A couple days ago, I mentioned that the novel Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams contains a wisecrack about my hometown of Salt Lake City. (Actually, I guess SLC is better described as the urban core of my home region, as opposed to my actual hometown, which is a little burg called Riverton several miles to the south of SLC proper. But I digress. As usual.) I was pretty sure I remembered the generalities of the joke well, but because I'm essentially an insecure and obsessive-compulsive wreck, I had to spend part of my day off today rummaging in the basement for my copy of the book in order to prove a point to myself. I am delighted to report that my memory had not failed me, even though it's been years -- not since high school, now that I think about it -- since I read Dirk Gently. Here's the exact quote:
The Electric Monk was a labour-saving device, like a dishwasher or a video recorder. Dishwashers washed tedious dishes for you, thus saving you the bother of washing them yourself, video recorders watched tedious television for you, thus saving you the bother of looking at it yourself; Electric Monks believed things for you, thus saving you what was becoming an increasingly onerous task, that of believing all the things the world expected you to believe.
Unfortunately this Electric Monk had developed a fault, and had started to believe all kinds of things, more or less at random. It was even beginning to believe things they'd have difficulty believing in Salt Lake City. It had never heard of Salt Lake City, of course. Nor had it ever heard of a quingigillion, which was roughly the number of miles between this valley and the Great Salt Lake of Utah.
As I said the other day, I thought this was incredibly funny when I was a teenager. Seeing it again, I think much of its impact derived from it being the first time I ever saw Salt Lake mentioned in a book published for a wide (i.e., non-Utah-specific) audience, amplified by the fact that the novelist was from the UK. That a British man had even heard of Salt Lake -- a British man I already idolized for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy -- was mind-blowing. That he correctly identified one of the most distinguishing characteristics of your average Utahn -- our sweet gullibility -- and so blithely poked fun at it... well, I've remembered this joke for over 20 years, haven't I? Simply incredible.
Yeah. Dirk Gently. I probably ought to re-read that one of these days...