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Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Towel

I read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy before I'd done much traveling myself. I suppose I'd followed my parents on one trip or another, but they'd been in charge of the packing, and in any event, traveling with your parents is not exactly hitchhiking the galaxy.

I believed the thing about the towel. I knew I was unlikely to run into the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal, or even sail the slow heavy River Moth. Still, I figured these exotic uses stood in for real-world analogues. I thought this fancy was built upon a foundation of rugged, devil-may-care British traveler acumen. I thought that, Bugblattter Beast or not, traveling with a towel really would, in one way or another, make you a hoopy frood. I resolved that when I was big, and traipsing the world, I would always know where my towel was.

The thing is, though, that a towel is actually not really a very useful thing to pack. If you are staying in a hotel, they give you a towel. If you are couchsurfing, you bum one off your friends. If you are back-country camping or Eurailing or trekking across the Gobi, you need to pack really light, and so you evaluate every cubic centimeter in terms of its utility, and, really, a towel rarely wins. If it's warm out you can pretty much air-dry, and in a pinch you can always dry yourself off with a long-sleeved shirt and hang it up. The only exception is beach vacations. And youth hostels, which do ask you to bring a towel. Even then, you can probably borrow or rent one.

This is not to say that no one packs towels, just that if you are the sort of person who packs a towel for a non-beach trip, you probably also pack alcohol gel for cleaning your hands, and pillow in case you don't like the one on the bed there, and a scissors, and band-aids, and slippers, and a sweater even if you're going somewhere warm. You are not, in other words, necessarily Ford Prefect.

Each time I pack, I consider taking a towel, because of Douglas Adams. And, generally, I decide not to. And each time, there is a little bit of grief, because Douglas Adams lied to me.

I am packing for Wiscon today, and I will not pack a towel. Fuck you, Douglas Adams. I know where my towel is. It's at home.

Posted by benrosen at May 18, 2013 11:19 AM | Up to blog

let me explain: Hitchhiker's Guide dates to the era when hostels and other places with communal bathrooms did not supply towels (they also tended not to have hot water too BTW). If you checked in and you couldn't find your towel, you had to borrow one from someone else to take a shower etc. I think it's nothing more than a reference to something that's not an issue anymore.

Posted by: Diana at June 3, 2013 06:51 PM
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