don't you have another summertime romance like you did last summer at that months long program. Even these few months could be lot's of fun, stop thinking that it's pointless to just wait until you hit university. In 30 years, you're gonna want to come back and smack yourself.
posted by zengargoyle at 2:56 PM on May 16, 2021 [2 favorites]

I'd go back to the the Pavillion of Fun (torn down by Trump's father in '66) at Coney Island to ride the Hoop-La, a manually-powered Razzle-Dazzle which they apparently took out in 1957. Brief view at 0:41 here, longer clip here at 6:37, amazing painting in Jeffrey Staunton's Coney Island Steeplechase Park site (scroll down) showing the workers who made it go, hanging on once they went airborne.
posted by Rash at 5:45 PM on May 16, 2021 [2 favorites]

After last week's thread on John Mulaney, I think I'd like to go talk to Robin Williams.

I'd also love to eat a bunch of fruits and vegetables from different time periods, see what's up with that. Tomatoes are supposedly radically different from how they were even 100 years ago.

I'm sure this would qualify as a standard time travel adventure for geeks, but, see the debut of the Rite of Spring and the accompanying riot? yes please.

I'd like to beat up the assholes who brought starlings to North America.
posted by snerson at 7:01 PM on May 16, 2021 [5 favorites]

For most folks, time travel was a fad that quickly faded into obscurity. After all, you couldn't change or influence the past, just observe (luckily, you couldn't contract any weird diseases either). "Actual history" was less interesting or real-seeming than what had already been filmed for the History Channel, and of course Universites no longer retain faculty in their History departments.

What's left? Weird obsessed internet completists. I don't know why, but there's an entire constellation of subreddits dedicated to cataloguing the lives of a few specific--and not particularly objectively interesting--people, one or two from every century. I think r/sophie17th is probably the most active these days. She lived to be 28, spoke with a lisp, died childless of something called "scarlatina", but every moment of her life has been observed and then dissected to death on reddit. She did nothing of consequence. But some redditor found it interesting, or comedic, or absurd, and .. the whole thing took on a life of its own. I'll confess, I was part of the gang for awhile, taking pride in my seed ratio on the bittorrent of her age 4 lifestream. Later, about the time some of the guys got arrested for trying to exhume her bones, the charm wore off and I deleted my copy. Well, I think we all have things that our younger selves did that we no longer quite understand.
posted by the antecedent of that pronoun at 7:18 PM on May 16, 2021 [8 favorites]

Time travel has become banal and commonplace; I have just therefore been made redundant from my actual job (historical heritage conservation researcher).

Since I've got heaps of time on my hands, I'd like to go and watch some historical tradespeople work in the era before power tools.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 7:20 PM on May 16, 2021 [5 favorites]

I would make so many trains for which I’ve been just too late.
posted by Going To Maine at 7:37 PM on May 16, 2021 [3 favorites]

First thought:
Going back to high school to do elaborate talent show performances of songs nobody will hear for ten or more years, with a choir of backup singers, all of whom are me.
Perhaps doing more and further elaborate manifold-self-choir things in other venues.

Telling my younger self all the ways family, teachers, etc. were mistaken about important things in life, but also correcting my younger self about all the ways I was wrong about life stuff.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 7:45 PM on May 16, 2021 [2 favorites]

In 1963, two years before I was born, the Beatles played the summer fair at Abbotsfield Park, just around the corner from what would be my childhood home.
My parents were there and it would be nice to go back and hang out at the edge of the crowd.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 8:06 PM on May 16, 2021 [2 favorites]

Well, I think we all have things that our younger selves did that we no longer quite understand.

If only there was some way of going back and asking ourselves about them...
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:15 PM on May 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

My grandfather drove pop truck for Orange Crush back when it was a standalone company. Glass bottles (that the drivers picked up when empty) and wooden cases meant a pretty strenuous job. Lots of small stores at the time stored pop in their basements which meant lugging the full cases down the stairs and empties back up. A case of drinks was pretty heavy so the steel cart used to haul four at a time was itself appropriately heavy duty and massy.

