In parking space ‘dibs’, a return to barbarism

In the event of an actual national emergency or disaster, it would be unwise to expect civil order to last more than a day, maybe two.

The big storm on the East Coast has proven that once again. If the post-Armageddon demand for food doesn’t turn people into barbarians, the demand for a place to park will.

The uniquely urban “dibs” problem has reared its head in Boston, a commenter on Reddit notices.

At this time of year, parking space savers are impenetrable fortresses of “mine.” They’re a window into our souls.

Oh, the stories people tell!

My friends dug out their car on Thursday during the storm. Left in the morning, didn’t place a space saver (because they don’t believe in doing that). Someone came along and put a space saver in the spot they cleared. They parked elsewhere on Friday, couldn’t find a spot Saturday, so removed the space saver. Their logic was, hey, we cleared out the spot, this guy took it, it isn’t even rightfully his anyway. The guy came to their house (he was a neighbor, knew their car), and screamed at them. I don’t get how this makes people so crazy!

Why it’s so bad out East that someone posted a message on Reddit that makes the Minneapolis snow emergency system sound positively understandable.

How it worked in the twin cities is you would move to the directional side you could park or put it in a lot of some kind. Once your street was plowed you could move your car back on it. That was before smart phones so I’m sure they could develop real time plow apps that would let you know their path and if it’s been cleared or not.

In South Boston, the space saver capital of America, there is some hope for the post-nuclear America. They have made order out of chaos by developing “rules” for this sort of nonsense:

1) You can’t put something in your spot until AFTER the snowstorm is over. I understand how inconvenient it is if you have to go to work or a party or wherever and won’t be back until after all the spots on the streets are claimed and you end up five blocks away from your house – but you can’t “hold” your spot until you get back – that’s just bad manners. It follows the same sentiment as Rule #2

2) If you did not shovel out your car, you cannot keep the spot. Self-explanatory, right? Wrong. How many times have you seen somebody drive their car out of a spot without shoveling any snow and put a barrel there? Not cool. You must shovel.

3)If you move someone’s space saver and park your car in its place, you have no right to complain about what happens to your car. (Although if someone has prematurely saved a spot – see Rule 1 – you can move it.)

4) The City allows for space savers up to 48 hours after a storm. This is just a guideline – not a law. Don’t be the guy who keeps putting out the spot saver until the spring. Nobody likes that guy. If it’s a blizzard with over 20 inches of snow – maybe 48 hours isn’t long enough. Be respectful of your neighbors.

5) After the 48 hours are over, the City will pick up any space savers still left out. Seize this opportunity to get rid of anything laying around your house you want to get rid of i.e. radiators, foosball tables, mattresses, old televisions, whatever you want to get rid of. Just put it in your space and the City will haul it off.

  • Somehow this doesn’t seem surprising given the location in Boston. For years and years on Car Talk Tom and Ray Magliozzi lamented and joked about Boston drivers. I have a friend in the Boston area who talked with his wife about the situation and they decided to sell both of their cars and use public transit or rent a car in special circumstances.

  • Rob

    If I were in charge, space saving would be forbidden. Heaven forfend that you might have to walk a few blocks.

    And as long as there are enough handicapped spaces – which the city would be required to keep shoveled – a “no saving” rule shouldn’t be a hardship on people who are less ambulatory.

  • Barton

    okay, explain this to me? If after a snow storm you have shoveled out your parking spot, you have the right to save it for 48 hours? Or does it not even matter? You can save a spot (with any object) for 48 hours after a snow storm? Why does the snow matter?

    …and now I am thinking of a man I saw sitting on a lawn chair in Harlem a few years ago. He was being paid to “save a space” on his street.

    • crystals

      The snow matters because you did the work; those streets with snow are kind of a nightmare to navigate so if you actually go through the work of digging your car out (instead of just waiting to melt) it’s kind of like your reward. That was my take on it, at least.

      • Kassie

        But they are a nightmare to navigate, partly due to this sort of thing. I was struck by the complete lawlessness of the whole town with regard to traffic and driving, particularly with parking. Double parking was common, triple parking wasn’t rare.

        • Maybe they need to do the “Snow Emergency” thing?

