Sunday, May 25th is Towel Day, a global celebration of Douglas Adams, the comedy writer so smart he was talking about triple-breasted sex workers before Total Recall.
If you haven’t read the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy yet you’re one of the luckiest humans alive, because it means you get to read it for the first time right now. There is no other option. The only book more guaranteed to make you happy is This Book Is Made Of A Narcotic Absorbed Through The Fingertips, and that’s the most aggressively censored book in the world. And the least-likely to turn up secondhand.
Fans around the world celebrate by carrying a towel. It’s a fun shared joke for other fans, an exciting promise/threat of nudity and fluids for everyone else, and towels really are just the most astoundingly useful things in a world where smartphones act as monoplanetary hitchhiker’s guides. You can block your face from Google Glass wearers, create a safe seating surface to tweet from, and you can throw them over the head of people using their phone in the cinema to muffle their noise and preventing them from getting a good look at you before you administer kinetic behavioral correction.
In honor of this froody day, and to arm those smartphones which are even cooler than digital watches with some good advice, allow us to offer:
The Hitch-Hikers Guide To The Internet
The Internet is Big
The internet is big, really big, etcetera. Space seems bigger but it’s mostly boring and empty. Anything can be big if you’re allowed to count endless contentless filler as part of the size, which does seem to be the strategy of most modern end-user license agreements (EULAs). Leading website theorists suggest that all possible future novels, poetry, even winning lottery numbers and the date of the reader’s death can be found within the infinite text ignored before you click “Agree.” This is because EULAs are written by a resurrected Cassandra, cursed to predict the future in a way that no-one would listen to, and in a world where even illiterate Corgis are read by millions of people every day the Greek gods had to get fairly inventive to make sure no-one paid attention to her.
The internet is actually big, not technically big, because it’s full of interesting things. If space was full like the internet was full then every cubic meter of nothing would have full discussion pages listing the guest appearance of every hydrogen molecule, demands to see “surface detail” pictures of those atoms, vicious arguments about why this empty void was better than the identical void slightly to the left, and even pages talking about truly interesting things would break out in flame wars about whether left or right was better.
The Anti-Perspective Vortex
The Total Perspective Vortex destroys the human soul by showing it how insignificant it is in the face of reality. The internet is equally destructive in the the exact opposite direction, allowing people to lose their lives by endlessly focusing on the most trivial irrelevancies possible. Which leads to…
More Answers Than Questions
The book created the nerdiest number in existence, 42, which has now been mutually enjoyed by more people than the 69. It’s been joyfully inserted into every conceivable geeky outlet (another way it’s like the 69). It’s the Answer to life, the universe, and everything, and it’s a very good answer because it reveals that any amount of information is useless if you don’t know the question. A problem wich defines the entire internet.
The answer to “Do I have any mail?” can be the movie history of the actress who played the Pink Power Ranger. Deep Thought spent millions of years working out a sinlge answer, but the internet is an infinite answer engine and even better at deforming the expectations of an entire civilization. More person-hours have been spent updating the Transformers wiki than the first decade of powered human flight.
As with 42, the real answer is to find your own question in life and work to answer that. With the advantage that the internet won’t turn out to be run by mice. Because everyone knows that the internet is controlled by cats. Which is at least one step up the food chain.
When surfing the web the towel is by far the most useful component of the surfing analogy. Which doesn’t stop thousands of people posting photos of themselves in tiny bikinis every day. Which may lead to other people needing towers. It’s all wonderfully recursive. To maximize your tribute to Arthur Dent, expand your towel to a full wardrobe by relaxing in a bathrobe. Or as we call it, “workplace attire.”
Drink Pan-Galactic Gargle Blasters
The guide tells you not to panic, and suggests drinking the galaxy’s most powerful cocktail, and these facts are extremely not-unrelated. The internet offers all kinds of ridiculous recipes for this drink, but the best option is “whatever makes you feel good.” Truly, the real Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster was inside us all along. Along with whatever drinks you had available. The simplest procedure is to start making a Long Island Iced Tea and then just forget to stop, the banananananana of bartending and even easier to keep going by accident.
If you don’t fancy that, the guide correctly notes that a gin and tonic is an excellent refreshment for anyone no matter their normal preferences, planet, or basic chemical makeup. The guide really is an extraordinarily intelligent book.
Avoid Vogon Comments
The internet lets an unprecedented number of people talk to everyone else in the world, and so makes the poor Babel fish look like a thoughtful thank you note with a box of chocolates. Someone decided to test the probability experiment that an infinite number of monkeys with keyboards would eventually write Shakespeare, but couldn’t afford monkeys. The result was internet comments.
Vogon poetry is the worst in existence, an assembly of words so noxious it can cause your own organs to violently attack you, and internet comments can be even worse. Just remember that internet comments tend to embody the Vogon aesthetics of total ignorance, sheer bloody-mindedness, and the sort of vicious relentlessness which would see a transdimensional publishing empire subverted to win a fight with a small piece of paper. Except internet comments do it without the humor. Or achieving as much. Luckily you can escape them by simply leaving the comments section. Which is a lot easier than jumping out of a spaceship without a spacesuit. But if it’s that or read comments, well, space is pretty peaceful.
The most important thing to watch out for on the internet is blatant lies in the headlines. You don’t hitchhike the internet, you sit in the comfort of your own home with the hardware you were able to afford. That is the exact opposite of hitchhiking on every level. And even if you do find a way to thumb along with other people’s browsing, reading over their shoulder, we guarantee you’re not seeing what they really browse.
The internet will dress anything up as similar to something else popular just to get some attention. But if they care, and are handsome, and are already a few gargle blasters into the day, they’ll at least confess at the end and hope you enjoyed the ride. And join you in rereading some of the greatest books ever written.
Luke McKinney writes about games, drink, science, and everything else that makes life amazing. He’s a columnist on Cracked and writes for several beer magazines. He’s also available for hire. Follow him on Tumblr and Twitter @lukemckinney.