So, you never heard of this, eh? Today is World Towel Day, celebrated in the memory of Douglas Adams, the celebrated author of A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and a ton of other stuff. Anyways. The original refrain about the importance of the Towel for a galaxy-hiking bloke went as follows:
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 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 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 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.
Hence a phrase that has passed into hitchhiking 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.)—Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Indeed, a useful thing, this towel, then, eh?
This was first celebrated in 2001, two weeks after the death of Adams, as a way for his fans to remember him, celebrate him, and in this uniquely weird way, honour him. Adams was only 49 years old when he died of a sudden (and unexpected) heart attack. His fans found a uniquely weird way to keep his memory alive. The first couple of years, the event was a small one that was celebrated within a close clique of Adams aficionados, but over the years, it has spread and become a real phenomenon globally. Here I am, sitting in India, wiping the sweat off my brow with a moist towel, writing about Towel Day. That should tell you a lot about the global dissemination of the Adams phenomenon!
There have been cool, fun events, where people would meet up, have a show, talk about Adams and his work, all the while, carrying their towels, before they finally troop off into a bar to round off the day with a few cold ones. For me, the Towel Day experience has been limited to reading blogs, and looking at #towelday photos showing jubilant geeking out at its best. Anyways, hope you have a great towel day, and enjoy this infographic to go along with the event: