Join 3,561 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Dibs!
February 6, 2014 9:25 PM   Subscribe

You worked for 45 minutes with only one glove to dig your car out of the foot of snow it's parked in. Congratulations, you're dug out! But you're just driving to work and coming right back home again, and you know some lazy good-for-nuthin is gonna come along and cozy right up into your clean spot without even having to break a sweat. Not a problem for you, Bears fan! Behold the wintertime tradition of parking dibs, Chicago-style.

How did parking-spot "dibs" start in Chicago, and what are the rules?

Of course it's all fun and games until someone goes around and steals all the chairs to sell on Craigslist. "I’m selling each chair for $5, regardless of condition or smell."
posted by heyho (104 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
Really??? 50% of those photos reflect snow levels of 10 inches or less... I'm dealing with 3 feet of snow to get to my friggin' mailbox, my road hasn't been plowed for a month....... If the people of Chicago are pissing and moaning about that, they need to toughen up a bit...
posted by HuronBob at 9:35 PM on February 6 [6 favorites]


I remember the first time I drove to Chicago - I was working for a chinese restaurant, and the owner had family in Little China there. She didn't like to drive, so she hired me to drive her down there. We rolled up at like 1130 at night and were looking for parking near her brothers house and I found a spot with some beat up lawn chairs in it. As I got out to move them, she freaked out yelling at me in that mix of Catonese and english she used when she was upset. Best I could figure out - she was convinced I would get shot. Anyway, we drove around some more and eventually found a spot, but that was the first time I had ever encountered that Chicago tradition.

That was an awesome trip though. I had a blast.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:37 PM on February 6 [3 favorites]


i love the accidental sculptural component of this
posted by PinkMoose at 9:50 PM on February 6


Humboldt Park woman declares "no dibs," shovels entire block.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:00 PM on February 6 [11 favorites]


"I will break your windows if I see your car in this spot."
posted by heyho at 10:13 PM on February 6


This is really weird. Thanks for alerting me to this phenomenon - as I'm the kind of person that thinks that furniture left outside the curb is *FREE*... Without the context, I'd think that Chicago is a city that gives away chairs, all the time.

(some of those look comfy).
posted by el io at 10:17 PM on February 6 [3 favorites]


15 years as a Chicagoan, and I actually used dibs for the first time this year.

In my defense: I was borrowing the car, it was a huge snowstorm (just before the first polar vortex. Great weekend to borrow a car.), I did everything in my power to NOT drive that night. The party was stubbornly ON, my date was on crutches so multiple buses were not a good option, cabs never come to my house, Uber was charging double (go capitalism!) and the other folks in my neighborhood that could drive were stuck in the middle of an alley with all the snow. I had already dug out the spot because I needed a workout. I was the only one out shoveling; no one was going anywhere at 9pm on a blizzardy Sunday night before a day of -100 degrees (or whatever), and like HELL I was going to come back home past midnight with no place to put this stupid car.

So I found a broken plastic chair in the basement and saved my spot. It worked like a dream.

And 2 days later the rest of the street had been shoveled by the rest of the car-havers, and my car went back to it's rightful owner, leaving an extra spot on the block, anyway. Back when I had a car, everyone on my block shoveled their own spots, so there was a little bit of unofficial sticking to your own spot at first, but rarely dibs. But my block is actually great for parking and has fewer life-long Chicago residents than some other parts of the neighborhood or city.

I think dibs is pretty un-neighborly overall, but I could see just going with it if the rest of the street does. And some neighborhoods with really dense/permit parking that are bad even in delightful weather... I don't even know how you'd put up with having to drive around for blocks trying to park your car, anyway.
posted by jeweled accumulation at 10:18 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]


Dibs doesn't seem to exist in my corner of Rogers Park. Thus no one ever shovels out a space and the sides of the street are a slushy clusterfuck until the snow melts.
posted by HumuloneRanger at 10:21 PM on February 6


There are some cities that have a culture of "I'm going to make my problem your problem" and I can't stand it. This would totally happen in Miami if it ever snowed there.

A bunch of shots show roads that are almost completely free of snow. What's the justification at that point? Regardless, the people who've done this are BAD NEIGHBORS.

I've never felt frustration losing "my spot" that I've spent time digging out. Because you know what? A bunch of other people in the neighborhood are also digging out their cars. And we've probably helped each other to do so at various times. When you come home you just park in one of those other spots that somebody else has cleared out. And if you can't find a clear spot, well, that's winter and you just deal with it. That's how it's worked in the snowy cities where I've had a car.
posted by theory at 10:31 PM on February 6 [10 favorites]


The Parking Chair is a thing in Pittsburgh too. Actually Pittsburghers carry on like they invented the practice of reserving a spot with crappy old furniture.

During Snowpocalypse 2010 my husband was shoveling a spot out and made the mistake of temporarily pushing a ratty old coffee table out of the way for a minute so he could dig next to it. The spot's "owner", looking down from her apartment window, believed he was taking her spot, cursed at him, and then waited for him to go inside and then slashed our front tires, which I only discovered when I tried to drive the next day.

Snow and cars together really bring out the best in the human spirit.
posted by daisystomper at 10:33 PM on February 6 [12 favorites]


Well, I hate it when people claim to own "their" part of the public street for whatever reason. On my Minneapolis block, we spend more time pushing each others' cars out of the snow than pushing lawn chairs around in the snow.

During a recent snow storm, I was brushing snow off my neighbors car when I noticed that she'd left it running to warm up. She'd had a knee replacement, is a single mom with a son with Downs, and to top it all off, she's a hospice caregiver, so she's clearly deserving of good karma. So then someone I'd never seen comes down snowblowing the whole block. Then my neighbor--who's been slowblowing my sidewalk all winter because we help his wife out with their kids when he goes hunting for multiple weekends each fall--comes snowblowing around the corner to clear my sidewalk and he meets the guy who's snowblowing the whole block while I'm out clearing the snow off my neighbor's car ... and it was this beautiful little clusterf' of good deeds on the corner.

So screw dibs. Everyone owns the street. It's ours.

(ps. I'm from Florida.)
posted by agog at 10:34 PM on February 6 [28 favorites]


I do love the shots of toy cars parked in snow though. It's something delightfully otherworldly. This one just made me giggle.
posted by ArkhanJG at 11:07 PM on February 6 [4 favorites]


Interesting. I live in a very snowy part of the world (inland Norway), and afaik there is no such system in play here.
posted by Harald74 at 11:27 PM on February 6


Some cities apparently officially condone this shit. Boston, for example, has official policy on how long you can leave space savers in the street: "[Do not use] space savers more than 48 hours after a snow emergency has been lifted." I guess they're afraid to ban the practice because the the local tire-slashing thugs know where the politicians park their cars.
posted by pracowity at 11:55 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]


Yeah, it's weird. I grew up in the "snow belt" of Ontario, where you didn't call snow an "emergency" until it went over 1m (3ft). There was no such thing as "dibs", even though the constant circulation of snow-plows during the winter often meant that your car was completely buried in snow.

Then, I moved to Chicago and started driving a car. For some reason, the first time I saw an immaculately-cleaned spot reserved with a lawn chair, some part of my little Canuck-socialist heart broke. I never got into the whole "dibs" culture while I lived there, and I managed to resist the temptation to just clear them all and make a bonfire out of them.
posted by LMGM at 12:14 AM on February 7 [5 favorites]


I live in a part of the world where it never snows (Singapore), and people do this all the time, with chairs, dustbins, potted plants, etc. Actually people do it to seats in the food courts too; they'll put a packet of tissues on the seat and then go off to buy their food. It's known as "chope-ing".
posted by destrius at 12:24 AM on February 7 [2 favorites]


If they're going to condone dibs on street parking, cities should at least make street parking pay: no free spots. Either you pay X dollars a day (maybe two dollars a day? five?) for an annual parking sticker or you park off the street. There's your dibs. If you have a parking sticker, you've got dibs on all the parking spaces that just opened up when the freeloaders moved their private car storage off the public streets.
posted by pracowity at 12:36 AM on February 7 [3 favorites]


Interesting. I live in a very snowy part of the world (inland Norway), and afaik there is no such system in play here.

That's because Norway's part of the civilised world, where people grow up with the idea of cooperation and society as more than a collection of self directed, self interested individuals. In a country where you can't even depend on the government to provide for you when you're ill, it's no wonder people privatise public roads this way. You can't depend on your neighbours to help you and you sure as hell wouldn't help them, so you create some primitive set of rules and enforce them through fear and aggression.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:44 AM on February 7 [19 favorites]


That's because Norway's part of the civilised world, where people grow up with the idea of cooperation and society as more than a collection of self directed, self interested individuals. In a country where you can't even depend on the government to provide for you when you're ill, it's no wonder people privatise public roads this way. You can't depend on your neighbours to help you and you sure as hell wouldn't help them, so you create some primitive set of rules and enforce them through fear and aggression.

Nonsense. As noted above, this isn't even universal in the U.S. We don't do this in Minneapolis. As much as you'd like to rant about the U.S. not being civilized, this is something more specific than the culture of the U.S.
posted by Area Man at 12:51 AM on February 7 [10 favorites]


I'll also say that my block in Minneapolis is like agog's. Several times this year I've gone outside to shovel only to find that all or part of the sidewalk had already been done by one of the neighbors. We've also shoveled neighbors' sidewalks. Someone on the alley owns a plow and plows the alley for us all. When the older ladies lived at the end of the block, others would make sure they were shoveled out.
posted by Area Man at 1:00 AM on February 7 [1 favorite]


MartinWisse, it's just a fun, self-perpetuating city 'tradition.' If Chicago was full of Norwegians, they'd probably help each other get out and then help each other bring out the chairs.
posted by michaelh at 1:07 AM on February 7 [2 favorites]


MartinWisse, not to pile on, but I doubt the practice described in the post is that common. I'm not the only one with a Minneapolis connection to have chimed in here, but there really is quite a strong sense of community and cooperation there. And in my experience it isn't confined to that part of the country, despite the complaints in my previous comment. I was back visiting my parents in Minnesota last week and my dad still clears snow away from the neighbors' mailboxes. If someone is out of town when it snows, a neighbor will always clear their sidewalk or driveway so it's not obvious that nobody is home. People there would be shocked to witness the behavior shown in the FPP. And it shouldn't even be necessary given the fact that there will be other parking spaces that've been cleared and nobody will hate you for taking one. I think it really is just a silly tradition in cities like Chicago and Boston where it's practiced, and not a widespread one at that.
posted by theory at 1:36 AM on February 7


Come off it Americans, the Norwegians are better than you and you know it.
posted by biffa at 2:30 AM on February 7 [9 favorites]


Eh, I recall seeing small aspects of this over 10+ years in Baltimore. I don't think it's crazy at all, though the level of implied violence is a bit much. Who the hell wants to put in the time and effort digging out a spot, only to someone else come along and take it? I can see nerves getting frayed over that.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:33 AM on February 7 [3 favorites]


Boston, for example, has official policy on how long you can leave space savers in the street ... I guess they're afraid to ban the practice because the the local tire-slashing thugs know where the politicians park their cars.

Boston tried to end the practice over 10 years ago by sending out trucks to remove items from parking spots after storms. It proved unenforceable because residents starting saving spaces with actual junk that's otherwise a pain to dispose of, like CRT televisions, and it's a fairly anonymous crime.

The current statute is a "please, guys!" compromise.
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:44 AM on February 7 [10 favorites]


> If Chicago was full of Norwegians, they'd probably help each other get out and then help each other bring out the chairs.

And then they'd gather down at the Lutheran meeting hall and eat hot dish and lutefisk and Powdermilk Biscuits. Good heavens, they're tasty and expeditious.
posted by ardgedee at 3:33 AM on February 7 [12 favorites]


Troy, NY: Dibs.

Albany, NY: No.

Go figure?
posted by mikelieman at 3:36 AM on February 7


It's also weird to connect this practice to healthcare. Dibs is commonly practiced in Boston and Massachusetts is one of the U.S. states most committed to providing everyone with health care. Bottom line, I don't think loathing the United States is the same as having interesting or useful things to say about the cultures of specific cities in the United States.
posted by Area Man at 3:42 AM on February 7 [4 favorites]


In Toronto, we'd just drive over that shit. Or get out, throw it on the sidewalk, and then drive into that spot.
posted by dobbs at 4:05 AM on February 7 [2 favorites]


There is also the Wrigleyville tradition of selling parking in your driveway on the days of Cubs games where you move your car to the street because you get street parking permits in addition to having your driveway and there are informal rules of pricing and parker solicitation.
posted by srboisvert at 4:12 AM on February 7


Boston tried to end the practice over 10 years ago by sending out trucks to remove items from parking spots after storms.

