By Bob Curtis, Local Secretary
This month, May, was named for the Greek Goddess, Maia, who was identified with the
Roman era goddess of fertility, Bona Dea, whose festival was held in May. Conversely, the
Roman poet Ovid (Publius Ovidius Naso, 43 BC to AD 18) provides a second etymology, in
which he says that the month of May is named for the maiores, Latin for "elders," and that the
following month (June) is named for the iuniores, or "young people" (Fasti VI.88).
There are many special days in May, e.g., May Day, Mothers' Day (May 11th this year),
Memorial Day, but for me, a real fan of Douglas Adams' "trilogy," The Hitchhiker's Guide to
the Galaxy, The very special celebration is Towel Day.
May 25th is Towel Day!
The original quotation that explained the importance of towels is found in Chapter 3 of Adams'
work The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
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
vapours; 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.
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
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
The emphasis on towels is a reference to Hitch-hicker's Guide to Europe by Ken Welsh,
which inspired Adams' fictional guidebook and also stresses the importance of towels.
So, be sure to have your towel with you all day on May 25th and check out some HHGTTG