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To Do Friday: International Towel Day



© 2012 Torsten Adair

Started in 2001 in tribute to Douglas Adams, May 25 has been designated Towel Day.

Those who appreciate the genius of Douglas Adams are encouraged to celebrate the day by carrying a towel in public.

Why a towel?

To quote from the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy:

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 hitch hiker 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.)

The Scots figured this out centuries ago, wrapping an extra-long towel around their body as clothing.  Arthur Dent, by sheer accident and providence (and really improbable but not infinitely improbable probabilities), perfected the use of a dressing gown as a very portable and functional towel.

There is an official towel, although it is currently out of production.  There are many other variations, some of them available for purchase.

If you feel like celebrating, the Towel Day website has a long list of events happening worldwide.  In the USA:

  • Gregory Cowles informed the The New York Times readership about Towel Day in his May 11 Sunday Book Review. Thank you Mr Cowles!
  • Attending Phoenix Comicon on Towel Day? Lots of you probably are! Meet Terra and others there, and “celebrate in style”! Details on Facebook and twitterers can RSPV on Tweetvite.
  • The Minnesota State University-Moorhead Planetarium (Moorhead, Minnesota) is planning a special live planetarium show in the evening as a guide to the galaxy. They will look at the night sky, the Milky Way, fly past some planets, and zoom out of the Milky Way to learn about our galaxy. A Vogon Poetry contest may follow. Attendees wielding towels get 50% off admission. More info
  • In Dover, NH, fans will meet to celebrate Towel Day at La Festa Brick and Brew Pizzeria. Organizer Sam Ronda adds “This may possibly be the first time for Dover, NH”. Details and RSVP on Facebook.
  • In Ukiah, CA, you can hang out with friendly hitchhikers at a BBQ in a public park and listen to the radio show. “This will be kid friendly, pet friendly and towel friendly. […] It’s just about hanging out but if you want to bring some Guide themed anything please do! :D […] Once we’re done at the park there will be an after party at my place (I live one block away) where there will be a viewing of the film.” Details and RSVP on Facebook.
  • In Des Moines, IA, “the unofficial, official Towel Day celebration will be at the Royal Mile bar. Show up carrying your towel and say hi to all the other hoopy froods who do the same. Starting at 4:30 PM and going until whenever!”
  • The Sandbaggers Game Club of Great Falls, MT is hosting an Intergalactic Towel Day party at MisCon 26: A Fairy Tale on Friday May 25. A MisCon 26 badge is required to attend, but otherwise, all are welcome! Details and RSVP on Facebook.
  • In Birmingham, NY, taters343 is looking for people to celebrate Towel Day with. If you’ll be in that area, talk to him on Reddit!
  • In NYC, RobairRobair is looking for interested people. He’s on Reddit.
  • In Salem, MA, Mike’s Museum, LLC, will hold its second annual towel collection for the animal shelter at Front Street Coffee House on May 25. Petunias will be given to the first 100 donors, if you want to kill it go ahead but please help protect the whales.
  • In Houston, TX, craft beer bar “Petrol station” will be celebrating Towel Day for the third time. Happy hour all night, as long as you have your towel!
  • In Magnolia, TX, Max Beeman wants to have people at high school carry towels. He has made a video explaining what Towel Day is about, that will be playing around school inside each class room for announcements.
  • In Tyler, TX, the University of Texas has a small Towel Day display on the 3rd floor of the Robert R. Muntz Library. And Tlemaistre2 blogged about Towel Day on the library’s website.
  • Paula D. Matthews, Stanford Calderwood Director and Librarian wrote in the May 2012 Newsletter of the Boston Athenaeum (a membership library that dates back to 1807) about Towel Day. In “From the Director’s Desk”, she informs her readers about what Towel Day, Douglas Adams and towels are all about. Thank you!
  • In CA, Ken Sipes and his online radio program Behind the Curtain celebrate Towel Day by inviting people to participate in Operation Blankets of Love and other animal welfare projects.
  • Jen Henley and a coworker are holding a towel drive at their workplace to collect towels to distribute to area animal shelters. She writes: “The shelters use the towels as comfortable bedding for the animals, and also for bathing and cleanup. This seemed like a nice way to observe Towel Day — I think Douglas Adams would have approved (read ).”
  • Animeggroll, an anime Store in St. Louis, MO, is having a towel drive for the local Crestwood animal shelter. On May 25th, 2012 with a donation of a towel (it must not have holes or frayed edges as the animals can get caught up in them) or a roll of paper towels they will give 20% off any one new item in the store that day (even kimonos). Yellow tags are consignment items and are not included. One towel discount per person for the day. They will also be accepting donations of these needed items for the shelter: Dry Purina dog and cat food, Pedigree canned dog food, 9 Lives canned cat food, dog and cat treats, Regular cat litter, rawhide chews, cat toys, and used dog & cat beds, collars & leashes in good condition. Cleaning supplies, paper towels are also always needed.
  • Scott Wilson will be driving from Charlotte, N.C. to Ohio to spend the holiday with the woman he intends to marry, and will take a picture of his towel at every state line he crosses along the way! He will be taking along his beloved’s very first copy of the Guide.
  • In Talhassee, FL, the Fermentation Lounge will be raising a pint in honour of the late Douglas Adams and collect towels for the Leon County Humane Society to help out some furry friends. Don’t Panic. Bring a Towel.

How to celebrate?  The easiest way is to find a local bar and buy six pints of bitter.

Viewings of the television series or movie are encouraged.  There is also the original radio production, as well as the books, graphic novels, trading cards, and computer game (old school, text-only version here!)  Need to get in the mood?  The uncut theme can be purchased from Amazon.

Have no idea what it’s all about, but wish to know more?  A British journalist has written and revised a companion to the entire series.

While tomorrow is casual Friday at work, I will not be wearing a terry cloth robe.  I do store a towel in my filing cabinet at work, and I have various towels around my apartment.  At some point in the future, I will most likely purchase a McDuck tartan (if I can find someone to weave the Disney-controlled design, or design the canonical tartan from the comics.)  Or I’ll just side-step into the plural zones and buy one in an alternate reality.

Got a favorite quote from the books?  Feel free to share below!


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