Towels Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything


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A towel... is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitch hiker can have.
- Douglas Adams

It is difficult to imagine how one can survive without a towel. Don't try to imagine it. It hurts too much. However, it's a bit doubtful one takes much time thinking what one does with towels, which is why this Entry is here, to explain for you what kinds of towels there are, what kinds of towels might be best for you to have, and what to do with them.

Kinds of Towels

Towels come in many shapes and sizes. Here are a few examples of types of towels. If you know of any towel types not listed here, please feel free to share them in the Conversation threads below.

  • wash cloth
  • bath towel
  • beach towel
  • dish cloth
  • terry cloth robe

Towel Suggestions

  • First and foremost - have a big towel. It must be thick, absorbent and blue. That way you can use it for a huge variety of purposes and still wrap yourself in it when night envelopes its black wings around you.

  • A good quality towel should be of decent size. About body size or bigger.

  • It should also be fashioned from cotton which is easy to clean and absorbs moisture well.

Uses of Towels

Towels are massively useful things that serve a multitude of purposes, from warmth, to comfort, to fashion statements.

Below is an ongoing list of all the things for which towels can be used. Some may be a bit more out there than others, but if you ever come across a towel and wonder what to do with it, you can come back to this list and find out.

Douglas Adams' Uses

Because Douglas Adams was such a tall and remarkable individual, without whom we'd all be somewhere else on the Net being noticeably more bored, it was decided the uses he demonstrated in his wholly remarkable book The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (available in a bookstore near you no doubt) should be included here. What true Hitchhiker's Guide to the world would be complete without them?

  • '... you can wrap [a towel] around you for warmth...' - Be you on this planet or any other, and provided the towel is large enough, it is decidedly better for protecting one against the elements than nothing at all. Coats and jackets also serve this purpose, and it can be argued that such outerwear is simply a towel that has been redesigned specifically for this purpose.

  • '…you can lie on [a towel] on …brilliant marble-sanded beaches...' - And no doubt you have at one time or another. That is: climbed into a vehicular transport of some sort, driven out to the nearest coastline or lake, and laid out in the sun with a towel between you and the ground. This is where most people start their experience of a coastline beach, on top of a towel.

  • ' can sleep under [a towel] beneath the stars…' - If you fall asleep while at the beach, in several hours you may awake to find yourself sleeping under the stars, provided you haven't died from sun exposure. You will no doubt also notice a painful sting on your epidermis.

  • '...use [a towel] to sail a mini raft…' - Which no doubt would work best if you happen to be a mini-person.

  • '...wet [a towel] for use in hand-to-hand-combat…' - This can be advantageous when participating in Towel Flicking (see below) and also when trying to capture your prey with a towel. A wet towel thickens its surface and can add a level of surprise to your attack.

  • '...wrap [a towel] round your head to ward off noxious fumes…' - There are reports of someone holding a towel to their mouth and nose as they entered a burning building for purposes of saving those inside. Though not an indefinite solution to noxious fumes, towels are invaluable for brief encounters with less than habitable environments.

  • '...wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal…' - If you happen to be on top of a burning building, provided your towel is not presently on fire itself, it is an ideal way of attracting attention of those outside the building, letting them know you need to get out of there.

  • '...dry yourself off with [a towel] if it still seems to be clean enough...' - After a treacherous day of towel utilization, you may be grungy or sweaty, and if your towel is not in similar condition, it can help return you to a more comfortable state of being.

    Incidentally, one can also use the towel for drying other things - such as your car, or a tent, or rooms in your house, or countertops and furniture after spraying some cleaning liquid on them.

    Towels are very good for cleaning things. They are also good for helping wet things not be wet any longer. For this reason, whales and other aquatic creatures have little use for towels.

  • 'More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value...' - The possession of a towel gives the casual observer an impression that you are on your way to some place in which they imagine one might need a towel. They may assume you initially set out with other items as well, and may be more inclined to allow one to "borrow" said items, since they are under the impression that you probably left home with said items and have momentarily misplaced them. You do not appear to the casual observer to be someone who is incompetent and unprepared for what life has to offer. Instead of appearing to be a leech on society, you appear to be a responsible adventurer who may occasionally merely fall upon hard times. The uninformed is more prone to assist you after first glance. In fact, waving a towel about can be almost as advantageous an act for a male hitchhiker as flashing a nice set of legs can be for a female hitchhiker.

