In the days following a blizzard, once the streets are cleared and drivers shovel out their cars from curbside snow encasings, it’s no longer the road conditions that pose a problem. It’s the savesies. The dibs. The lawn chairs.
Any city that’s seen heavy snowfall has had to deal with the quandary of parking etiquette after a snowstorm. Drivers fear that if they dig their cars out to go to work, someone else will be snugly parked in their spot once they return. So they deploy space savers, often traffic cones or lawn chairs, to hold their hard won parking spot until their return.
But in the District, one man raised the bar.
Nathan Bergman said he spent five hours digging out his car after the weekend blizzard dropped 2 feet of snow on the region. And seeing as no one on his unplowed street had left the southeast D.C. block in several days, he wasn’t about to give his space up when he had to go to work Monday night.
So he typed up a 96-word note, wrapped it in a plastic Ziploc bag, and taped it to a stick that he plunged into the snowbank next to the open parking space he was about to leave behind.
It read: “Hi. I spent a lot of time, energy and some money to get this spot cleared. Now, I understand that technically I cannot ‘reserve’ this spot. You are ‘free’ to park anywhere you choose without interference. However, please know - if you choose to take this spot - that I will spend the same amount of time, energy and money to place the snow back in it’s original place around your vehicle. This is a promise. I wish you the best of luck parking during this weather and I hope you’re reconsidered your original plan to park here.”
The note touched a nerve.
In response to a photo of the note that circulated on Twitter, residents from other snow-laden cities responded with their own - often meaner and curse-laden - notes. A “who wore it best” comparison featured Mr. Bergman’s note and a version from Boston that threatened slashed tires. Meanwhile a Philadelphia version, hand-scrawled on a piece of cardboard, promised a broken windshield for parking in an open spot.
Others derided Mr. Bergman for his “entitled” attitude.
The 32-year-old musician wants critics to know, he meant the sign to be funny. But he was also 100 percent serious.
“People are looking at this as a sense of entitlement. But the sense of entitlement is when someone pulls into a spot they know they didn’t work to shovel out and they know the city didn’t shovel out, and then all of a sudden I’m the jerk,” Mr. Bergman said. “I just wanted some peace of mind that I wasn’t going to have to go up to the Capitol Hill hotel and get my car valeted because somebody decided it was OK to park here.”
In the District, the practice of saving parking spaces is illegal — a fact D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier addressed in the days after the snowstorm.
“No one owns a parking space,” Chief Lanier said. “As tempting as it might be, once you pull out, that spot can be taken by someone else.”
The Philadelphia Police Department also took on the issue when it released a parody of rapper Drake’s song “Hotline Bling,” instead titling the remix “Hotline Savesies.” The remix, released a few days ahead of the snowstorm urges people to “call us on your cellphone, late night when you see that cone.”
Those annoyed with the plethora of lawn chairs and bric-a-brac strewn in Baltimore streets as parking space savers vented on Craigslist, where they’ve advertised “free patio and beach chairs” available for the taking.
Disputes can turn serious. In Boston, police reported that a man was shot Monday night during a dispute over a parking spot.
Mr. Bergman, who plays guitar for the local band Lionize, said he doesn’t condone the violence that others have threatened through their space savers. But he he was fully prepared to shovel snow back into place if he had returned home to find someone in the spot.
“Then I feel terrible because when I come home if someone’s in my spot, what am I forced to do?” he said. “I’m forced to go to somebody else’s spot that they dug out. Or get my car towed. And the consequences spiral.”
So what does he make of all the criticism over posting the sign?
“If that sign works you up so much, it’s probably because you’re a bad person,” Mr. Bergman said. “You’re the type of person who would park in a spot like that.”
Someone did park in the spot for a short period Monday night, leaving a note on their own car that stated the driver was pregnant and would be leaving the space shortly. The car was gone by the time Mr. Bergman returned.