I’m Not From Around Here…

Let me tell you the tale of another world, and how in one night, I took a detour into another universe and never found my way back.   I try not to think about it often, as it is a rather touchy subject to be an extradimensional refugee, but there’s no sense in not being honest about it.  Honestly, I’ve become acclimated to this parallel universe over the past ten years- it’s provided me with good experiences, great friends, a wonderful wife and an overall happy life.  But on the way to work, I saw a rather stunning reminder of the point of divergence, an artifact harkening back to a time and a place that I left behind so long ago:

How this thing could have survived ten years, not having been painted over, buffed out or peeled off?  I suppose someone could have placed it since then, but that just seems unlikely to me.

But I digress.   I’m talking about unwilling travel between worlds accomplished via unknown means.

On Election Night 2000, I lived on the third floor of an old, drafty dorm situated in our beautiful capital city of the commonwealth, fifteen floors of all the madness and entertainment that a building of 18-yr olds can hold.  As I retired from my last class of the day (design fundamentals perhaps? I don’t recall exactly), I was terribly disappointed to feel an oncoming sickness taking over my body.  I ate dinner at the dining hall and hauled myself into a too-short and squeaky, diaper-sounding bed, swaddled myself in blankets, and set the alarm for 10:00pm.  Polls close on the west coast at that time, and I should know by then who the next president would be.   I promptly passed out, lulled into sleep by the subterranean-sounding, dampened thumps of Bob Marley from next door.

The alarm went off as expected.  Eyes shut except for the minimum to see the screen, I flipped on to CBS. I watched as Dan Rather called it, “Al Gore is the next president of the United States.”  Satisfied to hear something with such finality, no speculation or guesswork, I turned off the TV and fell quickly asleep again, still swaddled in my quilts and fever dreams.

Maybe that was what was to blame, because when I awoke for my Wednesday morning class, I awoke in a parallel universe.

I know it’s a simple thing- if I had stayed up I would have learned what really happened.  But I didn’t.  And I cannot shake the irony of feeling that deep satisfaction as I turned off the TV, knowing beyond knowledge that the deal was done.  I was so certain!  I walked to class and heard all this talk about Florida and uncalled states and retractions, and my bewilderment was complete.  I had no idea where I was, so I kept my mouth shut, learned it all later, and wondered just what the hell changed over those few hours.

Every now and then I imagine how different our world would be if I woke up in “my” world, not this parallel one.  Al Gore as president?  Think for a moment how different it would be.   Think how close the world came to a different ten years of history.  It’s not even a matter of better or worse- it’s about how that world would scarcely resemble ours.  What would the world be like in that other timeline?  Where would I be today?  What would I have done and seen and experienced over the past ten years?

Pretty weird thing to speculate on.  But I can’t help but imagine what it would be like.