The future sounds worse than it is

After a too-generous serving of stuffed pizza with extra mushrooms, and an amazing bottle of stout, I was sitting up late reading. My attention wandered a moment, and when I looked up there was a young man sitting in the rocking chair. Seeing me start he held up his hands and said, “Do not be alarmed.” He wore a pastel green polo shirt with khaki pants and white jump boots. He didn’t make any aggressive moves, and given the boots, I sat back. “What are you doing in my house?” Watching me closely he said, “I am a time traveler from the future.”

“That explains the jump boots, I guess.”

“This is 2011 right? Are these not yet common?”

“No; not around here anyway.”

“May I ask what would be appropriate?”

I pointed to a pair of walking shoes, and he nodded. Then he asked if the Honda dealership was open.

“I don’t think we have one, and at eleven o’clock at night, probably not.”

“Ah,” he said, looking around the room.

“So, the future, huh? I guess you can’t tell me anything.”

“No, that’s no problem. What would you like to know?”

“Won’t it change history or something?”

“Doesn’t seem to. Go ahead, ask away.”

And so I did.

Does the TSA still exist?

“Oh, sure. It’s the largest single employer in the country.”

“That’s got to be miserable.”

“Yeah, but if you have to go there, they have to take you. Didn’t one of your poets say that?”

“Something like that. Wait, the Transportation Security Agency? They ‘have to take you?'”

“Well, the simple fact is many people can’t support themselves without falling into squalor and misery. Unless they live in rural areas, their suffering makes everyone else feel bad, especially for their children. Something has to be done for them.

“By 2021 the TSA had become ubiquitous and intrusive, legally. They were found by federal court to be intrusive, back in 2021. They have security posts everywhere, even out in the timber, and everyone is subject to enhanced interrogation on demand; one in ten ‘travelers’ was the interrogation rate last I heard.”

“That’s outrageous!”

“Well sure, so everyone opts. Anyone can opt out of interrogation. So as every tenth person passes a TSA station, the agent mumbles ‘scuse me sir,’ and waves him on through without waiting for him to actually say ‘No thanks,’ or ‘make a gesture indicating the negative.’ It’s not really every tenth person, just whenever he thinks of it. Nobody’s counting.”


“So there is no unemployment. Anyone who wants a job is automatically hired by the TSA, though only as a temp of course. A lot of them work from home. They’re paid a salary and earned income credit in special cruds that can only be used for food and video. There are real TSA security posts operated by full-time agents, but usually there’s nobody there. By law, no full-time TSA employee can be fired, but none can be hired either; some of them are in jail, and all are pretty old at this point.”

“Wait, ‘cruds?'”

“Contingent revenue disbursement certificates. With the federal government shut down, they can’t pay in anything else.”

“The federal government is shut down?”

“Yes, for the last fourteen years.” Suddenly he reached into his pocket and pulled out a gadget. “Excuse me, I have to take this,” he said. Then he disappeared.