Today is the 10th international Towel Day, commemorating the life and works of the writer Douglas Adams. Adams is best known for creating The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a humorous epic set in the very near future about the adventures of an ordinary chap who turns out to be one of the few human survivors after Earth is destroyed to make way for a new intergalactic highway.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide is a book of advice for interplanetary seekers, and includes the inarguable counsel (familiar to many travelers) to always know the location of your towel. Hitchhiker’s Guide (Or H2G2 as it’s known to fans) started out as a BBC radio series in the late 1970s, then a series of books, then a TV adaptation. A feature film was released in 2005, four years after Adams’ untimely death from a heart attack, aged 49.
A website for Towel Day 2011 lists dozens of celebratory events around the world, from a flash mob in Bregenz, Austria, to a Towel-A-Thon in Indiana to collect towels for a no-kill cat rescue nonprofit, to a meetup in the virtual world game, Second Life.
Be Prepared: Where’s Your Towel?
The importance of your towel is not to be underestimated, and this quote from the Hitchhiker’s Guide gives an idea of Douglas’ style and imaginative use of language:
“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 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.”
The first Towel Day was observed two weeks after Adams’ death in May 2001. Fans of the writer carry a towel with them throughout May 25, to demonstrate to the world that they are ready for anything the universe might throw at them.
This brief video promo for Towel Day 2011 illustrates the quote neatly (and what a splendid rendition of the Bugblatter Beast):
Besides his “science fiction” writing, Douglas Adams was a devoted environmentalist who worked for endangered animals. His radio series Last Chance to See took him all over the world, documenting the dwindling populations of such creatures as the Yangtze River Dolphin, the Komodo Dragon, and the rare, and charmingly tubby, Kakapo parrot. Twenty years later, a popular British TV series of the same name went back and revisited the species to check on their progress.
In addition to Last Chance to See, Adams was an active supporter of the nonprofit Save the Rhino as well as the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.
So take the time today to savor the wonders of the universe, spare a thought for the still-endangered species all around us, and keep your towel handy. And, in the immortal words of Douglas Adams, “Don’t panic!”
Photo of Douglas Adams by Jill Furmanovsky via http://www.douglasadams.com/press/
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