    It can be said that anyone 'will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the [world], 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.'

Researcher-submitted Uses

  • Folding: A folded towel makes a relatively effective cushion for your head or sitting on. This is ideal at outdoor concerts and theatre in the park events.

  • Flicking: Develop a good I wrist in order to employ towel flicking. This is highly useful for attracting attention. On the other hand it is highly dangerous as it may attract attention. The skill lies in differentiating between the two situations of attention attracting. First, grab a large towel by two adjacent corners, spin the towel with quick and rhythmic circles of the wrist to wrap the towel up into a long and thin cylinder shaped device that seems akin to a snake. Move your right hand toward your torso, and your left hand out and away from your body, while keeping the snake-shaped towel taut between your hands. Now, with your right hand, flick your wrist outward while letting go of the towel with your left, and smack your nearest neighbour on the hind end.

  • Fashion Statements: A big towel can be used as a sarong, turban or cape for those moments when dressing like a bathroom super hero is the only way of escaping trouble, or getting into it.

  • Hailing: You can stick a towel on the end of a pole and use it as a flag, or just grab a corner and bring attention to yourself. White towels are most ideal because since they reflect the most light they are more readily seen. Also if you happen to be at war with someone and your losing, white flags are synonymous with surrender.

  • Grabbing: If a mitten or glove is not handy, wrapping one's hand with a towel to pick up something extremely hot or cold can protect one temporarily from the extreme temperatures. You can also pick up something slimy or dirty with your towel, if you find it easier to clean your towel than to clean yourself.

  • First Aid: A clean towel can make great bandages if you're not averse to ripping up your towel. If blood is pouring out of you, ripping up your towel to save your skin may be a good idea. A long thin strip of sturdy towel material can make a temporary tourniquet. It is generally a good idea to apply direct pressure to a bleeding wound, and a towel between your hands and the wound of your own or a friend can help the wound heal faster, thus saving lives.

  • Extreme Towel Sports: If you're trapped in a place that has a window which is just a bit too high from the ground to make jumping out of the window safe, anchoring your towel to the window and hanging outside the window may give you the added feet to the ground necessary to turn a certain broken leg into a simple sprained ankle.

    Also, if you can throw a rope across a cavern and have it anchored a bit lower on the other end then you are, you can take the towel and place it over the sturdy rope, then hold both ends of the towel with your hands. From there you can rappel down, holding the towel as it skids down the rope.

    Unfortunately, friction between the towel and the rope would make this dangerous, as the towel could burn and rip under the force of the rope and your weight. Perhaps using a jelly-like substance on the rope as well as wetting your towel would improve your chances of making it to the other side.

  • Doorstop: When rolled up and placed at the base of a rickety old door they can help prevent smoke or toxic gas from entering a room. If properly placed, the towel can also cause the door to be difficult to easily open, thus slowing down any vicious predators from breaking through to the other side.

Towel Accessories

Though at present, capitalist society has not fully tapped into the financial potential of accessories for towels, it is inevitable that accessories for towels will become more important.

Standard Accessories - While on the beach, such things as suntan lotion, sunglasses, bikini briefs and an inflatable beach ball are complementary additions to towel ownership. In the bathtub, soap, hair shampoo and conditioner, a back scrubber, a sponge and your favourite rubber ducky complement the towel as well.

Towel Leash - There is at least one report of a retractable device for towels. One end of a long string would be attached to your towel, and the other end to your belt, so that your towel would always be hanging off your belt and at your side.

Towelling Off

There are many other uses for a towel. Perhaps you know of a couple yourself. Feel free to share them below, and in the future they may eventually end up in a revised version of the above lists. Make up your own. Improvise.

Annual Towel Day

Since 2001, 25 May has been recognised as international Towel Day, a day of celebration for the life and work of Douglas Adams. On this day fans of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy author are encouraged to carry a towel around with them wherever they go, and commemorative events are organised worldwide.

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