Snowpocalypse: Parking Etiquette

Who has dibs on that freshly dug-out parking spot?

By Matthew Grady
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 39 | Posted Feb. 11, 2010

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Photo by Matt Grady

In Chicago, it’s called “dibs.”

There’s no similar title for it Philadelphia, but the sight is ubiquitous: a once-snow-covered parking spot reserved by a plastic chair or a garbage can or a cardboard box. In light of the record snowfall this winter, the practice has bloomed anew -- and though it's officially illegal, don't worry: Mayor Nutter's got your back.

“Look, if you spent two hours digging your car out … ultimately that has to be something respected by the community,” Nutter told the Inquirer on Thursday.

But that respect isn't always given: As the blizzard kept coming in fresh waves this week, rumors abounded. One story had a university professor egging an SUV that claimed the spot she had dug out and left a garbage can to stake her claim. In a city famous for its Parking Wars, it appeared street justice was emerging to solve the problem.

Not everybody agrees with the tradition, though.

"It’s not your fucking spot, it’s the city’s spot," said Shawn Romanick, an employee at Bucket’s Bar and Grill in East Falls. "If it (the chair or can) is light enough for you to move, it's fair game.”

Want to keep Romanick from claiming your spot? “Put two anvils there,” he said.

Vikki Sturkey, who spent the noon hour shoveling out her mother’s car on Cresson Street, disagreed.

“Chairs are and should be allowed," she said, pointing to the lack of snowplows in her neighborhood. “If there’s no parking then chairs should be allowed; there’s no city help.”

And people who steal spots like the one Sturkey cleared?

“They deserve to get beat," she said.

Bill Rogers of Ravenhill offered another possible punishment. “Shovel the snow back in," he said, and let the parking scofflaws "see how it feels.”

The disagreements are endless, though. John Hillman, a resident of East Falls, said it is best not to stake your claim. "Chairs cause problems…and arguments," he said. Adam Meora added that “you don’t need to sacrifice your new-born for a parking spot.”

In the end, though, it was Paul Taylor of Calumet Street, who suggested that good parking makes good neighbors. "if you’re going to steal a spot," he said, "don’t do it on your own block.”

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Comments 1 - 39 of 39
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1. Sarah said... on Feb 12, 2010 at 01:26AM

“This whole thing drives me INSANE. It fosters a sense of neighbor-against-neighbor during snowy times of year and really angers me, coming from the suburbs and not used to this kind of irritating Philadelphian habit. EVERYONE has to dig out from somewhere. If I dug my car out over in front of the library and someone else 'claims' a spot in front of my house, I'm chucking that chair aside. (Nearly) all of us had to dig out from somewhere. I'm not exactly going to go drag a chair over in front of that library!”

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2. kevin said... on Feb 12, 2010 at 05:09AM

“if someone takes my parking space, i just let the air out of their tires. No stem cutting. Just get a pen and slowly let the sucker deflate. You have to fight evil with evil.”

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3. Anonymous said... on Feb 12, 2010 at 06:23AM

“mayor nutter is a jackass to even say such a should be enforced that you want to put out chairs you get a ticket.(more revenue for the city)i am sure if you can get a 300.00 ticket you will make sure nobody is putting a chair in front of your house,plus it takes away the chance of any bad encounters.”

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4. Mike said... on Feb 12, 2010 at 08:18AM

“How is the city going to enforce it? Chairs don't have license plates. Are they going to tape the ticket to the chair, and then when you come home, you have to pay it? Most people are not lucky enough to get a parking spot directly in front of their house. Do I get a ticket because my neighbor put a chair in front of my house?”

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5. adam said... on Feb 12, 2010 at 08:18AM

“How about the city get some organization when it comes to plowing parking spots?

I recently moved back to Philadelphia after attending college in Albany, NY for 4 years. After a snow storm, they announce days where everyone has to park on one side of the street (odd #'s) and vice versa then next day. This eliminates all the trouble that is associated with parking in the snow.”

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6. roxborough said... on Feb 12, 2010 at 09:09AM

“what the city plows should do is when they are driving around on the city streets they should drop that plow and plow the shit out of the street they are driving on when there is no cars on it , then we wont have to worry about putting the chairs and fighting over a parking spot , thats what they get paid for then thats whats they should do!!!”

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7. ALLAN said... on Feb 12, 2010 at 09:56AM


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8. Kristin said... on Feb 12, 2010 at 11:24AM

“I'm sorry, but if I spend two and a half hours digging out my car from not only the snow that fell on top of it, but the snow that drifted from the wind AND the ice the plows shoved on top of and under it I am blocking my spot. I have neighbors that don't shovel their spots and refuse to clean out their driveways so why should I let them take up more spots instead of cleaning the ones that belong to them! If this is what neighbors do, they should be prepared for me to park in front of their un shoveled driveways when they leave.”

