Imagine for a moment: You’re walking through the city of Boston on a pleasant summer day. Out of the corner of your eye, a bright blue flash fills a side street as you walk by. After the light dies down, you spot four men wearing…what appears to be colonial garb. Looking closer, three of the four faces are immediately recognizable: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin.
Countless political arguments (and entire political philosophies) are based on the hypothetical nature of the very event that just happened before your eyes. The Founding Fathers are here today. You happen to be the first person they lay eyes upon, and as they approach, you await what surely must be a momentous message from the past. Washington is the first to open his mouth.
“Excuse me, sir, but how did they build those towers so tall?” This was not the question you anticipated, and not one you were entirely capable of answering. Man, I don’t really know how they build those things. Jefferson gapes at a car passing by.
“Do you not think that such monstrosities are garish? Unbecoming of a fine city such as…this is still Boston, right? We left in Boston.” Franklin inquires. You glance at City Hall and almost agree with him. The shock has started to wear off and you now sniff the odor emanating from these men. It’s almost as though they weren’t up to modern standards of hygiene.
Just then, you receive a phone call. The ringtone, a popular song you picked out because you felt it really expressed who you are, startles the men. Jefferson covers his ears; there’s no accounting for taste. Pulling the phone out of your pocket, so many questions regarding musical trousers are put to bed in their 18th century minds.
You answer your phone, but politely explain to your mother that you’re a bit preoccupied. She wants to know what you’re doing; you tell her that you can’t really explain. For some reason, this answer isn’t good enough for her. While you debate this with her, a woman walks by. The men stare and mutter something about undergarments and shame. Upon finally hanging up, the man you don’t recognize (John Adams, of course, is not on money) asks if you happen to be possessed by the devil. It takes you a second to comprehend his confusion.
“Oh, no, that was my mother,” you elucidate. All four of them stare intently at the hunk of plastic in your hand, perplexed. “No, not this. This is a phone. It allows people to talk to people who are far away. I was talking to my mother.”
“By magic?” asks President Washington.
“Uh, no, not quite.”
“Then how?” You look at Franklin and realize that had he been born a century or so later, he could very well have invented the telephone. As it stood, the five of you were almost equally clueless as to how phones transmit sound across great distances.
“How far away is your mother?”
“Cal…” Wait, perhaps they aren’t ready for this yet, you think. “New York.” The men are impressed.
“Say,” begins Franklin, now taking a closer look at the cars which rush by. “Do these horseless carriages perhaps utilize the powers of electricity?” The other three men roll their eyes.
“Okay, you guys were right, we should have brought Hamilton,” Jefferson says with a sigh.
You welcome further inquiries from the founders of our country, but a part of you wishes they would stop to let you ask something that’s been nagging you. Having come across the Founding Fathers in the flesh, you feel it would be your civic duty as an American to ask them one question. No, not what they think about Obamacare. Nor do you wish to ask for their opinions on the increase in executive power over the past several decades. You don’t want to question the implications they intended for this statement or that amendment.
The question you want to ask them is this: “How does time travel work?”