Photo: Northwest Side's Anti-Dibs Crusader Shows Us His Bounty

By Rachel Cromidas in News on Dec 14, 2016 5:26PM

Everyone has an opinion about Chicago's most wintry institution: the practice of calling dibs on a shoveled-out parking space during the snowiest months, usually by placing patio furniture in the spot where you plan to park your car, even while you're not using it. For the uninitiated: Most people hate it, but some say hey, it's Chicago.

A Northwest Side man has been on something of a personal crusade against dibs for four years running now, and he was kind enough to share his bounty and methods with us. Ben, 31, of Jefferson Park (who did not want to be identified with his last name), says he has amassed multiple patio sets over the years, which he's kept for himself and given to friends and family members, including this lawn-chair bounty, which he also posted to Reddit this week:


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Ben estimates he's recovered at least 40 dibs items over the years. Many came from a neighboring construction business that frequently calls dibs on the street for their construction vans, near the intersection of Montrose and Milwaukee avenues, he said.

"This was the tipping point that started my crusade," he told Chicagoist via email. "I have put together patio sets for myself and several friends and relatives, although my goal isn't to obtain things that I want. I do it because the street is public property. It's shared and a few people shouldn't be able to claim public property and prevent others from using it."

Spoken like a true anti-dibs crusader. Ben tells us he usually parks inside his garage, but he regularly digs out his 80-something-year-old neighbor's car and nearby parking spots out of kindness—but he never calls dibs on them.

"According to the city of Chicago, items left in the street are garbage, and Streets & Sanitation will remove them," he said. "Dibs is not a legal practice. This is public space. There are finite spaces in the city in which you can park your car and dibs comes from a sense of entitlement and selfishness, not one of community."

In his time picking dibs items off around his neighborhood, Ben says he's come across traffic cones "with threatening notes" taped to them, wheelchairs, walkers, BBQ grills, kitty litters, a full wrought-iron patio set with umbrella, and one toddler.

"The toddler was just standing there confused, dressed like the little brother from A Christmas Story while their parent went around the corner to get the car," he said. "What the hell?!"

And if you're curious about the psychology behind Ben's frustration, here's his explanation:

"I've lived in Chicago my entire life. I grew up poor and worked 60 hours/week while going to school until I was able to start two businesses with a very small investment," he said. "Maybe that's why I think people should have to work hard like everyone else instead of feeling entitled to a private parking space on a public street."