It’s been ten years this month since legendary sci-fi writer Douglas Adams passed away. But today also marks the tenth Towel Day! Jubilation!
For those of you confused, one of the first things you (and protagonist Arthur Dent) learn in Adams’ magnum opus The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is to always keep your towel nearby. In more specific terms:
A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value — you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a mini raft down the slow heavy river Moth; wet it for use in hand-tohand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mindboggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you — daft as a bush, but very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.
More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitchhiker) discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitchhiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitchhiker might accidentally have “lost”. What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with.
Hence a phrase which has passed into hitch hiking slang, as in, “Hey, you sass that hoopy Ford Prefect? There’s a frood who really knows where his towel is.” (Sass: know, be aware of, meet, have sex with; hoopy: really together guy; frood: really amazingly together guy.)
–The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
In other words, towels are amazing. And the best part is that we all have at least a few lying around the house. How lucky is that!
So, how do you celebrate Towel Day? Checking out Adams’ books is one way (or listening to the stories). Checking out the television series and the movie is another (and yes, I actually liked the movie quite a bit). You can even buy your own Hitchhiker–themed towels from ThinkGeek. The Towel Day website has a list of events going on all over the world today as well, if you’re in the mood to celebrate with fellow fans. Or you could just drink 42 cups of tea – although I wouldn’t suggest it, per se.
So have fun and, for the love of God, DON’T PANIC.