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Snow Day Dibs

Your favorite (Chicago) blogger has emerged from the Chicago Blizzard of ’011.  I know you were worried.  Had I waited any longer to leave campus last Tuesday, I would have been part of the group of lucky motorists who got stranded on Lake Shore Drive because of car accidents and snow drifts.  Yet I made it home and quickly caught cabin fever, tweeting and posting the most asinine things to my Facebook page for most of the night.  (Even in the most dire circumstances, one should not share a link to Snow’s “Informer” under any circumstances–even blizzard conditions.)

Despite obsessively tweeting silliness such as “snow em gee” and “My city is a snow globe in the hands of a six-year-old high on Halloween candy and red Kool-Aid,” I waited two days before going outside to shovel my car out of its space.  I was out there for a few hours, and my crappy iPod bailed on me early in the game.  So I had time to think, to get all introspective and things.  And it wasn’t long before I started contemplating the Chicago practice of parking spot dibs.

For those of you who don’t know, I’m referring to a practice–that I’ve only seen in Chicago, but am sure it is recognized in other places–where one places a chair or other objects in the parking space one has just shoveled.  Seriously.  No one wants to drive up the street to Walgreens, leaving the spot they spent two hours and 650 calories to create only to return and see that some bastard in a Chevy Tahoe has taken one’s brief absence as an opportunity to take the spot.  When you put an old lawn chair or a couple of milk crates in that spot, the Chevy Tahoe moves along.  People respect the practice.  From what I can tell.

At first, one might think parking spot dibs is such a classically, obnoxiously American thing to do:  There many of us go again, planting our little flags in land we don’t even own.  There we go again thinking land is something that should be claimed, owned.  There we go again talking about how we pulled ourselves up by our own snowbootstraps and worked hard to carve a space out in this world, and we’ll be damned if some freeloading Chevy Tahoe is going to come in with its hand out trying to take what is rightfully ours. (I really have nothing against Chevy Tahoes.  I have no idea why I’ve chosen the vehicle for these purposes.)

Maybe that assessment of is why I never really practiced dibs myself–until last week.  My triceps, I confess, demanded it.  If the fact that I have been known to go to three different Walgreens in the same day didn’t officially make me a Chicagoan, I think grabbing a couple of chairs to stake a claim on my parking space definitely does.  Perhaps I’m trying to paint a flowery excuses, but I think there is another, less annoying metaphor that could be gleaned from this practice.

I’ve seen the myriad of objects that people have placed in their parking spaces: not just chairs, but also milk crates, wood, trash cans, overturned ironing boards.   And no matter what it is that holds one’s parking spot, the people of Chicago more or less acknowledge it and move on.  No one says, “Well, those are just mail bins.  Those don’t count.  I have every right to take over that space.”  Maybe I was out in the cold too long, but I thought about Chicago’s collective understanding of parking spot dibs, and wondered what the implications of adopting that kind of philosophy in other aspects of life.

Mother Nature, life, whatever puts the smack down on every one of us; it does not discriminate.  And when the coast is seemingly clear, all most of us want to do is to carve out a space for ourselves–no more, no less–and have a little comfort in knowing that no matter where we go whatever we put in our space is just as valid as what one puts in her own space, and therefore won’t be violated by others when we aren’t looking.  We all just want space in the world, and the freedom to fill that space with whatever we can manage, salvage.  I make no claim to having the right kind of politics.  I just want to live in a world where we are all free to be our beautiful fucked up selves, in whatever space we carved out.

That, I imagine, is the best that we can do until the “dibs-free” revolution, when we all get shovels and a pack of matches–to torch the garages, of course.

And that, dear readers, is your horrible, horrible metaphor for Monday.

Happy Dilla Day: