CONTACTTRAFFICABOUT TOM VANDERBILTOTHER WRITING CONTACT ABOUT THE BOOK

Winter Dibs, Continued

I’m enjoying all the tales of ‘winter dibs,’ even as I dare not move the Outback from its Brooklyn ice tomb, instead merely waiting for it to emerge like some paleolithic lichen. Josh sends along this link from Boston, of someone doing anticipatory ‘winter dibbing,’ and I’m now tempted to try and introduce the phrase ‘that’s not Southie’ into the national lexicon. It could be the new “that’s not cricket”!

The picture above is strangely fascinating to me; first, there’s the white ‘monobloc’ chair, that ubiquitous global icon, cluttering terraces and garages from Brixton to Buena Vista, which has spawned any number of Flickr groups and blogs, my favorite being this one. It is a curious type of product, existing at the barest margin of any sense of worth or value (or why would you put it on the street?) yet still able to perform its function (or several, it seems). Then there’s that curious detail — what Roland Barthes dubbed the ‘punctum’ — the bricks resting atop each chair, as if they commanded some extra authority — without the brick, sure move the chairs, but with brick, well it gives you pause.

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This entry was posted on Friday, February 12th, 2010 at 8:17 am and is filed under Parking. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

12 Responses to “Winter Dibs, Continued”

  1. slaybalj Says:

    The bricks keep the chairs from blowing away. We have 4 of these that came with our house when we bought it. They sit on the back porch and without a little weight on them, fly away at the barest hint of wind.

  2. Tom Vanderbilt Says:

    Interesting. Further evidence of their almost ethereal nature. They could simply have weights attached as part of the original design as outdoor furniture, but that presumably would interfere with stacking and make it more difficult to move them around.

  3. TLP Says:

    I’ll be honest, I’m proud of my mayor for sticking up for my lawn chair.

    http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/heardinthehall/84159472.html

  4. Josh R Says:

    The money quote is of course at the end of the article, where it’s admitted that although people are dismayed by the practice, nobody dares move the objects for fear of getting a brick through their window. To sum up, no work has gone into getting the space, but the offender gets to keep it because of the threat of violence. As long as the authorities don’t step in, they get a free ride too. Even if you know who’s doing it, are you going to risk getting punched in the face by standing up to the bully?

    Way to go guys, you’ve managed to recreate the power dynamics of the dark ages in the middle of a first world country. Whoo Hoo…

  5. Kevin Love Says:

    When I lived there, my favorite tactic was to claim “dibs” on as many parking spaces as I could, even although I don’t have a car.

    Just doing my bit for a car-free city.

    It was absolutely amazing how long my spaces remained car-free.

  6. Pete Warnock Says:

    Today, I saw this behavior in sunny SoCal.

  7. clever-title Says:

    I demand the right to charge tolls on the sidewalk in front of my house, backed up with the threat of shovel-crushing the skulls of those who don’t respect that I’ve earned that sidewalk as my own by shoveling it.

    @Kevin Love: great idea. The best way to destroy a stupid law (or convention) is by enforing it to its logical conclusion.

  8. erok Says:

    haha some people in pittsburgh designed some t shirts for this http://store.cottonfactory.com/cf-1370.html

  9. njkayaker Says:

    Tom Vanderbilt@2 “They could simply have weights attached as part of the original design as outdoor furniture, but that presumably would interfere with stacking and make it more difficult to move them around.”

    Attaching weights would, of course, make these chairs much, much more expensive to produce (and ship)! The primary reason for this chair’s ubiquity is their cheapness!

  10. wes kirkman Says:

    “Interesting. Further evidence of their almost ethereal nature.”

    Tom, you are hilarious. Further hilarity:

    “claim “dibs” on as many parking spaces as I could, even although I don’t have a car.”

    “charge tolls on the sidewalk in front of my house,”

    I think I will try randomly placing chairs in the street to see if this works. I don’t know if I will try the tolls on the sidewalk. Is there a way I can claim dibs on my street? Maybe not the whole street, cause that would be outrageous. Just a portion of it of course. A place to setup that kiddy pool I’ve been wanting, perhaps.

  11. townmouse Says:

    Passive-Aggressive Notes has just done a nice series of notes on just this subject…

  12. Rickman Says:

    Why is this a winter thing? A question from the sunny south (Australia). Seems a strange custom anyway.

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Traffic Tom Vanderbilt

How We Drive is the companion blog to Tom Vanderbilt’s New York Times bestselling book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), published by Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S. and Canada, Penguin in the U.K, and in languages other than English by a number of other fine publishers worldwide.

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