Books, Journal

The useless third

A nice side effect of being a business student is that it made The Restaurant at the End of the Universe an even more hilarious read than what it would’ve been otherwise. I’m referring to a part of the story known as the ‘B’ Ark, where our protagonists stumble across millions of alien management consultants, marketing heads, and others of similar professions traveling through space.

The ‘B’ Ark is a Golgafrinchan spaceship designed to carry them to another planet, since their home planet, Golgafrincham, was about to be ‘doomed’. As explained nicely by the ship’s captain:

“The idea was that into the first ship, the ‘A’ ship, would go all the brilliant leaders, the scientists, the great artists, you know, all the achievers; and into the third, or ‘C’ ship, would go all the people who did the actual work, who made things and did things, and then into the ‘B’ ship – that’s us – would go everyone else, the middlemen you see.”

He smiled happily.

“And we were sent off first,” he concluded, and hummed a little bathing tune.

It turns out, the ships A and C did not exist, and the entire thing was a ploy to get rid of the useless third of the Golgafrinchan population. The B ship was hard-coded to carry them to a faraway planet and crash-land in a way that would render it unable to fly ever again. This faraway planet, coincidentally, was Earth, at a time when cavemen were just beginning their journey outside caves.

Upon arrival, these Golgafrinchans started employing their skills to start a colony on Earth. Here’s an example of how it went:

“If,” the management consultant said tersely, “we could for a moment move on to the subject of fiscal policy. . .”

“Fiscal policy!” whooped Ford Prefect. “Fiscal policy!”

The management consultant gave him a look that only a lungfish could have copied.

“Fiscal policy. . .” he repeated, “that is what I said.”

“How can you have money,” demanded Ford, “if none of you actually produces anything? It doesn’t grow on trees you know.”

“If you would allow me to continue.. .”

Ford nodded dejectedly.

“Thank you. Since we decided a few weeks ago to adopt the leaf as legal tender, we have, of course, all become immensely rich.”

Ford stared in disbelief at the crowd who were murmuring appreciatively at this and greedily fingering the wads of leaves with which their track suits were stuffed.

“But we have also,” continued the management consultant, “run into a small inflation problem on account of the high level of leaf availability, which means that, I gather, the current going rate has something like three deciduous forests buying one ship’s peanut.”

Murmurs of alarm came from the crowd. The management consultant waved them down.

“So in order to obviate this problem,” he continued, “and effectively revalue the leaf, we are about to embark on a massive defoliation campaign, and. . .er, burn down all the forests. I think you’ll all agree that’s a sensible move under the circumstances.”

The crowd seemed a little uncertain about this for a second or two until someone pointed out how much this would increase the value of the leaves in their pockets whereupon they let out whoops of delight and gave the management consultant a standing ovation. The accountants among them looked forward to a profitable autumn aloft and it got an appreciative round from the crowd.”

Behind every joke is a hint of truth. For more fun-filled encounters, I highly recommend The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series.

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