“A towel, [The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy] 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 vapors; 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.”—Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Two weeks before his fiftieth birthday, Douglas Adams suffered a heart attack and died in 2001. Fans, mourning his passing, decided to pay tribute to Adams on his birthday; because Adams was such a hoopy frood and really did know where his towel was, what better way to celebrate a mind that presciently warned us about the dangers of Vogon poetry and reminded us that normality is relative than Towel Day. So, join us today in celebrating Adams’ sixty-fifth birthday and the sixteenth annual Towel Day.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy actually began as a radio program on BBC Radio 4 in 1978. Following the adventures of the often-hapless Arthur Dent and his friend Ford Prefect following the destruction of Earth, Hitchhiker’s Guide was the first comedy radio program to be produced in stereo and was well-received popularly and critically—it was actually the first radio program to ever be nominated for a Hugo Award. The popularity of the series led Douglas Adams to adapt the galactic adventures into stage productions, novels, and a television series.
Inspired by Hitchhiker’s Guide to Europe, Adams transported audiences to worlds beautiful, dreadful, weird, and—above all—highly improbable. And in the course of those journeys, he introduced us to creatures, populations, and individual characters so outlandish and, yet, simultaneously relatable, they are unforgettable to fans. Shovel-like thought eaters? Got ‘em. Planet designers and builders? Got those too! A sperm whale coming to terms with its identity? I wonder if it will be friends with me. Not to mention, introducing us to a chronically depressed robot, enterprising rodents, and “probably the oddest thing in the universe.” All of this in the course of reminding all of us that we take some things entirely too seriously—like trying to figure out what it all means—and miss out on the joyous adventure of life.
So, all you hoopy froods: grab your towels and join us in celebrating Towel Day by looking for adventure, finding reasons to laugh, and, at least, entertain the idea that maybe the only meaning that there is to life is living it.
Happy Towel Day!