This weekend I packed my bags for a weekend with the Sherpa, who lives 10 or so miles from me, and texted to let him know I was on my way. I got a text back with specific instructions about where to park (“turn left after my house – they just cleared out some spots”). And by cleared out, I mean of snow. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know there has been several feet of snowfall in the Mid-Atlantic in the last 10 days, and parking has become a major problem. I, fortunately (for the most part), live in a complex with an association that takes care of snow removal. We residents shovel our cars out and the rest of the snow magically disappears.
Not so for Sherpa Tenzing. He owns a row home in a traditionally blue-collar neighborhood where there is only street parking. When we dug our cars out after the first snowfall, the neighbors were out shoveling also, and one mentioned that he was planning on “putting chairs out” to save the spot he’d shoveled. The first time I ever saw the chair phenomenon was a few years ago in Manayunk, in Philadelphia, where parking is at an enormous premium. I thought the practice to be completely base – you shovel a spot, and so does the next guy, so we should all have a spot, right? Well, this was until I’d labored for hours to dig out a spot and saw that other people were waiting to take the clear spots without shoveling. Sherpa and I put a chair out last weekend for a few hours while we were snow shoeing. And I’ve been seeing the chairs everywhere this last week.
I even saw a chair out in my parking lot at home! That, I thought, was extreme. There’s still plenty of parking where I live. And the whole of the Mid-Atlantic with no driveway is feeling the pain. In fact, a friend of mine even called WHYY this morning to talk about it: Your Spot or Not?
And back at Sherpa Tenzing’s, the parking situation is pretty contentious. Saturday morning, I had a snow-related run-in with one of the “locals” on his street. Instead of driving all the way to where he asked me to, I pulled into an empty spot half a block from his house. I saw Sherpa loading his bike onto his car (we were on our way to a bike maintenance party, so I had a bike on my car, a dog in the passenger seat, and suitcases in the trunk). Sherpa stopped in the street and stared at me, looking concerned, and I hopped out to ask if he thought I should move – he’s told me stories about keyed doors, smashed windows, and deflated tires along the street – when I realized why he looked concerned.
There was an older man holding a 2 x 4 approaching me.
“How long are you going to be parked here?” he asked. Before I could answer, he said, “The people who live here shoveled these spots. The guy who parks there is at the doctor. He’s going to be back soon. You’d better find somewhere else to park.”
Not wanting bad things to befall my car, I said nothing, and moved. After all, there were some empty spots further down the street. But my blood was boiling. All the things I could have said were racing through my mind (“I shoveled more of this street last weekend than some of your neighbors!”). But I behaved.
Park safe out there!