One of Tom Menino's few missteps in his long tenure was taking on this long-lived Southie tradition. In true Boston Strong style, the locals told him to go shit in his hat when he tried to ban it outright. And even the current policy is generally ignored in those neighborhoods where "dibs" is practiced.
posted by briank at 4:18 AM on February 7 [1 favorite]


the locals told him to go shit in his hat

There's an expression I haven't heard in about 50 years. It was in East Cambridge.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:25 AM on February 7 [2 favorites]


The Boston Globe recently had an article about a vigilante who goes around collecting all the space-saving junk to free the parking spaces.

A space-saver hero in South Boston
Early on Thursday morning, on the drive into work, David Ivaska rammed a couple barrels in South Boston. He did this because they’re the only thing people put out as space savers that you can really punt with a bumper. Cones just get stuck under your car.

More than a day had passed since the neighborhood received a laces-high dusting of snow, but on his way home the streets of Southie were still 100 percent in on the space-saver game. So Captain Cone went on a tear. For whole blocks, Ivaska, who is 40 and lives in the three-decker he grew up in, chucked every space saver he could find, except for the cones, which he stacked in his trunk until it wouldn’t close. When he posted the photo of his trunk online — Ivaska became a Facebook folk hero as a space-saver vigilante — he did so to a hero’s welcome.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 4:28 AM on February 7


Or you could push mass transit and carpooling coupled with sensible policies about employment protections and weather emergencies.
posted by kewb at 4:37 AM on February 7


Boston style!
posted by sammyo at 4:47 AM on February 7 [2 favorites]


Look, it took me awhile to clear the space in front of my house, plus a 6 pack of beer for the plow driver so he won't undo my hard work. Space is mine by right of sweat and beer. You want a spot of your own? I'm happy to help and will even tip you as to the plow driver's preferred brew.

We're usually pretty good on my street. We have a fair number of 30-something dudes who are desperate to justify the giant snowblowers they purchased to patrol 20 feet of sidewalk - I'm pretty sure we cleared an entire cross street on Wednesday. Any of those folks want to park in my spot? Sure, fine, they put the work in.

But some cars.... some cars... Butterfly Car, SubPop Car, and Vaguely Smashed Minivan I'm looking at you here... have never helped shovel and have always poached spots. To them belong the wages of sin, the glares through the curtains, and the fantasies of Magento-style car levitation abilities.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:50 AM on February 7 [16 favorites]


One of the major differences between Minneapolis and Chicago is that Chicago is much more densely populated. When Minneapolis declares snow emergency residents park on the odd side of the street while the even side is plowed, and then switch, so both sides get plowed out and cars do not get plowed under. Chicago is too densely parked up for this to work, so cars are plowed under and there's more labor involved in clearing them out.

Minneapolis snow emergency parking rules.
posted by bile and syntax at 4:57 AM on February 7 [6 favorites]


But what about the less dense parts of Chicago? I know there are big areas with single family homes. Does this happen there too? Do they not have ways to plow from curb to curb?
posted by Area Man at 5:00 AM on February 7


You can buy an "official" parking chair here (in black and gold) although the Pittsburgh Parking Authority wants you to know that they aren't actually official.
posted by octothorpe at 5:18 AM on February 7 [1 favorite]


I'm convinced that had I owned a car whilst living in Chicago I would've gotten shot during the first winter because of this stupid system. No! Fuck you! Go hunting for another parking spot like all of the other car-driving chumps. Goddamn Chicagoans can't handle a measly fucking foot of snow. I haven't lived in that city in a few decades and these photos are making my blood boil all over again. BAH!
posted by NoMich at 5:21 AM on February 7 [1 favorite]


I first encountered this when I lived in Somerville, MA. I moved the cones away from the spot in front of my neighbor's house, not reallly understanding what they were for, and parked there. Got a nasty note on my windshield.

But I gotta say, I didn't have the "how can you claim private space as your own, why can't you be more Norwegian?" reaction that most of this thread does. No -- I felt like I'd been stupid not to think about the fact that she'd spent a lot of time and effort clearing the spot, and that I basically was the orifice her note accused me of being. And I apologized.
posted by escabeche at 5:33 AM on February 7 [2 favorites]


New York City has solved this nuisance by making the saving of parking spaces illegal.

"...using parking cones or trash cans to save parking spaces is illegal in New York City and can lead to a $100 fine." You can call the DOT at 311 if you see it happening and they'll investigate.

The law:
"4-08 (n)(7) Unofficial reserving of parking space: It shall be unlawful for any person to reserve or attempt to reserve a parking space, or prevent any vehicle from parking on a public street through his/her presence in the roadway, the use of hand-signals, or by placing any box, can, crate, handcart, dolly or any other device, including unauthorized pavement, curb or street markings or signs in the roadway.”
People who try to save spaces may get their stuff tossed into the street or onto a sidewalk by other drivers. Fights have broken out.
posted by zarq at 5:43 AM on February 7 [2 favorites]


A space-saver hero in South Boston

From the comments section:
I used to be against parking savers in the city. Now I support them. When it starts to snow, I load my truck up with all the garbage I usually would take to the dump. I drive to Southie and place all the junk in open spaces. Locals think the space is saved and won't mess with the junk for fear of reprisal. I don't have to pay a dump fee and I now have my choice of many parking spaces. That's a win-win.
posted by pracowity at 5:44 AM on February 7 [24 favorites]


On a t-shirt. On another t-shirt.
posted by clavicle at 5:53 AM on February 7 [1 favorite]


There are many things I hate about living in rural Georgia, but not having to put up with silly things like parking "dibs" on snow days is not one of them.
posted by JHarris at 6:07 AM on February 7


In Hyde Park, if you try to call dibs on a parking space, you'll get a sternly-worded, possibly-typed letter left on your lawn furniture explaining that We Do Not Do That Here and requesting that you behave in a more neighborly fashion. This may be more evidence that Hyde Park is not really part of Chicago.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:13 AM on February 7 [5 favorites]


This is a Philly thing as well, though the police have been waging a "#NoSavesies" campaign on Twitter. I applaud the guy going around stealing all the space savers, though I fear it would result in slashed tires for the next person to park there thinking it's an open spot (and really, if you don't want someone's car in "your" spot, slashing their tires is probably the worst way to get them to not be there anymore, but whatever).
posted by zempf at 6:29 AM on February 7


Pittsburghers do this kind of shit even when it's not snowing. On the South Side, you'll either get your tires slashed (as mentioned above) or your car keyed if you dare to move the folding chair.
posted by GrapeApiary at 6:32 AM on February 7


I felt like I'd been stupid not to think about the fact that she'd spent a lot of time and effort clearing the spot, and that I basically was the orifice her note accused me of being. And I apologized.

