Saturday, January 29, 2011

Whose side would you take?

Many houses on the street I live on do not have driveways.  So even though we reside on this block, we have to contend with others for street parking.  This is especially difficult because we are just one block from the commuter train station and many people park here and go to work (instead of paying to park in the lot). Also, we are just one block from the library, the post office and a municipal building (the one that handles social services).  It can sometimes be a real fight to get a parking space especially on Monday and Tuesday when alternate side of the street parking is in effect.  And most especially now when there are 4 and 5 foot high piles of snow stacked everywhere.

The other day when it snowed, the hubby and almost all our neighbors were out there shoveling walkways and digging their cars out of the snow. There was a real camaraderie. Most people when they moved their cars to drive out started putting safety cones, garbage cans, bins, anything really, to hold their space.   I felt funny about doing it initially but I really had no choice.  There is no parking and I could end up having to park blocks and blocks away if I didn't make sure to put a place holder.  So I've been doing it too and it's been a tremendous help.  I'm usually bringing in groceries or other goods or juggling my kids and their stuff.  The weather has been terrible and it just makes it so much easier that I don't have to park as far as a bus ride away.  

People have been respecting the place holders and that has been a great relief to me, I have to say.  People have understood our struggle and have honored the fact that we live on this block and dug it out.  Up until yesterday.

We had a playdate and we were supposed to go to my friend's house.  The roads were still pretty bad so the hubby was to take my Subaru to work.  I thought we wouldn't be able to have the playdate but then I realized she could just park in my space.  She'd be gone long before the hubby came home.  Great plan and I was relieved that we'd have some company.

Almost immediately after the hubby left, my niece calls me to say that someone was in my spot.  I didn't worry because I figured it was my friend's Honda Odyssey.  I looked out the window and it was an Infinity coupe that didn't belong to anyone who lived on this block.  The owner had moved my place holder.  The only reason he chose my space was because, unlike my neighbors, I only placed one safety cone. My neighbors had 2 or 3 large garbage cans or bins to hold their space. 

I looked around to see if maybe it was just someone who'd come to drop something off but there was no one around.  I got upset.  It would have been okay if I didn't have my friend coming because I was sure the person would be gone at least by 6 (because either they went to the city on the commuter train, to the library, to the post office or to the social services building--all of which closed by 6) so my husband would have a place to park my car when he got home at least.  But right then, I was kind of stuck as my friend was on her way.  

I wrote a note.  A polite but strongly worded note about being considerate of the fact that we put so much work into clearing the snow and putting the marker in and that we live on this block.  I taped it to his car with far more tape than was necessary and even put a piece of tape on his car door handle and side view mirror (I was frustrated).  I still had my friend come and we parked her car in the space next to mine, moving my neighbor's place markers.  I left a note in my friend's car with my number so that if my neighbor came home, we'd cut the playdate short and she'd move the car.  (Yes, we'd have to cut the playdate short--there is NO parking.)   

The owner of the Infinity came back about an hour or so into the playdate.  He took the note I left on his car, tore into about 8 pieces and stuck it in various places all over my friend's car.  About an hour after that, he called me to yell at me telling me that it's illegal to put place markers on a public street (yes, he actually took the time to take down my number so that he could call me to tell me about myself).  When I went to help my friend to the car, I realized that he had come back and taken my place marker (a safety cone) and one of my neighbor's placer markers (his garbage can).  I guess he thought my neighbor's placer marker was mine also.   

This experience really made an impression on me and the way people are these days.  I couldn't believe that he went through such lengths over a note left by someone who clearly frustrated at having their spot "stolen".  I can understand that maybe there was an emergency or he was late for an appointment and really desperately needed parking.  I can't understand how this person couldn't understand the desperation we face to the point that we have to pull our car out of the space, get out and put a place marker so we don't lose the spot.  We don't do this under normal circumstances.  I thought he would have called me and explained that he was in a difficult situation and just needed to park quickly and he was sorry for the inconvenience.  I realize, though, that what I would do is not what others would do and I can't expect others to behave the way I would.  I also am coming to the realization that many people these days are really, really self-centered and refuse to think about other folks situation.  My friend's car is a mini-van.  The Infinity owner thought it was mine.  It's feasible that I had four or five kids I would have had to juggle out the car and get into the house--and he took one of the very few spaces available.  (((sigh)))

I know we had no lawful claim to the space.  But this is not about the law or justice to me.  It's about compassion and thinking of others.  

I'm really tired of fighting for street parking.  It's difficult to get the kids to the car safely.  On alternate side of the street parking days, I can't go anywhere in the morning before 12.  Some days I come home and there is just no parking for whatever reason and only a handful of the cars belong to people who live here.  There's the issue of snow.  And my town does not enforce the two-hour parking signs that are up (another town further north handles this by issuing "Resident" stickers to people who live there so they are exempt from the two-hour rule).  

