What is Towel Day, you might ask? Well, for those of you who might be less nerdy than others, May 25 has been designated as the day for devotees to celebrate the life and times of writer, Douglas Adams – most famously known for his The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, by proudly carrying a towel.
In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Arthur Dent finds out that the Earth is about to be demolished to make way for a hyperspace bypass and that his best friend, Ford Prefect, is in fact an alien. Ford saves Arthur (and himself) by hitching a ride on an alien vessel, but not before advising Arthur to bring his towel.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide explains the importance of traveling with a towel in this passage:
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.)
So, how does one celebrate Towel Day? For specific organized events and additional info, check out the official Towel Day website here. Otherwise, how you choose to observe Towel Day is your own business. Read the day away, have a nice cup of tea, contemplate the meaning of life, watch an episode or two of the TV series or perhaps watch the movie? It’s all up to you. Whatever you do, DON’T PANIC.