‘This was a bit metaphysical, even for me…’
A while back, I found on a discount rack a nicely bound edition of The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide, which is a collection of all five Hitchhiker novels and a short story. I’d previously only read the first four installments, and I’ve still only read those four. The book has been sitting on a shelf, beautiful and neglected.
More recently, someone mysteriously known as § directed my attention to a delightful passage from the series, causing me to pull the book down and seriously consider reading it.
And then I came across The Salmon of Doubt, a collection of Adams’ writings that includes previously published essays and chapters from the book he was working on when he died. It started as a Dirk Gently novel, but he was thinking it might turn into a sixth Hitchhiker’s book.
You can find a lot of the articles on his still maintained website or at h2g2, but I like having them collected in Salmon, for the title if no other reason. I’m loving the discovery of essays like the one quoted below, and wonder how I’ve been so negligent in my reading.
I was once in San Francisco, and I parked in the only available space, which happened to be on the other side of the street. The law descended on me.
Was I aware of how dangerous the manoeuvre I’d just made was? I looked at the law a bit blankly. What had I done wrong?
I had, said the law, parked against the flow of traffic.
Puzzled, I looked up and down the street. What traffic, I asked? The traffic that would be there, said the law, if there was any traffic.
This was a bit metaphysical, even for me, so I explained, a bit lamely, that in England we just park wherever we can find a parking space available, and weren’t that fussy about which side of the street it was on. He looked at me aghast, as if I was lucky to have got out of a country of such wild and crazy car parkers alive, and promptly gave me a ticket. Clearly he would rather have deported me before my subversive ideas brought chaos and anarchy to streets which normally had to cope with nothing more alarming than a few simple assault rifles. Which, as we know, in the States are perfectly legal, and without which they would be overrun by herds of deer, overbearing government officers and lawless British tea importers.
—Douglas Adams, “International Driving Laws”