Ford Prefect turned up the day after that looking hung over and complaining that Arthur never answered the phone.
In fact he looked extremely ill, not merely as if he’d been pulled through a hedge backwards, but as if the hedge was being simultaneously pulled backwards through a combine harvester. He staggered into Arthur’s sitting room, waving aside all offers of support, which was an error, because the effort caused him to lose his balance altogether and Arthur had eventually to drag him to the sofa.
“Thank you,” said Ford, “thank you very much. Have you …” he said, and fell asleep for three hours.
“… the faintest idea” he continued suddenly, when he revived, “how hard it is to tap into the British phone system from the Pleiades? I can see that you haven’t, so I’ll tell you,” he said, “over the very large mug of black coffee that you are about to make me.”
He followed Arthur wobbily into the kitchen.
“Stupid operators keep asking you where you’re calling from and you try and tell them Letchworth and they say you couldn’t be if you’re coming in on that circuit. What are you doing?”
“Making you some black coffee.”
“Oh.” Ford seemed oddly disappointed. He looked about the place forlornly.
“What’s this?” he said.
“I see,” said Ford, solemnly, and put the two items back down, one on top of the other, but that didn’t seem to balance properly, so he put the other on top of the one and that seemed to work.
“A little space-lagged,” he said. “What was I saying?”
“About not phoning from Letchworth.”
“I wasn’t. I explained this to the lady. Bugger Letchworth,’ I said,if that’s your attitude. I am in fact calling from a sales scoutship of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation, currently on the sub-light-speed leg of a journey between the stars known on your world, though not necessarily to you, dear lady.’ – I said `dear lady’,” explained Ford Prefect, “because I didn’t want her to be offended by my implication that she was an ignorant cretin …”
“Tactful,” said Arthur Dent.
“Exactly,” said Ford, “tactful.”
“Space-lag,” he said, “is very bad for sub-clauses. You’ll have to assist me again,” he continued, “by reminding me what I was talking about.”
“Between the stars,'” said Arthur, “known on your world, though not necessarily to you, dear lady, as …'”
“`Pleiades Epsilon and Pleiades Zeta,'” concluded Ford triumphantly. “This conversation lark is quite gas isn’t it?”
“Have some coffee.”
“Thank you, no. And the reason,’ I said,why I am bothering you with it rather than just dialling direct as I could, because we have some pretty sophisticated telecommunications equipment out here in the Pleiades, I can tell you, is that the penny pinching son of a starbeast piloting this son of a starbeast spaceship insists that I call collect. Can you believe that?'”
“And could she?”
“I don’t know. She had hung up,” said Ford, “by this time. So! What do you suppose,” he asked fiercely, “I did next?”
“I’ve no idea, Ford,” said Arthur.
“Pity,” said Ford, “I was hoping you could remind me. I really hate those guys you know. They really are the creeps of the cosmos, buzzing around the celestial infinite with their junky little machines that never work properly or, when they do, perform functions that no sane man would require of them and,” he added savagely, “go beep to tell you when they’ve done it!”
This was perfectly true, and a very respectable view widely held by right thinking people, who are largely recognizable as being right thinking people by the mere fact that they hold this view.
The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, in a moment of reasoned lucidity which is almost unique among its current tally of five million, nine hundred and seventy-five thousand, five hundred and nine pages, says of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation product that “it is very easy to be blinded to the essential uselessness of them by the sense of achievement you get from getting them to work at all.
“In other words – and this is the rock solid principle on which the whole of the Corporation’s Galaxy-wide success is founded – their fundamental design flaws are completely hidden by their superficial design flaws.”