Variations on the Pittsburgh Chair Law

My town, Pittsburgh, dances to the beat of its own stadium organist.

For instance, the 'Burgh believes there's nothing odd about tucking french fries inside your sandwich-- and while you're add it, slap a little cole slaw in there, too.

It believes that anybody making a left turn has a God-given right to go first, nevermind those pesky traffic laws or that giant truck barreling down on you head-on.

It stands for helping stranded motorists just because it's the right thing to do. It believes in never-ending potential for Steelers Superbowl stardom even if half the players are in full-body casts.

And it believes that once you dig your parking space out, like astronauts on a moon landing, you are permitted to symbolically claim it as your own.

And this can only be done properly by putting a chair in it.

Now, these chairs may look like ordinary chairs, but the moment they step a leg outside, they gain magical properties. That chair instantly stakes your claim. It renders that chair unmovable by foreign entities under penalty of instant epidermal liquification or a good punch in the snoot.

For Snowapolooza 2010, however, I'm noticing some creative variations on the Pittsburgh Chair Law.

I myself have never taken advantage of the Chair Law until this year. But after spending an hour digging out the space in front of my house-- resulting in my need to buy stock in a name brand Ibuprofin manufacturing company-- I was friggin' well going to make sure that spot was waiting for me at the end of a hard day.

But alas! I had no moisture-resistant chair available to sacrifice to Mother Nature! So, in an irreverent twist on tradition, I went for the Tall Kelly Green Plastic Recycling Bin.

My next door neighbors, I noticed, have selected a Homebound Resident Toilet Chair as their snowtime statement-- an interesting spin on the usual chair motif.

I have spied Tailgating Cupholder Chairs... Reappropriated Dairy Milk Crates in Leaning Tower of Pisa-like formations... and my new favorite: a stack of colorful desk "inboxes," a rainbow of hope in a tundra of white endlessness.

Come spring, these items will once again return to their original functions. Back again to the home office, the den, the spot cradling the bottom of Great-Uncle Alfie.

Or perhaps they'll end up curbside on bulk trash day. Having served their purpose for one cold, crystalline season. Having enjoyed a few months elevated as the one object that guaranteed a small moment of reprieve, of ease, in the relentless winter struggle of Man Versus Street Parking.


Question of the day:
Does your city have any odd unspoken rules visitors find confusing or funny?


Jaffer said...

Heh heh heh I had to read about the parking chair on Wikipedia to fully understand it.

I haven't really seen any chairs used for saving parking spaces up here.

But back in Saudi Arabia where there is 0.000 % chance of snow, these chairs park themselves and could be left unclaimed for days.

ReformingGeek said...

The parking chair. I love it!

I think we are more famous for having blue-haired Ethel stand in a parking place at the local diner "saving" it for a friend/family.

Rest in peace, Ethel.

Jenn Thorson said...

Jaffer- Isn't that called Bulk Trash Day? :)

Reforming Geek- Your Ethel totally made me laugh. Yup, she wouldn't survive here, either, if she tried that. Not the way our folks whip into spaces. :)

Anonymous said...

I got confused at sandwiches stuffed with french fries and needed a few moments to calm down.

I moved to the middle of nowhere a few years ago, so most of the local rules involve how to court your cousins - we don't need to be more detailed than that.

Jenn Thorson said...

Sinister Dan- I appreciate the lack of details there. :)

PS- for folks interested in seeing the sandwiches with french fries and slaw, you can check out the local chain that does 'em here:

They aren't healthy, but they really are "yum."

Anonymous said...

Here in Lancaster "city" (the locals call it a city I think of it as over grown town. After growing up near "the City" (meaning New York City) not much else compares) they do the same thing with chairs or what ever is handy. But during the great clean up from the 2 big snow storms the locals were getting in trouble for leaving out such things since it was hard to finish cleaning up the rest of the snow.
We do have a strange traffic pattern just for the small town I live in that throws everyone else off when they drive through (it's a very small town). We have a circle only unlike most circles where once you are in the circle you have the right way our little circle and town square roll into one has to do it differently. There are stop signs for the road at the top and bottom of the circle and the traffic coming from the other 2 sides has the right of way. It's funny to watch the confuse motorists from out of town try to figure out how to navigate our circle. That pretty much means a lot of people are "out of town" considering how small the town is. I mean the town is so small we don't even have traffic lights.
When I first move here though they even had a stop sign in the middle of a highway entrance ramp because the exit ramp went across it. They have since fixed that but it took them about 7 years to finish that project. The roads are very messed up here. I believe they only know the numbers 3,7,2, and 9 also. The route numbers here are 322, 222, 772, 722,72,23,999 ( not sure where that came from) and 30. To make it even more interesting they hardly ever use the numbers to refer to these highways they also gave them pike names which they use all the time. I guess it was easier then saying 222 and 322. They have the "litiz pike", "oregon pike" and my personal favorite "fruitville pike". Route 23 is my favorite though. I think it has spilt personality or some other kind of problem. It is called "New Holland pike" on the east side of Lancaster city and then it splits into 2 roads each only going one direction. They are called Chestnut and walnut going through the city. Once the road rejoins itself on the west side of the "city of Lancaster" it is then called "Marietta pike". Talk about having identiy crisis. I had the worse time trying to find my way around here when I first move here. Everyone gave directions using the "pike names" but those names are not on any of the street signs just the number routes so good luck on figuring that one out.

