“In 20 years, call this number”

Damn--I missed Pretend to be a Time Traveler Day.

The initial post (follow the above link) provides some lovely ideas for what to do to celebrate. And some of them are implemented in some of the videos:

There are a couple other videos, but I didn't think they were as good.

The main problem with this overall idea, I think, is that I suspect very few people would figure out that any of these activities are intended to suggest time travel. I like the idea of making it non-blatant, but I suspect most people would just write it off as general craziness. A lot of the specific cool ideas rely on the witnesses being pretty observant and/or having pretty good memories.

In that category, I especially like a suggestion by Hec Scrivener involving appearing to swap places with yourself a year in the future, and a suggestion from Altourus: "Dress like you normally would, carry a picture of you dressed as you are. Run around a corner screaming, then double back and change. With the picture walk around asking people if they have seen this person."

Possibly my favorite specific item is one mentioned in the original post, and implemented in that first video: handing out a phone number and saying things like, "In 20 years, call this number. You'll know why." My main concern about that is that it would be a big letdown--you wait 20 years, you call the number you were given even though you still don't know why, and the person who answers has no idea what's going on. Very anticlimactic. (I'm reminded of the time that my mother got a mysterious phone call, and was unaccountably happy about it; I pestered her to tell me who it was, and she said she'd tell me in five years if I asked her then. I did, and she had no idea who it had been. I was terribly disappointed.) So I'd rather do something like what xkcd did a few months ago--if you give everyone a shared resource (like an address), then at least the people who show up can interact with each other, whereas if you give them a telephone number, they can only interact with the one person who answers the phone (if anyone).

(Also, the shared-resource thing can result in future activity. I seem to recall that the Pterodactyle Hunt at Swarthmore originally got off the ground when some people put up signs advertising it as a joke; people showed up for it, but there was no hunt. So some of the people who'd shown up for it decided to have one for real later, and thus was born a twenty-year tradition.)

Anyway, I think the whole Pretend to be a Time Traveler thing is a fun idea, even though I doubt I would ever participate myself, and I enjoyed reading people's suggestions, even the less-workable ones. I'd love to see a group like Improv Everywhere put together a group rendition of it.

4 Responses to ““In 20 years, call this number””

  1. Anonymous

    Lorem Ipsum you read Thursday Next, didn’t you.

  2. Jed

    I’m guessing that by “Lorem Ipsum” you were addressing that comment to me? Fwiw, my name is Jed; “Lorem Ipsum” is the name of my blog, not a pseudonym.

    Anyway, nope, I haven’t read the Jasper Fforde books yet. I’d like to, but I want to read Jane Eyre first.

    Is there something about pretending to be a time traveler in those books?

  3. Vardibidian

    I’ll jump in and say that (a) you can evidently enjoy the Thursday Next books without previous knowledge of Jane Eyre, although the whole series does have a ton of jokes referencing EngLit generally that one either gets or doesn’t, and (2) various bits of the books have various bits of jokes/plot points about Time Travel.


  4. Jed

    Thanks, V!

    Even if I don’t need to have read Jane Eyre to enjoy The Eyre Affair, I’d still like to read the former first; somehow it just seems like the right thing to do. Anyway, I always meant to read Jane Eyre at some point; just never got around to it. So this provides a good excuse/impetus.


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