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“If there’s anything more important than my ego around here, I want it caught and shot now.”
On May 11, 2001 the universe decided to take from us Douglas Noel Adams, author of the British cult sci-fi classic series The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. He was by all accounts a truly warm, brilliant, kind-hearted and incredibly funny man.
Two weeks after his death, the Hitchhiker’s fan community decided to commemorate his memory by holding the first annual Towel Day, celebrated every May 25 since. The what of Towel Day is very simple: you carry a towel around for the day as a way of celebrating Douglas Adams’s work and showing your appreciation for the series.Unless you are an H2G2 fan, however, the why of Towel Day might be a little confusing.
While explaining the whole Hitchhiker’s story and it’s frequently surreal plot may be necessary for total towel comprehension (if you haven’t read the books, please do so…they are short and more gently brilliant than any of us really deserve to read), I feel that, in essence, I need do no more than quote The Guide itself. On the topic of towels:
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A towel…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 vapors; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you); 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-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitch hiker 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 hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker 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.