By Tara Yilmaz
If you’re a Pittsburgher then chances are you live and abide by one of Pittsburgh’s kookiest traditions. We’re not discussing basement pop, the Pittsburgh toilet, or the Pittsburgher’s traveling determiner of “Do I have to cross a bridge or go through a tunnel?” We are discussing the infamous “Parking Chair.”
→ Did you know no one is sure how the “Parking Chair” became the unwritten rule for parking on a residential street? Parking in the inner city can sometimes be described as a nightmare or nearly impossible. There’s no city ordinance stating it’s legal or illegal. It’s just known and highly enforced. Some would say the act of removing the parking chair is a blatant act of aggression. Some would even go further in saying the removal of the parking chair is a declaration of war. There are unspoken rules that go along with the “parking chair” and for the person who puts down the chair, they have to be prepared to defend their parking spot at all costs. The chair remover must be prepared for the consequences of removing that chair. Parking in Pittsburgh is a serious business.
→ Did you know there are three reasons to use a chair to reserve a parking spot? The most prevalent reasons are for reserving a parking spot where you shoveled snow from in front of your home.
Claren Budinsky Healy from Sheraden shares her point on the hot-button topic: “If you move the chair do so at your own risk and expect to be blocked in for a while. The City snowplow shows no mercy. Snow will be piled high halfway up your car door. Bring your own shovel and dig yourself out too—because nobody will be helping you.” Second, placing multiple chairs to hold one or two spots for a moving truck is a common courtesy. Make way for the new neighbors and don’t be a jagoff–just keep driving until you find a spot. Third, is because you deemed the spot in front of your home as your designated parking place all year round. This is more common with homeowners but is also seen in long-term renters. Seniority is key in these streets and homeowners have first dibs on street parking.
→ Did you know Pittsburghers use different types of chairs or objects to reserve spots? It doesn’t matter what type of chair, it’s the function that is important. Fold-up chairs, dining room chairs, and plastic patio chairs all serve the same purpose. Pittsburghers are known to get creative and have used all sorts of inanimate objects. But Healy has by far the most unique way to declare her parking spot in front of her home. “My preferred chair is the plastic porch variety; lightweight, yet effective… A Jesus statue will work in a pinch and can also provide some moral authority.
Orange construction cones are the best though, they scream ‘Don’t you dare even think of parking here.’ Overall, respect the chair. If you have a chair placed in front of your house there’s a reason for it; you shoveled that space so move right on by and don’t disrespect the person who shoveled it.”
No one knows how or when the parking chair first appeared in Pittsburgh.
CBS Pittsburgh estimates between the 1950s and 1960s. Even without knowing the origins of the unwritten rule, at the sight of the first snowflake, Pittsburghers know the time has come to rush to their garages and dust off their trusty parking chair.