SOME TIME ago, I wrote a column saying that the worst thing that can happen when you're driving is to get stuck behind a little old guy in a hat.
In the first place, the guy will be doing at least 20 mph under the speed limit. Or he'll have his turn signal blinking for 20 or 30 miles. Or he won't even use his turn signal -- he'll just slam on the brakes whenever he feels like turning, sending you screeching into a drainage ditch to avoid him.
Anyway, the key to this whole Little Old Guy in a Hat Theory, as I wrote in the original column, is the hat.
If you're driving behind a little old guy and he's not wearing a hat, it may be OK.
But as soon as you see a hat sticking up above the driver's seat, plan on slowing to a crawl.
And, the type of hat the little old guy wears is an indicator of just how slow he'll go.
For instance, if you're stuck behind a little old guy in a baseball cap, you'll only go, oh, 15 mph under the speed limit. Little old guys in baseball caps think they're kind of hip. So they like to air it out on the road.
But if you're stuck behind a little old guy in a Panama hat, forget it. You're looking at an hour delay, easy.
And if it's a little old guy in a fedora, you're flat-out doomed.
You might as well pick up the car phone right away, call ahead and tell whoever's waiting for you: "I'll see you in a couple of days."
In fact, if I'm stuck behind a little old guy in a fedora, I might take even more drastic action.
I might just pull into the nearest Holiday Inn and get a room for the night, see if they have a decent Happy Hour in the bar.
Because what's the point of continuing behind a little old guy in a fedora?
You're just going to spend the whole time cursing and banging the steering wheel and muttering: "Come on! Let's go!'
Anyway, in the year since I wrote the original column, I've come up with an addendum to the Little Old Guy in a Hat Theory.
And here it is: If you ever find yourself stuck behind a little old lady with a kerchief over her head, your life is over. You may as well add a full week to your travel time.
Because compared to a little old lady with a kerchief, a little old guy in a fedora drives like Mario Andretti.
If they were having a drag race between a little old guy in a fedora and a little old lady with a kerchief, I'd bet heavily on the little old guy in the fedora.
I'm not a betting man, either. But I'd lay a hundred bucks on the little old guy in the fedora and not sweat it for a moment.
No, that's not strong enough. I would put my life savings on the little old guy in the fedora.
The thing about little old ladies with kerchiefs is, they think little old guys in fedoras drive like maniacs!
I don't know if you've ever seen a little old guy in a fedora pass a little old lady with a kerchief on the Beltway. But the little old lady with the kerchief will give him such a look.
Here the little old guy in the fedora is only doing about 40 mph.
But you just know the little old lady with the kerchief is thinking: "LOOK AT THIS NUT! HE'S GONNA GET US ALL KILLED!'
Then the little old lady in the kerchief goes home and says to her husband: "Tell me, where are the cops when you need them?! I was on the Beltway and some lunatic in a fedora passed me -- he must have been doing 90!"
The thing about getting stuck behind a little old lady with a kerchief is, sometimes she's so tiny, you're not sure if anyone's even driving the car.
When you're behind a little old guy in a fedora, OK, you see the fedora sticking up, you know what you're dealing with.
But little old ladies in kerchiefs can be sneaky. You can be stuck behind them for miles before you figure out what's going on.
Although the brake light shining in your face every five seconds is a pretty good tip-off.
Pub Date: 2/20/97