February 5, 2011


Chicago residents call "dibs" on dug-out parking (Don Babwin And Carla K. Johnson, 2/05/11, Associated Press)

A blizzard that dumped nearly 2 feet of snow has revived a longstanding Chicago tradition: Break out the patio furniture. Or, if none is available, suitcases, garbage cans, strollers, bar stools and milk crates work, too.

All these items are frequently used by Chicago residents in a time-honored yet controversial system of preserving parking spots, known as "dibs."

In an urban version of wild animals marking their territory, residents use chairs and other objects to tell anyone who passes that someone has taken the trouble to dig out enough snow to park a car — and that person expects the spot to remain available when the vehicle returns. [...]

The practice is so ingrained in the fabric of the city that almost immediately after the blizzard ended, the candidates running for mayor were asked where they stood on the practice. Three told the Chicago Sun-Times they were in favor of "dibs," while one was noncommittal. The retiring Mayor Richard Daley dances around the issue, but he has made no secret of his sympathy for people who spend time digging snow only to lose their parking spots to someone else.

Even the city's top police officer sympathizes with those who do it.

"Think about it, you spend a couple hours clearing a spot and somebody from another block takes it?" Superintendent Jody Weis said Friday.

While "Dibs" has caused fights and inspired vandalism in the past, things have been relatively quiet this year, Weis said. People still seem to be in a help-thy-neighbor mode after one of the biggest blizzards in Chicago history, he said.

In the neighborhoods, residents said they expect drivers looking for a parking spot to follow the law of the street.

"This is my spot because I worked hard to dig my car out," said Max Rosario, 27, just before he put his patio chair on the street. It joined 16 chairs, one slab of plywood, a plastic kids table, three barstools — one wearing a blue t-shirt — and a TV dinner tray, among other things. "I'd be very upset."

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 5, 2011 9:54 PM
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