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If there’s one thing that two feet of snow and three days of shoveling has taught me, it’s this: D.C. needs a Dibstitution. Badly.
Take a guy like Nathan Bergman. He spent a lot of time and sweat digging his car out of the snow and didn’t want to sacrifice his spot just because he happened to leave it. So he left this note:
— Sean Blanda (@SeanBlanda) January 26, 2016
That shouldn’t be necessary. He should have just left a chair or leg lamp or milk crate there. He shouldn’t have to write an essay begging someone not to take his spot. People should respect his dibs.
City officials say that “nobody owns a space.” Of course, this is the same city that threatened residents with fines if they didn’t shovel their sidewalks, and then promptly plowed snow on top of them, forcing people to walk in the streets. They’re not exactly the moral authority on the issue.
D.C. just doesn’t have a tradition or a way to deal with these issues, so I went to an expert.
I called Judge Dibs.
“Now I’ve gotta put on my black robe, carry the sacred scrolls of the Dibstitution to Washington to teach these pinheads about common sense and common law. You have to respect the dibs,” says John Kass, gruffly.
Kass is a longtime columnist for the Chicago Tribune and a friend. There may be no greater expert on the institution of dibs than Kass, who has been cited by both the federal bench and University of Chicago economists for his defense of our inalienable right to keep our spot. He thinks posting a treatise is dumb.
“That’s typical Washington positivism,” he says. “They think that they can write writs. This is the passive-aggressive bureaucrat vaguely threatening you with dire action. And they think they can direct society like a conductor with a baton. It doesn’t work that way. There’s no committee or writ. It’s a really simple thing: You put your dibs out there, and if someone disrespects it, they shall rue the day.”
It’s the Chicago Way and it’s built around respect. D.C. could use a little more of this utility, a little more consideration for the person shoveling heart-attack snow just to drive to work.
“The Dibstitution is clear: You don’t claim dibs, you mark dibs,” Kass says, noting that part of the flavor of dibs is to display your gauche nonsense, your broken furniture that you’ve hidden away. Here, it has a purpose. “If you dig it out, you mark your dibs. You have it. That’s yours. And you don’t need to have some passive-aggressive writ. And then if somebody does something, you do something. Right?”
If a squatter takes your place, you’re allowed to retaliate. But there’s a limit.
“The Dibstitution does not allow for violence, ever. I’m not advocating violence of any kind,” he says. “However, there have been cases where, in Chicago, whole cars have been covered in blocks of ice. One of the first articles of the Dibstitution is that you may return the space to its natural state. Of course, you can’t do it perfectly natural, because there’s a car in the middle of it. But if you encased the car in ice … I would use a fine spray.”
It’s pretty simple. If you see somebody’s spot, and they’ve saved it, don’t be a dick. People running around saying “no savesies” are dumb (and not just because they used the word “savesies”). Respect the dibs, or don’t get mad when your car is, er, different upon your return.
“You could put one of those Tommy Bartlett Water Show stickers on the car. Those things never come off.”
Justice is sometimes sticky business.
Photo via Zack Ellerbrook/Flicker, Creative Commons 2.o license