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Chicago folks call 'dibs' on dug-out parking

CHICAGO - The blizzard that left nearly 2 feet of snow behind has revived a long-standing Chicago tradition: Break out the patio furniture. Or, if none is available, suitcases, garbage cans, strollers, bar stools and milk crates work, too.

All these items are frequently used by Chicagoans in a time-honored yet controversial system of preserving cleared parking spots, known as "dibs."

"It is an unwritten rule of etiquette," lawyer Chris Sheaffer, 34, said as he was about to place a bright blue folding chair on a spot he'd dug out of the snow in front of his home. "And you bear the consequences if you break it."

When Jenny York, 31, lived in the city's Bucktown neighborhood, she cleared a spot and then drove to work. She didn't mark it, and when she came home late one night it was taken. The only other spot she could find was marked by chairs.

Not wanting to walk a long way by herself, she moved them, parked and went to bed.

"When I came out my tires were flat," York said. "Somebody slashed them."

"Dibs" are illegal, but one look at block after block lined with markers ranging from a simple cardboard box to elaborate barricades of chairs, ropes and bright ribbons, and it's clear the law gets about as much compliance in Chicago that Prohibition did. - AP

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