The great chair debate: should "dibs" be allowed?

The great chair debate: should "dibs" be allowed?

Snow has finally come to Chicago, and if you park on the street that means you probably had to do some serious digging to get your car out. Since this is the first major snowfall of the season, the annual "dibs" debate is back. Whichever side you take, it's still a huge part of history, and the feature for this week's "Did You Know, Chicago."

If you're not from the city, you might not be familiar with "dibs." Basically, if you've put in the effort to shovel out your car, you get to park your car in the same spot when you come back. While you're gone, place a chair, garbage can, saw horse, whatever in your spot so everyone knows it has been claimed.

The proper term for saving a parking spot in Chicago is actually called "dibs." Sure, people have been doing this since we've had cars to park, but it really became prominent in Chicago after the snowstorm of 1967. Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn went on a mission to find out just who officially dubbed the practice "dibs," but he wasn't very successful. (The first person in news writing to use the term was fellow Tribune columnish John Kass in 1999.)

There are two schools of thoughts on "dibs": it's a time-honored Chicago tradition or it needs to stop. The Chicago Tribune conducted a poll in 2010 to see just how divided the city was on the subject, and found that it was split almost completely down the middle.

Technically calling "dibs" on a parking spot is illegal, but the city often looks the other way after a major snowstorm. During last year's blizzard, the city even announced that it was allowed for a short amount of time. After that, any item found saving a spot would be thrown away.

The debate has even gone all the way to the top; Mayor Daley was quoted as saying, “If someone spends all their time digging their car out, do not drive into that spot. This is Chicago. Fair warning.”

Nasty consequences have befallen those who ignore "dibs." Fights have broken out, but the most common result is vandalism. If you steal someone else's spot, don't be surprised to find your vehicle encased in ice or keyed.

In 2010, a movement began called "Chair-Free Chicago." This annoying grass-roots movement sells posters and signage to place around neighborhoods to remind everyone to be nice and share their shoveled out parking spots.

So, what is Chicago Quirk's opinion? If you dug out your car after a big snow, that spot is yours to claim until parking stops being an issue. However, don't try to call "dibs" on a spot when the snowfall is under five inches. If you steal someone's spot, beware. Keying someone's car is not cool, but anything that doesn't cause permanent damage is acceptable.

What do you think?

There is an incredibly entertaining Tumblr blog dedicated entirely to creative "dibs." Check it out! Here are a few of my favs:

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