Friday, September 10, 2010

C is for Cookie

A hilarious excerpt from "The Salmon of Doubt: Hitchhiking the Galaxy One Last Time" by Douglas Adams, author of"Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy":

"Cookies" Douglas Adams

This actually did happen to a real person, and the real person was me. I had gone to catch a train. This was April 1976, in Cambridge, U.K. I was a bit early for the train. I'd gotten the time of the train wrong.

I went to get myself a newspaper to do the crossword, and a cup of coffee and a packet of cookies. I went and sat at a table.

I want you to picture the scene. It's very important that you get this very clear in your mind.

Here's the table, newspaper, cup of coffee, packet of cookies. There's a guy sitting opposite me, perfectly ordinary-looking guy wearing a business suit, carrying a briefcase.

It didn't look like he was going to do anything weird. What he did was this: he suddenly leaned across, picked up the packet of cookies, tore it open, took one out, and ate it.

Now this, I have to say, is the sort of thing the British are very bad at dealing with. There's nothing in our background, upbringing, or education that teaches you how to deal with someone who in broad daylight has just stolen your cookies.

You know what would happen if this had been South Central Los Angeles. There would have very quickly been gunfire, helicopters coming in, CNN, you know. . . But in the end, I did what any red-blooded Englishman would do: I ignored it. And I stared at the newspaper, took a sip of coffee, tried to do a clue in the newspaper, couldn't do anything, and thought, what am I going to do?

In the end I thought, nothing for it, I'll just have to go for it, and I tried very hard not to notice the fact that the packet was already mysteriously opened. I took out a cookie for myself. I thought, that settled him. But it hadn't because a moment or two later he did it again. He took another cookie.

Having not mentioned it the first time, it was somehow even harder to raise the subject the second time around. "Excuse me, I couldn't help but notice . . ." I mean, it doesn't really work.

We went through the whole packet like this. When I say the whole packet, I mean there were only about eight cookies, but it felt like a lifetime. He took one, I took one, he took one, I took one. Finally, when we got to the end, he stood up and walked away.

Well, we exchanged meaningful looks, then he walked away, and I breathed a sigh of relief and sat back. A moment or two later the train was coming in, so I tossed back the rest of my coffee, stood up, picked up the newspaper, and underneath the newspaper were my cookies.

The thing I like particularly about this story is the sensation that somewhere in England there has been wandering around for the last quarter-century a perfectly ordinary guy who's had the same exact story, only he doesn't have the punch line.

My landlady e-mailed me today and my apartment has been re-rented. Te Deum! Less than a week after being posted- have I mentioned my apartment is tres chic? My soon-to-be-former apartment, that is; I start packing tonight. Dad is coming up Saturday and Sunday for the first two loads. I had to cancel plans with friends tonight because there is no way I can go out and get packed before tomorrow, but such is life. This also means what needs to happen next week has to happen, and will. I am counting the days...!

Also: my latest book review in TWT on Glenn C. Arbery's 'The Southern Critics'

Happy Friday!


  1. This story is amazing! I didn't see that coming at all, I suppose I should have but it made the punch line that much better. I'm glad you are going home, Julie! It's a great feeling, isn't it?

  2. I absolutely love, love, loved that story, Jules! Isn't Douglas Adams a hoot? I think if I could, I would ask for a British sense of humor for Christmas. It truly would be a gift that keeps on giving! Thanks for your poem by the way, it was mucho fun to read :) I particularly enjoyed how we both picked the word "driven" as one of our four character adjectives.

  3. The best feeling, Ben. Sad to leave in many ways, but I am looking forward to starting the next chapter of my twenty-something years.

    Ariel, I love that idea of a Christmas gift. That would truly be "the gift that keeps on giving" eh? I'm imagining a Monty Python skit now, or perhaps Keeping Up Appearances... God Save the English! I haven't read your poem yet but I also love that we picked "driven." :) I'd love to read it!

  4. Julie, my parents and I belly-laughed over that story this afternoon -- hilarious! I've never really read any Douglas Adams, but I heartily agree with Ariel's wish for a British sense of humor for a Christmas gift. That really would be the proverbial gift that keeps on giving!

  5. This is hysterical. I had to read it aloud to Eric. Great to see you on the internet, by the way, and glad you're doing well post-Hillsdale. :)