When most people think about time travel, the use case is primarily one of two things: visit a family member who is no longer around or prevent a horrific event (i.e. 9/11, the Holocaust). I have what I feel is a novel use case for time travel: travel back in time and befriend the previous owner of my house to prevent them from making poor decisions that I will spend the remainder of my mortgage rectifying.
My time travel would require a few visits. First I would travel back about thirty years ago to start the friendship. I would hang out for a while, slowly infiltrating the circle of friends of the previous owner. At some point, I would have to come across as competent in home improvement. To do this, before I leave the present, I will have to double down and study the decades of This Old House that are now available to stream.
After becoming their friend, I would disappear for a while and return a few years later under the guise of “a work move.”
In the second visit, similar to the first, I would stay a while and reignite the friendship. All the while, I would secretly push an agenda. In each conversation, I’d encourage the previous home owners to use contractors for major projects. Something like, “You know <previous homeowner>, while it may cost more money, contractors can do it faster and properly. So instead of it taking 4 weekends for you, it can be done in a week.”
Here’s an example of an exchange I’d imagine we’d have:
- Me: What are you doing this weekend <previous homeowner name>?
- Them: I’m going to install a new outlet in the hallway.
- Me: Oh yeah? Neat. Have you done that before? Are you going to run conduit?
- Them: I’ve replaced outlets before, but I’m not going to run conduit. I’m going to fish the wire through the wall. And I have some cloth wrapped wire that I’ve had since forever, so I thought I’d use that.
- Me: I don’t know about that <Owner Name>. Cloth wrapped wire isn’t really used these days, and it’s not up to code. Though we’d open up the wall, it’s a pretty quick job to do this. Mind if I come over tomorrow. Shouldn’t take long and we can watch the Cubs game afterwards.
- Them: Well if you insist. Why don’t you come by around noon?
- Me: Perfect. See you then.
I’m really good at being persuasive when I’m time traveling.
I’m not sure if I’d warn the homeowner about the flood in 1996 because there’s very little one could do to prevent a foot of water in the basement. Plus, I don’t want the turn the previous owners into Chicken Little. But the least I’d tell them is to run longer downspouts and not have the sump pump empty out right against the foundation.
I would keep up this cadence of making regular visits, but the visit that would be the most important is about three years before the house is sold. I’d pick three years out because from what I can tell a bulk of categorical bad or sloppy decisions were done around that time. I’d really stress to the previous owners the importance of painter’s tape as they painted most of the rooms. Specifically, I’d stress the importance of painter’s tape on the ceiling, baseboard, floor, and over electrical outlets.
I’d also emphasize that painting the deck is just lipstick on a pig, and that the deck should be removed for both safety and aesthetic purposes. I’d also encourage them to fix the condensation that randomly appears in the basement ceiling. Slapping plaster on the ceiling looks bad. There’s ways to cover up and obscure blemishes and issues, but for major issues, you can pay it forward and fix them instead. Obfuscating and being sloppy comes across as cheap, and you’re not cheap, right <previous homeowner>?
I’m well aware that doing all of this would lead to a lot of paradoxes, and that’s the beauty of time travel. I think the biggest paradox is that all of this would mean that I may not wind up in the house, which would be incredibly frustrating. All of this time and time travel resources spent fixing up the house to my satisfaction only to have it be sold to someone else. The solution to this: become a squatter in the present. Yes, I’d exercise squatter’s rights and claim the house as my own with the satisfaction that it is fixed up to my liking.
The other main paradox is the time investment. Prepping for this time travel, and gaining all of this knowledge would take time. So would I be spending all of my energy in 2020 onwards preparing for this, only to travel back in time and spend more time on the matter. Instead it might be more practical to just focus on the present and the future, not the past. While I’d agree that might be more efficient, labor and materials were cheaper in the past and thus this might be a worthy investment.
Outside of paradoxes, there’s some major considerations to be cognizant of. The first of which is that someone could be doing the same thing to me. From 2012-2019 someone may have been time traveling and befriending me at my previous house. Oh the irony! But I swear I left that house much better than I found it. Maybe I have a time traveler to thank for my commitment to fix and improve that house.
The last consideration isn’t a paradox, but could lead to the most threatening paradox. And that is I currently live only a few houses away from the house I grew up in. This means that the risk for meeting or crossing paths with my past self is incredibly high. Now granted, I spent most of my youth inside watching TBS and playing Command and Conquer, and I never really had friends on this street, so it might be easy to avoid. But the temptation would be very high.
Additionally, my dad worked at the same place that my current neighbor works, which is also where the previous owner worked. This means if my future self is visible to the neighbor or my dad in the past, there could be some serious ramifications to my present self.
All of this means that my plans to fix up my house via time traveling becomes a high-wire time travel act, and thus dear reader, you are reading my pitch to Hollywood on my first movie idea. It’s like Looper meets This Old House and the working title is Time House but that’s not super sexy and we can work on that. Rian Johnson and Christopher Nolan have both already passed on the script, which means this blockbuster can be yours. My email is in the profile and your people can talk to my people. No time like the present to act on this smash idea from the future!