A Wednesday morning, 8 a.m., Capital Beltway near the Van Dorn Street exit. Larry Jaffe of Herndon glances at the car in the lane beside him, as Beltway veterans will (and should). Suddenly, at superhighway speeds, a potential disaster:

The hood of the car beside Larry's flies open and smacks flat against the windshield. As Larry watches, helpless and horrified, the driver puts on his right-hand blinker and wrestles the car slowly, smoothly and safely from the middle right-hand lane onto the right shoulder.

"I don't know who it was," Larry writes, "but that driver deserves recognition for his or her skill and poise."

Amen to that, Larry -- from One Who Knows.

The same thing happened to me about 20 years ago on a rural, two-lane road in Massachusetts. Your first instinct is to stamp on the brake and stop as fast as you can. That happened to work in my case, but only because I was lucky enough not to have anyone following me. I wouldn't want to try it on the Beltway.

What do experts advise? Mary Ann Reynolds of the American Automobile Association says Larry's Beltwaymate did exactly the right thing.

"Slow down and use your side-view mirrors to pull over onto the shoulder," Mary Ann advises. "Be calm and use common sense."

You might also check the clasp on your hood from time to time. I called a couple of garages, and they tell me that they can sometimes spot a fraying or bent hood clasp that's about to go sproinnnnnnnng. Worth the time and the expense.

If you happened to ask our circulation department what drives them craziest -- and I have -- they'd answer: "Thefts."

In many high-rise apartments around the area -- and in several neighborhoods of single-family homes, too -- The Post no sooner lands on a doorstep than it's stolen by some light-fingered cheapskate.

Many countermeasures have been tried over the years. None work for very long, if at all. But if Post Pilferage happens to you, you might copy what a friend in Woodley Park tried last month.

His paper had disappeared daily, for several weeks in a row. In fact, the thief was so brazen that he apparently lay in wait for the delivery truck. My friend proved this in agonizing fashion one morning at about 5:30.

He was lying in bed when he heard the paper hit his doorstep. He leapt out of bed, threw on a pair of jeans, ran downstairs and opened the door. In those 20 seconds, the thief had already struck.

Finally, in desperation, my friend left a sign on the front porch. It read:

IF YOU KEEP STEALING MY PAPER, I'LL CANCEL MY SUBSCRIPTION.

The thief hasn't been back since.

Good point from a man whose wife is blind, and relies on a guide dog.

People in shopping malls will often come up to the dog and pet him, the man says. They only mean to be friendly. But in fact, they're doing harm.

Petting a guide dog repeatedly can undo his training, the man says. Next time you see a blind person's dog, remember the old adage: look but don't touch.

Write it down. 10 a.m., July 10, Room 114, District Building, 14th and E streets NW.

There and then, City Councilwoman Nadine Winter will hold a "public roundtable" on Bill 6-213. That measure, now before Winter's public works committee, would restrict smoking in D.C. workplaces to designated areas only.

I've been beating the drum for this bill for the last few weeks. But the real political battle will begin in front of Winter one week from the day you read this.

If you think D.C. nonsmokers have just as firm a right to clean air as D.C. smokers do to smoke, please testify. Call Linda Malloy at 724-8064 by close of business July 8 to register.

You gotta like Bruce Johnson's solution to the age-old problem of nonhandicapped drivers parking in handicapped-only spaces.

Bruce says they ought to erect a sign that says:

IF YOU AREN'T HANDICAPPED WHEN YOU PARK HERE, YOU WILL BE WHEN YOU LEAVE!

And finally, Glenn Justema of Clinton saw a girl-watcher's dream at a red light in Marlow Heights the other day.

The car stopped in the left lane had tags that read: IAM A10.

The tags on the car in the very next lane said: DOUBLE.