If you live or work in the ‘Burgh, I’m sure you’ve seen it; The lonely lawn chair sitting in the middle of a parking space. I always thought this was a phenomenon used most heavily on the South Side… but as time goes on, I realize that it’s all over the city… Especially when we have ridiculously snowy weather. I’m sure other cities have this phenomenon… but I’m just talking about Pittsburgh.
Looks like they even have a Wikipedia entry, and a Google search pulls up a lot of seemingly relevant links.
As you can see from andybotpgh on Twitter, the “parking chair” can be anything that takes up a space that you labored to liberate from piles of snow. By the way, the #parkingchair hashtag is genius.
While the parking chair is certainly visible throughout the year, my focus will be in the winter months, and well, really during the last couple of days… during the Snowpocalypse 2010 storm.
Like most of you, my wife & I labored for many hours on Saturday & Sunday to clear our sidewalk, steps, and to dig out our cars from the mess that is on-street parking in Dormont. We cleared the sidewalk, only to have a place to put the snow from on top of & around our cars, then to shovel the sidewalk again… lifting snow on to the now approximately six foot high pile of frozen white pain in the ass from above in our tiny front yard.
To appreciate the insanity that surrounded or cars…
It was chaos. If you’re interested, check out the more photos of the surrounding neighborhood & nearby park here.
To put the ensuing rant in perspective… I fully realize that this is not a life-threatening problem, and that I’m not the only one with storm related issues. There were and are a bunch of people in Southwestern PA without power for extended amounts of time. They have problems. This is just a slightly more than mild annoyance.
It was about three hours of work shoveling the cars out on Sunday. It was quite labor intensive… but if it wasn’t done, the cars were obviously not going anywhere. Well, mine might have broken out thanks to the AWD… but I risked damaging those around me, so I decided to shovel.
Of course, work was to be attended on Monday. I had stuff that needed to leave that day, so I needed to be there. I drove Bethany to work, & then went on to my job. After normal working hours, I drove to pick up Bethany who had made it to the nearby Giant Eagle to do some grocery shopping. After we rounded out the last few items, checked out, and headed home… we arrived to find a white Toyota SUV parked in the spot that took about an hour and a half of hard manual labor to clear.
As you can imagine, I was angry. I don’t get angry all that often. I’m generally a pretty mellow guy. I was quiet angry. Quiet angry isn’t good… just ask my wife.
After circling the block, it was evident that there was nowhere else safe to park. Of the spots that had been shoveled-out, they were all filled. Some spots hadn’t been shoveled, but they were filled with about 3 feet of snow, in a pile about as big as a small car… or with the car still under the pile. Apparently not everyone had to be somewhere yesterday.
There were some other factors that added to my anger. If the Toyota who had parked in my space backed up about 3 feet (which there was plenty of room to do), we could have pulled Bethany’s car up, and had plenty of room to park my car. In my house, we call this (excuse the language) “asshole-parking”. Really, there is no more apt a description. There are no lines on the road, so your only hope is to park relative to the other vehicles. Some people ignore this, and park with a half a space in front of and behind their vehicle. Perhaps this is because they’re not good at parallel parking, or perhaps it’s becuase they don’t want anyone bumping into their precious automobile. Either way, they’re still an asshole. A typical conversation would go like this… after I walk in the door visibly winded…
Bethany, “Wow, were you running? Do you have to pee or something?”
Me: “No, they’re all asshole-parked out there. I had to go to the bottom of the hill & park.”
The bottom of the hill? What’s this, you ask? Well, there’s a little parking lot on the cross street at the bottom of our block that belongs to the park. People use it for overflow parking in the neighborhood… because there never seems to be enough space to park.
Why not just park there last night? Well, for one, it wasn’t plowed out properly… and by “not … properly”, I mean not at all. It wasn’t even attempted. The people parked there are in their own separate snow bunkers, not near any of the other cars at all, and one winner even parked in the entrance lane to the parking lot… effectively stranding everyone in the second row of the normally 3-row lot.
I dropped Bethany & the groceries off at the house, then circled the block a few more times… fuming the entire time. I finally settled into a space on the cross-street at the bottom of the hill that no one had bothered to shovel. There was about a car-length of snow about a foot high, so I went for it. The Subaru handled it without a problem, and I got a little rush from driving in the snow.
I didn’t like parking where I finally ended up, because I was the first object on the side of the road road after coming down a poorly plowed and salted hill. I might as well have painted a bulls-eye on the back & side of the wagon.
But, my thoughts were focused on that damn white Toyota SUV that was asshole-parked in the spot in which I spent hours clearing. I wanted to write a passive aggressive note. Something to the effect of… “I’m glad you were able to use the space that it took three hours of shoveling to clear”. I even thought of typing it, and including a photo above. Seriously. These thoughts went through my head. I thought of piling snow on the car, buckets of water… all the tricks. Bethany posted her frustrations on Facebook, and it was instantly echoed by many sharing in our anger and frustration, suggesting what we ought to do to the offender… and even to the extent of my friend Dave saying he’d come over and take care of the problem.
I noticed a bunch of parking chairs stools, and even a saw-horse on the next street over as I circled the block. Why hadn’t I thought of that? Again, Facebook being a great tool for the need at hand, I asked for some thoughts.
The problem is that we don’t own the street in front of the house (and neither does the landlord). I understand this. It’s public on-street parking, and even we need a permit to park there during certain hours, and we have a visitor’s parking pass. This is the other problem… the Toyota had said pass for our zone, so technically, they had just as much right to that space as I do… even if it is directly in front of my residence, and we spent time maintaining it due to weather issues.
Still, on a karma level, it’s a bitch. The general consensus is that it’s not a nice thing to do… but still, it happens. Some people out there are only concerned with themselves. They needed a spot, they took it… end of thought process. Perhaps they didn’t consider that it was hand-shoveled and that I was coming home from a long day with a car full of groceries? Perhaps they did, and still didn’t care.
Here’s where the “what about me” kicks in… Why didn’t I put out a parking chair? Other people do it. It’s a known and oddly respected practice in neighborhoods all around the ‘Burgh, and apparently even on the next street over. Or is it respected? I don’t think I’d park in a chaired space… simply for fear of what may happen to my vehicle. Surely though, if a situation escalated to the point where a chair was removed, the space occupied, and there was some sort of retaliation… the chair placing retaliator would surely be at fault.
Do you respect the chair? Do you use one? Do you move them and park in the space knowing the law is on your side?