Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Time Traveler in 1928?

Is the woman, shown here in a still from Charlie Chaplin's 1928 film "The Circus", a time traveler?



Believe it or not, that's what some conspiracy fans think. After all, it does appear that she's holding a cell phone to her ear and carrying on a conversation. She's clearly talking to herself as she's walking down the street, and she is clutching her ear. I'll give them this: if the same candid actions were taken from a film in 1998, you'd be a fool not to say she's on the phone.

That said, it's impossible. Right? Cell phones depend on a system of towers, none of which would be present in 1928. Satellite phones would be an option, if our time traveler was also able to put a ship/satellite in orbit while she visited. But that begs the question - if her technology was advanced enough to put her back in time, what's up with having to use a cell phone? What, she couldn't afford a wristwatch communicator, or master thought manipulation?

Plus, before the era of the Obnoxious Cell Phone user, walking down the street talking to yourself was not the most subtle way to avoid attention. You'd think that would be a prerequisite for a chrono-visitor.

It's probably a '20's era hearing aid she's clutching. Or she had an earache, and had imaginary friends to boot. We'll never know.



Here's what I find far and away the most fascinating part of the story. 82 years ago a woman woke up, got dressed, and headed out the door to the grocer. Maybe she stopped to talk to someone on the way and was delayed by a minute or two. Perhaps she turned right instead of left, wanting to extend her trip and enjoy the day. Whatever the case, she happened to walk in front of a motion picture camera before continuing on her way. Even if she noticed, it was the subject of some dinnertime chat that night, nothing more.

And yet that simple, innocuous, forgettable moment in an otherwise average life would spark events nearly a century down the road. Not 'huge' events, or earth shattering revolutions, but conversations around the globe. She lives on, presumably a half century or more after her death.

I love the subtle complexity of our world, the seemingly random acts that comprise a whole greater than the sum of its parts. It is, for me, another example of a guiding hand orchestrating our existence.

Thank you cell phone lady. May you rest in peace. Or enjoy your trip to the flapper era. Either/or.

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