Golden Rules 

Act like you know what you’re doing

For whatever reason––probably a skiing addiction––you’ve come to join us here in Missoula. Now what? You don’t know many, if any, people. No one would serve you at Taco del Sol because of your cell phone. And then, for some reason, a cyclist gave you the finger when you had the right of way.

Living here requires adjustment. You need to know some dos and don’ts of the peculiar etiquettes that keep Missoula at a pleasant flow. These rules aren’t etched in stone, but they do matter. Do you want to stick out as “that guy”? No. So just follow along.


Living in Missoula and not owning a dog is the equivalent of living in France and hating wine. You can do it, but that doesn’t make it right.

Sooner or later you’re bound to get involved with at least one, so just be aware that your dog says something about you, as does the way you treat it. For example, if you leave your dog tied to a bike rack or hand rail you can expect someone to call you a jerk––which you are. Would you want to be tied up like that? Hell no. So don’t leave Rex there.

In fact, that’s the best rule of thumb for having a dog in Missoula: just treat it how you want to be treated. Especially when it comes to cleaning up its messes.


The best way to avoid having to deal with pedestrians is to give up and join them. But, if you must drive your car, take a minute and think of the size of your car. Even your Mini is big enough to flatten someone, which is why stopping for pedestrians is essential.

And if you do join their ranks, again, think of how a car could flatten you. So next time a driver stops for you, at least give a little wave. It’s not too much to ask, and in a way, that driver saved your life.

Okay, not really, but it’s nice to thank people.

Everyone Deserves Your Support
Remember how terrible your high school play was, but how your parents still stood up and clapped? It was embarrassing, but you felt like you’d done something good.

Well, Missoula is a college town full of displaced students and adults far from the loving acclaim of their parents. That’s probably why, no matter how bad a performance may be, everyone in attendance stands and applauds (whistling is optional). In fact, the standing-o is so popular in Missoula it can even happen at a movie where no one affiliated with the film is present.

Even if you didn’t like what you just saw, think of it this way: You’ll already be standing when you can finally stop clapping and leave.


The waiter forgot your order completely. It took 20 minutes to see a menu. You asked for no onions, you got onions. You said vinaigrette, but got ranch. The beer was warm and the burger was cold. Your tip for this revolting service: at least 20 percent.

“But it was awful,” you say.

Sure it was, but that server is probably also a college student making minimum wage while going to school full time. So, just like the awful actors, these people deserve some support, and not giving it is considered the vilest of offenses in Missoula.
Think of Mr. White’s speech in Reservoir Dogs, but much worse.


Don’t even think about it. Just don’t. Nobody likes to clean up after you, Captain Inconsiderate.

Seriously, the city was good enough to put a lot of garbage cans around town, and you should use them. Tossing your trash there might take 10 seconds out of your day, but that’s a lot less time than the anti-litter lecture you’d receive.

Cell Phones

It doesn’t matter if you’re only text messaging, you’re on your phone. When in public with others it’s expected that you be with them. If you want to be with someone else, that’s cool, go, but give the due attention to your comrades when out on the town.

If you must use your phone, an emergency or something like that, excuse yourself with a quick self-deprecating apology and then leave the establishment. Even in winter.

Also, that Bluetooth headset is for your car. Wearing it around town will only cause confusion for the people around you. Not all of us can see it dangling in your ear, and so you look like you’re talking to the voices in your head.


Famed rockers Creedance Clearwater Revival once sang, “You don’t need a nickel just to hang around…”

They were wrong.

When you stop to listen to a guitar, banjo, or cello player on a Missoula street, that’s essentially stopping at a venue, and you should pay with some of the change in your pocket.

More often than not Missoula’s street performers will earn your pocket change. But yes, even if they’re terrible you should pay them. We’ve covered this already.
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