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In a few short months we’ll be looking forward to ski season and also possibly to awards season (Oscar, Tony, Emmy). Back in my youth one of my favorite award situations happened on "Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In” — back in the late '60s, when a teenage Goldie Hawn had the world’s most famous giggle.

The “Flying Fickle Finger of Fate Award" was given on a fairly regular basis to an agency (usually government) or individual who, because of specified idiocies, they believed deserved, well — the “Finger.” In the spirit of the season and in honor of the late Rowan and Martin, I hereby present my somewhat tongue-in-cheek version.

Please note, these are not intended so much to express disdain or heap embarrassment as to establish a consideration of “OK, here’s something to think about.”

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FFFOF 1: Tailgating (not football-game related)

Following too closely is against the law. But a huge number of drivers do it every day, seriously disregarding the three-second rule from drivers education. Some of it is from osmosis (everyone around you is doing it). And, when you do it there’s no obvious downside. Plus, it’s less likely someone can get in front of you from the next lane. But it’s often a pathetic form of bullying.

Someone comes up to a vehicle that’s going slower than they want to go. Traffic in the adjacent lane keeps them from passing at that moment. So they give a psychological “push” to that “too slow” vehicle. The obvious risk of rear-end collision is one thing when it involves another car; when it’s done to someone on a motorcycle or bike (a person not protected by a steel cage), the wrongness of tailgating rises astronomically. So this Flying Finger goes out to all you tailgaters — ya numb skulls!

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FFFOF 2: Scorchers

Scorchers: A term the media applied to upper crust* young gents zooming recklessly along on their Ordinary (aka high wheel or penny farthing) bikes, producing fear and loathing among pedestrians, horses and the family dog.

Today their counterparts (of various “crusts”) scatter aggravation and anger among pedestrians and the majority of courteous cyclists on our shared use paths (SUPs) and mountain biking trails. May the Fickle Finger dab Crazy Glue on the tires of Missoula’s “Scorchers.”

*The price of an 1880’s Ordinary was often more than a month’s wages for the average worker.

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FFFOF 3: Wacky Walkers

I’ll backtrack here a bit and confess I actually do have disdain for the above recipients. But Finger No. 3 is truly intended to nudge rather than jab.

While all wheeled vehicles, including bikes and skateboards, need to yield to pedestrians, walkers on a SUP should understand that they too are traffic. You increase your risks when you crank up your tunes (not able to hear a bike bell or “on your left”) or have your nose stuck to your smartphone.

To channel the line from one of the Batman movies: “Be aware of your surroundings.” And please keep Fido on a leash and yourself, or group, on the right side of the path. Thanks, love ya!

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And now, for balance, nominees for the Warm Puppy Award:

1. All the amazing motorists who are courteous and patient with fellow travelers, including pedestrians waiting at crosswalks.

2. The Public Works guys/gals who fill the potholes and will soon be plowing our streets.

3. The smart and courteous bicyclists who ride with traffic and use extra caution and lower speeds when they feel the need to use a sidewalk.

Enjoy the fall colors, y’all. And remember, leaves are slippery when wet.

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Gene Schmitz is a retired small-business owner and science teacher. He is a lifelong bicyclist and traffic safety advocate with a history of significant involvement in bicycling advocacy in Missoula and other communities. 

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