What I Use My Time Machine For, Now That The Novelty Has Worn Off

Like many people, I get a number of free products to review. Sadly, that number is zero, so when I decided I wanted to try the Acme Chrono-Jump Personal Time Travel Device, I knew I’d have to buy one myself.

When the Chrono-Jump arrived (a year and a half ago or last Tuesday, depending on how you count), I did all the things you’d expect: I dropped in on famous historic events, took a peek at what’s in store for the future (I won’t reveal any specifics, but you might want to stock up on those little plastic thingies they put in pizza boxes to keep the cheese from getting stuck to the lid), and even tried to change a few things from my past. Each trip sent me into a nightmarish spiral of attempts to correct whatever horrible mistake I’d made the previous time around, more or less like every time-travel story you’ve ever read or seen on TV. (Are butterflies attracted to time machines, or what? I’ve never stepped on one while living in the present, but for some reason they’re always getting underfoot in the past). So I got a little burned out.

I was going to write a negative review and take it back to the store, but the warranty had expired, so I decided to look for smaller-scale, safer, more practical applications. I’m glad I did. Here are some of the things I use my time machine for today:

1. Any time I forget something, I just pop back in time, call my younger self on the phone and ask where I parked my car, or when I last saw my next-door neighbor alive, or whatever else it is I’ve forgotten. The only problem might be that it can be a little annoying; any time I sign up for a new website, for example, five or six older versions of me show up asking for the password. Also, sometimes I forget how long it’s been since I remembered the thing I’ve forgotten.

2. I use it to make better choices at restaurants. I just wait until all the entrees have arrived and then go back in time and order the one that looks best. I am, of course, very careful to always order last, so that people who know what I’m doing don’t copy my order and create one of those annoying time paradoxes.

3. I hooked the time machine into my alarm clock, so now instead of a snooze button, I have a “go back four hours and get more sleep” button. It’s amazing.

4. Before I had the Chrono-Jump, if I wanted a baked potato, I’d have to either wait an hour for it to cook, or microwave it and deal with that awful microwaved-potato skin, or try to figure out one of those hybrid oven / microwave potato-cooking recipes. But now I’ve hooked the time machine into my oven, so I can just put the potato in and set the timer to start cooking an hour ago.

So there you have it. I wouldn’t recommend the Chrono-Jump to someone who’s looking to have adventures or change their past, but it’s the best alarm clock I’ve ever had. Four stars out of five.

Time Flies Backwards, Like a Fruit Fly Avoiding a Banana

The Persistence of Memory by Salvadore Dali
Don't forget to check your smoke-detector batteries, especially if you live in an area where the weather is clock-meltingly hot.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Daylight Saving Time lately. Every year, I get the opportunity to travel back in time and relive an hour of my life, and every year, I squander it. I usually just sleep through the hour and then go back and sleep through it again — I might have slightly better dreams the second time around, but that’s hardly the kind of life-altering experience usually associated with time travel.

This year is going to be different. This time, I’m going to go back and change something. I just haven’t decided what yet.

The problem, of course, is scheduling. There are lots of things I’ve done in the past that I’d like to undo, or do differently, but it’s too late for them — I’ll only be able to go back that one hour, to 1:00 am on Sunday, November 6, 2011. If I’m going to make this time travel journey count, I need to plan to do something during that hour that has the potential to be either amazing or a huge mistake — and I’ll need to know which it is immediately, since I’ll only have an hour to decide whether I want to do something different the second time around.

Here are some options I’m considering:

1. Dye my hair a radically different color. This one is tricky, because there’s no possible way it will turn out well if I try to do it myself, and I’m not sure I’ll be able to get a salon appointment for 1:00 am.

2. Watch a TV show I’m not sure I’ll like. If it turns out to be really awful, and I find myself saying “I wish I could have that hour of my life back,” I’ll get my wish!

3. Try fugu. The logistics are a little complicated — I need to find a restaurant that will accept a 1:00 am reservation, and I need to time it so that if I eat a tainted piece of fish, I’ll be sick enough by 2:00 that I know I shouldn’t have eaten it, but not so sick that I’m already dead.

If you’re turning back your clocks this weekend, I invite you to join me in doing something experimental during your trip back in time. Just don’t kill your grandfather. It won’t cause a time-travel paradox, but it’s illegal in most jurisdictions and really isn’t a nice thing to do.