Here's what I don't understand: Every available parking space in the neighborhood had to have been cleared out by somebody. Presumably you too had dug out a space somewhere in the neighborhood where your car had previously been parked. Why is it so vital that she get to park in the exact same spot that she'd cleared out? And if it's about reserving the spot that's right in front of one's home, or because there are more cars than there are spaces in the neighborhood, why isn't this happening the rest of the year when there isn't snow?
posted by theory at 6:32 AM on February 7 [1 favorite]


Not just Hyde Park. There's a neighborhood on the north side with a high population of police and firefighters. I've never seen dibs up there, either.

I used to think this was something endemic to Chicago, but the most vociferous arguments for it I've been subjected too are from people who moved from elsewhere to Chicago. "I dug that parking space out - it's RIGHTFULLY MINE!" I have no explanation.
posted by lagomorphius at 6:35 AM on February 7


Presumably you too had dug out a space somewhere in the neighborhood where your car had previously been parked.

No, I rented a driveway elsewhere that was kind of a hike from my house, but at that moment it was convenient for me to park right up front for some reason.
posted by escabeche at 6:36 AM on February 7


They do it in parts of Wilmington, Delaware but not everywhere. It seems to happen most in the neighborhoods where there are row houses so you have a spot in front of your house. In neighborhoods with apartment buildings it doesn't work so no one bothers.

They also do it during special events like the Italian Festival when a lot of people come in from the suburbs and take up all the parking.
posted by interplanetjanet at 6:38 AM on February 7


This is a thing in Philly too.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 6:53 AM on February 7


You worked for 45 minutes with only one glove to dig your car out of the foot of snow it's parked in.

If you live in Chicago (or any other place that regularly gets a lot of snow) and don't have a snow shovel in your trunk in the winter, you're a damned fool.

(That said, the "dibs" object gallery is amusing.)
posted by aught at 6:58 AM on February 7


I am really surprised cities let people get away with this.
posted by Think_Long at 7:05 AM on February 7 [2 favorites]


Some of those spots in the gallery are on streets that appear to have been plowed to the curb. They don't fit with the theory that this about owning the spot because of the work that went into shovelling out the spot.
posted by Area Man at 7:05 AM on February 7


GrapeApiary: "Pittsburghers do this kind of shit even when it's not snowing. On the South Side, you'll either get your tires slashed (as mentioned above) or your car keyed if you dare to move the folding chair."

Oddly, I've almost never seen that on the Northside. I actually can't remember if I've ever seen a parking chair over on this side of the rivers. This city is full of little micro-cultures.
posted by octothorpe at 7:09 AM on February 7


If they're going to condone dibs on street parking, cities should at least make street parking pay: no free spots. Either you pay X dollars a day (maybe two dollars a day? five?) for an annual parking sticker or you park off the street. There's your dibs. If you have a parking sticker, you've got dibs on all the parking spaces that just opened up when the freeloaders moved their private car storage off the public streets.

Chicago was a pioneer in parking stickers. From what I can tell, they've had them in various forms since 1908. They seem to have proliferated in recent decades as a quick, unarguable way to generate funds for heaven knows what, both in city neighborhoods and in many outlying suburbs.
posted by ZeusHumms at 7:20 AM on February 7


I am really surprised cities let people get away with this.

It's just really hard to beat. Some guy puts a piece of trash out on the street and dares anyone to move it. Neighbors know that their cars would be recognized and they might be confronted and shamed. Strangers fear someone will key their car or slash the tires.

So it's up to the city to clean up. But it's hard to pin any random piece of trash to a person, so who do you fine? And it takes time and money to just pick it all up street by street and dump it, so that's not a good move, especially with locals complaining that the city ought to have better things to do (like plow the streets). And if it's a popular thing, maybe politicians think they need to look the other way or risk losing support.
posted by pracowity at 7:26 AM on February 7 [2 favorites]


This takes me back to when I lived in Rogers Park (north Chicago) and owned a car in the mid to late 90s.

The car to street parking ratio was greater than one, so parking was always a problem even without snow. This problem was made even worse by the city's aggressive ticketing. I eventually learned that if I had to drive around for an hour to find a legal spot, that's what I had to do.

Then add snow. And there's now way that the streets can be plowed to the curb. Dibs were everywhere. I never did it. Just the thought of trying to pull that filled me with anxiety.

Ultimately, this is a reflection of cities not doing a good job making neighborhoods livable without a car. Rogers Park isn't close to the El (not where I lived) and the bus system was not all that, either. I haven't followed the CTA since I left, but back then I remember the city fucking over poor neighborhoods by cutting their transit options left and right.

In 2001 I moved to NYC and sold my car. Haven't looked back.
posted by ursus_comiter at 7:31 AM on February 7


Tires slashed are horrible, but I've heard of buckets of water dumped over a dibs taker's car in subzero weather. Chicago has been hit hard the last few weeks...these recent photos are not representative of the amount of snow piled up on my block and many others. We have drifts and plowed areas at least 4 feet high...and when there are too many cars on a block, we get plowed in continuously, if they plow, which doesn't always happen. It's hell getting in and out of a dug out space even.
posted by agregoli at 7:34 AM on February 7 [1 favorite]


I'm not from Chicago and where I grew up, this didn't happen because generally, it was urban enough to require limited curbside parking.

THAT SAID.

I wish I could have used this system at my apartment complex. Nothing is more irritating to spend fifty minutes digging out one's car just so you can go to work and then driving back home at the end of the day to find a car parked in your spot, and the spot they had vacated still full of snow (i.e., they brushed off their windshield backed out and left). What this means is that I'm suddenly having to walk through snow, getting my shoes, socks and cuffs of my pants freezing wet, and possibly ruined if the darn city has been spreading cinders all over the place. Meanwhile, my old spot, immaculately cleaned, would have allowed for a quick, snow free exit from the car to the warmth of my apartment.

