Are there more seats on your street than parking spots? That's a sure sign of winter in the city.
A few years ago, Mayor Daley defended the great Chicago tradition of “Dibs” -- shoveling out a curbside parking space, then defending it by throwing all your old furniture in the street.
“If someone spends all their time digging their car out, do not drive into that spot,” Daley wrote in a press release. “This is Chicago. Fair warning.”
That’s right. You could get your car keyed up. Or worse.
Now that it’s snowing again in Chicago, a busybody named Kevin Lynch is out to end the practice of Dibs by tying signs to trees declaring “This Is A Chair-Free Zone.” If you see one, please do the tree a favor by tearing it down. Here’s Lynch’s argument:
It's long been a Chicago tradition that if you clear your parking spot of snow, you can save it with chairs or other sundry items. It's also long been a Chicago tradition that people here are nice to each other. It’s time the second tradition trumps the first. By ordering Chair-Free Chicago signs, you can declare the front of your building, or your
block, or your whole neighborhood a Chair-Free Zone. A Chair-Free Zone is a place where neighbors act like neighbors. A place where we all hope our shoveled-out parking space is available when we return, but we aren’t selfish enough to try and save the spot.
But as Mayor Daley noted, Dibs is an essential part of the Chicago lifestyle, for many reasons. First of all, no other city has so much snow combined with so little parking. New Yorkers don’t drive, it never snows in Los Angeles, and hardly anybody lives in Buffalo anymore. Dibs encourages civic responsibility by giving residents a motivation for shoveling out curbside spaces the snowplows can’t reach. I’ve seen parking spaces scraped clean all the way to the pavement. I doubt the shovelers would have worked so hard if they’d been shoveling for any mope who drove down the street.
Dibs is also good for the environment. If it weren’t for dibs, thousands of wobbly vinyl kitchen chairs, plastic milk crates, sawhorses, giant stuffed animals, and framed Michael Jordan posters with broken glass would end up in Chicago-area landfills every year. Instead, they are stored in basements and closets, waiting to fill up parking spaces each winter. I have four old wooden chairs from Target, just waiting to become Dibs sentries.
As mayor, Daley knows the political perils of making life hard for Chicagoans during a blizzard. Let’s hope the next mayor stands up for Dibs, too.