Sometime in the 50s Coke started giving their drivers aluminum carts. This was an outrageous luxury. A steel cart might cost $100-150 in today's money; an aluminum version would have been like $1,500. My grandfather was a bit of a scoundrel and had some long running rivalry with one of the Coke drivers. He managed to steal his aluminum cart and probably laughed every time he used it for weeks afterwards. The cart is in my garage right now and I'd love to ride along on the day he managed to nick it. It was probably one of the highlights of his life.

decided on a "time ball" which would be a giant hamster ball that could take you back in time to observe, but not interact--so as not to contaminate the timeline

You might want to check this previously out.
posted by Mitheral at 8:29 PM on May 16, 2021 [3 favorites]

I'm afraid all I would do would be to go back to spend some time with my dogs that are no longer alive. I'd take them for a walk, and give them all the rubs and hugs.
There are some conversations I didn't have with my mother too... so many things I regret not telling her. Maybe I could take my mother along for the walk too.
posted by Zumbador at 12:45 AM on May 17, 2021 [4 favorites]

I'd like to travel wherever my mother went between 1943 and 1945 to see if she really was a UK spy. I strongly suspect so, but have no way to prove it. She was a secretive, enigmatic and mischievous working class lady who was fluent in German around that time.
posted by unearthed at 12:58 AM on May 17, 2021 [5 favorites]

Mundane, I lost a hairband yesterday, so I want to time travel to see exactly how I misplaced it, so that maybe I'll stop losing hairbands over and over.
posted by polymodus at 1:35 AM on May 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

I feel like I've just recently come out of a fog- a moment where suddenly a switch was flipped and I was overcome with joy for the first time since my daughter was born. I still have rough days (I have a baby who is becoming more like a toddler every day!) but I would like to go back and enjoy those newborn days a little more. Also to go back and do some tidying up for past me would be nice too.
posted by freethefeet at 3:39 AM on May 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

I’d go back and visit the farm my grandmother grew up on. I’d love to see it.

Then I’d go to the 70s and buy a large supply of Texan bars, they were a chewy caramel and chocolate bar in the UK back then. I’d like to try those again.

I’d also hide somewhere and watch my late mother make some biscuits I loved, and copy the recipe. I’ve been working through online recipes but none of them quite hit the spot.
posted by ElasticParrot at 5:30 AM on May 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

The durability of the past, the way some things feel like they are still happening or maybe have only just finished, when in reality they happened 5, 10, 20 years ago (like 9/11) - has been on my mind lately so this is right on the money.
1. I'd like to be a fly on the wall in the lives of my maternal grandparents, when they were 15. They were not especially this or that but their specificity, how they got through their days when they were younger, is something that was... just not something they talked about.
2. Much further back in time, to just before my paternal side ancestor first left Normandy for Quebec - again, just to check out life of a 17 year old way back then. (how quiet and empty the world must have been!)
3. Back further still to the banks of the Dordogne river, circa 18,000 BCE - again, just to watch people go through their days. It's a beautiful corner and everywhere you look you see the remnants, still, of stone-age man.
posted by From Bklyn at 6:06 AM on May 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

I will go back three months and tell my boss "before you cut my job by half, wait until you have the final student count for next term." It's gonna make all the difference. Time travel is sweet.
posted by Namlit at 6:30 AM on May 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

Go back to St. Louis circa 1997 and have another Flaco's Tacos...burrito.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 7:26 AM on May 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

I would really like to to take teenage me out out for tacos and just let her talk. Also, I really miss the tacos at that (long-gone) Mexican joint.
posted by thivaia at 7:49 AM on May 17, 2021 [2 favorites]

Before I was born, my maternal family owned German Shepherds. I never met any of them; the last one died when my mother was a teenager. I would go back in time to pet all the family German Shepherds and tell them how good they were.
posted by unicorn chaser at 7:55 AM on May 17, 2021 [5 favorites]

I've been working on a gazetteer of old Washington D.C. landmarks / toponyms / folk geography for a long time now, and I would love to go back to c. 1810 and walk around the city as it came into being. Or jump ahead to the period just after the Civil War when the 1st wave of real suburbanization began.

