Driving a Porsche in London is like bringing a Ming vase to a football game.
You are disoriented. Blackness swims toward you like a school of eels who have just seen something that eels like a lot.
When you’re a student or whatever, and you can’t afford a car, or a plane fare, or even a train fare, all you can do is hope that someone will stop and pick you up.
At the moment we can’t afford to go to other planets. We don’t have the ships to take us there. There may be other people out there (I don’t have any opinions about Life Out There, I just don’t know) but it’s nice to think that one could, even here and now, be whisked away just by hitchhiking.
It was a battered yellow Citroën 2CV which had had one careful owner but also three suicidally reckless ones.
You would probably not say that he was sleeping the sleep of the just, unless you meant the just asleep, but it was certainly the sleep of someone who was not fooling about when he climbed into bed at night and turned off the light.
Dirk gave a gracious bow of his head to the man’s retreating back, and then hurried on, opening the newspaper at the horoscope page as he did so.
“Virtually everything you decide today will be wrong,” it said bluntly.
Anyone who confuses the story of a spaceship careening through space with the sinking of a ship in 1912 is probably very, very dumb. Not that I mind selling the game to very, very dumb people. Their money is as good as anyone else’s.
Well, it’s such a nice change not to be asked what I meant by 42, what my favourite character is or whether I’ve read any Terry Pratchett. (snore…)
“No, wait … I’ll tell you something,” said Zaphod. “I freewheel a lot. I get an idea to do something, and, hey, why not, I do it. I reckon I’ll become President of the Galaxy, and it just happens, it’s easy. I decide to steal this ship. I decide to look for Magrathea, and it all just happens. Yeah, I work out how it can best be done, right, but it always works out. It’s like having a Galacticredit card which keeps on working though you never send off the cheques. And then whenever I stop and think – why did I want to do something? – how did I work out how to do it? – I get a very strong desire just to stop thinking about it. Like I have now. It’s a big effort to talk about it.”
Earthmen are not proud of their ancestors, and never invite them round to dinner.
“You’re proposing twenty hours on a boat-”
“A small boat,” added Mark.
“On violently heaving seas-”
“With a three-day-old dead goat.”
“I hardly know what to say.”
“I would like you to shut up about your towel,” said Ford.
“It isn’t my towel,” insisted Arthur, “that is the point I am trying to …”
“And the time at which I would like you to shut up about it,” continued Ford in a low growl, “is now.”
Ford and Arthur decided just to relax and be harrowed.
“Santa Zarquana Voostra!” exclaimed both of Zaphod’s heads in chorus.
“So safe that you have to build a zarking fortress ship to take the by-products to the nearest black hole and tip them in! Only it doesn’t get there because the pilot takes a detour–is this right?–to pick up some lobster…? OK, so the guy is cool, but…I mean own up, this is barking time, this is major lunch, this is stool approaching critical mass, this is….this is…total vocabulary failure!”
He sat on a step, took from his satchel a bottle of that Ol’ Janx Spirit and a towel. He opened the bottle and wiped the top of it with the towel, which had the opposite effect to the one intended, in that the Ol’ Janx Spirit instantly killed off millions of the germs which had been slowly building up quite a complex and enlightened civilization on the smellier patches of the towel.
“Space,” it says, “is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly hugely mindboggingly big it is. I mean you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist, but that’s just peanuts to space. Listen …” and so on.
He hadn’t had a day as bad as this since the Earth had been blown up.
I’ve heard an idea proposed, I’ve no idea how seriously, to account for the sensation of vertigo. It’s an idea that I instinctively like and it goes like this. The dizzy sensation we experience when standing in high places is not simply a fear of falling. It’s often the case that the only thing likely to make us fall is the actual dizziness itself, so it is, at best, an extremely irrational, even self-fulfilling fear. However, in the distant past of our evolutionary journey toward our current state, we lived in trees. We leapt from tree to tree. There are even those who speculate that we may have something birdlike in our ancestral line. In which case, there may be some part of our mind that, when confronted with a void, expects to be able to leap out into it and even urges us to do so. So what you end up with is a conflict between a primitive, atavistic part of your mind which is saying “Jump!” and the more modern, rational part of your mind which is saying, “For Christ’s sake, don’t!” In fact, vertigo is explained by some not as the fear of falling, but as the temptation to jump!
Getting a movie made in Hollywood is like trying to grill a steak by having a succession of people coming into the room and breathing on it.
As it is I went to lie in a field, along with my Hitch Hiker’s Guide to Europe, and when the stars came out it occurred to me that if only someone would write a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as well, then I for one would be off like a shot. Having had this thought I promptly fell asleep and forgot about it for six years.
What human beings are able to do–we arrive in new territories and we colonize this entire world. We can live in the tundra, we can live in the Gobi Desert, we can even contrive to live in New York, for heaven’s sake, because what we do is when we arrive somewhere, and let’s say, again, we arrive somewhere much colder, instead of having to wait generations or–while our natural selection favors genes that have got a thicker coat, we see an animal that has already got a thicker coat, we say, we’ll have it off him!
“Oh God,” muttered Ford, slumped against a bulkhead and started to count to ten. He was desperately worried that one day sentient life forms would forget how to do this. Only by counting could humans demonstrate their independence of computers.
England no longer existed. He’d got that – somehow he’d got it. He tried again. America, he thought, has gone. He couldn’t grasp it. He decided to start smaller again. New York has gone. No reaction. He’d never seriously believed it existed anyway. The dollar, he thought, had sunk for ever. Slight tremor there. Every Bogart movie has been wiped, he said to himself, and that gave him a nasty knock. McDonalds, he thought. There is no longer any such thing as a McDonald’s hamburger. He passed out. When he came round a second later he found he was sobbing for his mother.
Being woken up at dawn by the cockerels is not in itself a problem. The problem arises when the cockerels get confused as to when dawn actually is. They suddenly explode into life, sqwaking and screaming at about one o’clock in the morning. At about one-thirty they eventually realise their mistake and shut up, just as the major dogfights of the evening are getting under way. These usually start with a few minor bouts between the more enthusiastic youngsters, and then the full chorus of heavyweights weighs in with a fine impression of what it might be like to fall into the pit of hell with the London Symphony Orchestra.
“I’d love to stay and help you save the Galaxy,” insisted Zaphod, rising himself up on to his shoulders, “but I have the mother and father of a pair of headaches, and I feel a lot of little headaches coming on.”