CRASH TEST DUMMIES
Copyright 2012 by
I have been running an ongoing sociological experiment now for over 4 years. It is anything but scientific, but I absolutely validate its results.
On the right rear "hip" of my convertible Miata, on the aerial, I have hung a baseball cap. It stays on, rain or shine, 25 mph or 60. I rarely even think about it. Until, some other driver points it out. And this is where it gets interesting. The number of bizarre ways in which people have told me I have a hat on my antennae. And I promise you I am not making up a single detail.
I'll start with the strangest ones. I have seen a man get out of the car behind me at a stop light, in a driving rainstorm, I mean really pouring down, and spend 10 seconds pointing maniacally back at the hat and yelling at my closed window. I simply nodded it at him and mouthed "I know". He looked exasperated and rushed back to his car, soaked.
At another stop light, no rain, an ancient Buick pulled up behind me. I had my top up, window down. I glance in my side mirror and suddenly the door of the Buick flips opens and a man, at least 70 years old, scampers out and races over, pulls the hat off my antennae, races around to my window, throws the hat into my lap, and without saying a word, sprints back to his car. I simply laughed my ass off at that one. The light turned red, I took off, and watching in my side view mirror again, I notice he hasn't moved. Somebody honks, and this old timer floors it, tires squealing, smoke rising off the rear tires.
Another time, I'm backing out of parking space in a small parking lot, get my car pointed toward the exit, and a car passes the lot on the street in front of me. I see his head jerk back and he's looking at the hat. He whips a U-turn, comes speeding back, blocks my exit from the lot, hollers out his window, "Your hat's on your antennae".
At this point, I am on my second hat, as the first one was finally stolen about 2 years into the experiment. I hope the bastard immediately put it on and ended up with a black grease bandana around his entire head. That hat was road greasy and filthy.
I cannot count the number of times people have pulled up next to me, pointing aggressively at the hat, saying "Do you know you have a hat on your antennae". I have always been polite with these people, but not because I think they are trying to be helpful. First of all, how would I NOT know I had a hat there? Second of all, and here's where the sociological/psychological angle comes in, I am convinced that the majority of the people who point this out to me are not trying to give me useful information. They are being intrusive. Now stick with me on this, because I've been told by some people that my theory is a stretch.
These are the same people who would report you if you didn't recycle according to the right rules. They would call the DMV to report your car if it was smoking. They would peer over your back fence, and if you were building a deck they thought was not up to code, they would send an anonymous email to the city council. They stick their noses into other peoples' business, completely uninvited. They are the irritants of society. You see them everywhere. Sit in a Starbucks for 3 or 4 hours one morning, and keep your eyes and ears open. You'll leave crying over the fact that Starbucks employees don't make a LOT more money. The people who are high maintenance and feel that life owes them something are the same people who holler out of their cars and honk about my hat.
They do not give a rat's ass about my hat. Or me. I cannot tell you the number of people who have sat behind me at a light, honking their horn REPEATEDLY and pointing at the hat. Hundreds. No lie. Do you really think these people are concerned I may lose my hat? Me? The guy with the Margaritaville license plate frame and the Oakland Raiders bumper sticker? I simply remain unconvinced that it is an act of altruism. I think there may be a little bit of "I'll help this stupid schmuck out who left his hat on his car". My answer to these folks has been pretty consistent. Sometimes I convey it with a grinning nod, sometimes I simply tell them "I know". They usually react with mild disgust.
I did not start out four years ago with this in mind. It was a vague gesture that I thought looked cool. But after the first couple of reactions, I became fascinated with how and why people would reveal themselves in these fashions.