We have space on our property for a driveway.  Once spring comes, I'm going to really have to look into what we need to do to get it put in.  I'm sure we have to get some permits and file paperwork and all that.  That's the hardest part.  Then we have to find someone to do the work and given our history contractors (we're currently being sued by a sub-contractor who put in our new roof who was hired by the contractor we signed the contract with), that will probably be pretty difficult too.  And then there's the cost.  

So what do you think about the situation?  Whose side would you have been on?  The Infinity owner's or mine?  


liberationtheory said...

Pure and simple the infiniti owner is a jerk. Having lived in Chicago for a year, the land of place holders, stealing someone's spot is liable to get your car keyed, jacked, or worse. You simply don't do it for the very reasons you stated. If you put in the sweat to shovel the space, it's yours for the winter. period.

However, I do understand that an emergency or last minute planning could have made him need to take the space. He could have handled the situation differently. Either ignored the note or apologized.

But experience tells me that when someone has been called out for their wrongdoing (and he obviously felt called out by the wording and all the tape) they become extremely defensive and respond in ways to temper their guilt.

So that means next time you have a choice too. Either except they may respond this way or don't leave a note.

Or you can go Chicago style and break their windows and key their car. Just kidding.

The 21st Century Hippy said...

I agree with liberationtheory - the infiniti owner is clearly a jerk. I'd have been angry if someone had taken my spot as well - after all that work to clear the snow!

This reminds me of a few years ago when I parked in 15 minute parking downtown in front of the post office. I had to drop something off down the street and was easily back at my car within 15 minutes.

When I returned, I found a note that said something like, "this parking spot is for the post office. Just who do you think you are that you don't have to follow the rules?"

It had to have been left by someone who had watched me park and walk elsewhere, but all I could do was laugh - the parking was NOT for the post office, I broke no rules, and it was the closest parking to where I was going as well!

I kept looking at the sign trying to figure out whether it really was post office parking - but it wasn't. And I don't think it is a common courtesy of my town to leave that parking for the post office, either!

In any case, I am on your side - I'm all about common courtesy. You worked hard for that space, it's an odd circumstance with the snow.

However, your note probably made him defensive - and maybe he thought he had until after work hours before the space would be needed? I guess you talked to him, so you might have gathered his logic? I would hope that it went *slightly* beyond legalities...

navelgazingbajan said...

I agree that the Infiniti owner was a jerk. People feel a need to save face when they're called out on their bad behavior.

Can your neighbors come together to petition your town for better parking access for the street's residents?

Serenity Love Sincere Peace Earth said...

I had that happen when I lived in NJ. My neighbor who lived across the street wasn't home when it snowed one year. She decided to take the spot that I had been meticulously caring for through 5 storms to park in one evening, moving my chair. I knew it was her car and asked her to move it. She refused. I could hear her parents in the background asking her to move her car, still she refused. My car was small, so I blocked the entrance of the spot. I wasn't in the street at all so the police wouldn't get involved. The next morning I decided not to go to my morning classes. She was livid banging on my door insisting I move my car. I REFUSED. She called the police. They came an hour later. And they recognized the situation and told us to work it out. I went to my afternoon classes. When I got home that night, she was parked elsewhere and my can was back in my spot.


Shay said...

I am from Chicago and in Chicago it is understood that if you dig out a space and leave a placeholder that to remove it is asking for trouble. In the situation you described that person was a jerk plain and simple.

Like someone else mentioned you and your neighbors made need to talk to the city about better parking arrangements. In Chicago they use permit parking in high density areas where if someone parks on a street that requires a permit you are risking a ticket.

One of the hardest things I know from living in Chicago was parking, I am not much of a driver but parking was a pain for my hubby. It was really not uncommon to have to park 5-6 blocks away from our place. So I feel your pain.

Jennie said...

Infiniti owner is a jerk.

Putting in a rough driveway is NOT hard.
You could totally do it, without even messing with contractors. (I don't even mean you as in your husband, I mean YOU.)

I live in far NW Iowa, and had a similar situation with on street parking being the only option and it sucking hard in the winter with snow.

To make a gravel driveway, all you need to do is remove the sod, (the top 3-5 inches of dirt) level the space, put some retainers (railroad ties work great) and cover with gravel. Leveling is as easy as using a long (6 ft) board to check for bumps/slopes and fix the most egregious of them. Gravel for a one car drive could fit in one pickup bed.

You can get fancy if you want with weed barrier put down before you pour gravel. Not required though.

Total tools required:
Wheelbarrow or bucket
long straight board
work gloves
some string and pegs to mark the dimensions and keep the drive straight as you dig and fill.

Just a thought. I'm a big fan of DIY. :-)
If you do all that work yourself, it leaves only the curb removal for a contractor.

Good luck.

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