Jenn Thorson said...

Sue- Oh, wow, that's as bad or worse than our locals who give directions using landmarks that aren't there anymore! :) Totally the opposite of intuitive!

Jaffer said...

What is with this 'taboo' of having fries tucked inside of your sandwich ?
I've always had them inside greasy-meaty-cheesy sandwiches.

Forgive me but 'Lancister, PA' always brings me images of Horse and Buggys and men with wide brimmed hats and women in white bonnets.

I wouldn't even think that they too had parking issues. I mean even if they did, they could ask their horses to mark it for them. They'd be glad to 'relieve'. And the farmers won't need the manure in the winters eh ?
Much easier to plow them away too albeit slightly smelly.


Anonymous said...

Well, believe it or not the Amish are the only ones who live in Lancaster ( I still refuse to say it the way the locals do). Although I thought it was funny when I saw a horse hitch in front of the local food store. The Amish live outside of the city part of Lancaster. Not that the city is accually that big. I never really see the horse and buggies come in to the city. They stay away from it. Believe it or not there is a lot of crime in that little city.
Lately there are more and more new yorkers and new jersey people moving here. That makes driving here more fun. Never sure what you are going to get. The locals have no idea how to merge or let people onto the highway. Then you have new yokers or those Jeresy people ( like me) who are going come on the highway whether you like it or not. I still try to move over though and let people on when the local drivers let me.

Jaffer said...

Thank you for the enlightenment.

Anonymous said...

I meant say that the amish are not the only ones who live in Lancaster. Also Amish women wear black bonnets. Menonites (not sure if I spelled that right) wear white hair nets. Yes, lucky me got to learn all about this moving here. You see Menonites spilt off from the Amish and are less strict about things like zippers and cars. There are more different schools and religions here than I ever care to know about. Such as Brethern churchs I think another offshoot from menonites and amish but not sure.
I remember how strange it was though to be at a car wash and have a amish boy drive up in a trans am. Then coming home from working second shift late around 1:00am and seeing buggies on the back roads. Didn't think they would be up that late. What's worse is when your on those back roads with no lights and they walk along all in black and only turn on a flash light once in awhile so you know they are there. Took me awhile to figure out what the flash of light was coming from. Almost hit the guy.
The buggies do have bright orange triangles and flashing lights on the back now so you can pick them out at night. Even saw an accident once with a car and a buggie not very pretty. The horse didn't get hurt but was pretty scared. Took quite awhile to clean the mess up though.
One more thing they even use the pike names in the phone book for addresses instead of route numbers. So I found myself constantly asking my co-workers which pike was what number (I move here for a job, and this was before such great things as mapquest). But because the numbers were so close with all the 7's and 2's it still took me awhile to find my way around.

jay said...

It seems entirely reasonable that having dug out your space, you'd want to keep it! I've seen motorhome spaces 'claimed' in the same way in caravan parks!

And what's wrong with french fries in a sandwich? Add a few peas and a sprinkling of grated cheddar and it's a feast fit for a queen!

Melanie said...

French fries and coleslaw on a sandwich? I'll take two. :)

I'd hate to live anywhere so big I had to find a method to save my parking place once I'd shoveled it out. I just hope and pray every time it snows that the plow doesn't leave a huge heap of snow blocking my driveway that I have to try to break thru.

screwdestiny said...

That's such a funny quirk! I've never seen that here. In fact, I can't really think of any strange things that people do here, although I'm sure there are plenty. Ooh, one thing that bugs the crap out of me that I've only noticed in Wyoming is people saying, "I seen" a lot, as in, "I seen you at Wal-Mart the other day." But then, I'm a grammar Nazi.

Jaffer said...

@Anonymous - I am familiar with the Menonites because they have a few communities spread around here in Ontario and several across Canada.

But I had no idea that the Amish and the Menoites were one unit once upon a time - I always thought they evolved separately.

They actually did arrive from Pennsylvania a long time ago.
But these days they are facing scrutiny for their customs from the conservative politicians.
There's usually a story about them in the papers time to time.

Interesting. Thanks !

(Thanks also to Jenn)

Blue~Flame said...

Blooody howlarious!

In India, it's customary to give cows and dogs preference over vehicles when it comes to traffic rules..

Jenn Thorson said...

Jaffer- I didn't know they did the fry-in-sandwich thing some places in Canada, too. Woo-hoo! Power to the fry!

Jay- Hm, I wonder if anyone has tried the peas thing here. I HAVE seen it cheesed. :)

Melanie- Oh yeah, those walls of snowplow snow can be a huge pain, especially if you have a long driveway you already have to shovel out.

Blue-Flame- And I imagine those cows sometimes take their own sweet time on their journey, too. :)

Chris@Knucklehead! said...

I'm not sure my community has any rules, spoken or otherwise. We're a pretty renegade bunch out here.

And boy, do I NOT miss snow.

JD at I Do Things said...


Chicago does the chair thing too. I've seen lawnchairs, desk chairs, chaise longues, you name it. It's craz-ay.

But we don't have coleslaw and french-fry-filled sandwiches.

GOD! To live in Pittsburgh!!!

Jenn Thorson said...

Chris- I like to write these posts just to make folks like you feel all warm and happy about being somewhere, um, warm and happy and not here with us. :)

JD- You and Kathy should come visit me for a Bloggerpalooza. I will bring you around to the sites and we would eat bacon and french fry and cole slaw sandwiches!