So much of the topography has been leveled, filled in, or obliterated altogether that there are aspects it's very hard to get a feel for just from written descriptions or the handful of images that are available.

If that's too radical, I'd like to go back to c. 1991 and take more photos this time.
posted by ryanshepard at 8:04 AM on May 17, 2021 [2 favorites]

I'd probably like to travel to the future, constantly, to get an understanding of the complex dynamics of simple decisions in the last few months / years. This would, of course, depend on the type of universe we are in for future time travel (splitting universe? deterministic?), but assuming I could get some mundane future information that would help me reduce anxiety today, I would totally want to know if I ever will find an item I misplaced, if work problem X is really as deep a problem as I expect, what food might we forget about in the fridge?

I suppose that if the universe is completely deterministic (i.e. there is no free will, or real decisions), this could result in a sense of depression (I think Ted Chiang had a story like this...) of not being able to have any impact, but it might also give more of a Billy Pilgrim-esque feeling of "I might as well enjoy the ride!" since I know what is coming.
posted by chiefthe at 8:13 AM on May 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

polymodus: "Mundane, I lost a hairband yesterday, so I want to time travel to see exactly how I misplaced it, so that maybe I'll stop losing hairbands over and over."

My trick back when I had enough hair for scrunchies, was to have so many scrunchies that the house was saturated, so even if you lost one it would sort of push a previously lost one into visibility.

Not sure if this would apply to hairbands.
posted by signal at 8:50 AM on May 17, 2021 [4 favorites]

There are a few specific objects I have lost where I'd like to definitively know what happened to them. In particular, I loved a mustard-yellow light corduroy jacket that I even had a favorite performer sign at a show in the late 1990s, and somewhere in the subsequent ~4 months it disappeared. Did my mom get rid of it in a sort of Jeeves-like quiet judgmental disposal? Did I leave it on a bus or something? Where did it go?! Similarly for a little bag of electronics cables and similar that vanished when I was on a road trip a few years ago.

I have read that Hillary Rodham Clinton and Bill Clinton have a decades-long disagreement about where specifically in the Yale Law library they were when they first saw or spoke to each other. It would be cool to resolve that.

I have an ancestor who -- the story goes -- taught students while they were all sitting under a tree, and one day a tiger came along and scared away the students, but my ancestor took his walking stick and beat up/chased away the tiger. Of course it would be great to see that, if it happened, but even if it didn't, I'd love to learn enough Kannada to understand the lessons and get to eavesdrop on them, to get a taste of education from way back when.
posted by brainwane at 9:21 AM on May 17, 2021 [4 favorites]

I'd go see Dylan at Newport the night he went electric. I'd go see Jerry when he was at the height of his powers, and then Hendrix the night he played Sgt Peppers. I'd see the Beatles on the roof at Abbey Road, and Prince at First Ave before he broke out. I'd see Monk and Trane and Clifford Brown and Miles for miles.
posted by OHenryPacey at 9:51 AM on May 17, 2021 [2 favorites]

In particular, I loved a mustard-yellow light corduroy jacket that I even had a favorite performer sign at a show in the late 1990s, and somewhere in the subsequent ~4 months it disappeared. Did my mom get rid of it in a sort of Jeeves-like quiet judgmental disposal? Did I leave it on a bus or something? Where did it go?

Don't discount the possibility that what you'd really do with a time machine is take the jacket for safekeeping.
posted by zamboni at 10:42 AM on May 17, 2021 [6 favorites]

Appropriate to my last post to the Blue, and the rabbit-holes that surrounded it, I'd follow some missing hikers to either find out what happened (or steer them back onto the trail if interference is allowed).

Otherwise I'd probably go back and look in on all the places I've lived at the time I was there, which would be weird and occasionally heartbreaking.
posted by jquinby at 11:08 AM on May 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

Oh - I'd also go see my paternal grandfather, who died in my father's infancy. All we have of him is some of his paintings. He was also into photography - we have a few of those too. He seems to have been a pretty art-y guy for someone in tiny town in Iowa.
posted by jquinby at 11:11 AM on May 17, 2021 [2 favorites]

I'd go to movie premieres of movies I love but am too young to have seen in theaters, both to experience seeing them in that environment and also to see firsthand how audiences reacted to them when they were new. I want to watch people watch Frankenstein for the first time.

