Tuesday, December 28, 2010
I spend a great deal of time writing about behavior with regard to property that is legal, but socially unacceptable. But the denizens of South Boston live it. When someone there engages in the legal but socially unaccepable behavior of parking in a public spot she didn't shovel out, her neighbors enforce property norms with screwdrivers and the occasional plunger:
By dawn on Tuesday, the space savers were out in abundance on East Seventh Street in South Boston. Someone had staked out a neatly shoveled parking spot with a potted plant, its dead fronds trembling in the wind. Someone else had reserved a space with a hot-pink beach chair.
Elsewhere in the neighborhood, the epicenter of the parking wars that erupt here after a snowstorm, the narrow streets were lined with bar stools and coolers, end tables and shopping carts, all meant as warnings: This shoveled-out space is mine until the snow melts. Occupy it at your own risk.
. . . .
When snow puts parking spots at a premium, as the blizzard that just left 18 inches of snow here did, snatching someone’s marked space can lead to hurled insults, slashed tires or worse — in 2005, a man was arrested after smashing a car window with a plunger during an argument over a freshly shoveled spot.
“A lot of people around here carry screwdrivers in their trunk,” said Kim Rader, 35, who had just started digging out her Mazda and predicted it would be a two-hour job.
Note, too, the normative strategy of informally marking property in which one has invested one's labor, as a means of communicating a claim rightful possession. Whaler Ghen would undoubtedly be proud of his Massachusetts descendants. Let's just hope they leave the bomb-lances at home.
Picture from the New York Times article linked above.
Mark A. Edwards
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