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9. Anonymous said... on Feb 12, 2010 at 11:25AM


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10. NE Philly said... on Feb 12, 2010 at 12:29PM

“So, emergency workers should NOT park in your spot? And, if you go visit someone, where should you park? And one last thought, the spot belongs to you, yet if the City dug up the street, you expect them to repair it, correct? People that leave chairs, or even worse, damage others' property are ignorant. Plain and simple.”

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11. Matt K said... on Feb 12, 2010 at 12:45PM

“I don't frustrate myself with parking. I willingly dig myself out and never leave a marker. When arriving home, I park in the closest available spot (sometimes three or four blocks), and walk to my house. On the walk back I remove every chair from the street and place them on the sidewalk where the trash is collected. This works for me in three ways: 1) it keeps trash off my neighborhood's streets, 2) it opens up street-parking for the tax-paying population as it was intended, and 3) it keeps my tires from being slashed. Cheers.”

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12. Caroline said... on Feb 12, 2010 at 03:33PM

“I think NE said it best. I am from the burbs too and when I first came to the city, I was thoroughly disgusted by the practice of marking your spot. I had a lot of logical arguments backing it up and figured it was illegal anyway. After talking to people on the other side of the argument, I can see what they are saying in some circumstances - in theory these people should be some of the ones who are doing a good job and getting all the snow out of the way so that it won't freeze and become a hazard(although some of them aren't and those people I think are just lower than dogs!). These people feel that it is owed to them to get a spot that they aren't in danger of getting stuck in. And I can sympathize with their feelings. But, as NE Philly said, if everyone followed the "marking spots" method, some people would just not have a spot and like it or not, they have a legitimate concern. I wish they would just enforce the laws instead of allowing some people to intimidate the rest.”

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13. Gabe said... on Feb 12, 2010 at 06:50PM

“I too am from the suburbs and find it ridiculous that people save their spots. We do not pay to park in these spots and we do not own these spots. I for one do not save a spot, and because I feel like I am being a good person doing that, I get screwed over and am often unable to find a spot anywhere near my house. My neighbor on the other hand, marked off spots for his 2 cars that are actually the length of 3 cars so he has "extra room" in case his enormous SUV gets stuck in the snow. I am often tempted to move somebody's chair but I knew someone who did who almost was shot. Plain and simple, it's bullshit.”

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14. Gen said... on Feb 12, 2010 at 07:59PM

“I live in Roxborough, and as difficult as it is to park even on a good day, I refuse to save "my" spot. Use whatever arguments you wish -- but you simply do not have the legal right to save a public parking spot. Having said that, two of my neighbors contributed their trashcans to save "my" spot for me out of appreciation for my having shoveled most of our street after last weekend's storm. Amazing what can happen when neighbors stop being selfish and actually HELP each other...”

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15. Mayfair said said... on Feb 13, 2010 at 04:30PM

“If you dig out your car the spot is yours chair or no chair if somebody parks in your spot fill it back in with snow then add water for it to freeze”

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16. Mayfair said said... on Feb 13, 2010 at 04:38PM

“I live in mayfair and if I spent 2 hours digging myself out and somebody moved my chair to park in my spot I would be nice and fill it back in and add a little water so it would freeze around the tires maybe they would think twice on who's chair they move and where they park”

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17. 15. Mayfair Ken said... on Feb 13, 2010 at 05:10PM

“I know if I shoveled for 2 hours to clear the snow from my car and somebody took my spot after I cleaned it out just bury them back in and add a little water to help it freeze”

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18. Caroline said... on Feb 13, 2010 at 09:29PM

“Mayfair Ken - I'm so sorry but I really think you come off like a bully.... You're not even making an argument for your case... You are just saying that you will vandalize other people's property if you don't get your way, which is illegal in any case. Did you even read anybody else's post.? What do you have to say about somebody who is not there during the storm or even about appreciation among neighbors? We should all be trying to help each other out rather than just being selfish. Do you really think you are helping the situation with your comments?”

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19. Donna said... on Feb 14, 2010 at 09:23PM

“Shawn Romanick must have his own driveway and not have to worry about coming home at 11:30 at night from work and have someone in the spot it took 2 hrs for you to dig out. It is just down right IGNORANT. It's like "Didn't your mother teach you any manners??"”

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20. Big Bro said... on Feb 15, 2010 at 12:47AM

“Just to add my 2cents...when I read statements like shoveled out "MY spot" and other references to "MY" this and "MY" that...I have to wonder where this sense of ownership comes from. Unless it's your driveway, any spot on a public road is fair game. Whoever parks in the open open/reserved spot has a reason to be there. So either they were stuck and shoveled themselves out someplace else before coming back home, or they're visiting...either way, they're in the neighborhood for a reason. To those that call it their spot, where do you propose those people park. I understand that it's a frustrating, but it's not the other drivers fault that there aren't enough spaces that frustration towards the county, and get them to start plowing the streets...problem solved.”

