May 25th is Towel Day, the annual tribute to Douglas Adams and The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Celebrating is simple, just be sure you know where your towel is as you go about your day. To quote the first book:
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 — daft as a brush, but very 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-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.”
This year, of course, Towel Day has a bit of extra significance, as it is the 42nd anniversary of the Guide, with the radio show premiering on the BBC in March, 1978. According to the story, 42 is the Answer to the Ultimate Question, the meaning of life itself, which took a supercomputer 7.5 million years to calculate. Unfortunately, no one thought to specify the question that it is in answer to, though later books revealed that the Ultimate Question is, in fact, “What do you get when you multiply six by nine?”
Have a great day everyone, and remember to keep your towel handy!
*Sass: know, be aware of, meet, have sex with
**Hoopy: really together guy;
†Frood: really amazingly together guy.