Yesterday, May 25, was a highly significant day. First of all, May 25 is Towel Day, celebrated around the world with Vogon poetry slams (Vogon poetry is, for those who are blissfully unaware, the third worst in the universe), Pan-galactic Gargle Blasters (drinking a Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster is, for those who are blissfully unaware, “like having your brain smashed out by a slice of lemon wrapped round a large gold brick”), and of course towels. A towel, according to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979),
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 know where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.
Therefore, on Towel Day, fans of Douglas Adams and The Hitchhiker’s Trilogy are encouraged to carry their towel with them through the day. You can see a (somewhat slow) flash mob with towels in Dresden in 2014 here. Or, particularly cool for Towel Day 2015, check out this video to see astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti reading from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy IN SPACE (and on the International Space Station’s Expedition 42, no less)! And it isn’t too late to celebrate Towel Day: this special towel design contest runs through June 7 on Bags of Love.
But as if Towel Day wasn’t enough, May 25 is also the anniversary of the glorious revolution led by the People’e Republic of Treacle Mine Road in Ankh-Morpork. As described by Terry Pratchett in Night Watch (2002), the survivors of this uprising always wear a spray of lilacs on the anniversary (as well as visiting Small Gods’ Cemetery with the offering of a hard-boiled egg.) That’s on Discworld, of course. Here on the round Earth, fans of Terry Pratchett have called to commemorate the author on this date, as well as to use the wearing of the lilac to raise awareness and support for Alzheimer’s research.
Presumably the thing to be done by the very large contingent of overlapping fans of both Hitchhiker’s Guide and Discworld, is to sport a towel with a design of lilacs. A quick internet search reveals a shocking dearth of decent towels embellished with decent lilacs, so I see a fabulous opportunity here for someone of entrepreneurial spirit. We have 365 days to remedy this omission in bath linens, so Don’t Panic, and get busy! (First stop, the above-mentioned towel design contest!)
[Pictures: “42 Uses for Towels” t-shirt designed by DoodleDojo;
Cover illustration by Paul Kidby from Night Watch by Terry Pratchett, 2002;
Lilacs kitchen towel designed by Mousefx (Image from Zazzle).]