If You Didn’t Call Dibs, Remember Where You Dug

I don’t like Dibs. Saving your parking spot with folding chair or a cone or a box of diapers may be part and parcel of winter here, but the whole practice strikes me as a very un-Chicago thing to do. But this year I spent an hour and a half with a shovel giving my car the requisite breathing room and I drove away, ready to accede the space to whoever needed it. I returned home that night to find “my” spot taken… by a chair…



I don’t like Dibs. Saving your parking spot with a folding chair or a cone or a box of diapers may be part and parcel of winter here, but the whole practice strikes me as a very un-Chicago thing to do. It is basically saying to your neighbors, the people with whom you are presumably on pleasant terms the rest of the year: “I don’t trust you, so I’m going to screw you before you screw me. And if you screw me anyway and park in ‘my’ spot, I’m ritually entitled to turn your car into a Toyota-sicle.” Call me idealistic, but that’s not how neighbors ought to act. And it’s not how most Chicagoans act during the other three seasons of the year.

Why does the snow change us, make us territorial and aggressive and desperate? I heard a nasty story over the weekend about a block in Lincoln Square that paid a private contractor to plow their alley. The contractor, for some reason, left all the snow in front of one guy’s garage, thinking it abandoned, and the guy was so angry that he spent all day shoveling the snow into a pile that blocked the entire alley. Police were called. Words exchanged. And the guy spent the rest of the day shoveling the snow out of the way, cursing at his neighbors, the contractor, and the City.

I decided long ago that I would just dig out my car and hope my neighbor does the same with his. If my neighbor is unable or unwilling to do the work himself, I hope that he can get someone else to do it. I might even do it if he asks me. If I must drive, well then, when I return, if the spot I spent an hour digging out has been filled by someone else’s automobile, that’s life in the city. I don’t own the street, and while there are fewer spots to be had because of the hazardous alley situation, I will surely find another spot somewhere. That’s the way that neighbors ought to act.

But.

This year I spent an hour and a half with a shovel giving my car the requisite breathing room and I drove away, ready to accede the space to whoever needed it. I returned home that night to find “my” spot taken—but not by another car. By a chair. One of those fancy padded camper dealies with the holder for your drink. That was the moment I ceased being neighborly. While I could accept someone else parking in the spot, I could not stomach the notion that some smug bastard was taking credit for my hard work. I snatched the chair and hurled it as far as I could into the adjacent yard, which wasn’t very far, so I tromped through the snow and heaved it again, into a bush. Then I parked in “my” spot. I saw absolutely no hypocrisy in this action, and slept well that night.

The next day, I fully expected to find my car keyed or water poured into the locks, but there was my car, unharmed. The chair owner had been sufficiently shamed, taken his pathetic placeholder and slunk back into his rat’s nest somewhere on our block. The system had worked.

“I can’t believe you threw that chair,” my wife said later that day. As a lifelong Chicagoan, she is strangely ambivalent about Dibs, on one hand finding it silly but on the other willing to tolerate the practice as part of How Chicago Works. “That was a big mistake.”

Why’s that? I asked, ready for a fight.

“Because,” she said. “That’s not the spot you dug out. You dug out the spot behind it.”

The spot with the chair was our neighbor’s spot. And I had thrown our neighbor’s chair into his bush.

 

Photograph: vxla/Flickr Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

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4 years ago
Posted by chipolit

Dug my car out, put two real estate signs there. Came home tonight to find that someone had parked in my spot, and they did away with my signs. So not only did they steal my parking spot but they also stole my actual property. I am upset because I have no recourse. What can I do?

4 years ago
Posted by Sweet Old Bob

The "dibs" practice is taking over parking spaces without cars in them. This is creating another problem.

Cars are now parking in many residential streets blocking marked crosswalks for pedestrians.

You don't see these cars getting tickets either. Check this out in Albany Park, there's a lot of it.

4 years ago
Posted by chicago_bones

To Chipolit:
Nobody stole your parking spot because you didn't own it in the first place. And anything you leave in the street is garbage.
Please understand my position. Digging your car out after a snowstorm entitles you to the use of your car, nothing more. People with garages and driveways probably do more work to free their cars and their only reward is the use of their cars. They have a parking space because they actually own the garage or driveway. It is extremely unfair for you to reserve a spot on the street for hours, when it could be put to use by someone else, maybe even a social worker or home health care person visiting the sick or elderly.

4 years ago
Posted by ChiTeach

Like thousands of other Chicagoans, I spent close to two hours shoveling out my car Thursday. When finished, I was not foolish enough to think that this act would earn me a medal or ownership of that twenty-five feet of Fairfield Ave and when I headed out in my car for the first time Friday I hoped that the spot would be there when I returned from work but knew that I could park elsewhere if it was not. No big deal. Well, after five days of searching for spots that were not "taken" with someone's lawn chair, milk crate, etc. and after five days of parking several blocks away from my home that in three years I have never had to park farther than a block away, I was finished. Today, after parking blocks away from my block where over ten spots were "taken", I walked down the middle of the street and launched every piece of trash "saving" a spot into lawns, trees, giant snow piles, and dumpsters. Yes, I was cussed at and even chased along the way, but I didn't care. This was ridiculous! I "freed" over ten spots and intend to do the same thing every day until people realize that shoveling their car out does not give them ownership of that spot.