(I also want to see how audiences reacted to movies where what is obviously meant to be comic relief is staggeringly unfunny, not because it's offensive but because it's just not funny. Did people in the 30's laugh at this? Has our collective sense of humor changed this much or was this just never actually funny?)
posted by darchildre at 11:35 AM on May 17, 2021 [3 favorites]

Does it change the time stream too much if I buy something generally available and bring it back? Aside from comparing 1970s Nacho Cheese Doritos to their current version I might make a habit of going back in time every time I wore out a pair of running shoes and buying a couple more pairs. In high school I dated a runner and I remember her calling every shoe store in town for her favorite shoes when the "replacement" model wasn't as good for her, and more than 30 years later I can relate.
posted by fedward at 12:20 PM on May 17, 2021

During 2020 I learned "1985 was a ridiculously song year for music" so, ofc, I'd like to take a look.
posted by k3ninho at 12:57 PM on May 17, 2021 [3 favorites]

Ephelump: I want to be a time traveling vigilante maintenance person.

Evidence suggests that job doesn't end well....
posted by tzikeh at 9:59 AM on May 18, 2021 [2 favorites]

I would like to meet my grandparents. My mom's parents died when I was an infant, my dad's dad died before I was born, and his mom was the only one I ever met but I was so young when she passed that I have only the faintest of memories of her. Dad's folks were interesting people: his mom was a field nurse in WW1, then came back to rural Idaho to be a nurse with a doctor who covered an enormous territory, and his dad was a sheriff who also worked for the Treasury Department during Prohibition, then later when it became the Secret Service. (She also came from a family that started a town over there, and nearly everything is named after people in her family.) Apparently Dad's dad had some really amazing adventures on the job, and my dad always told me that he would have adored me, which was in pretty short supply for me for most of my life and I would have adored being adored by someone.

I would also like to kiss and cuddle all my beloved pets again, and make sure my roaming kitty who bolted out of the broiling house one July night four years ago stayed indoors, so she'd still be here today fighting with me to go outside.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 2:45 PM on May 18, 2021 [3 favorites]

"Arthur Dent?" "Uh, yes?" You're a jerk. A complete kneebiter."

I think I willl presume based on the premise of the FPP that everyone who needs to be punched in the nose has been punched in the nose, but I might have a few less notable people that need a really stout punch in the nose, so let's do that.

I'd like to go back and talk some sense into my teenage and late adult self about a number of things. About my work ethic, about my lack of self care and personal self-expression and realization in the face of trauma. I had all of the opportunity in the world to get into doing some even cooler shit with self-expression, music and art. I could have been a pioneering deep house DJ instead of letting my fears and self doubts get in the way.

Related to the above there's a whole bunch of really cool and fun shows, raves and parties I'd like to revisit and remember all over again that I don't remember very well because I was getting zonked right out of my skull.

I'd also like to have a discussion about the strength of my words and how sometimes it's not what I say but how and when I say it. There's a bunch of times where i wasn't even trying to be mean but something I said came out the wrong way at the wrong time and very likely hurt people's feelings, many of them close friends. Mostly really simple things like not temperring criticism, not wording something well and having it be misinterpreted, or even forgetting someone's name and otherwise being totally socially clueless and clumsy.

I'd also like to go back and observe my grandpa on my dad's side who passed away even before I was a toddler. Apparently he was an engineer and involved in a lot of super high tech projects back in the day, like he may have been working at the AT&T/Bell labs involved in when the solid state transistor was invented, may have been involved in developing radar systems and was at Philco during the space race and Apollo missions. On the other hand that means he was also probably involved with military aerospace contracting and for all I know he helped invent some horrible weapons as well.

But it sure would explain a lot about how nerdy I and some of my family are. Growing up I was always super fascinated with aerospace and electronics and was often messing around with either topic from a very young age, and my dad often said I reminded him a lot of his dad. My dad was work smart and street smart but would admit he's not this kind of nerd smart.