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21. sillyrabbit said... on Feb 15, 2010 at 08:22AM

“not for nothin' but, who takes 2 hours to dig out a car? do you have one arm? are you digging out an 18 wheeler?”

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22. Shawn said... on Feb 15, 2010 at 12:07PM

“Donna I do not have a driveway but live on a permitted street where there is rarely an available spot. The property on which I live does not extend past the sidewalk therefore if I am to shovel out my vehicle I am doing a service to the city (as well as the obvious neccessity of freeing my vehicle) because they own it. When non permitted vehicles park in front of my residence I do not recieve a penny of the $40 fine they incur. And you are right i do not have to worry about coming home at11:30 I get home around 3:00 A.M. and circle the block looking for a spot and the reason there is not one in front of my house is because my mother did indeed teach me manners and I don't try to claim something that does not belong to me by throwing out a flimsy lawn chair ot upside down recycling bin. Just because I did a bit of work to afford myself personal freedom does not mean I am entitled to that which is not mine.”

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23. Anonymous said... on Feb 15, 2010 at 06:41PM

“Lady Di says: If you dug yourself out you should be able to get back into the same spot.> Take a look at some of the small streets where they didn't go through with a snow plow. Then an idiot comes along and parks in the spot you just cleared. Some people say the street belongs to the City, then why is it if a pipe breaks in front of your house you have to get the plumber out to fix it and you have to pay for it. You don't think the City of Phila. is going to do it.. So I say if you cleared the spot, put the chair out & save it.”

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24. Anonymous said... on Feb 16, 2010 at 03:31AM

“One of my neighbor's has a visiting nurse. Since he couldn't clear his space last week, she parked her 4 wheel drive in "someone else's" (moving their chairs) for the two hours of that morning that she was here. The person who had put the chairs there before leaving for work was not home, but his wife was. She flattened 2 of the nurse's tires. OK, now the nurse's car was stuck in that space, Einstein. Nobody could tow her or fix it that day, so hubby was out a space anyway when he came home that night.
And her visits to other critically ill patients that day had to be cancelled. Many are elderly and alone. Can you imagine the stress and danger to them?
Grow up. Sometimes you take one for the team and pitch in for your community. That's life, crybabies.

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25. The Falls Guy said... on Feb 16, 2010 at 02:01PM

“With workers like Shawn, I now know I never see a crowd at Bucket's.”

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26. Sensible said... on Feb 16, 2010 at 04:51PM

“I think that all this back in forth about clearing out spots, saving them & why it should be permitted or not is ridiculous. It's going to happen anyway. Some folks are going to dig for hours (& no, 1 armed people have to dig longer in 3 ft snow whatever the plow shoveled to the side). Some folks are going to look at your chair & think, free parking. That's just the way society has broken down. We all live within this city & see stuff that doesn't make sense, nor seems fair. We also see some touch of the "brotherly love" that Philadelphia is supposed to stand for. Look, shovel your car out, park a chair. Whether another car is there or not, you're still going to feel some type of way because you worked hard on that spot because nothing was done to make normal parking possible.”

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27. Anonymous said... on Feb 16, 2010 at 05:45PM

“letting air out of tires and freezing a car in place doesn't give you the spot back (although it IS quite evil enough that these people who steal other people's spots will learn their lesson).. what you SHOULD do is key up their car.. therefore they can still leave and someone who deserves the spot can get it.. and to "sillyrabbit".. YOU obviously have never shoveled snow before.. if the car is pack up to the sides with snow, it DOES take a give hour or so to dig it out jackass”

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28. Anonymous said... on Feb 16, 2010 at 07:44PM

“I am a homecare physical therapist and I am not able to see all of my patients because there is nowhere to park. Everyone has chairs out reserving spots that are not going to even be used for most of the day. This is insane and so unfare! After telling other therapists that I moved a chair to park they said I am crazy and risk getting shot. What a disgusting community Philadelphia . Even sugesting keying cars, letting out air. What fools. No wonder there are so many problems in this city. I am ready to quit my job it is so frustrating. So what if you shovelled a spot. More of you fat asses out there should be shoveling. What a shameful community”

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29. Mike said... on Feb 16, 2010 at 09:56PM

“The people who think it's OK to save spots and vandalize other people's cars aren't going to be persuaded otherwise. Despite their knowledge that it is illegal to do so, they will do it because they only care about themselves. They only want to hear what suits their interests.”

