As the calendar turns to March, much of the country is looking forward to the end of winter – warmer temps, sunny skies, and no more snow.
But in New England and the Upper Midwest, they know winter ain’t over ‘til it’s over, and another big snow storm (or two) might pop up before the crocuses do. If that happens, residents of our big northern cities will do what they do – pull out the snow shovels, don their parkas and face the deluge with courage and dibs.
That’s right, dibs. As in, “I call dibs.” Most every city in the snow belt operates under some version of the code, which gives the person who shovels out a curbside parking spot the right to retain that spot for the duration of the snow, so long as she marks her space properly, typically by placing a chair in the cleared space.
The dibs system is honored in Boston, Buffalo, and Pittsburgh, but nowhere is the code more intricate or ingrained than in America’s Winterfell – Chicago. During a 2006 blizzard, then Chicago Mayor Richard Daley publically endorsed the code, giving potential violators “fair warning” that one simply does not park in a dibbed spot. “This is Chicago,” Hizzoner said, somewhat ominously.
The Chicago dibs code consists of several unwritten rules. First, it only applies to periods of significant accumulation. Second, the cleared spot must be in front of the shoveler’s home.
Third, the spot must be conspicuously marked with a chair, end table or traffic cone. Among the more creative dibs markers spotted over the years are statues of The Virgin Mary, naked mannequins, giant teddy bears and a cardboard cut-out of Leonardo DiCaprio.
Threatening signs are frowned upon in Chicago, as are acts of retaliation for violation of the code. (Not so in Boston, where snagging a “dibbed” spot has led to all sorts of unfortunate behavior.)
Finally, dibbers must promptly remove their markers when the snow melts. That’s not unwritten; that’s a city regulation – one that is faithfully obeyed. After all, a good dibs marker is every bit as important as a good pair of gloves. You don’t want the garbage man hauling it away.