A recent survey sent out to quite a number of people asked them, among other things, what invention do you wish was here for you at this present time?

A number of them responded with flying machines, like, personal jet-pack types along with various winged monstrosities. A number of women responded, as they always have to these kinds of what-do-you-want-most surveys, that they wanted a machine that ironed and folded laundry. Note that no men asked for that one, which says that either men prefer to run around wrinkly, or just naked. One or the other.

The other day I was in an Amish house, where several people were all actively doing stuff. Anytime I’ve gotten a glimpse inside one of their houses, busyness is the best word to describe the activity level. Of all the people from whom I wouldn’t expect any extra fanciness regarding clothes, it would be the Amish. Yet a young woman was ironing something, using one of two irons. The one not being used was sitting on the stove, keeping hot, while she ironed with the other one.  So even they have a flexible interpretation of what the bible calls false pride, or vanity. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a reference to the unholyness of wrinkles in the Bible.

Also of note was the fact that a man wasn’t ironing. Another vote for wrinkles.

The one thing that popped up among almost 10 percent of the people for what they wished was: A time machine. Huh. I’m in fact a bit jealous, because I might have gone with the flying thing, whereas after thinking about it, a time machine is way more cool.

Time is funny. Albert Einstein theorized–and then proved it–that time moves differently for different situations. For example, it has been proved, because they did the experiment, that two clocks set to the same time, with one left on the ground, and the other put on an airplane that flies around the globe, the flying clock will come back one second slower after a trip around the planet.

Or, put another way, one second younger. So it’s not much of a jump to speculate that if we can screw with time in such an elementary way, then a time machine cannot be ruled completely out of possibility.

One of the GPS’s system’s biggest obstacles to overcome was the time thing, because those satellites are out there in orbit, moving like bats out of heck, and their time is different than ours. So scientists had to put quite a bit of thought and effort into making them compensate for that little peculiarity. And although fractions of a second don’t seem like much, when they’re locating things on earth, it translates into thousands of feet, which would make it hard for my GPS to tell me that in 100 feet, I should turn left on Garfield Street.

But to get back to what I would do with a time machine if I had it? My first thoughts–I came up with three so quickly that it’s difficult for me to separate them–were the following.

I’d go back to the sixties and tell dad not to buy any more Farmall tractors. Or Internationals, which is what their name changed into. Instead I would have told him to start  buying John Deeres, because John Deere got their machine figured out at the same time that International kind of didn’t. I cannot blame him, really, for going red instead of green, because those first two-cylinder “johnny poppers” and their stupid hand clutches were certainly unimpressive.

I’d tell him to buy stock in a new company just getting going up in Rochester, Minnesota, which isn’t far from the family farm. The company? IBM. In case you’ve forgotten, IBM stands for International Business Machine, which they had been since 1911, when they purchased the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company. I would hope he would have sold the stock soon enough, because they eventually went downhill.

And finally, I would have gone back to 1969, and told Mom and Dad that both my brother and I were going to make it back from Vietnam in more or less good shape. I will go to my grave convinced that having her two sons over there one after the other took several years off her life.

That’s what my first three thoughts were about having a time machine. Of course, were I to invent a machine that would iron and fold clothes, hmmmmm, that would be kind of a time machine, wouldn’t it.