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30. Anonymous said... on Feb 17, 2010 at 04:07AM

“Don't shovel your car out, take the bus. No two hours of digging yourself out and no fretting over chairs.”

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31. Anonymous said... on Feb 17, 2010 at 04:11PM

“I live in Mayfair and I feel it is certainly ok to save the spot that you dug out. If there are visitors or nurses coming into the neighborhood, they should park on the side street and walk to where ever they are going. However, If someone does move your chair and park in the spot you dug out, I do not think vandelizing a car or hurting the driver is the answer. That could get you arrested. I feel that covering their car completely in with snow and making them dig out is the way to go.”

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32. Gabe said... on Feb 17, 2010 at 07:44PM

“Let's revert back to how we were in elementary school for a second. Does your spot have your name on it? Then it's not yours. It belongs to the city. I cannot imagine how long this is going to go on for... what if the snow doesn't melt til mid-March or April? Will people save "their" spots until then? The city needs to step in, but then again if you look at Girard Ave where the right lane is filled with snow and people still park on the street (leaving only the trolley lane to drive on) the city has other priorities that they're not taking care of.”

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33. Anonymous said... on Feb 18, 2010 at 01:23PM

“I live in Northern Liberties, where parking is SCARCE!! I saw a few other people putting chairs out so I figured it was acceptable to put my cone out- Boy I was wrong... Someone had the audacity to not only take my spot, but throw my cone across the sidewalk. Needless to say I keyed their car. F***ck you philly a$$holes!!!”

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34. fed up said... on Feb 19, 2010 at 07:54PM

“The mentality of people who think that by placing a garbage can or chair to "save" a parking place on a PUBLIC street reflects the ignorance that plagues this city. Get a grip philly people, you would have to shovel your car out either way if you want to move forward with your life, its called responsibility. Unless you pay rent for that spot, newsflash: IT IS NOT YOURS TO CLAIM, nor do you have the right to destroy others property or harass/assult them for that matter. The behaviour that has been displayed in this city regarding this issue is disgusting, people should be ashamed of themselves. Ignorant, ignorant people.”

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35. snowhater said... on Feb 22, 2010 at 09:43AM

“Get over it My husband shoveled half my block and the street so wait i can block the street of cause i shoveled it and say you cant drive down my street I shoveled with my husband we didnt put chairs out one time.If you move your car oh well public street. its now almost 3 weeks after the snow theres no snow on my street n people are still doing it i walked down to tell my neighbor my dads car was there and he was leaving cause my dad moved his trashcan and the dude flipped out almost attacked me and went after my parents. This is ridiculous...Mayor do nothing needs straighten this out before assholes like you people hurt someone over a dam parking spot if you dont like move to where u have a driveway.......You live in the city deal with it you people are lazy n half of you didnt even shovel because you wanted to you did it cause you had to move your car”

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36. Matt K said... on Feb 27, 2010 at 10:52PM

“I love the willingness for people around here to vandalize someone else's property with no proof whatsoever that it was them who "wronged" them in first place. Don't you realize that there's a chance - probably a pretty good chance - that whomever moved your chair out of "your" spot didn't leave their car there for hours & hours to be vandalized? Don't you think that maybe - just maybe - they did whatever it was they had to do in your 'hood and left? You don't think that then maybe someone else then came along and parked in what looked to them to be an open spot? Does that seem like someone who deserves to get their car keyed? Everyone who leaves trash in the street, should have that trash moved to the curb where trash belongs. It doesn't matter if it's reserving a public parking spot or just litter. What's the point of having laws that aren't going to be enforced?”

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37. Anonymous said... on Mar 2, 2010 at 03:22PM

“I came out to Philly from NY and seen this back and fourth nonsense going on about the parking and cones and let me tell you not only is it petty but its dangerous. Its not what you say its how you say it... If someone would have attcked me as oppose to speaking to me like a civilzed human being they would have gotten themself shot; because I was armed and my weapon is legal.. you dug out the spot because you had to move your car not because the government announced anyone who digs out their spot has a right to own that land...”

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38. The Foundation said... on Jan 5, 2014 at 10:11AM

“My neighbor thinks the spot in front of
her house is hers from first snow till spring
time. I disagreed and after snow was gone decided
it was enough and just ran over her chair and it shattered
into pieces. Lol”

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39. Anonymous said... on Jan 26, 2015 at 01:42PM

“While we are at it ...most of the time i see older men and especially women doing the shoveling. Is nothing expected of young men these days?
They are all sitting in front if screens. Please help your elderly neighbors shovel. Be neighborly. That should be taught in the home. I pay them if they ask for money but be aware that it is the elderly folks that pick up your circulars, sweep in front of your house and return your recycling bins to your patio.”


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