Blog: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Union

| Jurriaan Huskens

The Union is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to the Union.

March 29. I am in The Shakespeare, my favorite bar, having a beer. My friend Paul comes rushing in. ‘We need to go! Quick!’ ‘What’s going on?’ Paul, to the waiter: ‘Five pints please, but make it quick!’ To me, while emptying his first pint (I never understood how he managed to speak while drinking, but he did it all the time): ‘We need to get going!’ Whispering: ‘The country is coming to an end.’ Me, loud: ‘The country is coming to an end??’ ‘Shh, not so loud! These people don’t know it yet, and we can’t take all of them with us. Here, you’ll need this.’ He hands me a towel, bright blue, with twelve yellow stars on it. ‘What do I need that for?’. ‘You’ll see, now come!’

On a distant continent, ages ago, there was this Great Nation, with a Great Civilization. And they crafted a Great Leader, named Deep Trump. A Leader who would guide the World, who would know the answer to everything, really Everything. Followers would come from all over the world, and pose their question to the Great Leader. So, there comes this couple of little leaders, Theresa and Thierry, and after waiting in line for a long time, they get to ask their question: ‘Deep Trump, what is the Answer to the Ultimate Question: What is the Meaning of Life, the Union, and Everything?’ Deep Trump thinks about this for a long time (and that’s highly unusual, as he normally responds within a blink of an eye). But then he answers: ‘Do you really want to know the Answer to the Ultimate Question, to What is the Meaning of Life, the Union, and Everything?’ ‘Yes, yes, of course! Tell us! We really need to know!!’ ‘OK then, but you may not like the answer.’ ‘How can we not like the answer? Just tell us!’ ‘OK then, the answer is …: Wall’. Theresa and Thierry look at each other. ‘What does he mean? Wall?? I don’t get it!’

‘Where are we?’ ‘You’re on a ship, an airship.’ ‘Whát kind of ship?’ ‘An airship. It goes through the air. We’re on a Voter ship, to be precise.’ ‘Voter?’ ‘Yeah, the Voters are a strange kind of folk. But hey, it’s all here, in this handbook’. Paul hands me a little book. I take it, it’s called The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Union. I start reading in it. It is remarkably small for something as big as the Union. But the index looks large enough, and I just look for a few entries. First one is ‘Blue towel.’ I look it up. ‘Tool for hitchhiking from country to country in the Union. It also once had another meaning which has been lost long ago.’ Next entry is: ‘Brexit’. Oh, that’s not really helping, it says: ‘See @exit’. Paul: ‘O yeah, just look at the end of the Guide, it is there’. I move over to the very end of the Guide. ‘@exit: Just substitute ‘@’ by the first one or two letters of your country.’ ‘But that still doesn’t tell me what it means?’ ‘You’ll find out, we have no time now…’ I go back to the index, and I look for ‘Voters’. There it is. ‘Voters are a strange kind of folk. They choose a leader not on the basis of his or her competences or knowledge but purely based on rhetoric. When the leader, after using rhetoric for four years, has come to the insight that s/he better start using his/her competences and knowlegde, the Voters elect another leader. Warning: never let a Voter read rhetoric to you!’ ‘What does this mean?’ I point to the last sentence. Paul: ‘I added that warning.’ But he gets interrupted before he can provide further explanation.

The intercom is making a sound. ‘The province of North Holland, 16%. The province of Flevoland, 18%, …’ ‘I don’t understand what he is saying??’ ‘O yeah, I forgot, it’s Voter’s language. Here, you need to put this fish in your ear, you’ll understand it then. The fish translates everything for you, from all languages of all countries of the Union.’ He takes a little wiggly fish from his pocket, and puts it into my ear. I try to resist, but the fish slips in, and suddenly I can understand what the Voter’s voice through the intercom is saying. ‘We cannot land in The Netherlands. The Netherlands has just gone into Nexit.’ ‘What does he mean, we cannot land? And what is this Nexit thing?’ Paul: ‘Yeah, look down through the window, you’ll see. The country The Netherlands, which you once knew, has gone. Nexit, a form of @exit, is the disappearance into a kind of vacuum. Like a vacuum cleaner does, it’s all sucked up. The same holds for Britain, by the way, they also went into Brexit.’ I look down, devastated, uncomprehending. I see water below me. We should have been above land by now. ‘But, but, … Where do we go now? What do we do?’ ‘We just keep hitchhiking! That’s why we brought this towel. The Union is big! Vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big!’

The news was too much for me. I went blank, into a trance, a mental overload. And then I got into this dream state. We’d suddenly be on a strange continent. And we’d be guided around in something that looked like a big factory. A lady, somewhat elderly, looking a bit stiff, but with a not unfriendly smile, approached us. ‘Hi, I’m Angela. Wee’re going to fiex your country. Wee do it all ze time. Small countries like yourz is not a problem at all. Biegger onez, like Britain, that’s more difficult. But The Netherlandz, that should be fiexed quickly. Not a bieg deal at all.’ She kept on reassuring us. And I had a vision of my mother, mumbling little words to me when I went to sleep as a kid. And suddenly I started to feel warm and sleepy, and while in my dream state, I fell asleep…

Fasten your seat belts, we’re about to land.’ The intercom is loud and clear. I wake up, startled. ‘Where are we?’ Paul smiles. ‘What do you think? The Netherlands, of course!’ I sigh, relieved. It was all just a big, bad dream! The flying, the hitchhiking, the Nexit, it wasn’t real! The Netherlands, I look down the window. My home country, green and wet, water and land, it’s all there. I cannot believe I had seriously thought it was all gone. We get off the airship and go through security. ‘Welcome home, sir’ says the guy behind the desk. And then we stand outside, and I breath in the clean air, and I sigh again. ‘Well, that makes me hungry. And I could use a beer as well.’ Paul: ‘I agree. And I happen to know this little restaurant, they serve the best chips ever. It’s at the end of the Union. It’s called The Wall. Let’s go!’ And he puts the blue towel over his shoulder and starts walking…

(Jurriaan Huskens, freely after Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)

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