“I wonder if it will be friends with me?”

Posted by David Smerdon on Dec 7, 2012 in Non-chess |

A few pics from my new, accidental purchase from the astoundingly awesome website ThinkGeek.   I bought a bunch of stuff from them online, but then mistakenly clicked “Add to checkout” (and forgot about it) when looking at their new shirt range – including this whale-shirt detailing a phenomenally obscure reference to the Douglas Adams classic The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

A good accident

The up side is that my surprise at receiving the Fail Whale shirt as part of the geeky package inspired me to go back and read one of my favourite passages from one of my all-time favourite books.  In short, the protagonists are saved when two ballistic missiles that are hurtling towards them are inadvertedly transformed – by way of a sort-of parallel-universe creator – into a whale and a bunch of petunias.  The book continues:

“Another thing that got forgotten was the fact that against all probability a sperm whale had suddenly been called into existence several miles above the surface of an alien planet.

And since this is not a naturally tenable position for a whale, this poor innocent creature had very little time to come to terms with its identity as a whale before it then had to come to terms with not being a whale any more.

This is a complete record of its thoughts from the moment it began its life till the moment it ended it.

Ah … ! What’s happening? it thought.

Er, excuse me, who am I?


Why am I here? What’s my purpose in life?

What do I mean by who am I?

Calm down, get a grip now … oh! this is an interesting sensation, what is it? It’s a sort of … yawning, tingling sensation in my … my … well I suppose I’d better start finding names for things if I want to make any headway in what for the sake of what I shall call an argument I shall call the world, so let’s call it my stomach.

Good. Ooooh, it’s getting quite strong. And hey, what’s about this whistling roaring sound going past what I’m suddenly going to call my head? Perhaps I can call that … wind! Is that a good name? It’ll do … perhaps I can find a better name for it later when I’ve found out what it’s for. It must be something very important because there certainly seems to be a hell of a lot of it. Hey! What’s this thing? This … let’s call it a tail – yeah, tail. Hey! I can can really thrash it about pretty good can’t I? Wow! Wow! That feels great! Doesn’t seem to achieve very much but I’ll probably find out what it’s for later on.

Now – have I built up any coherent picture of things yet?


Never mind, hey, this is really exciting, so much to find out about, so much to look forward to, I’m quite dizzy with anticipation …

Or is it the wind?

There really is a lot of that now isn’t it?

And wow! Hey! What’s this thing suddenly coming towards me very fast? Very very fast. So big and flat and round, it needs a big wide sounding name like … ow … ound … round … ground! That’s it! That’s a good name – ground!

I wonder if it will be friends with me?

And the rest, after a sudden wet thud, was silence.

Curiously enough, the only thing that went through the mind of the bowl of petunias as it fell was Oh no, not again. Many people have speculated that if we knew exactly why the bowl of petunias had thought that we would know a lot more about the nature of the universe than we do now.”

― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy


Comedy gold.  If, in a different parallel universe, I ever became a writer, I’d probably try to model myself on Adams.  Abstract humour at its best.

Having said that, so far not a single person has gotten the shirt reference.  Probably for the best, really.


Martin Bennedik
Dec 7, 2012 at 6:04 am

A man who knows where his towel is, will immediately get the reference.

Malcolm Tredinnick
Dec 7, 2012 at 8:38 am

How could people not get the reference? *sigh* Kids these days and their lack of classical education. :-(



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