When Arthur and Ford enter the Heart of Gold’s main cabin, Zaphod casually greets Ford in a purposefully nonchalant manner. “Ford, hi, how are you? Glad you could drop in,” he says. Ford matches Zaphod’s nonchalance, explaining off-handedly to Arthur that Zaphod is a friend and a distant cousin. Arthur then reveals that he too has met Zaphod before. When Arthur was at a party on earth, Zaphod prevented him from going home with a girl he was flirting with. “I wasn’t doing very well with her,” he admits. “I’d been trying all evening.” When he finally got a chance to talk to her, Arthur says, Zaphod sidled up, interrupted them, and said, “Hey, doll, is this guy boring you? Why don’t you talk to me instead? I’m from a different planet.”
The fact that everybody on this spaceship has met each other before is quite improbable. Indeed, this would be rather remarkable even if the group were casually dining in a restaurant. In this case, though, they have just encountered each other after Ford and Arthur literally fell through a hole in space. As if this isn’t unlikely enough, they find themselves saying hello like old friends, hardly perturbed by the incredible coincidental nature of their circumstances. As such, Adams once again emphasizes the extent to which improbability—and absurdity—factor into the plot of this novel.
After telling this story, Arthur is flabbergasted to find the woman who rejected him standing next to Zaphod. “You must admit he did turn out to be from another planet,” says Trillian, referring to Zaphod. “Tricia McMillan?” Arthur asks. “What are you doing here?” Trillian responds by telling him that she left earth before it was destroyed. “After all, with a degree in math and another in astrophysics what else was there to do? It was either that or the dole queue again on Monday.” Unsettled by just how many strange coincidences have just taken place, Zaphod asks Trillian if “this sort of thing” is going to happen each time they use the Improbability Drive. “Very probably, I’m afraid,” she responds.
When Trillian says that there was nothing left for her to do on Earth after earning “a degree in math and another in astrophysics,” Adams mocks academia, ultimately suggesting that rigorous study doesn’t—like many people believe—prepare a person for a lifetime of satisfying work, but instead renders them unfit for and unsatisfied with regular employment. This is why Trillian says that she would be in the “dole queue” on the following Monday if she hadn’t left Earth (the dole queue is a line where people await unemployment checks).