While commuting this week I decided that my partner in rush-hour-traffic crime needed to be indoctrinated into the H2G2 fraternity so I decided to start with The Salmon of Doubt audio book. For those that don’t know the Salmon of Doubt is Douglas’ final tome. It contains several articles he’d written over the years and previously unpublished works culled from his many computers. The audio book has commentary about him from Richard Dawkins, Stephen Fry and Simon Jones, who are also the narrators.
I’ve listened to it probably a dozen times and I still laugh and hear things I hadn’t heard before. Yesterday morning however something very strange happened, I started to cry while it was on. You see I met Douglas many, many years ago (almost 20) completely on accident. I hadn’t read Hitchhiker’s and had no idea who Douglas Adams was. I was in London with my boyfriend, who decided to dump me. So there I was in a foreign country, I knew no one, had no money and was not an experienced traveler. I was scared, crying, sitting on a street corner. A man came up to me and said “Nothing could be that bad.”
He sat down next to me and asked if there was anything he could do. I of course told him the whole sorry story, I was young and naive. He told me to get up, dry my eyes and blow my nose. He asked if I had my ticket home and I told him yes, but no way to get to the airport. He hailed a cab, told the driver to take me to Heathrow and gave him some money. I asked for his name and address so I could repay him. He told me his name but said it wasn’t necessary to pay him back the money, just be a better judge of character with the next one. It would still be a few more years until I read the Hitchhiker trilogy. Once I discovered them I sent a thank you letter to his publisher for the kindness he showed me, I have no idea if he got it, but I like to think that he did.
I think I started crying because I just realized what the world lost when he died, not just Douglas the writer, the atheist, the computer programmer, but most of all, we lost Douglas the human.
If you saw someone sitting on a street corner crying, would you stop and ask them what was wrong, or what you could do to help them? Would you pay for their cab ride to the airport? Would you take the time to just listen?
I decided today while riding home on the subway to do just that, more on that Friday.