Somewhere out there in a different timeline I was very likely a research scientist or engineer, but maybe in that timeline I was a rabidly fearful conservative that built weapons systems. *shrug*

On the personal entertainment side of things I'd probably really like to check out the world in the late Victorian to early Edwardian era just for how beautiful so many things were from buildings and gardens to clothing. I wouldn't actually want to live as either wealthy or poor but it'd be fun to go back in time, win a bunch of money at the races or something and go shopping.
posted by loquacious at 7:39 PM on May 18, 2021 [2 favorites]

Oh, and harmless... I'd go back and snatch a lost rock when it became lost. I had this hand sized lump of Chromium that my old-timey truck driving maternal grandfather had snatched. It was this big lump of shiny with one side polished mirror-like smooth. He gave it to me out of his sock drawer. I played with that rock for ages, pretending it was some sort of meteor or something. It's literally a hand of silver with a mirror side.

I lost that playing in the dirt pile in the back-yard. I'd love to have that back.

Also in this category... lost HS class ring (slipped off my finger throwing a snowball I think). That 3x5 Kodachrome real photo print of the Earth seen from space that my grandmother (worked at a photo processing place) brought me when the negative (or a copy) made it's rounds.

I think time-wise, lost things are a goldmine of temporal recovery without paradox.
posted by zengargoyle at 12:31 AM on May 19, 2021 [1 favorite]

Assuming an 'observe without interacting' type of time travel I would:
  • Spy on key family history moments to resolve some inconsistencies. Mom's generation had nine kids and I have sat through so many "that's not what happened' arguments when they get together. Everyone is so totally convinced their own memory is correct and I find it fascinating. Did my grandmother really cosplay Raggedy Anne to ask for an autograph from the author of the books, and was the man delighted or horrified? Did the family really pack up to move and look up to the empty apartment windows as they were driving away, only to see the 4th sister sadly waving goodbye? Did grandad really pretend to throw away 2nd brother's weed in the 60's, only to smoke it in his pipe later and then declare it had no effect? Were 3rd and 4th brother really doing each other's homework or was it just something 5th sister made up to get them in trouble with the parents? Who broke 3rd sister's bracelet? Or was it really 2nd sister's all along?
  • Sit in on recording sessions for my favorite music. Would also like to hang out at sessions where bands are working out the arrangements and learning the songs.
  • Walk through forests before any other human ever did. (I assume 'without interacting' means I can't be eaten or fall off a cliff.)
  • See original productions of plays, all the way back to prehistory.
  • Exception to the 'no interact rule' - I assume cats can see such time tourists, it would explain a lot. In that case, I would dangle string for all the kitties I see in all times.
  • Listen to music of all different cultures and historical periods, especially music being made just for the joy of it rather than formal performance.
If I could interfere with my own timeline there are a lot of ways my life could be improved by small changes early on, so much so that it's too depressing to think about. But then too may interventions would have a butterfly effect – if I found a way to get physical therapy young enough to make a real difference, would I have actually gone into the military instead of failing the physical? How different would my life have been then? I probably would not have married the same man, or currently be living with the same roommate, since I met them both as part of the same social group in college after that failed physical.
posted by buildmyworld at 2:19 PM on May 19, 2021 [3 favorites]

I'm not qualified to do anything about Vincent van Gogh's mental health, but I can go back and definitely increase by a goodly number how many paintings he sold in his lifetime, possibly increasing his feelings of self-worth and bring him some happiness. Perhaps I could even sit for a commissioned portrait.
posted by maxwelton at 3:34 PM on May 19, 2021 [3 favorites]

Oh my God! Go back in the exact time to seduce Van Gogh, leave him 200 Gelders, and run off with the Starry Night on the Rhone. I would do thos, but first I would have to be 26 again and acquire some Dutch clothing.
posted by Oyéah at 4:39 PM on May 20, 2021 [3 favorites]

I'd go back to Anchorage in May 1990, and photo a very hot friend in the top floor bar at the ice cube / Captain Cook hotel, and photo more parks in that city too, as that's where I discovered landscape and ecology as professions.
posted by unearthed at 2:19 AM on May 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

