Globe photo by Suzanne Kreiter
A light snow was melting before it hit the ground this morning, but South Boston space-squatters were already staking their curbside claims. A sawhorse on East Fourth Street, a wicker stool on Emerson.
On N Street, a recycling bin reserved a parking space. On P, a turned-over trash can thwarted several would-be parkers, who passed by in disgust. Two lawn chairs, sensibly anchored by bricks, occupied two parking spaces on West Ninth.
Each makeshift marker rested on bare asphalt, untouched save a preventive dusting of salt. The anticipated storm hadn't arrived. But the battle for parking spots, a defining, defiant pursuit in the thickly settled neighborhood, had begun just the same.
"That was not the original idea," said Kelly Watts, a 40-year-old lifelong resident as she frowned at the stool on Emerson, near the Tynan Elementary School. "We would never have done that growing up. Claiming a spot you haven't even dug out? That's just lazy."
South Boston residents are famous (infamous to bemused onlookers, although most of them have driveways), for laying claim to precious parking spots near their homes, sometimes for days after the storm has passed.
But traditional protocol has always held that residents earn their spot by digging it out. It was a hard-won reward, the thinking went, for all the lifting and shivering. Visitors or lazy neighbors who hadn't done their share could keep on driving.
Yet increasingly, residents are snatching up spaces in advance, knowing they will be harder to come by when the snow comes.
The preemptive strikes, many say, are opening up a new front in the parking wars, and are flagrant violations of the accepted neighborhood code. If it's wrong to park in a space someone else dug out, it's even worse to claim a space without a trace of snow on the ground.
"Whoever did this is new Southie," Eddie Phillips said as he walked his dog past a claimed spot on N Street, near East Broadway. "You would never have seen this in the old days. Not in a million years. Now they're blocking a space on a forecast."
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