In short, there are people who are happy to take advantage of the hard work of others, and literally, give them a cold reception in return. I now live in a house. Those suckers must be so confused as to why there aren't any well shoveled parking spots or pathways out of the building to the park lot. Bah humbug!
posted by Atreides at 7:36 AM on February 7 [1 favorite]


It's getting really out of hand in Boston, now. Over in East Boston, they're having to mark parking spots for *airplanes* with 'dibs' chairs.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:38 AM on February 7 [5 favorites]


If you live in Chicago (or any other place that regularly gets a lot of snow) and don't have a snow shovel in your trunk in the winter, you're a damned fool.

Yeah, there are a lot of damned fools around here. Nobody has really been dibsing on my street*, because nobody has really been shoveling. So every day, I hear the sad cries of little cars (and sometimes big vans and pickups) struggling to get into and out of parking spots. Now with this bi-weekly snow we've been having (seriously, we've had only two 4-day stretches without snow so far this winter) it's at the point that you can't shovel if you want to because everything is all packed down and frozen. I'm just glad I don't have a car to deal with, so I can laugh at all the poor saps with their super convenient modes of transportation.

*Except for the guy who put chairs out in a spot after not shoveling it out. Dude, that's not how it works! Otherwise we'd have dibs year round!
posted by gueneverey at 7:41 AM on February 7 [1 favorite]


To bring the south into the conversation: this kind of parking spot claim happens in New Orleans all the time during Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest, and to a lesser extent during any major neighborhood festival. There hasn't even been any work put into clearing a spot of snow (obviously) but people feel entitled to "their" street parking spot. I'm not even calling anyone out; I've done it myself in the past. Beats parking 15 blocks from your house when the party is in full swing. At least a lot of people down here use their trash cans, or they buy cones since they realize it's going to happen every year (or multiple times a year, depending on your neighborhood).

I've never heard of anyone's tires being slashed but keying is a definite threat. I've seen locals passing by on the sidewalk telling tourists who have gotten out to move cones or trash cans, "Hey, I ... really wouldn't do that if I were you."

Of course I've also seen people yelling from their porch to someone attempting to park in an unobstructed street parking space, "Hey, you can't park there! That's my spot! Twenty dollars!" and really, what are you gonna do? Park somewhere that someone's yelling at you and then walk away from your car?
posted by komara at 7:45 AM on February 7


It should be pointed out that, no matter what you see in those photos, many Chicago side streets take days to see a snow plow after a storm, if they see one at all.

That being said, I have no idea how to drive and I rode my bike to work this morning when it was one degree out.
posted by Juliet Banana at 7:47 AM on February 7


It should be pointed out that, no matter what you see in those photos, many Chicago side streets take days to see a snow plow after a storm, if they see one at all.

Wow, that would not be acceptable in Minneapolis. It is common political wisdom here that a Mayor has to make sure the streets get plowed. When the veteran Mayor of St. Paul met with the newly-elected Mayor of Minneapolis shortly after the election this fall one of his key bits of advice was to make sure that the plowing was done correctly.
posted by Area Man at 7:59 AM on February 7


Minneapolis does have Critical Parking Permits in high-density areas. Also in some hoity-toity areas where well-heeled residents have gotten them put in for less well-defined reasons. Saint Paul has comparable areas.

Minneapolis is also pretty aggressive about towing away cars during snow emergencies. Don't expect your car to get 'plowed in', expect it to get hauled away to the dreary bureaucratic hell of the Impound Lot over west of downtown, where you'll have to pay a ransom to get it back.

Also regarding snow emergencies: I think the odd-only-even-only side of the street dance during a snow emergency does a bit to cut down on territoriality and parking spaces.
posted by gimonca at 8:00 AM on February 7


Troy, NY: Dibs.

Having lived in both Troy and Chicago, I can attest to a correlation between dibs and a general civic culture of celebrating nastiness for its own sake.

It is common political wisdom here that a Mayor has to make sure the streets get plowed.

It used to be the political wisdom here in Chicago too, and Bilandic's 1979 mayoral loss to relative political neophyte Jane Byrne is generally ascribed to his poor handling of a big snowstorm. But this year is Rahm's first snowy winter, he is doing a spectacularly awful job of snow removal, and no one seems to care. I guess these days if you close enough schools and scream enough obscenities at union officers, Chicago voters will love you even if they don't see asphalt on their street for two months (see above, re nastiness).

Makes me glad I ride a bike and/or the train and am not required to care about street parking.
posted by enn at 8:13 AM on February 7


Wow, that would not be acceptable in Minneapolis. It is common political wisdom here that a Mayor has to make sure the streets get plowed.

I've driven in Stevens Square. The streets don't get plowed right away.

I've lived in Chicago and Minneapolis - Minneapolis is much more blase about snow removal and salting. This winter seems to be an exception for Chicago, not the general trend.
posted by dinty_moore at 8:16 AM on February 7


Chicago has a three tier plow plan: first, numbered routes are plowed, then the secondaries, then the side streets. It typically takes 36-54 hours to plow everything, longer if it's very deep or very cold, or if the snow hits at rush hour, which slows the plows down.

This year? They're not getting to all the side streets because it would snow again and the plows had to go back to square one. Worse, because it's been cloudy and very cold, we aren't getting sun melt or salt melt, so even plowed streets would have snow and ice on them.

That being said, my street seems to get plowed quickly. Maybe I'm lucky. I do remember when Daley proposed not ploughing the side streets on overtime pay, only during the day, and that got shot down quickly. I wouldn't be surprised if RFE just quietly told Streets and San not to plow side streets on overtime.

And technically, dibs are illegal in Chicago. Also, many streets do have permit only parking. Finally, there are a set of streets where overnight parking is illegal in the winter, period, and another set where it's illegal when it snows more than 2".
posted by eriko at 8:23 AM on February 7


Finally, there are a set of streets where overnight parking is illegal in the winter, period, and another set where it's illegal when it snows more than 2".

