Grab your towel and celebrate the greatness of Douglas Adams


Douglas Adams would have been 61 on Monday. Probably best known for his brilliant work, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Adams may be gone, but will never be forgotten. He’s just eating at the restaurant at the end of the universe waiting for the rest of his party to join him. Friend and fellow British storyteller, Neil Gaiman, summed it up when he said: “Douglas Adams was a genius. He was a profound and brilliant British humorist who was also a very reluctant novelist”.

Any celebration of Adams’ life and work wouldn’t be complete without a towel. From Chapter 3 of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

  • A towel 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 readily 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 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 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

Don’t forget…only 74 days until 25 May and Towel Day 2013. For a list of events happening around the globe, check out the official Towel Day website. If you have an event planned or want to get something started in your community, let them know!

And…if you happen to be in the neighborhood on Tuesday, 12 March, check out Royal Geographic Society on 1 Kensington Gore for the Douglas Adams Memorial Lecture 2013. hosted by Dr. Adam Rutherford and introduced by Stephen Mangan, who starred in another of Adams’ works, Dirk Gently.