The five-year coma challenge!

At the end of the First World War David Lloyd George said that had a man at the start of 1914 had been shipwrecked on a desert island returned to civilisation in 1919 the change would induce him to believe that he had gone mad - Germany turned from confident empire into timid republic. Russia, ruled by exiles. The thing that didn’t change he said, was Europe being a seething cauldron of hate.

So here’s the challenge. Take any man from any period in history. He falls into a coma for precisely five years, wakes up in the same place without anyone telling him what’s gone on. Which time and place would induce him to think he’d gone mad and question his sense of reality the fastest?

The question is addressed in the film Good Bye, Lenin!, an East German communist falls into a coma and misses the fall of the wall. Her son maintains the pretence that it hasn’t so the shock won’t kill her.

My own suggestions; Japan, someone from 1942 waking up in 1947 would have missed a hell of a lot and wondered what the serious fuck was going on.

Another obvious one; an Aztec in Tenochtitlan, 1518 waking up in 1523. He would have missed the collapse of his entire world.

Last one from me because I’m sure this one will be mentioned. The end of 1860, Virginia. The state that had the highest slave population. Then waking up in 1865 with the Civil War over, slavery finished and the south crushed.

Those are just my picks, though, all war based since military history is my bag, baby. I’m sure you have some better ones, from social, cultural, technological perspectives.

Roanoke, falling asleep soon after arrival in 1587, and waking up soon before the arrival of the relief force in 1590. The person would be alone in the wilderness of a strange and foreign land, and there’d be no one around that would be conversant for hundred of miles.

Not five years but it reminds me of this joke:

A man falls into a coma in 1953 and wakes up 20 years later in 1973. Upon being told he’s been out of it for a rather long time, he asks who the President is. Upon being told that Nixon is President, he sobs: “Oh my god! So Eisenhower is dead!”

For five years, how about 1999-2004? 9/11, Iraq, all that stuff.

1964-69 would be a good shocker for an American-going from the complete triumph of postwar liberalism to the election of Nixon and the beginning of the collapse of the New Deal coalition

1988-1993 due to the end of the Cold War, collapse of the USSR, and all that jazz

2000-2005 for post 9/11 culture shock

If you fell into a five-year coma in Pompeii in 75 AD, you’d get quite a shock when you woke up.

August 7, 1940 - August 7, 1945 . . . in Hiroshima.

Go from a country at peace to a country defeated . . . and the bomb.

1999-2004 is a good one. (“So, did Clinton ever admit to having sexual relations with that woman?..Whaddaya mean no one cares anymore?”)

Sept. 1929 to Aug. 1934 would be a shocker, especially for someone invested in the stock market.

Also, obligatory Simpsons scene:

[spoiler]KENT BROCKMAN: Tonight on EyeWitness News: A man who’s been in a coma for 23 years wakes up!

MAN: Do Sonny and Cher still have that stupid show?

KENT BROCKMAN: Actually, she won an Oscar, and he’s a congressman.

MAN: Good night! beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep[/spoiler]

Slight Hijack (and slight spoiler).

Just read Varley’s Rolling Thunder where main character (from late 21 century) skips ten years in a kind of stasis and then returns in a middle of an Earth extinction event.

So I’d say I’d win this challenge by nominating some T-Rex from Year 64999999 BC.

Europe, 1346-1351. From before the first word of the Black Plague had reached Europe, to a continent devastated by it.

1994-1999 would be rather interesting. Way short of being the winner, but interesting. You’d be going from an era where computers were still on the periphery of American life, to the height of the dot-com boom.

I would say 1940-1945. Things changed after WWII.


October 1517-October 1521. From a united (of sorts) Christendom to a split Germany, half of which are shouting heresies unheard-of (well, at least openly) when you fell asleep. And all because some monk questioned whether it was right to sell promises of heaven in order to keep paying Michelangelo.

7 June 1788, Day of the Tiles in Grenoble, France. Thought to be the first riot that kinda’ sorta kicks off the French Revolution.

7 June 1793, according to this wiki of French History timelines,

I’m not sure how much faith to put in the dates.

So, from near absolute monarchy, complete with fake shepherd village to entertain the court, to the king having his head cut off, his queen soon to follow, and a nation in chaos.

Things can change fast.

9 years, not 5, but the English Civil War from 1642 to 1651 saw huge changes in Great Britain and asserted the supremacy of the people and democracy.

I don’t understand this joke but I really want to.

Nixon was Eisenhower’s vice-president.

Honestly, I can’t think of anything to exceed that one. It’s like going to sleep just before the War of the Worlds and then waking up to find out that the virus that kills everything is mostly killing the humans instead of the aliens, and the aliens are still in control and reigning terror on everything.

I know but I don’t understand why he lept to the conclusion that Eisenhower was dead.

No one would ever elect Nixon, because Nixon is a crooked, evil man. Ergo, Eisenhower must be dead, probably assassinated by Nixon.

Ahhh okay.

That was my 1st choice. (“Hey - where’d every third person go?!”)

And that was my 2nd choice. (Particularly for a propsperous German citizen from June 1940 to June 1945.)
If I could stretch the coma slightly, I’d go for 632 (Death of Mohammed) to 642. From two superpowers (Sasanian and Byzantine Empires) versus a collection of Arab tribal raiders to the total destruction of one (Sasanian) and the latter’s severe mauling at the hands of a dynamic entity possessing the whole of Arabia, Iran, Mesopotamia, Syria, and Egypt, and much of Anatolia, is quite a turn of events.

Forced to stick to a 5-year period, I’d go for 632 to 637, during which time two of the most significant batlles in world history were fought.