I saw this on my way home from work one afternoon.
On the shoulder of the road lay a baseball cap, from which white smoke billowed. From a distance, I thought perhaps it was a railroad flare or someone’s carelessly tossed cigar. But I slowed to get a better look and it was in fact a baseball cap, lying by the side of the road, smoking.
There are many fanciful explanations. Are there any plausible ones? I’m sure I’ve never seen a smoldering hat before. My otherwise long and fascinating life has failed to prepare me for this.
........A late-model Buick, hat sitting on passenger seat. Driver tries to flip burning cigarette butt out passenger window, butt blows back in (or bounces off closed window) and into hat. Driver shouts, grabs hat, throws it out, keeps going, vows once more to quit smoking.
....... A gray pickup truck. Wife in passenger seat argues with husband wearing favorite baseball cap, wife grabs cap, threatens to light it, doesn’t get the hoped- for response, lights it (laughing/screaming?), waves it in husband’s face, tosses it out the window.
If I had come upon it sooner, I could have seen what kind of cap it was – NASCAR? Twins? Seed corn? Maybe that would help reconstruct the events leading up to its immolation, but probably not.
....... Old battered passenger car. Owner doing some minor engine work leaves his hat under the hood, starts off toward the video store, sees smoke coming from engine compartment, stops, opens hood to discover source of smoke, throws hat out, goes on into town, rents The Big Lebowski.
....... Rural homeowner cleaning garage. Tosses hat into a box with a bunch of other used stuff, sets box at end of driveway. Hat is blown out of the box, rolls up the highway, comes to rest on the shoulder. Lightning strikes nearby tree and a burning leaf falls on hat. I am by sheer chance the only person in the whole world to witness the result of this coincidence. The same combination of events might never occur again anywhere. I mean, what are the odds?
....... Kids playing with some dried weeds, a salamander from the roadside ditch, and a magnifying glass. They train a concentrated beam of sunlight on the little pile of stuff. It ignites. One throws his hat over the pile to try to smother the flames. They run home. They really were not planning to cook that salamander.