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2001: Two weeks after the death of Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, fans get together and celebrate May 25 as “Towel Day” in his memory. The tradition continues each year since.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a novelization of a popular British radio series. The books started publishing in 1979. Author Douglas Adams became an icon of humorous geek literature, wrote four sequels to it and, tragically, died of a heart attack at age 49.

D. Clyde Williamson made the initial proposal May 14, 2001, in the “Binary Freedom” forum at System Toolbox:

Douglas Adams will be missed by his fans worldwide. So that all his fans everywhere can pay tribute to this genius, I propose that two weeks after his passing (May 25, 2001) be marked as “Towel Day”. All Douglas Adams fans are encouraged to carry a towel with them for the day.

Make sure that the towel is conspicuous — use it as a talking point to encourage those who have never read the Hitchhiker’s Guide to go pick up a copy. Wrap it around your head, use it as a weapon, soak it in nutrients- whatever you want!

Towel Day asks the important questions. For instance, if you learned that planet Earth was about to be destroyed to make room for an interstellar expressway, would you be prepared? It’s not about making peace with your God or clearing up all your debts; it’s about something much more important and useful. Do you have your towel?

And according to the Guide, you’d know if you did. It would be wrapped around your neck and you’d feel secure and prepared for whatever the galaxy were to throw at you. On Towel Day, you’d better have your towel, because you never know what’s coming, or going for that matter.

This year, as we do every year, we take a moment to hoist our thumbs up in the air and hope we don’t end up in the cargo hold of a Vogon warship. However, if we have our towel on us we’ll be perfectly prepared for whatever may come. Or go.

So why the towel? What’s so great about something seemingly so simple and basic? From Chapter 3 of The Hitchhiker’s 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 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-boggingly 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-hitchhiker) discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, washcloth, 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 hitchhiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitchhiker 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.

If you have a towel, you are not only ultimately prepared but others around you will become aware of your ultimate preparedness and be randomly willing to assist to make sure you are even further prepared for your journey. Could you ask for anything more? This is what having a towel handy can do for you.

In honor of Douglas Adams: So long and thanks for all the fish!!

Image: gamgeek/Flickr

Source:Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy , various.

An earlier version of this article appeared on’s GeekDad blog on Towel Day 2009.

Check Towel Day activities being held worldwide.

Your very own 42 Utility Towel is available from ThinkGeek!

See Also:

*Colfer’s Hitchhiker’s Guide Sequel Will Be His Last

*And Another Thing… a Totally Improbable Review

*The Hitchhiker’s Guide Turns 30

*New Voyage, Author for Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

*May 25, 1961: JFK Vows to Put American on Moon by Decade’s End

*Jan. 15, 2001: Enter Wikipedia, for Better and Worse

*Jan. 28, 2001: Hey, Don’t Tampa With My Privacy

*March 24, 2001: Apple Unleashes Mac OS X

*Sept. 11, 2001: The Day the Earth Stood Still

*Oct. 23, 2001: Now Hear This … The iPod Arrives

*Dec. 3, 2001: Segway Starts Rolling

*Dec. 15, 2001: Leaning Tower of Pisa Reopens With New Angle


Dang. Forgot my towel today.