This winter this seems to be going totally unenforced, and consequently essentially no streets (at least up here on the north lakefront) are getting plowed curb-to-curb.
posted by enn at 8:26 AM on February 7


Wow, that would not be acceptable in Minneapolis. It is common political wisdom here that a Mayor has to make sure the streets get plowed.

Ha ha ha. You've clearly never been down my street after it snows. This is the first year (in the six I've lived here) that there's been anything approaching almost adequate plowing.

Chicago has actually had a mayoral election decided on road salt, by the way.
posted by hoyland at 8:29 AM on February 7 [1 favorite]


Well, I've lived in a few different Minneapolis neighborhoods, but I guess I was just lucky. That said, I stand by my position that plowing is considered to be important by local politicians. The mayor of St. Paul already replaced the official in charge of plowing and pledged to buy more plows after some sub-par plowing earlier this winter.
posted by Area Man at 8:40 AM on February 7


I think there’s just a huge different in expectations when it comes to winter driving Minneapolis and Chicago. In Minneapolis, you just park on the one inch of packed snow that the other car vacated. Digging out is a lot more minimal.

When it comes to the city plowing, it’s just generally accepted that the side streets in uptown and whittier are two lanes in the summer and one lane in the winter (those are the side streets I drive the most, but forgive my skepticism that the areas with less money get more attention). The first winter I lived up here, I honestly thought that the city might plow our alley – it happened where I lived in Chicago. This year, my boyfriend and I have been spending about an hour every Saturday hacking away at the ice ridge between our alley’s tire grooves and our parking space, making sure it’s not so steep that our car can’t get over it. The streets are also much icier up in Minneapolis. I mean, I live at an intersection of two streets with heavier traffic right off the interstate, and I regularly see people skidding 5-10 feet while trying to brake while I’m waiting for my bus.

Dealing with piles of snow and ice slicks everywhere is just something you do in Minneapolis. You learn to drive in it.

Also, my parent’s next door neighbor totally uses his snowblower to clean off the entire block’s sidewalks in Chicago, but that man loves his snowblower. There's also no dibs, but it's also a bungalowville, so not as densely populated.
posted by dinty_moore at 9:14 AM on February 7


Coming to a street near you LyftDibs and UberDibs.
Stay in your hovel while we shovel ™.
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 9:32 AM on February 7 [1 favorite]


I've lived in Chicago nearly a year, but I never realized items such as these are deliberately reserving parking spaces. I just thought there was a lot of junk everywhere. Good thing I don't have a car, I guess.
posted by Houyhnhnm at 9:34 AM on February 7 [1 favorite]


In Minneapolis, you just park on the one inch of packed snow that the other car vacated. Digging out is a lot more minimal.

So, in Chicago if it snows an inch someone would shovel that inch of snow of the road in order to have a place to park? I guess it would make for a better parking spot, but it would honestly never occur to me to do that.
posted by Area Man at 9:44 AM on February 7


I love dibs in the same way I "love" a lot of things that are very CHICAGO. Things that I know are terrible but are so quintessentially a part of this city that it makes me say "Oh, Chicago" the way you'd say "Bless your heart."

My block rarely sees dibs; I get woken up in the morning by idiots thinking the way to get out of a snowed in spot is to just floor your gas pedal until wheels spin and tire rubber starts burning. But streets just a couple blocks away see dibs even when there's no fucking snow on the street. (Including one spot in front of an apartment building that as been "dibbed" by a child's stroller for like 2 months now.) I wonder if it's related to my street being residential permit and the others not. It's one thing to lose your dug-out spot to a neighbor, another to lose it to someone unwilling to pay for a parking spot to visit the nearby restaurant/retail street.

This year has gotten really bad with long-standing dibs, and I don't know if it's the constant snow-freeze cycle we've had, the severe lack of plowing, or just people taking advantage of the tradition. Probably a mix of all of the above.

Meanwhile my car's in a garage off the alley and while I've been trying to keep my garage dug out, this last snow might be the last straw. There's nowhere left to put the snow. I may not be able to move it again til May.
posted by misskaz at 10:00 AM on February 7 [4 favorites]


So, in Chicago if it snows an inch someone would shovel that inch of snow of the road in order to have a place to park? I guess it would make for a better parking spot, but it would honestly never occur to me to do that.

It has to snow more than an inch, but it seems to me that the general reaction to snowfall in Minneapolis is to dig out just enough to be able to accelerate out of the spot with the possible help of some kitty litter and the passenger pushing, someone else will drive through the tire tracks to take the same spot. and this is repeated often enough that there's an inch or so of very densely packed but mostly level snow/ice making up the parking lane for the entire block.

There are plenty of people out there that think we're crazy for being totally okay with parking on ice, or would at least consider that a space that hasn't been cleared.
posted by dinty_moore at 10:11 AM on February 7 [1 favorite]


That is an interesting phenomenon. Montreal does this for the July 1st moving day and people respect it.

As for snow ... found the comment in this video (5 mins) of basic street clearing ... perhaps illustrative. "No fuckin' around. We have millions of dollars in our snow removal budget. It's beautiful!"

Here is a Big Rig Ballet (5 mins) of a cleanup.

A more street level view (12 min) of operations. Another street level (6 mins) cleanup and removal mix by the first guy, both shows some day and night time work.

A high overhead view. (10min)

A regular apartment balcony view. (5min)

A news type view. (1min 30)

Finally, a tourist view of the equipment working in old Montreal. (3 min)

Because people are investing labour, felt ownership is understandable. Here I think, because the service (is of great civic importance and complained about frequently) is rendered to all, the labour is just doing your small part and we are all in the same position and things will be easier in a few days ... hopefully.

Plus all those chairs and whatnot would simply be buried by snow and crushed by plow and chewed up and spit out by snowblower.
posted by phoque at 10:22 AM on February 7


misskaz, exactly! Chicago seems to "love" a lot of things that way. Like having a mayor that feels like a mobster.
posted by agregoli at 10:27 AM on February 7 [3 favorites]


Minneapolis (and even more so, Saint Paul) snow clearance got significantly worse during the years that the Pawlenty administration was cutting state funding for local governments (LGA).

My personal take is that several years of warm or warm-ish winters have changed snow-clearing priorities as well. We've had several years where "just let it melt"--although not a great long-term strategy--actually worked at times. The last couple of years, we've had warm winter storms that dropped snow and slush, but weren't well-cleared, and side streets and alleys got caked with ice that took weeks to go away.

This year, it's been so relentlessly cold, that the bits of ice that people were expecting to go away in a brief warm spell are still there, because there haven't been any warm spells to speak of. So....you park on the ice.
posted by gimonca at 11:01 AM on February 7


Coming to a street near you LyftDibs and UberDibs.
Stay in your hovel while we shovel ™.


I don't know if you were kidding, but this already exists.
posted by escabeche at 11:19 AM on February 7 [1 favorite]


I really thought that link was going to lead me to a picture of two kids and a snow shovel.
posted by dinty_moore at 11:22 AM on February 7 [3 favorites]


Edmonton gets loads of snow. A record amount this winter.
Snow that gets packed down on the side roads to form geological layers of heavy ice. Generally, the side streets do not get plowed (which is why we drive SUVs and trucks) but sometimes it gets so bad that the city breaks down and actually plows the side streets. Sometimes this results in windrows that reach your waist or higher which force you to mountaineer over them to reach your own house. If you spend hours moving slabs of ice to clear a small spot for your car and someone else parks in it? Words might be exchanged with this rare interloper but dibs? Never.
posted by Gwynarra at 11:29 AM on February 7


I absolutely loved this about Chicago when I lived there. I also didn't have a car in Chicago.

My favorite part of commuting in the winter was having to ride the Red Line north from Addison so as to be able to secure a spot on a southbound train when cold weather and snow caused the antiquated El to run way below capacity. On one such storm I ended up all the way at Howard where I couldn't disembark because the platform was too crowded. Missed half a day of work but I'm not sure the frostbit toes were worth it.
posted by Fezboy! at 11:31 AM on February 7


I'm surprised at the surprise. Every east coast city I've lived in had a version of this, at least for the tertiary roads.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:35 AM on February 7


I must say, as someone with arguably socialist leanings, I don't quite see the problem with this. If someone puts 45 minutes of work into digging their car out, maintaining possession of that space for the duration of the snow (or at least, a couple days) seems like a fair outcome. In these sorts of urban environments, if you come back and that space is taken, the probability of finding another one can be very very low, meaning you may either have to park literally a mile away, or pay $15 to put it in a garage that is also a long way away. Obviously, if it was just an exchange of spaces, like under normal conditions -- where person A leaves spot A and takes some other random spot B when getting home, and the same for everyone else -- then there is no need for the space holding. But that is not what happens, for reasons I don't entirely understand. Demand surges relative to supply, and an unsaved spot can mean a long trek home after a very long time spent searching. And actually, this isn't even particularly inconsistent with many flavors of communism, since one of the few categories of property ownership often condoned in those sorts of systems are the direct fruits of your manual labor, such as a cabin you built with your own hands, or arguably a parking spot you created with your own shovel.
posted by chortly at 12:31 PM on February 7 [2 favorites]


I've thrown away garbage left in parking spots but I sure as hell don't park in that spot myself.
posted by mike_bling at 1:00 PM on February 7


"I will break your windows if I see your car in this spot."
posted by enn at 1:29 PM on February 7


I followed the 'break your windows' link and below I saw this image which I immediately took to be the best 'dibs' ever.

Unfortunately it may not be directly related to the story at hand.
posted by komara at 2:25 PM on February 7 [6 favorites]


I am confounded by the dibs situation in my neighborhood. My neighbors have shown so much compassion to my face, offering to help push my car out of a bank of snow before I was even ready to admit to myself it was stuck, racing to be the first one to jump my battery while I was standing outside waiting for a jump from Triple A.

But they are total entitled assholes when it comes to dibs.

There are straight-up not enough curb spaces for every car in the neighborhood, but it's a very working class neighborhood, so a lot of the cars are gone during the day, a lot are gone at night, and I get home from my bar jobs just around the time a lot of factory workers leave for theirs.
In perfect weather there is just enough parking spaces for me to park my car within a block of my house at any time. So of course with lots of cars reserving their spots, there's not a lot left.

The part that pisses me off the most is that most of these neighbors NEVER SHOVELED their cars out! They just brushed off their windshields, pulled out of their spots, and threw down a chair. The piles of snow brushed off the windshields become hills of ice demarcation each individual space, and further shrinking the available free space on the block, and more snow gathers while there's just a chair holding a space and no one shovels it out and it turns into ice and... it's ugly.

So OBVIOUSLY I have a lot of emotion about this and no real outlet, so I just keep hoping that no one sees me when I surreptitiously throw out the furniture in front of my building in the middle of the night BECAUSE THERE ARE ONLY TWO CAR LENGTHS OF SPACE IN FRONTAGE OF MY BUILDING WITH 9 UNITS OF TENANTS LIVING IN IT, AND SINGLE PERSON GETS TO OWN THAT SPACE, GOD DAMMIT.

(and also the furniture in front of my next door neighbor's house because they have big mean guard dogs that wake me up two hours after I get home every Saturday and Sunday and I am petty and fuck them)
posted by elr at 2:42 PM on February 7 [2 favorites]


You can't depend on your neighbours to help you and you sure as hell wouldn't help them, so you create some primitive set of rules and enforce them through fear and aggression.

Like, what, a bad thing?
posted by Smedleyman at 3:24 PM on February 7


-So yes, in a perfect world, everyone here would clear out their spot allll the way to the curb, merrily drive off, and have faith that there would be a plethora of pristine spots when they got back.

A couple of these have been mentioned already but-

a)a lot of apartment dwellers-nowhere near enough garage space for everyone
b)a lot of main avenues have overnight parking bans the entire winter, regardless of whether or not plowing needs to be done
c)metered parking generally is only not in effect between 10 pm and 5 am, (and a hearty screw you for whoever decided to switch that 5 am from an actually reasonable 8 am), so that'll kill spaces too
d)there's a lot of spaces where people have spent the past few weeks just brushing off their windshield and rocking the car over the snow on the ground to get out; after all the times the past few weeks we're gotten a little bit of melt then a refreeze, if you can't line the car up exactly with the tracks in the four inches of ice, you're not sliding into that spot later on.

I'm personally ambivalent about dibs. I've never put out the chairs myself, but I can't say I blame anyone who spends an hour chiseling out their car knowing they probably won't be finding a spot within a three block radius when they return because their neighbors can't be assed out to do the same.

