A towel is a piece of absorbent fabric or paper used for drying or wiping. It draws moisture through direct contact, often using a blotting or a rubbing motion. Common household textile towels are made from cotton, rayon, bamboo, non-woven fibers, and a few other materials.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy has this to say about towels:
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.)
Towel Day is celebrated every May 25th, which is two weeks after the anniversary of the death of Douglas Adams. Perhaps one of the most influential authors of the 20th century, Douglas Adams was the author of the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy
trilogy series, several about Dirk Gentley’s Holistic Detective Agency, various scripts for Doctor Who, scripts for Monty Python’s Flying Circus, and the list goes on. I’ve heard people give the answer 42 when asked what the meaning of life, the universe and everything is, yet they have no idea where it comes from. (It’s from the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, of course.)
Towel Day was proposed by D Clyde Williamson in the “Binary Freedom” forum on May 14, 2001, just three days after Douglas Adams’ death:
Douglas Adams will be missed by his fans worldwide. So that all his fans everywhere can pay tribute to this genius, I propose that two weeks after his passing (May 25, 2001) be marked as “Towel Day”. All Douglas Adams fans are encouraged to carry a towel with them for the day.
Make sure that the towel is conspicous- use it as a talking point to encourage those who have never read the Hitchhiker’s Guide to go pick up a copy. Wrap it around your head, use it as a weapon, soak it in nutrients- whatever you want!
So, Happy Towel Day! And if you haven’t read the Hitchhiker’s Guide, go buy a copy. Now.
A giant wave o’ the towel to the Towel Day website, from which I have lifted much of this material by sending it back through time and writing it down first, so really they lifted it from me. Aren’t temporal mechanics fun? 😉
Photo credit: By Douglas_adams_portrait.jpg: michael hughes from berlin, germany derivative work: Beao (Douglas_adams_portrait.jpg) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons