URBAN PHILOSOPHER
Conscience Laureate

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

THE SNOW HAS FINALLY ARRIVED IN CHICAGO



After an incredibly warm winter start in Chicago, we had our first snowfall.  Snow-covered streets inevitably lead to people shoveling out a parking space, and staking claim to it for months on end.  This is known locally as “dibs.”

Because I have many readers who don’t hail from the Windy City, I need to explain what the definition of "dibs" is.  This is a Chicago tradition.  People feel that if they clean the snow from a parking space on the street, they can “own” it, even after they pull their car out of the spot, by putting lawn chairs, boxes or other flotsam and jettison in its place.

Because I cannot parallel park, it personally does not matter to me if someone has reserved a snow-cleaned side-street parking place with some piece of old junk. I would not be parking in that spot in the summer and won’t be parking in it during the winter. But if I could parallel park, I think any legal spot should be available for my use. No lawn chairs, boxes or other flotsam and jettison should block neighborhood parking spaces just because someone feels they can claim the spot for the reason that they cleared it previously. No dibs, no more!

Chair Free Chicago is a group with a website that hopes "kindness triumphs over selfishness." The folks behind Chair Free Chicago believe that there are more people who are as frustrated by the concept of dibs as there are people who dig out parking spaces and claim them until the first thaw with a resin deck chair, cardboard box, old tires, or whatever detritus they can lay their hands on. To help further their movement, Chair Free Chicago sells fliers and signs online that can be taken as passive-aggressive in tone by the odd man who's this close to a coronary after shoveling out a parking spot.  But they feel that they're being nice in reminding those who claim dibs on parking spaces that we're all suffering through a Chicago winter together.

You can order sturdy signs from their website to tie around trees or print your own flyers to let people know that the area is chair-free.

The site tells us, “When it comes to saving parking spots, we believe people who are frustrated by it outnumber people who appreciate it. Chair-Free Zone signs can help communicate that sentiment. Some people are born with an extra chromosome of entitlement, and probably won’t change. For others, it’ll have them thinking twice about calling dibs on a public space (and screwing their neighbors in the process). And really, isn’t it worth a try?”

Laz Parking is the only company that “owns” public parking spaces in Chicago, no citizen does—until City Council Votes differently.

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