        • chlost

          When I drove in Boston (the one and only time), there was construction going on in the downtown area. We could not find the way to our destination. We circled over an over, being able to see where we wanted to be, but not figuring out how to get there. Finally, we saw a sign, on the ground, hidden by tall grass, which indicated our correct exit. When we finally made it to the street, I had to deal with the triple-parked cars. I had never seen it before. I tried to stay to the righthand side of the street to allow me to look for my destination while allowing others to pass me. But over and over, I would come up against a double- or triple-parked car. Then had to take my chances in getting back into the main driving lane. I have sworn to never drive in that city again. Can’t even imagine driving there in the winter.

        • Barton

          which also gets to the question: why do you need a car IN Boston? It is a completely walkable city and has an excellent transit system (well, not in the North End, but everywhere else).

          • crystals

            To attempt to answer both questions, Southie is pretty different from other neighborhoods in Boston. It *isn’t* as transit friendly as other parts of the city, for starters, and is definitely not walkable to central Boston. If you look at a map of the T, Southie is basically a giant blank area on the map (it’s kind of amazing, actually). Bus service is okay, but again, for people commuting to other parts of the city it’s not particularly convenient. (I had a bus ride to the T, and then took two different T lines to get to my office. I did it because I found that more enjoyable than driving, but I know a lot of people wouldn’t.)

            In my experience the roads in Southie are also quite a bit narrower in the residential parts of the neighborhood – so when it does snow, the streets basically become one lane but with cars trying to go both directions.

          • Kassie

            Because I was a union organizer and needed to go to house to house talking to potential members all over the city all day long. I would have loved to not drive there and never drove on my days off.

        • jon

          My experience driving in boston was similar… but they do stop for pedestrian, like one foot hits the road and there are squealing tires up and down the whole street…

          • Jeff

            Were they stopping or accelerating?

  • crystals

    I definitely lived by those rules in Southie. As a Minnesotan, it was truly baffling to me but I was WAY more scared of the consequences of doing wrong than I was interested in challenging them.

  • I take it they don’t do the “Snow Emergency” thing out there?

    /as evidenced by that Reddit post…

  • Gary F

    Delano 4th of July is getting this way.

  • Rixware

    This is the first I’ve ever heard of a “space saver.” I’m not sure how that’s even legal.

    If I saw an ironing board on our street, I would immediately remove it to the alley behind my garage next to the garbage containers, because it’s not legal (or safe) to leave debris of any kind in the street. It would have to be considered littering.

    In other words, who needs unwritten rules when the written rules literally forbid the practice (as they should)?

  • Gary F

    I leave messages on poorly parked cars in crowded parking lots, but I don’t get mean about it.

  • Gary F

    Relax and have a lawbsta roll people.

  • Rob

    Here’s a pro tip for visiting Boston: get around town by walking, bus or Lyft. Or, if you have friends who live there and who are crazy enough to own a car, ride with them.

  • Jay Sieling

    Somewhere on the streets of Boston, I imagine a scene like this is playing out: https://youtu.be/Ih6YmOJnr0E

  • Mike Worcester

    The city of Boston not too long ago banned the use of an app that would have allowed people to sell parking spaces. They were concerned about the potential for “violent altercations”. (Though I’m not sure if it would have applied to residential areas since it specified “public” spaces.)

    https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2014/08/13/boston-city-council-poised-ban-haystack-parking-app/IBXsY6OP2RgjQknhpjN2DL/story.html

  • Brian Simon

    I would be tempted to drive around, picking up space savers.

  • X.A. Smith

    “The City allows for space savers up to 48 hours after a storm. This is just a guideline – not a law.”

    There’s the source of your problem, right there.

  • Never change East Coast. Every year it seems you guys get hit by a big snow storm or a cold snap or even, gasp, both. Every year the “national” media makes it sound like a cat 5 snowicane is going to bury you in some Armageddonesque ice tomb. At least when Atlanta flips out for snow it’s understandable, because snow in Georgia is rare. You guys though, spectacularly, fail to learn how to deal with the white stuff falling from the sky in large amounts despite it happening on pretty much an annual basis. So thanks for laughs and good luck sorting yourselves out.

    • Indignant Minnesotan, is that you?

      • I grew up in Gary, IN, so indignant Hoosier. I do get more passive aggressive every year though. I should be indistinguishable from the locals by the time I retire.

    • Lindsey

      Most people think a foot of snow is worth some flipping out…(especially when it is followed by flooding and then a cold snap)

      • And, for the record, East Coast snow isn’t the same as Midwest snow. You don’t clear your driveway with a leaf blower.

        • Jerry

          I don’t think you will be doing that on Thursday either.

