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Planking or Towels: Choose Your Own Oddball Holiday to Celebrate Today

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Today, people are fortunate to celebrate not one, but two oddball holidays.

International Towel Day was started way back in 2001, a mere two weeks after the death of author Douglas Adams, who wrote The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. In that famous book, characters would carry with them all-purpose towels because they are useful and their presence helps one never panic. So, if you see someone carrying a towel today, it’s not unusual.

Here’s the passage from chapter three of Douglas’ book, that serves as the inspiration for today’s holiday.

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.)

The second holiday comes from Australia and is a rather new phenomenon based on the strange fad of planking. What is planking? Well, it’s the arbitrary activity of laying as flat as a board in the most unusual places possible and then snapping photos to prove it. So, one would never just lay down on a park bench but would rather attempt to lay down in a park tree.

The activity gained a bit of notoriety, even though it’s been around since 2009, a few weeks ago after several deaths were attributed to planking.

Yeah, we didn’t say it was supposed to make sense. This year marks the inaugural holiday, National Planking Day, which was announced on the Planking Australian Facebook page.

As one Farker put it, “Thanks, internet. This is what happens when we let you into the real world.”

If you needed proof this is a real thing, Tampa Bay’s Metromix goes about their city to investigate.

Whichever holiday you celebrate — we’re leaning towards next year being the first ever International Towel Planking Day — just remember to have fun, stay stiff as a board and never, ever panic.

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