Winter Manners, Vol. 17, Issue 2

Winter - especially an urban winter - can corrode our manners the same way that salt corrodes our shoes and our vehicles. No greater challenge to Wintertime Perfect Propriety can be seen than in the Bostonian battle of on-street parking spaces fought with "space savers." Usually derelict kitchen chairs but often other domestic detritus like old ironing boards, car owners who have shoveled out their cars from on-street parking spaces plant a space saver in the space so that they can benefit from their labor. Some drivers believe they should benefit from their labor until the final flake of snow has melted (for instance, Mother's Day).

Justifiable Resentment smoulders on both sides of the debate. Drivers with no place to park understandably believe that everyone should have a shot at what is, after all, a public street. Shovelers understandably believe that Hard Physical Labor entitles them to an exclusive claim on the space they cleared themselves for their own benefit, not that of others. The solution of a guarantee of space usage for a finite period (e.g. two to seven days) seems reasonable to everyone but most Shovelers, who will be satisfied with nothing less than permanent guaranteed on-street parking and the destruction of their enemies by fire and the sword.

Etiquetteer sympathizes with both sides, but has to draw the line at the intimidation, threats, and violence that flare out over saved parking spaces. Leaving notes threatening destruction of person and/or property on a space saver is bad behavior. Breaking someone's jaw is not just bad behavior, it's illegal and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent. Leaving candy and a cute poem is more Perfectly Proper, but it's still a space saver.

Unfortunately these battles rarely generate enough heat to melt the offending snow. They only char our hearts into briquettes of hatred. One has only to read the comments sections of any of the articles linked above to learn that. And speaking of comments, let's just retire that "If you don't like it, move" idea. That is simply not practical for 98% of the people engaged in the battle. What everyone seems to agree on, including Etiquetteer, is that the city needs to improve its snow-removal operation drastically. Now.

These battles also obscure Acts of Winter Kindness that need to be celebrated and encouraged. Only this morning Etiquetteer witnessed a driver postpone making a left turn to allow a Nervous Pedestrian to cross the street without slipping on the ice. And then there's the man who stepped uncomplainingly into a snowbank to allow a woman with a baby stroller to pass along a narrowly-shoveled sidewalk. Winter is a test of Perfect Propriety. Etiquetteer wants desperately for you to pass the test.