Friday, January 17, 2014

Following Rules

I’ve never been one to be a big appreciator of authority.  I think I drove my teachers crazy by flagrantly violating every rule possible, both stated and implied, and since school I fully admit to years of assuming that “those rules don’t apply to me”  with many negative outcomes that you might expect.    That said, many outcomes of ignoring/disrespecting rules/authority have reinforced my continuing attitude.  Many a security guard has experienced my too-long, baleful stare, but – whether I like it or not – they usually win (I was once formally reprimanded by my exasperated boss at Nike because of my consistent lack of displaying my security badge and pattern of disregard for the security guards employed exclusively to check people’s security badge). 

However, fifteen years ago I connected with Ashley, who – despite our many connections – represented the opposite side of the coin; all it took was one faded “No Trespassing” sign in the middle of nowhere and we were turning around.  Ash is so good at Always Doing The Right Thing that I began to take notice; doing what is expected of you and not antagonizing people can actually have benefits!  Part of this characteristic was simply who she is, but she has a slightly more strategic reason:  it’s how you “win”.  If you want to play the Game Of Life and win (which usually means getting people to do what you want them to do) it’s best to play by the rules and – if nothing else – letting people think that they are in charge will likely not notice you when you’d prefer not to be noticed.  So, I realized, rules and authority can be a good thing. 

Which brings me to yesterday.  We did our near-weekly quick morning hike/run up to the Salt Lake Overlook in Mill Creek Canyon, and on the way up we saw a guy whom we’ve seen a lot on that trail and others in the area with his overly-enthusiastic Aussie shepherd.  And once again……the dog was not on a leash.  It’s a well-known fact that because three of our four major canyons are watersheds that dogs are not allowed (though major highways covered with oil and salt and major ski resorts and large communities are fine, but don’t get me started….) Mill Creek is the place for mildly-adventurous dog owners, and because of its popularity there has been a long-standing rule that on even days dogs need to be on a leash and odd days they are free to roam.  And yet…..most dog owners ignore this simple rule. 

I am not a dog owner, but I am a dog-uncle, and like everyone we love to take The Duke up on our hikes. But on even days – like yesterday – we don’t pick him up, because we want to make sure that we will be able to take him up there far into the future, and we are afraid that us contributing to the near-universal ignoring of this simple rule will result in the logical conclusion by people with the authority to do so will simply say “NO MORE DOGS. You as a population have proven that you are not responsible enough to follow this very simple rule”.  And I am absolutely certain that these same hikers who have no problem taking their dogs off their leashes when safely out of sight of a trailhead would likely go absolutely ape-shit on me when I came blasting down the upper Mill Creek trails on my mountain bike on an odd day; the other very simple rule in Mill Creek that – ironically – is generally very well-respected by the mountain bike community.  A few times I’ve stopped and said “are you aware of the leash laws in this canyon” and it’s an excellent psychology study, because under pressure it’s crystal clear that people are terrible liars!  And then these same dog owners execute the maddening habit of “picking up after their dog” – according to the rule – but then leave the plastic bag full of shit for…..later? Someone else to pick up?
Oh, it's ok, I'm sure this dog owner is going to come back and get this.....someday......
But at least now that very biodegradable product will not biodegrade because it’s in a plastic bag…..

Lately I’ve been hearing rumours that Brighton’s management is considering a ban on uphill ski traffic because despite them being the first and really only local resort to greet uphill skinners with open arms and provide very clear, well-advertised, and easy to follow “rules” of this relatively non-compliant activity…..people are not following the rules.  And not only that but also popping off at those overpaid ski patrollers who ski past and say something onerous like “please stay on the sides of the run”. 

So I have learned to realize that in order for us all to win, there are indeed certain rules that are made to be…..followed.  Not broken, because if they are broken too much, then the fragile balance of multiple use in an high-density recreation area will also become broken as well.  Lets win this game!  


  1. "Over paid ski patrollers"....That's some funny shit, Tom! We know better, don't we?

  2. Hey Brian - good to hear from you. Indeed, tongue firmly implanted in cheek. I am pretty firmly convinced that given the level of responsibility that ski patrollers have that could be the least appreciated - at least financially - job there is.