In the Days of Towels and Radio Shows

26 05 2011

Yesterday (May 25th) was Towel Day.  Towel Day was created in memory of Douglas Adams (1952-2001), author of the ever popular Hitchhiker’s Guide series, and seems to grow each year, in size, participation, and events.   For those who don’t remember:

“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.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitch hiker 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.) (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Chapter 3)”

If you haven’t read the series, I would suggest you run out and do so, but, if you don’t have the time to read the book, check out the old BBC radio dramas.  Once upon a time, Ace and I had a radio show together on Themyscira College’s radio station, called the “Science Fiction Double Feature Radio Show.”  On it, we would act out the BBC radio dramas of Hitchhiker’s Guide.  Though doing the shows with only two people was a bit of a challenge, it was the most fun I’d had since I was in Something’s Rotten in the State of Denmark (one of the silliest Hamlet parodies ever written).

It’s a shame that radio broadcast is a dying art; so many great shows once existed on the radio waves, Dragnet, the Adventures of Superman, Abbot and Costello, Laverne and Shirley… Still, the scripts exist and it’s totally possible to do the shows on your own, or with a friend.  So tune in to the old radio shows online, read the scripts, or, maybe, try to go out and start your own.  Just don’t forget your towel.