Pittsburgh got lucky this past weekend as the snowstorm that hit the Northeast just missed us. Technically, winter just began, so we have plenty of time to catch our share of the white stuff again in the not-so-distant future. When that happens, the local media is going to have us all psyching ourselves out for another Snowmageddon in the Burgh. Before you all run to your basements to dust off your parking chairs in preparation for the next blizzard, we thought you should familiarize yourself with some commonly accepted rules of etiquette for parking chair usage in the city of Pittsburgh. Believe it or not, there is such a thing as etiquette when it comes to parking chairs, but as Pittsburghers, we also know what those rules really mean:
During fair weather
Parking chairs placed during fair weather almost always mean that a large moving or construction vehicle is scheduled to arrive shortly. Such chairs should always be respected, but should also be labeled with a sign to explain their usage.
Some people think they can use parking chairs for anything they want, like moving. Well that’s nonsense, and a good way to show the new jagoffs in town who’s boss is to move their parking chairs out of the way and put your car there intentionally so they have to park the moving truck around the corner and carry their stuff half a block to their new apartment.
During inclement weather
It is always preferable to help neighbors dig out from heavy snowfall, rather than to claim personal parking spaces with chairs. When chairs are used during snowstorms, their intent must be as a short-term placeholder. A chair cannot be used for longer than the day during which the spot was cleared. It is not a free pass to use the spot indefinitely, especially during longer absences. Parking chairs must be removed as soon as a reasonable number of parking spaces become cleared on a street. This encourages collaborative neighborhood clean-up efforts.
Keep an eye on your neighbors from the window. When they are about 98% done digging out their own space, go outside and start digging your own while talking to your neighbors about how you haven’t been feeling well, and hopefully they will come over to help you. Be sure to use a regular shovel (one of those narrower ones made for dirt) and let the Ned Flanders wannabe from next door do all the heavy lifting. When the space is all dug out, go inside and grab your old ironing board and two old chairs to fill the area (a setup like this will work too). Even though you don’t actually have a car to park there, you can justify it because “someone might come visit you later in the week.”
Only someone who lives on a street can reserve a parking place. On long streets, the spot should be reasonably close to the home of the person who places it.
Fill your car with your old folding beach chairs. When you go visit a friend in another neighborhood, be sure to take a beach chair out of the trunk and put it in your space when you leave. You never know when you’ll be back to your friend’s house, so at least you know your space will always be waiting for you when you return.
In cases where effort is required to clear a parking place, only the person who performed the clearing may place a chair. Cleared spaces without chairs are a gesture of goodwill towards neighbors and must never be claimed. It is also courteous to recognize that those who contributed a significant amount to a collaborative clearing efforts may disregard any remaining chairs if no other spaces are available.
When you see a cleared space without a chair, you should put something there to claim it as soon as possible. If you don’t have time to run in and grab your parking chair, temporarily block it with a garbage can or cardboard box full of snow. Think of it as a game, and each unclaimed parking spot is a new territory. The person on the street with the most blocked parking spaces is the winner! For bonus points, sneak out at night and replace your neighbors parking chairs with your own.
Parking chairs must not be placed before a snowstorm or other weather event, as no space has yet been cleared and drivers may require shelter in the midst of the storm.
The snow flakes are larger and fall faster during the peak snowstorm season – which is a good reason to stake your claim before a single flake even falls. Always have your preemptive parking chairs ready for action. Pay attention to the weather forecast and leave your chairs outside when you leave town or go see a movie. You never know when you might return to find your street covered in snow with nowhere to park. If you want to get really sophisticated, you can put a tarp on the ground with your parking chair on top. When you come home, not only is your parking spot reserved, but now you can simply pull the tarp off to the side, and the snow will move with it. Feel free to dump the snow covered tarp on your neighbors side, preferably near their car doors/tires.
Snow clearing methods
When clearing a parking space, effort must be taken to avoid infringing upon the space available for others to use, including use of the minimum space necessary for the intended vehicle. Snow should be shoveled away from the parking lane rather than piled between parking spaces, where it wastes space. Snow should never be placed onto driving or sidewalk surfaces. If a significant amount of snow will be shoveled into a private yard, it is courteous to ask permission of the owner first.
Always create two strategic mountains of snow on both sides of your parking spot. This reinforces the idea that the space is yours and the large piles of snow are a great way to show everyone how much hard work you went through to dig yourself out. This also protects your car from anyone who’s trying to wedge themselves into your space. If you are digging out a space in front of your neighbor’s house, feel free to throw the snow on the sidewalk – they’ll take care of it for you when they come out to shovel.
If a parking chair is disregarded, it is courteous to place a note explaining the reason why it was moved and limit the time of space usage. If feasible, it is courteous to monitor the space for the return of the original vehicle and greet the driver cordially. If it becomes obvious that the purpose for space reservation is no longer valid, neighbors should feel free to remove each others’ chairs from the street, as a communal gesture that this is the case.
Just because someone leaves a plastic chair where their snow covered car used to be, doesn’t mean they own the spot! Don’t believe it? There’s a Facebook group about it so it must be true. But if you have to move someone’s parking chair, put it on your neighbor’s sidewalk so the chair owner thinks your neighbor did it. Even better, hide the chair in your trunk (throw it away later) so you can claim that there wasn’t a chair there when you parked. When the owner of the original vehicle comes back, make sure you engage in aggressive eye contact and even ask them “what’chu lookin’ at?” if they maintain eye contact for 2 seconds or more. Tilting head slightly to the side while saying the aforementioned sentence will enhance the effects.
Parking chairs must be intended only as a friendly courtesy. In no case should vehicles be vandalized or tampered with, even if persons feel that a rightfully reserved space has been violated. Retribution carries too much potential for permanently harming neighborhood relationships and inciting violence. If a chair is moved, it must be assumed, based on the principle of presumed innocence, that the person who moved it had a good reason. If a person is caught in the act of moving a chair, they may be politely asked to find a different space if possible or negotiate to use the space for a limited time.
If someone disregards your parking chair for any reason, even if you don’t actually have a car to park there, wait until the right time to go outside and drag your key along the side of their car. Or, if you want to be extra creative, you can quietly shovel all the snow back on their car so they have to dig it out again the following day. This is also a great excuse for starting a raging argument and releasing all of your anger and childhood resentments – it’s even better than road rage! Bonus points: if your garden hose isn’t frozen, turn it on and run water all over the other car until it encases it in a layer of ice like this. Good ol’ Yinzer Justice…
1. yinzer justiceA system of social mores that finds it not only acceptable but necessary to exact a broad array of punitive measures against an individual or individuals for heinous grievances such as defacing the Terrible Towel, stealing a parking spot saved by a parking chair, etc.In a clear example of yinzer justice, the car was encased in a two-inch think layer of ice, courtesy of a old lady and her garden hose after the car’s owner moved an old lady’s parking chair and took her parking spot. The Pittsburgh Police have thus far refused to comment on the matter.
Is it legal to use parking chairs in Pittsburgh?
Some places, including Pittsburgh, do not place legal sanctions against those engaging in the practice, but make clear that anyone has the right to claim an informal space that was reserved by someone else for their own vehicle, regardless of courtesy. However, it is a general practice around the city to respect the markers of others. -at least according to Wikipedia.