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  • Symon Leech

Towel Day: What it is, and why nerds should celebrate it

On May 25, nerds around the world celebrate Towel Day in honour of Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Adams said that a towel is "the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have," and on Towel Day, we all try to live up to that. So what is Towel Day exactly? And why should you care?

Towel Day is a day to celebrate the life and work of Douglas Adams. If you're not familiar with Douglas Adams, he was an author and humorist who wrote The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series. The series is about a group of friends who travel through space in a ship called the Heart of Gold. As they travel, they encounter all sorts of strange creatures and adventures. Towel Day is celebrated every year on May 25th, in honour of Adams' book The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

On Towel Day, we celebrate the most humble of household items: the towel. While many of us take this necessity for granted, there are some uses that you may not have known about, beyond just drying off?

"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 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 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

So take a moment to observe Towel Day and remember the great works of Douglas Adams. Not only will this make you a more intelligent and well-rounded person* but it may persuade you to score some sweet badges to show your love for hhg2g and the late great Douglas Adams

*This only applies to Jatravartids from the planet Viltvodle VI, by way of compensation for all the armpits and the Great Green Arkleseizure.

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