I’ve blogged before about the phenomenon of the parking char in Pittsburgh (and I’m sure elsewhere). In short, people shovel the snow in front of their homes, and place a chair, or some other marker, in the shoveled spot so no one else takes it. Social norms have developed such that no one moves parking chairs (I almost made this mistake once). But now, it seems, that the City of Pittsburgh is clamping down on these moves.
Yet a custom is all it is. It hasn’t the force of law, even in a neighborhood that once used a chair in a parking space as the logo for the South Side Summer Street Spectacular. So when the Commonwealth Press at 1931 E. Carson St. got an official-sounding call Thursday afternoon suggesting that its official chair could unfold into a very expensive joke, store owner Dan Rugh posted this on Facebook:
“We were HONESTLY just contacted by the PITTSBURGH PARKING AUTHORITY — notifying us that our parking chairs are not legal place holders. We assume everyone understood that these are novelty chairs and contain no magic power to them but apparently not. So this is our common sense disclaimer:
“If you use anything to hold a parking spot in the city of Pittsburgh you can be fined $300. That anything can be a novelty chair, a non novelty chair, a pallet, a cone, a stack of pizza boxes, a wooden horse, a real horse, a car tire, a child, a small box of items, a large box of items, a sled …”
Once again, public enforcement will weaken the magic of private enforcement.
He could. He was Pittsburgh police Lt. Larry Scirotto of Zone 3, which covers the South Side. He said he’d called the store after getting an email about the chairs from the South Side Chamber of Commerce. He figured rightly that a potential “nightmare of an issue” over a “funny yinzer type of decoration” could be averted with one friendly conversation.
This is good police work; when Ms. Mack assured him the chairs would be sold with an appropriate disclaimer, all was cool. That $300 fine, by the way, would be for littering. “We consider it rubbish as soon as you surrender it to the roadway,” Lt. Scirotto explained.
So use parking chairs at your own risk, fellow Pittsburghers, pretty much the way they’ve always been used. It should surprise no one that Commonwealth Press had a fine time with this fine threat.
If the chairs work, don’t fix it!