Dear readers, tonight with me is a young student from the 22nd century. She is here to tell us about life as a waitress – and about time travel.
Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?
My name is Cass, and I’m just your typical 22nd century university student – or so I thought. Up until recently, I was living and attending school just a short airtrain ride from the city where my parents raised my brother and me. Like pretty much everyone else, I’ve lived in economical and eco-friendly solar-powered apartments with terraced gardens all my life – a far cry from the cities I learned about in history courses (which my parents, for reasons unknown to me at the time, insisted I take).
What do you do now?
I’m currently working as a Harvey Girl aboard the California Limited, traveling between Chicago and Los Angeles. The Harvey Girls are employees of Fred Harvey’s restaurants, which initially cropped up along train routes, where good meals were hard to come by. Us waitresses are single, young, intelligent women who are known for being “of good character” – which means minding my Ps and Qs, making sure my uniform stays tidy, and living under the ever-watchful eye of the house mother. I’ve been learning to fold napkins and fill orders for the passengers in the dining car, which, I must admit, isn’t as easy as I first thought, particularly for someone like me, who’s used to everything being automated.
Oh, did I mention? I’m in the year 1914. Yeah, it’s a long story, but basically, it looks like this is where I’ll be living now: over two hundred years in the past.
What did you think when you first learned you’d have to go back to live in 1914?
I’ll admit, I wasn’t too thrilled. I had a life in the year 2133 – friends, studies, goals, things I liked to do – and at the time of my eighteenth birthday, I was just starting to figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I’ve always wanted to make the world a better place in whatever ways I can, and my parents convinced me that studying history would help me figure out how. History repeats itself, and all that.
Now I understand why they really pushed so hard for me to study the past.
What is the worst thing about traveling to the past?
So far, the clothing is the worst part of 1914. There’s so many layers, and they’re all so itchy! Without 22nd-century Tru-Fit technology (that shrinks down to the perfect fit just by getting it wet), everything feels too big and too small at the same time. And that’s not even taking into consideration the hair nets we have to wear.
Tell us a little about your friends.
I’d like to say I’m friends with the other Harvey Girls, but how much can you really have in common with people who were born nearly two hundred years before you?
Any romantic involvement?
Did my brother tell you to ask me that? I told him – there’s absolutely nothing going on between me and that man at the office. And even if there was – which there’s not! – it’s none of his business.
What can you tell us about your latest adventure?
I can tell you what it’s not going to be – it’s not going to be me sitting here stuck on this train doing nothing for the rest of my life. I’m not going to be laying low and keeping my head down, despite the advice my family keeps trying to give me. I’ve studied this historical era in enough depth (thanks, Dad and Mum) that I know what’s coming next: a political assassination, a deadly global conflict, the Great Depression, WWII…
I may not have a choice in when I live, but I do have a choice about how I use my insights into the future. If only I could get anyone to believe me…
Wendy Nikel is a speculative fiction author with a degree in elementary education, a fondness for road trips, and a terrible habit of forgetting where she’s left her cup of tea. Her short fiction has been published by Daily Science Fiction, Nature: Futures, and is forthcoming from Analog and Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Her time travel novella series, beginning with The Continuum, is available from World Weaver Press. For more info, visit wendynikel.com
You can find Cass on the pages of the Place in Time series, starting with The Continuum and the recently released book 3:
The Cassandra Complex
Join us next week to meet a young woman from a long running series, battling darkness and ancient prophecies. Please follow the site by email (bottom-right) to be notified when the next interview is posted.