Happy Towel Day!
Not familiar with Towel Day? Well, it’s a rather silly celebration that stems from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a science fiction comedy featuring Arthur Dent, an earthman who survives the destruction of our planet, following his friend Ford Prefect around the galaxy, essentially trying to figure out what the hell is going on. In Hitchhiker’s, someone who has their life together is referred to as knowing where their towel is. Towel Day was started shortly after the series creator, Douglas Adams, died.
Now, I’m a massive Hitchhiker’s fan, and have been since before I was a teenager. It was originally a BBC radio series which aired in 1978, but my first exposure to it was the books, the first of which was published in 1979. My Big Brother had them, and it was love at first read for me. When a local radio station aired the shows in the early ’80s, I recorded them – or, at least, Big Brother taped them for me, as they played late and he’s a night owl – and I wore out the cassettes listening to them over and over again. I’d often speak along with the players – word perfect, because of course I had the whole thing memorized – unless I was reading along with my copy of The Original Hitchhiker Radio Scripts instead. I can remember inviting a friend over to watch the six-episode 1981 BBC TV series when it aired in Canada.
My love of the series has never abated. I’ve upgraded everything over the years. I have the radio plays on CD, hardcover copies of the ‘trilogy in five parts’ novels, and the BBC TV series on DVD. I listened to the 2013 live performance that was only available in Canada for the span of a weekend. One of my pandemic face masks is Hitchhiker’s themed. A few years back, I bought a Hitchhiker’s shot glass for my collection at Spring Geequinox.
I even referenced Hitchhiker’s in my very first blog post.
The reality, though, is that Hitchhiker’s was at the height of its popularity back in the ’80s, when I was in high school, and it tends only to be people my age who get any references I use. (The rather atrocious 2005 film, which I saw in the theatre on opening night, didn’t cause a resurgence.) When I do make a reference that gets me a blank look in reply, I try hard to convince my listener that they should check Hitchhiker’s out, but it doesn’t normally work.
In fact, my only real success story is Ron, whom I introduced to the TV series not long after we started dating. He watched the whole thing, although I’m not sure that was so much because he was enjoying it as he knew how much I was enjoying it and didn’t want interrupt. The next day, he told a coworker that he’d watched ‘the strangest thing’ over the weekend. (Turned out his coworker knew Hitchhiker’s. He called me Trillian for ages afterwards.) I count it as a success, though, because ever since then, every time I tell Ron I have a question for him, he answers ’42.’
I may, over the years, have indulged in some Kids Today grumbling, critical of how nobody seemed to get Douglas Adams’ brilliance anymore. But then came the night of the Rush concert.
I’ve often said that I found my people at that show. I’m a pretty socially awkward person, but that night, I was in my comfort zone, chatting with just everybody – people in the merchandise line, the bartender, security guards – and even hugging the guy sitting next to me when the concert was over.
My favourite, though, was a young fellow I saw during intermission. The foyer was packed, with the concession lineups on either side so long they nearly met in the middle. There was just enough space for two single-file lines, travelling in opposite directions, from the seats to the washrooms. As I shuffled along in one direction, I saw him coming towards me in the other. He was maybe 15 years old, very tall and lanky, and his t-shirt immediately caught my eye. A take-off on the “Keep Calm and Carry On” craze of the time, it advised:
As we came abreast of each other, I put my hand out to catch his attention and told him I loved his shirt. He looked surprised and asked rather incredulously, “You know Hitchhiker’s?”
I answered with, “I love Hitchhiker’s. And you are one cool frood wearing that, let me tell you.”
The sun could take pointers from his face on how to light up a room.
That was the sum total of our interaction, as when we stopped, space was so tight, people had to turn sideways and sidle by us. Short as it was, though, it was one of the highlights of a night full of them. I found evidence that Kids Today are all right, and I got to show one of those kids that maybe we old folk aren’t such fogeys after all. Mostly, though, for a moment, I experienced that magical connection one does when you meet someone who shares a passion – that joy in the inside joke, that the two of you have something no one else in the room does.
I have been kicking myself about one thing, though. Because I fucked up.
The correct adjective is hoopy.
He was a hoopy frood.
I hope that, if I ever saw my young friend again, he’d forgive me. And maybe we could sit down and have a proper chat over some Pan-Galactic Gargle Blasters.