You may have noticed I have been very quiet this last week. I have spent the last six days cutoff from the outside world without access to the internet. I was living in 19th century conditions as closely as one can in the 27th century. This year was my turn to supervise the Annual Temporal Anthropologist Candidate Endurance Test.
The Association of Temporal Anthropologists was given a huge plot of land in the Rocky Mountains in the Yukon forty years ago. I’m sure it was a tax write off for the donor. The land was never developed because it’s under snow most of the year. The only time we come up here is in the summer. We built a log cabin and furnished it with only 19th century technology like kerosene lamps and a wood stove. It has one bedroom with three bunk beds and a kitchen/dining room/parlor. A bit more rustic than what I’m used to--no restaurants, carriages, or shops. Still very comfortable, rather charming. Most people in the 27th century would find it too primitive. Many Temporal Anthropologists live in conditions far more primitive than this!
We started out with ten candidates. All of them were grad students, with at least a Master’s Degree in history, anthropology or both. One dropped out after he read the Institute of Time Travel’s Rules more carefully. We took them to the Institute and let the Enforcers put them through a mock debriefing with compliance disks. Five more decided they never wanted to be Temporal Anthropologists and go through that again. That left four candidates which I met up with at the University of Yukon in Whitehorse for a Field Test. We dressed them up in period clothing. They would spend the next six days devoid of modern technology, including personal pocket computers. I even had to surrender mine.
A transport then took us to the cabin along with our supplies. As we were unloading, one of the students asked where the loo was. I pointed to the outhouse. He went in, then immediately ran out and jumped back into the transport, demanding to go back. He said he would rather die than use the accommodations. So that left me with three students.
It’s not like we had to go out and hunt for meat or harvest the food. They had left us with flour, sugar and such, as well as fresh carrots, onions and potatoes. We had canned milk and meat. All period. No prepackaged meals or synthetic food. Our guests had never peeled potatoes or cutup vegetables before. None of them had ever cooked from scratch, let alone cooked on a woodstove. But we had a cook book with measurements and directions that even a chimpanzee could follow.
Outside of cooking, washing dishes, fetching and heating water, we had few chores to do. We lived the life of leisure. Absolutely beautiful country, a veritable paradise. Even so, one chap came down with abdominal pains by the third day. The only piece of modern technology we were allowed was a special pocket computer with a medical scanner, first aid files, and an emergency communicator. No sense endangering anyone’s life. The scanner showed no physical problems, but I called emergency dispatch anyway. Personally I think he was suffering from hunger since he refused to eat anything, saying it tasted funny. I guess he wasn’t used to eating anything with flavor.
That left our last two candidates, a girl from the Netherlands and a chap from Liverpool. Our Dutch candidate toughed it out, but spent most of her time writing in a journal about the deplorable conditions she was living in. She said she had decided she did not want to be a Temporal Anthropologist and live like this the rest of her life. She wanted to be a history teacher and maybe write historical romance. She said she had decided to stay so she could accurately describe the horrible sufferings of her ancestors, including that of writing by hand. Sufferings? This is a vacation home!
Which brings me to our last candidate, Archibald Cocker, from the University of Liverpool. He never complained. In fact he seemed very excited and fascinated by everything. He begged me to let him do most of the work. He wanted to cook and fetch water and wash dishes. All I really did was show him what to do. He got blisters chopping wood, even though we already had a nice pile. Archie is that rare breed that had been born in the wrong century--he is a Temporal Anthropologist in the rough.
Archie said he was descended from a long line of working class families. He said he wanted to study the Industrial Age in Great Britain. He dreamed of working in mines and factories, and being a chimney sweep, dustman, and cab driver. He wanted to do it all. I warned him that could be very dangerous. Safety codes were nonexistent in the Victorian Age. Dr. Henry Darrel is doing something very similar in 19th century America. The man has often lost fingers and had to have them cloned and reattached.
I told Archie he still had years of study ahead of him, but I think he will make it. I gave him my personal contact information, as well as Henry’s and let him know he could get a hold of us and we would try to help him any way we could.
It’s worth baby sitting a bunch of whingeing chronophobes when you find someone like Archibald Cocker. Remember that name, you’re going to hear it again.