You’d have thought there wouldn’t much use for beach chairs
in the snowy wilderness that currently is Chirish-land but you’d be wrong.
Walk along any residential street and you’ll see vacant
fold-up plastic pews in bright green and orange, just waiting for their owners
to return. This is the Chicago winter
tradition of “dibs” – reserving your street parking spot on the basis that that hour you spent shovelling it clear entitles you to leave for an unlimited number of hours without anyone else taking it.
It doesn’t have to be beach chairs - upturned wheelie bins,
kids’ outdoor sit-on toys (because they won’t be using them for at least
another 2 months), there’s even a photo somewhere of a statue of Jesus saving
the day – or at least the spot.
Calling ‘dibs’ is not legal. Chicago streets are public
property but authorities usually turn a blind eye to dibbing after heavy
snowfalls when it can take some time for side streets to be cleared. But woe betide the brave soul who ignores dibs
etiquette and nabs the spot. Reported “punishments” for offenders range from
burial by snow (the car that is, not the driver) to the more extreme slashing
of car tyres.
This winter already is in the top ten snowiest since records
began in the 1880s so I can understand the
frustration of the dibbers and the nabbers. Getting a car dug out is no mean
feat when you have to contend with the walls of snow cleared from the sidewalk
on one side and the bank of snow pushed to one side by the snow plows on the
So far we’ve had just under 62 inches of the white stuff
this winter – that’s over 1.5 metres to
us aliens. And with temperatures well
below freezing (today is the 20th
below 0 degrees Fahrenheit, that’s minus 18 Celsius in
alien-speak), all that deep, deep snow isn’t going anywhere just yet.
But signs spring is around the corner are emerging on the snow-plowed streets. For in Chicago, the gradual approach of
spring is heralded by the gradual loss of car springs - and burst tyres and bashed wheel rims, all thanks to the
arrival of the pothole.
It's a bit like a Whack-a-Mole game except that you're swapping critters for craters. Some 625,000 potholes were filled in last year but we're off to a flying start in 2014, with 100,000 dabbed in already thanks to hard-working crews who are out 7 days a week. You can even plot their progress like some video game thanks to the special pot hole tracker website launched by the city showing their latest 7-day "score".
I tried to find the website and was
distracted by www.potholestore.com
which markets “only the ripest and freshest crumbling asphalt from around
Chicagoland”. With Valentine’s Day coming up, I was sorely tempted by the bags
of PotholePourri or the chance to name a pothole after my loved one thanks to the International
So long as he doesn't interpret it as meaning our marriage has hit a bump in the road!