When we moved into our home, there were still lots of old-timers living in the hood, and the parking rules were clear: you did not park in front of anyone else’s house, and a snow-shoveled spot was yours until the snow melted. As the neighborhood changed and new neighbors moved in, these rules were not always recognized and sometimes challenged. Not good.
“Katybeth,” Joe would yell as he stomped into the house after work, “whose car is that?”
“Joe, I have no idea. It was there when I came home from the store. Hi, Honey!”
“Katybeth, do they live around here?”
“Joe, I have no idea. Did you have a good day?”
“*@*@! I cannot believe someone parked in front of our house!”
Joe would then stalk the front window, waiting for the offender to show up. I would try to point out it was a city street, we did not own the street, a parking spot could not be reserved. Joe would look at me and yell in exasperation, “Katybeth, the point is someone parked in front of OUR house!” Ok.
A neighborhood old-timer would walk by, look at the car, scratch his head, and Joe would walk out to commiserate with someone who understood his parking pain.
“Hey, Joe. I don’t recognize that car…”
“I know Henry, someone just parked in front of our house for no good reason.”
“Joe, the point is the neighborhood is changing.”
When Joe came inside he would wander around the house muttering about the lack of common courtesy people showed these days. “Exactly,” I would mutter back.
This went on for years, so I was surprised to hear Chicagoans complain about parking spot savers during the blizzard of 2011. I thought it was a Chicago custom to save parking spots after a snowstorm. It’s not. Who knew? However, it does seem the custom is still respected in old Chicago hoods where almost everyone owns his or her own home.
As soon as the blizzard had stopped blizzarding on Wednesday morning in my neighborhood, the space savers were out in abundance shoveling parking spots and neatly staking them out with a potted plant (its dead fronds trembling in the wind), hot-pink beach chairs, bar stools and coolers, end tables, and a shopping cart all meant as a warning: This shoveled-out space is mine until the snow melts. Occupy it at your own risk.
Some of you will be outraged and wonder, how is this legal? “It’s not right,” you will roar, “First come, first serve! You leave the spot, your loss.” It’s not legal, of course. Squatter rights are being claimed, but can be ignored at your own risk.
I am not from Chicago; and have always felt it was rather rude, and oddly territorial, to claim a piece of city street. “Why not just shovel and hope for the best from your neighbors?” I wondered. When Joe went through his bible phase (another post for another time), I suggested using the “Love thy neighbor” parking approach.
Joe just looked at me blankly, shook his head sadly, and said,“That’s not the point.”(Chicagoans say, “that’s not the point” a lot).“The point is having a little F-king parking courtesy. Without it, what good is a neighborhood?” (Chicago people often tell you what the point is, especially if they grew up on the Northwest Side).
Today, while writing this post, I watched a man walk towards his car, it was parked in front of our house. I did not recognize him. Just before he reached his car, he almost took a nasty fall; he stopped and turned as if to confront someone that had pushed him. As he carefully continued on to his car, I wondered if he had gotten the point.
I then sighed and muttered, “Joe, don’t push thy neighbor.”
I’m sure you have an opinion about this; everyone does. Feel free to leave a comment. Odd loves company!
More on Parking Dibs in Chicago. Thank you Nancy for ferreting out these links.