W/r/t the folks above who mentioned Beatles gigs: if I am trying not to interfere with anything... The New Musical Express Poll Winners' show at the Empire Pool in Wembley, London, on the first of May 1966 was a chance to see -- among others -- The Beatles, The Spencer Davis Group, Roy Orbison, The Rolling Stones, The Small Faces, Dusty Springfield, The Who, and The Yardbirds all on the same bill. Plus a good opportunity for host Jimmy Savile to mysteriously just happen to disappear (I count this as allowable, nay, praiseworthy interference).
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:24 PM on May 21, 2021 [3 favorites]

I'd go back 21 years so I could get some pictures of myself riding through the Sahara on my motorbike. I never had a chance to see myself do that and I do think some of it must have looked cool. Especially that time when we had to cross a dry wadi that was pretty deep, and the bike was packed with luggage, but by that time I was so used to riding it that I just rode down without even thinking twice, and then at the bottom opened the throttle fast and hard enough to allow the bike to do its magic and climb right back out, over large boulders and everything. As if it was easy.

I'll never be able to do that again and so I'd like to see it, and snap a pic.
posted by Too-Ticky at 4:30 AM on May 22, 2021 [4 favorites]

I'd tell my 16 year old self that I'd be okay.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 6:54 AM on May 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

Would it allow going back in time, picking up a friend that you've since lost contact with, then travelling back a bit more?

One day I was helping a friend pick up some stuff from her parents' house, and as we came into the town she started pointing to those things from her youth, like schools, places where she used to play and more stuff like that and I went "Yeah, if I wanted to show you my past, like, primary schools? The nearest is demolished*, the next-closest is 800km away, and the other 8000km away." with a mixture of a bit of sadness that I couldn't easily reciprocate showing mine but still somewhat pleased at that actually being part of my past. A past which I had not too long before come to grips with, sort of, although still feeling an outsider even after 15 years being back in my birth country.

Too-Ticky has seen those still-existing schools, the houses we lived it at the time and all kinds of adjacent stuff, but I wouldn't mind being able to show it (again) as those places were back then.

* and good fucking riddance. That year was hell.
posted by Stoneshop at 10:43 AM on May 23, 2021

So a couple of years ago, Combichrist played our local dive venue. They had played there before (such a banging show, OMG, En Esch and Combichrist and Night Club and Lords of Acid) and it had been fine. For whatever reason, when they came back, the night was cursed - there were problems in the pit and a girl got decked in the face and the PD came out, and there were some other shenanigans. By the time Combichrist went on, there might have been 30 of us left in the club.

The power kept blowing. Combichrist, for those unfamiliar, is not a band who can play acoustic (though they tried). Andy LaPlegua finally says "fuck it, this is clearly not meant to be tonight, we're going to do one more song and then quit for the night" which is how most of us ended up on stage with the band, singing "What the fuck is wrong with you?"

Anyhow, afterwards, Andy said "I quit drinking whiskey, but tonight, y'all, I'm drinking whiskey, come buy me one." Alas, reader, we did not, because it was a school night and super late already etc etc. I wish I could go back in time and buy him that whiskey, because when else are we going to get that chance?

(I also have a long list of concerts to go to.)
posted by joycehealy at 8:41 PM on May 25, 2021

Another couple things I'd do:

* There are probably several occasions when I could have taken a chance and flirted more with one guy or another, but was too shy. I'd go back and be my own wing-gal.

* I would find out where in the hell in Ireland our family came from.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:21 AM on May 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

Aye to visiting concerts.

One that would go against the "you can't change anything" but I would do nonetheless: round up a vigilante posse of sysadmins, chase down Canter and Siegel and make it clear to them and anyone considering to follow in their footsteps that things will go very, very VERY badly for you if you do so much as THINK about pressing that 'send' button.
posted by Stoneshop at 2:41 AM on June 3, 2021

Ya, but how are you going to convince AOL not to initiate the September that never ended?
posted by Mitheral at 1:07 PM on June 3, 2021

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