The Time Traveler

Some kid – 16 or so – rolls along the sidewalks of Haight-Ashbury on his skateboard heading towards the park to hang with his friends. As he turns the corner of Haight and Broderick, he almost runs into an older man – 50 or so – in a coat and a hat. The kid says he’s sorry and wants to continue, but the man grabs his arm. He demands to see the skateboard.

The kid hesitates, then gets off his board, kicks it up, and hands it to the man. The man turns the board round and round and mutters repeatedly: “fascinating, fascinating!”

Finally, he hands it back to the kid and says he has always just heard about these old-fashioned things, but never actually seen one. There were some in the museums of New York City and Los Angeles, but he’s never been beamed there. Too much beaming was dangerous for your health, he says. Especially now, with all that extra radiation for the security checks. Too much radiation. That is the problem. Especially in the cities. In this sense one has to say that, despite of the tragedy of thousands of deaths, the two enormous quakes that have pretty much destroyed all of the urban development around San Francisco have been a blessing in disguise for the Bay Area. If you went there today, you’d see how good the quality of life has become. Small communities in a pretty natural environment have grown over the urban wasteland surprisingly quickly. In any case, he has just come back to this era to see what San Francisco was like before the quakes. Impressive, in a way. However, he just didn’t like city life. On the good side, the security checks weren’t already everywhere. And there were no gangsters with laser, biological or supersonic weapons. Well, in any case, that he now even got to see a real skateboard from the turn of the century made him real happy.

The kid looks like “what the fuck?”.

Finally, the man notices. “Oh, you don’t have a clue of what I’m talking about, right? Sorry, I always forget that.”

The kid doesn’t say anything.

“I’m a time traveler. I live in the year 2159. I actually would time travel more often, but it’s rather expensive. However, I at least wanted to see the Bay Area before the quakes. I live now where once … or now … or … anyway, Oakland … was … or is. Damn, kid, it looks so different. I can’t even tell you. I mean, if you …”

“The skateboards – what’s with the skateboards?”

“The skateboards?” The man has lost his train of thought. He looks confused.

“Dude, you said you’ve only got these kinds of boards in museums. What kinds of boards do you have?”

“Oh, that!” the man laughs. “We’re surfing the air, of course. Air cushions, you know? Hardly anyone’s on the ground these days.”

“Like the Silver Surfer?”

“Yes,” the man laughed again. “Like the Silver Surfer. He’s a museum exhibit, too. Only that we’ve got shorter boards.”

The kid checks out the man for a few more seconds. Then he shakes his head, throws his board on the sidewalk, says: “You’re just crazy, dude,” and rolls off.

The man watches the kid making his way through the pedestrians. “Think what you want, kid! Think what you want!” he yells after him. “If you went to visit your great-grandparents and told them you could easily get to New York in six hours today, they’d say the same!”

A few people have gathered on the sidewalk. They watch the man with a mix of discomfort, curiosity, and pity. Once the man takes notice of them, he sighs: “Well, you just don’t get it. And I’ll go back to the home with all the lunatics. ... And you’re even lucky. I’m just a time traveler. But what if I was an angel? Or the savior himself? Then you’d be really screwed.”

(2004)