4 years ago
Posted by ChiCook

Before the most recent snowstorm, I hated dibs. I thought it was unnecessary. You dig out your car, along with your neighbors, and the entire street is relatively snow-free. Unfortunately, that didn't happen this time. The majority of the folks on my street left their cars buried for days. Those that shoveled cars out left dibs behind. My car is tiny, which means getting into especially snowy spots is nearly impossible. Plus, the valet guys from down the street are especially aggressive and are known to take up WAY too many residential spots. So. There are now chairs in my spot when I leave. Not because of my neighbors. But because of visitors.

4 years ago
Posted by bigd75

Thanks for that story! I needed a good laugh!

4 years ago
Posted by bigdaddychi

I am all for the dibs, its sort of become tradition around here. When heavy snow comes we have to bundle up (which can take 15 minutes itself), climb through the snow to our garage, shovel our way to our car, then spend another hour or so digging it out. After all this I believe that spot has been claimed and should be yours until winters over.

4 years ago
Posted by Tracey S.

the EXACT same ridiculous thing happened to me. i actually paid three 13 year old boys to dig out my spot last week and came home on monday to find someone else's chair and bucket in the spot. i was LIVID. i don't believe in dibs and would've been fine if a car was there, but to claim someone else's dug out spot is just messed up! i was afraid of removing the goods, having too many friends with cars that have been keyed (who usually alren't even the ones who removed the stuff!), but you can bet i left the car a nice little note in the morning. and they have not tried to claim it since, thankfully.

4 years ago
Posted by moonsailor77

Chicago_Bones said it best. I work for a nonprofit organization and canot find parking...worse yet, neither can our clients while hundreds of spots are taken with people's furniture. I can PROMISE you that your parking spot is FAR less important than the reason our clients are seeking our services.

4 years ago
Posted by Logan76x

I can relate a similar story.

I spent wednesday evening digging out my car, that was parked on a street near my house. Mind, that I cannot park on my street, in front of my residence, due to the fact that it is metered. Anyway, I left for work on Thursday, fully expecting the spot to be taken. When I arrived home, sure enough a car had taken the spot. I did not mind, and instead, dug out the spot in front of the car, and parked there. Friday morning I went to work, also expecting the spot to be taken. When I arrived home, I noticed that someone had placed two enormous cones in the two spots I had dug out. I ended up digging out a third spot across the stread. Instead of taking action, and throwing the cones in the snow, I left a "kind" note to the cone owner saying how it is inconsiderate to reserve a spot that someone else spent time cleaning. I also said that I would move the cones so that someone else could benefit from my hard work. Lo and behold, I awoke Saturday to find a response on my car. The cone owner said that agree that someone should benefit from my hard work, and that should be me. They stated that they reserced the spots so that I could park there. Well I do not know if they were truthful, or just caught, and found an easy out. Regardless, I felt shamed, apologized for the misunderstanding, and thanked them for their kind consideration, leaving the note stuck in the cone for their retrieval. On the plus side, I have been parking in the spot ever since Saturday. It just goes to show you that there can be surprises in thsi "Dibs" season.

4 years ago
Posted by Becca

I HATE dibs with every chicago-born blood cell in my 30 year old body. I hate that even though there is NO legal basis for it whatsoever NNOOOOOOOOO one ever does anything about it. Mr. Daley...why did you never address this. Yes police will make official statements in press conferences about how it is 'not legal' etc. BUT none of my tax dollars ever go towards the removal of all this garbage littering our streets.
i love the parkfreechicago.org people and what they are trying to do, but why should we have to get an informal group together in order to take action. Why not take the day after the snow storm and have our (so highly paid city-workers) pick up every piece of crap used to call 'dibs' and toss it into one of our luxurious garbage trucks paid for by US?!?
All we ever do is gripe and argue about it. this was a GREAT article. but it was just an article. there are lots and lots of columnists and articles written about this damn topic. and yet still, NO action actually taken by the city.
Not only is it illegal, immoral, and unneighborly, it makes me embarrassed to show my city off. You take one look down any of chicago's side streets, no matter how magnificent the homes may be, it all looks like crap b/c there is junk all over the streets. As if black crusty snow doesn't look bad enough.
In Mayor Daley's "beautification" plan for chicago, this should have been addressed.
But alas...here I am...just adding talk to the fire. le sigh.

4 years ago
Posted by Logan76x

If everyone in each neighborhood banded together and worked on shovelling out all of the parking spaces, besides their own, no one would ever have to call "DIBS". We would never have to request that the city workers do the job for us either. Think of the revenue saved in not having to pay these people for unnecessary work.

