The book was on one cassette, and it was a title I'd heard before: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I'd heard the first few minutes of the radio series the previous October, and rejected it because of some references to God which I didn't (and still don't) appreciate.
But here we were, it was March 31, 1983, and I was about to give Hitchhiker's</a> another go.
That evening, I got through the introductory material, and from that alone I knew this book truly was funny. I didn't have much time for reading that day, but I knew I'd have lots the next day, so I prepared myself.
The next day, we had a family gathering at my Uncle John and Aunt Anne's, and since there would be no one else my age there, I took my tape player and my copy of Hitchhiker's with me. There I was, in the basement with all the men at the gathering, listening with headphones and laughing. I had discovered Hitchhiker's in a big, big way. I listened as Arthur Dent's house was destroyed while Arthur sat drinking beer in the pub; I listened to my first dose of Vogon poetry; I listened to Arthur protest that he didn't want to go to Heaven with a headache because he'd be all cross and wouldn't enjoy it; I listened as Eddy (The Shipboard Computer) sang "You'll Never Walk Alone" as the ship was in imminent danger of being hit by nuclear missiles; and then I took a break to watch that day's rerun of Three's Company, after which it was time for supper and then time to leave.
That evening, we went to visit my grandma, and I got a bit more reading in. I finally finished the book under the covers that night, excited that a second book was promised. I had fallen in love with the world of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, a love affair which continues to this very day.
Since then, I believe I have collected every English incarnation of Hitchhiker's: the original radio series (standard and remastered); the vinyl record series; the talking books from NLS and RNIB; the abridged versions of the first four books read by Stephen Moore; the unabridged audiobooks read by Douglas Adams; the unabridged audiobooks read by Stephen Fry and Martin Freeman; the TV series; the awful movie ... have I missed anything? I played the computer game; I imagined I was on the Heart of Gold with Arthur, Ford, Zaphod and Trillian. I've had Hitchhiker's dreams, I've gotten e-mails from Douglas Adams (before he died). Yes, I love, absolutely love, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and I deeply wish there were more to discover.
Since then, no discoveries in my life - not computers, not the Internet, have filled me with that kind of ... what's the right word, is there a right word? ... of wonder and enchantment as The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
I'm 41 now. Definitely not a kid. Is there anything left to discover that will engageme the way Hitchhiker's did? I don't know. I hope so. I would love to relive the magic of discovery.