This has indeed been the year I've learned to love the CTA. (Incidentally, if you want to inadvertantly piss someone off; dig out your dead car to keep it from being buried, not realize someone's waiting for you to leave; then after cleaning off your car, walk back in the house. That was a charming note!)
posted by jacy at 4:19 PM on February 7 [1 favorite]


elr: "...I just keep hoping that no one sees me when I surreptitiously throw out the furniture in front of my building in the middle of the night..."

You could always do what one of my neighbors did back in the 90's: Use a hose. Only on purpose. I was living in a three story apartment building. Second floor neighbor (a relatively new émigré from Taiwan) leaves his house, walks into the backyard, unhooks the hose, goes back up the stairs and attaches it to his sink. He then hosed off his BMW and clears the driveway of about six or seven inches of snow with the hot water. Soaks the sidewalk and driveway. Then, satisfied with his accomplishment, goes back upstairs, unhooks the hose and replaces it in the backyard.

Then, since he had just saved himself a good ten to fifteen minutes of shoveling, went back upstairs to have a cup of coffee. Giving all that water time to pool up and refreeze.

The apartment I was in had a side entrance and a walk which ended in his driveway. I stepped out of the house and my feet flew out from under me. I grabbed my screen door and tried desperately to find a foothold, feet flying.

Yes, there was ice all over my walk. And all over the grass. All over the driveway. I nearly broke my neck leaving my damned house.

As I was sitting on my knees on the ice, trying to figure out a way to roll into the grassy lawn to get up without falling over and killing myself, I spotted the upstairs neighbor's girlfriend leave through the front door, yelp "WOOP!" and fall flat on her ass, feet in the air. Her coffee mug went flying. She cursed liberally in Taiwanese.

Upstairs neighbor comes downstairs, laughing. Falls. Helps her up. They fall back down. He finally gingerly makes his way over to his car, falls at least twice more, and finds his key doesn't work in the lock. He'd ruined something. Possibly a sensor or the lock itself, and a couple of mechanisms inside the door had apparently frozen and become damaged.

Never underestimate the power of hot water. :)
posted by zarq at 4:57 PM on February 7 [6 favorites]


Yes, it would be a PITA to live there and deal with it. No, I don't live there, and looking at the creative things people put up to make dibs is great on this snowy evening. I especially loved the fire truck. And the rocking horse. And the kiddy cars. The guy with the car seat totally blew the chance to have a dolly in the seat. Riffing on the fire truck, if I lived there, I would totally have to use the kid's old rusty yellow metal Mattel snow plow.

I have no sympathy for someone having to dig out around a parked car on the street. If it snows the six inches they're predicting (and hell freezes over) we'll have to dig out sixty feet of driveway and the two foot hump the plow leaves across the road.

Good exercise!
posted by BlueHorse at 6:41 PM on February 7


F dibs.
posted by umberto at 7:00 PM on February 7


JetBlue wins at winter.
posted by adamg at 8:50 PM on February 7


Wish I could send some of our sunshine and blue skies we've had in abundance for the past few months! No parking problems either. Today's high was around 80 and the only snow we see is on the mountains all around us. This only happens 2-3 times each winter. Golf or tennis anyone?
It would be really nice if I could get some of the cooler temps come summer though. Life really is a bitch sometimes but my bones could never handle the weather that is anywhere east of Nevada this winter! I promise to send some warm rays your way tomorrow since I wasn't able to attach any to my reply! :)
posted by dragonflyher at 9:29 PM on February 7


Baltimoron here. During Snowpocalypse 2010, this was rampant. After 3-4 feet of snow fell overnight, I went outside, spent what felt like half the goddamn day, and did yeoman's work (if I may say so myself) in making a beautiful clearing for my car. Of course, this was to go to a DUI rehab the next day, one that my lawyer suggested I proactively go to prior to my trial for said alleged offense (because I should note that I was ultimately not convicted of anything), as he said it would impress the judge (who he personally knew, as is so often the case in these small-town exurban jurisdictions, like the one 40 miles from my home where I was caught . . . sleeping it off in a church parking lot, mind you, but according to MD law, that still makes you a degenerate drunk asshole, apparently).

Anyway, knowing I'd be busy for the following three days, and that the snow was DONE, according to the forecast, I kinda figured ehhh . . . screw it. By the time I get back, it won't be so bad, and this chair madness will have ended. And yeah, it wasn't so bad by then (plus, I got back during work hours, so it wasn't so bad).

But my next-door neighbor didn't give a fuck. He was there with me the day I'd dug that spot out, and he'd be damned if he was going to let me lose it, even if I said I was OK with it. He put his own chair in that spot when he had to leave, and parked his (second) car in that spot on my behalf when he was home. Until I got back, at which point he gracefully handed it back to me.

Not coincidentally, he had just stopped drinking for good somewhere around that time. I'd never told him why I had to go away for three days, so he couldn't have possibly known.

Could he?

So that's us Baltimorons. We look out for each other . . . if not necessarily for you. Especially if, God forbid, you're a Virginian (or from the DC area, which is close enough). Then may God have mercy on your soul, in the off chance you actually have one.
posted by CommonSense at 8:37 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]


So that's us Baltimorons. We look out for each other . . . if not necessarily for you. Especially if, God forbid, you're a Virginian (or from the DC area, which is close enough). Then may God have mercy on your soul, in the off chance you actually have one.

You mean Northern Virginian...south of NOVA when we had bad weather, people were pretty good on helping!
posted by Atreides at 7:34 AM on February 10


You mean Northern Virginian...south of NOVA when we had bad weather, people were pretty good on helping!

Nah, I cheekily meant we (in Baltimore) wouldn't look out for you if you weren't "one of us." I was probably more speaking out of my own long-held Marylander bias against VA than the city as a whole which, of course, is made up of lots of different people of different mindsets and attitudes than me, many of which might even be FROM Virginia, etc., etc., blah blah blah.

But that degree of subtlety and nuance would ruin the silliness of my comment, which was affected by two glasses of wine. (Not entirely surprising, given the DUI mention earlier therein.) :-)
posted by CommonSense at 9:02 AM on February 10


Oh, hey, gotta watch out for your own!
posted by Atreides at 9:48 AM on February 10


« Older 25 Wired infographics claim to show how to create ...  |  Unedited footage of the bombin... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments