Passing the Shopping Cart Test

Stay safe and be good to one another

By Rob Breeding

There’s a new theory that says the way someone handles a shopping cart provides insight into that person’s character, and more significantly, what kind of citizen they’d make.

The Shopping Cart Theory goes something like this: Do you take your cart to the designated shopping cart corral, or leave it randomly in the parking lot? Taking your cart to the corral is the right thing to do — it won’t roll off in the wind to dent another vehicle and it eases work for underpaid shopping cart wranglers.

What’s significant about this test is that there’s no reward for doing the right thing. You just do it because it’s what considerate people do.

I’m generally skeptical of grand theories that try to explain complex social behaviors with a simple anecdote, but there’s something to this idea.

We’re all going through a tough time right now. Horrible really. We locked down in March, some at great personal sacrifice, and stayed in isolation for nearly two months. Then, when things seemed to be improving, we opened too fast and now we’re staring into the abyss of another, undefined period when we may need to again set aside normalcy. At least the normalcy to which we were accustomed.

Masks have become a lightning rod of our collective angst. Their use is soon to be required, everywhere.

So this is a good time to be cognizant of the things we do that antagonize our collective COVID-induced anxieties. Many take solace in the outdoors at times like these. Here are a few tips to keep it friendly out there.

Put in, get out. It’s been nearly a decade since I last worked as a river guide, but some things stay with you, forever. No. 1 for many guides is a smoldering contempt for “privates” who don’t understand proper etiquette at the launch ramp.

Here are a few things you should do to avoid annoying both guides and other privates alike.

• Get ready to unload before you back down the ramp. That means all unnecessary straps and gear are removed.

• Back in, put your boat in the water and unload anything else necessary for your trip. Be quick, but don’t forget your parking brake.

• Get your dang truck out of the way.

Some folks leave their truck and unladen trailer at water’s edge, so they can blast the ramp with Sammy Hagar-vintage Van Halen while they linger over their boat. This isn’t how it’s done. Save the Van Hagar for the kegger you’re hosting that night. Your truck’s in the way and you’re on a river in Montana, where, if you must have music, everyone knows Bob Marley is the proper choice.

Clean up after yourself. There remain some among us who haven’t learned that leaving your trash about in wild places isn’t OK. Pick it up. Pack it out. Dispose of it in a proper receptacle when you return to civilization.

Follow game laws, fishing regulations and don’t trespass. Hunting season isn’t too far off and fishing regs grow more complicated every year. Get a map that shows public land boundaries if you’re not certain. Take the time to know how to do it right. Don’t force your fellow hunters and anglers to police your miscreancy.

Poop patrol. Montana is a bastion of dog friendliness. Dog poop left in public places is a great way to ruin that. Pick it up, promptly. And if you have an overly friendly pooch, keep it contained when you’re around folks you don’t know. Kisses from an unknown pup that just sauntered up to say “hello” will make the day of nine out of 10 people in Montana. You don’t want to set the 10th oddball off, however.

Always have a leash handy.

Stay safe and be good to one another. We’ll get through this.

Rob Breeding is the editor of www.mthookandbullet.com.