Douglas Noel Adams 1952 - 2001
I don't think that I have ever written something as hard to write as this. Although it is not easy to determine just how much influence Douglas Adams has had over me, I can tell you the plain facts and hope that this will turn out to be a readable article.
The first time I found out about 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' was when a workman arrived at the door and... Nonono, in fact it was way back in 1980 when a friend of mine said:
'Listen to these tapes, they are absolutely brilliant!.'
What was on those tapes were the first six fits of the guide in a special LP-format. Admittedly, it was a bit shorter version, as the guide was about 3 hours and these tapes held a 2,5 hours version.
In those days I used to work in shifts. Two out of every three weeks I would not have much of a social life because my friends were working whilst I wasn't and vice versa. As we all know, the devil finds work for idle hands and, once I started listening to my first copy of The Guide, I quickly became obsessed with it. Night after night was spent performing the same ritual: Work until midnight, come home, eat something and go upstairs, put the headphones on and listen to the same two tapes over and over again. This usually lasted until dawn. I would then go to sleep, wake up and go to work, and the whole ritual was repeated. Those were the days when nobody could say something to me without being answered with a witty reply straight out of the radioplay. Later I discovered that what I was doing was very similar to the 'Sleep-learning'-method. At least it explained the fact that, after a while, I really did know the Guide by heart...
Of course I bought all the books that were available or as soon as they came out. I have had to buy new copies three times now, they keep wearing out on me. I was also a sometimes probably very annoying 'canvasser' for the Guide. Everywhere I'd go I would ask people if they had already heard or read the Guide. I think several people actually read the first book just to get rid of my incessant ranting and raving... and then found that they themselves started to use the now-famous catch-phrases. I live in Holland, and for a while one of the most popular expressions to use became, of course, 'Belgium man, Belgium...'
The Guide also gave me a somewhat alternative view on life. And my knowledge of the English language and especially of English history improved very rapidly. Quotes like:
'Ford, there's an infinite number of monkeys outside who want to talk to us about the script for Hamlet they wrote.'
immediately led to other areas of interest for me.
In the meantime I bought everything that had 'Douglas Adams' on the cover. It was always great reading. And then, out of the blue, in 1992 DNA published 'Mostly Harmless'... and everything started all over again for me. By that time Douglas Adams had become much more famous and suddenly there were people asking me if I'd ever read a book called 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy'. It was always great fun to reply with a quote, especially one that they hadn't heard yet.
To illustrate how much of a fanatic I was: I remember one occasion when I specifically went to London to buy both the cd-sets, only to find out that England was celebrating one of it's famous bank-holidays. There I was, nose pressed against the windowpane of the BBC-shop, looking at the boxed sets and not being able to get in to buy them! It must have been the closest I've ever been to breaking and entering...
A few months later a friend of mine went to London and volunteered to bring back as many copies as were required. He ended up buying the complete stock, much to the amazement of the people at the BBC-shop... and he still didn't have enough copies...
A few years later (I had been on the internet for some years), the same friend who introduced me to DNA's work emailed me, and said that I
'Should have a look at this URL called h2g2.com.'
This was less than three weeks after h2g2 had opened it's virtual doors. I found it to be a brilliant gathering of minds alike as well as a brilliant concept. The main thing that attracted me, in those days, was that the researchers mainly moderated the site and that verbal abuse etcetera was quickly answered by other researchers. It was a place where you could actually have a decent conversation on one forum and go partying on the next one. Only if all else failed, the people in the h2g2-offices would intervene. As I had/have absolutely no appreciation for the verbal abuse by some USENET-idiot, h2g2 became the primary place to be on the internet for me.
After about two months I noticed that I had the most contact with this researcher called Shazz... In the course of a few months we started to use not only the h2g2-site, we emailed each other daily, and in the end we were on ICQ most of the time. I guess we were dating virtually. One thing led to another, last year Shazz moved from England to Holland and we plan to marry later this year.
One might say (and I do) that Douglas Adams' influence over my life is still very, very big. It started one rainy day 21 years ago with two cassettes and so far it has culminated in my upcoming marriage.
How much can you owe a man you have never met?
Thank you Mr. Adams!
Now please excuse me as I go suck on the anti-depressants in my towel.