I'm just sayin.

4 years ago
Posted by iliketoast12

Yeah, I hate dibs too. If you want to claim the spot for the day because the people around you didn't even bother shoveling out for the day, hey that's fine. What makes you think you're entitled to the spot for the rest of Winter? or even a week after the snowfall? That's just absurd, 2 hours of shoveling does not equate or even make logical sense for ownership of a spot for weeks or months.

As far as comments of people, "banding together," that's a bunch of crap. The guy behind me was buried in, so I felt bad for him and decided to shovel out the front part of his car and I even gave him a path to his drivers side door so he can at least open it. I then continued to shovel out my car. The loser comes out of his apartment gabbing on his phone, looks at his car, looks at me...and then proceeds to open his car and rummage around. I stopped shoveling and stared at him, shovel in hand...the guy finds what he's looking for and then takes off (still on his phone mind you). He also had the nerve to inspect the car to make sure I hadn't damaged it. No thank you? No nod of acknowledgement? Last time I ever shovel someone's car for them.

30 years ago, neighbors helped each other. Now everyone looks out for each other. I don't see it changing anytime soon.

4 years ago
Posted by iliketoast12

I meant to say now everyone looks out for themselves, not each other.

4 years ago
Posted by pickpart2

Eliminate ALL street parking during any snow.
City plows will be able to clear streets faster.
City streets will look much cleaner.
City busses and emergency personal will be able to drive down
CITY streets.
Remember the street is CITY property!
Have a car, put in a driveway on your OWN property!

No more dibs now more problems

4 years ago
Posted by Sheriab

I have lived in Chicago for 15 years and never participated in dibs. In past years I have not only dug out my own car, but have helped others and worked to rid my block of excess snow so that others might have a place to park. It's good exercise, and as a person who tends to get home later in the evening than many of my neighbors, aids in the like likelihood there will be a space for me to park. In recent years in my current neighborhood, I have been virtually the ONLY person on my block to shove at all. In fact, I sincerely believe that if shoveling weren't required in order to free cars after this blizzard, only one of my neighbors would have bothered to shovel. The others would just wing it and spin tires, etc, until they got out of their spot, but would take any cleaned out spot on their return. This has happened more times than I can count and aggravates the hell out of me. I don't appreciate getting my car stuck on a mound of snow because most of the people on my block are lazy and inconsiderate, won't shovel, but have no problem taking spots where others have shoveled.

So, though I'm not proud, I dibbed my space this year. I shoveled my spot, and my boyfriend and I used a snowblower to help others clear around their cars and to clean some of the mounds of snow in the street. We even created a 'new' parking spot, and guess what...someone claimed dibs on it! So I'm basically left with no choice if I want to park anywhere near my apartment. I hate it, but my neighbors don't play nice, so that's what I'm left with.

4 years ago
Posted by ebf

This was my first dibs year. The reason dibs exists and the mayor and the police don't pass judgment is because some people are too lazy, stupid, and inconsiderate, and don't give a good gddm about anybody except themselves. For all you people claiming how wrong it is to claim a spot, when I shovel the amount of snow this legendary blizzard dumped on us to clear a spot said spot is mine until the streets are plowed. If you dig out a spot and choose not to claim dibs, continue to dig out other spots only to have them taken as well, have a heart attack and drop dead on the spot, some a-hole will drive over you, take the spot, and walk away while texting their buddies about how they took a dumb ayus dead man's undibbed spot.

4 years ago
Posted by ebf

The people who hate dibs may still believe there is good in everyone, but a quick glance at the news reveals the truth. The work put in to dig out the crazy amount of snow we got hit with gives me the right to claim that spot until the city plows the street. Not forever. Why dig out a spot with no dibs holder, come back, and the spot's taken by someone who just drove into a ready made spot from the sweat I put in? Please. To all the dibs complainers, you should carry a sturdy shovel in your car to dig out your own spot then leave it for someone else if you choose to. I help people who are stuck, but claim my work in a Chicago blizzard.

4 years ago
Posted by kaychicagosmith

Thank goodness most responders are good people and rational people! I don't own any spot on the street. I chose to live in a neighborhood and on a block with difficult parking! I don't put a chair in a spot in any other season when I don't want to walk a block or more to my car with my baby! People don't own city streets, period. It's an embarrassing reminder of the selfishness of some people. There are so many people who help others. And there are more people to abuse that help.

4 years ago
Posted by kaychicagosmith

Thank goodness most responders are good people and rational people! I don't own any spot on the street. I chose to live in a neighborhood and on a block with difficult parking! I don't put a chair in a spot in any other season when I don't want to walk a block or more to my car with my baby! People don't own city streets, period. It's an embarrassing reminder of the selfishness of some people. There are so many people who help others. And there are more people to abuse that help.

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