          • Guessing it will be a light snow. East Coast snow is the kind you want when you actually DO want a heart attack.

          • Jerry

            Freezing rain turning to snow is probably going to be some dense snow. If it was single digit temperature snow, I’d beleive you.

          • Gets too cold here this time of the year to have anything but mostly fluffy stuff.

            The freezing rain then snow thing IS uniquely Midwest, though. It stinks.

          • Jerry

            I remember about 5 years ago we got a foot of snow on May 1st when it was about 30 degrees. That was a miserable day to work outside.

          • Yeah, I remember that. I have a policy against lifting a finger to remove snow after March 1.

          • Jerry

            Sadly, not an option for me.

          • Rob

            I have a policy that involves suing anybody who leaves their sidewalks in slip-and-fall condition between March 1 and May 15

      • Yes I am being glib. I realize that. I admit I find the freakout somewhat off putting year after year. The coverage often seems to eclipse the natural disasters that happen in the rest of the country. Unlike a Westcoast mudslide, a Gulf State hurricane, or a Midwest tornado outbreak, a snowstorm can be mitigated by some thoughtful public policy at the city and county level. This year is worse than most because of the tides, but at some point you’d expect the land of Ivy Leaguers to sort out the occasional heavy snow or at least call up Buffalo or Erie and ask for advice.

        • You know that West Wing seen where President Bartlett asks Will Bailey,”Why is a Kuhndunese life worth less to me than an American life?”

          And will says, “I don’t know sir, but it is.”

          That’s us and the East Coast.

          • Rob

            Ah, good old American Exceptionalism!

  • Ben V

    I was once accused of stealing somebody’s “carved-out spot” while visiting a friend in South Minneapolis during the dead of winter. It was around midnight when I thought I saw a figure shoveling snow onto the hood of my car. I figured I was seeing things. Sure enough, I was packed in completely. Snow on top AND packed under my car. I went and rang the bell of the house I was parked in front of. The guy must’ve been waiting to see my reaction because he answered the door immediately with the smuggest smile I’ve ever seen. He began preaching the merits of the carved out spot – there was a lot of snow and he had worked hard to carve out a spot for himself…HIS spot…on Bloomington Avenue. Well, his ill-timed grocery shopping trip opened it up for me to unwittingly ruin his evening. In the end, I told him to dig me out (I imagine he saw my amused friends standing by and thought he was outnumbered). The next day he left a rambling 5-page hand written note in my friend’s mailbox that went everywhere from something nearing an apology to telling me I was lucky he didn’t answer the door with a gun.

    • Best NewsCut comment ever.

      • Ben V

        Now I can die in peace. Thanks, Bob.

    • Jeff

      Did he say if his ironing board was in the shop?

      • Ben V

        There was no placeholder, just a little bit of a divot in the snowbank towards the curb, which should’ve been an obvious stay away for me.

        • Jeff

          Have to know how to read the divots, I guess. In any case, the BNCE award is worth most anything.The rest of us can only dream.

  • Watson

    Chicago does this, too — I couldn’t believe it when I moved here from St. Paul 10 years ago. It’s downright un-neighborly!

  • Kellpa07

    My first winter in MN was in 91. Right after the big storm, I unthinkingly saw a spot across the street, and pulled my car in. I got out of my car, and immediately, a guy started yelling at me. I turned around and said “huh?” I had no idea what he was going on about, as I’ve had experience with snow, but not in the city. He said he’d just shoveled out, and it dawned on me that, well, he had shoveled quite a bit and it was pretty unfair of me to just take his spot. I moved, and shoveled my own spot. I talked to the guy about a week later, and he told me that he had finished less than a minute before I pulled in, and hadn’t even had time to move his car. We had a laugh, I learned a lesson. I now have a garage.

  • X.A. Smith

    I’ve lived in Uptown/Whittier for twelve years in apartments, with a car, parking on the street. Took a few years before I could go a whole twelve months straight without getting towed (more often for Spring/Autumn street cleaning than snow emergencies, because we don’t have real winters anymore, but I digress). In my neighborhood, on a beautiful summer evening, I can occasionally drive around for 45 minutes to find a spot within three blocks. Thats two or three times as long as it takes to shovel a parking spot. I’ve never seen anyone dibs a spot in the winter. It sounds like about the most childish BS thing a car owner can do. If it’s not part of the law, I’m fully willing to un-dibs any spot and call the cops if necessary.

  • John F.