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A Nightmare on Main Street

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By Mike Burke

Parking in Manayunk in normal situations is challenging, at best. During a snow storm, though, you end up wishing you never owned a car.

While the driving is treacherous, that is no one's fault.  It is a product of hilly, narrow streets, made worse by foul weather. But, let snow hit the ground and parking becomes close to impossible. In their desperation, people have started acting downright barbaric.

If you drive around Manayunk when there is snow on the ground you will see an odd assortment of objects in the street: folding chairs, recycling bins, trash cans, parking cones etc. - all placed in an effort by those who dug out a parking spot to claim it as their own. This is odd, because parking is always at a premium in Manayunk, but you don't see these space savers at any other time of the year, and if you did it would be promptly moved to the sidewalk.

My first experience with this practice was last February during the huge blizzards that hit the area. I didn't drive my car for 11 straight days. After finally digging out of my street, I ran a few errands and returned, finding a trashcan in a spot near my house. I assumed it had blown into the street, moved it and parked my car. A woman charged out of her house and announced that I had to move my car. We argued back and forth, me asking her why I should have to move it. I told her the spot that I had dug out had been taken by another car and I was okay with that. She had no legitimate reason for me to move the car so I didn't.  As it it turns out, I was lucky to avoid further trouble.

Thumbnail image for Manayunk Use This.jpgA few nights later, I mentioned what had happened at a bar with some friends. A girl I had just met related a similar story with scarier results. She had dug her car out of a spot in Manayunk that week and done some errands, and when she returned she found trashcans in the spot. She moved them, not thinking anything of it. When she went out to her car a few hours later, she discovered that her tires had been slashed.

At first I didn't believe her, but as I've lived here for longer periods of time I have learned that the people that put trash cans and chairs in parking spots are generally allowed to get away with it because drivers fear damage to their cars.

So, as a newer resident of Manayunk, let me ask a few questions:

Have we reverted to mob rule? Does a snowstorm give people the right to act crazy over something as trivial as a parking spot? When you think about it, what happened to the girl at the bar was the perfect crime. She will never move trashcans to park her car again, and the people who slashed her tires will never be caught. She was out hundreds of dollars in damage, and whatever troglodyte slashed her tires got themselves a place to park. Is that fair?

Digging out a parking spot does not cost any money. It takes time and effort, but there are worse things to endure. Most people are allowed leeway by their bosses on days after a storm, so it's not like being late to work will be an issue. This medieval system of chairs in parking spots and an unspoken rule that if someone moves them to park their car, gives you the liberty to damage your vehicle is ridiculous. More people need to stand up and say this is wrong.

Damage to cars happens all the time, mostly by accident. Everyone knows how frustrating it is when someone hits your car and drives off, or (as has happened to me) someone smashes a $500 window to get a $60 navigation system. The police can't waste their time following up on petty crimes, they have bigger problems to deal with. To be honest I'd rather have them investigating murders.

So, it falls on us to act. This trashing of cars to punish someone for parking should stop. We are, after all, a community of people who share the same space.

There are too many problems in our society that don't have solutions, but this one does.  Be civil. Be compassionate. If you have to park an extra block from your house, deal with it. Most people could use the exercise anyway. Willful destruction of people's property is a terrible way to treat your neighbors. Let's be honest, like the police, we all have bigger problems to deal with.

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