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Don’t Panic – Towel Day 2009
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By T. Walters

Don't Panic

Today is a special holiday. I’m not referring to Memorial Day or Geek Pride Day (though those are special in their own rights), but Towel Day. What is Towel Day, you ask? It is the holiday observed by fans of the Douglas Adams book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

It all started in 2001 when someone on an internet forum suggested that the day two weeks after the anniversary of Douglas’ untimely death on May 11, 2001 from cardiac arrest should be turned into a holiday celebrating his life’s work. Thus, Towel Day was born.

The stipulations of the holiday vary, but it always includes the small detail of carrying around a towel for most, if not all, of the day. This is based on a passage in chapter 3 of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy that goes like this…

“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-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.”

Today, some people read the Guide as well, and it is often said that a bunch of London-based fans of Douglas’ work gather at his gravestone today to pay their respects (rather than on May 11, as to not disturb his family and friends).
In the eight years since it was first observed, Towel Day has caught on incredibly fast; especially in European countries such as Sweden and Norway. Some countries and cities around the world even observe it as a legitimate holiday, where those who aren’t carrying their towels around are scorned and shunned much like non-green-wearing Americans are on St. Patrick’s Day.

So on your travels today, interstellar or not, don’t forget your towel!

For more on Towel Day, visit towelday.org. And Twitter users, don’t forget to use the #towelday hashcode when wishing others a happy day!

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