Last Chance to See by Douglas Adams

Last Chance to See by Douglas Adams

Author:Douglas Adams
Format: mobi, epub
Tags: Environment/Natural World
ISBN: 0330320025
Publisher: Pan Book Ltd
Published: 1991-01-29T16:00:00+00:00

Blind Panic

Assumptions are the things you don't know you're making, which is why it is so disorienting the first time you take the plug out of a wash basin in Australia and see the water spiralling down the hole the other way round. The very laws of physics are telling you how far you are from home.

In New Zealand even the telephone dials are numbered anticlockwise. This has nothing to do with the laws of physics - they just do it differently there. The shock is that it had never occurred to you that there was any other way of doing it. In fact you had never even thought about it at all, and suddenly here it is - different. The ground slips.

Dialling in New Zealand takes quite a bit of concentration because every digit is where you least expect to find it. Try and do it quickly and you will inevitably misdial because your automatic habit jumps in and takes over before you have a chance to stop it. The habit of telephone dials is so deep that it has become an assumption, and you don't even know you're making it.

China is in the northern hemisphere, so its wash basins drain clockwise, like ours. Their telephone dials are numbered like ours. Both those things are familiar. But every single other thing is different, and the assumptions that you don't know you're making will only get you into trouble and confusion.

I had a kind of inkling that this would be the case from what little I knew of other people's experiences in China. I sat in the plane on the long flight to Beijing trying to unravel my habits, to unthink as it were, and feeling slightly twitchy about it.

I started buying copious quantities of aftershave. Each time the duty-free trolley came round I bought a bottle. I had never done anything like it before in my life. My normal, instinctive reaction had always been just to shake my head and carry on reading my magazine. This time I thought it would be more Zen-like to say, `Yes, all right. What have you got?' I was not the only person I caught by surprise.

`Have you gone completely mad? Mark asked me as I slipped a sixth different bottle into my hand baggage.

`I'm trying to challenge and subvert my own fundamental assumptions as to what constitutes rationally constructed behaviour.'

`Does that mean yes??

'I mean that I'm just trying to loosen up a bit,' I said. `An aeroplane doesn't give you much scope for arbitrary and alternative types of behaviour, so I'm just making the most of the opportunities that are offered.'

'I see.'

Mark shifted uncomfortably in his seat and frowned deeply into his book.

`What are you going to do with all that stuff?' he asked a while later over an airline meal.

`Dunno,' I said. `It's a problem, isn't it??

'Tell me, are you feeling nervous about something?




In the middle of one of the biggest, longest, noisiest, dirtiest thoroughfares in the world lives the reincarnation of a drowned princess, or rather, two hundred reincarnations of a drowned princess.


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