What It Means When You See a Chair on Pittsburgh’s Roadside

source: flickr / John Hilliard

Seeing a chair by the side of the road in Pittsburgh is a quirky tradition, one of those things you might not quite understand unless you’re a local. You see, this tradition, as revealed in Dean Bog’s weekly video series, is all about saving a parking space with a chair. Now, the first time I encountered this, I was baffled. A chair on the road? What’s that all about? But as I delved into the history and the reasons behind this peculiar phenomenon, it all started to make sense.

The tradition likely began when folks in Pittsburgh wanted to ensure that all their hard work in clearing a parking spot didn’t go to waste after the snowstorms hit. I mean, clearing snow is no joke, especially in a place like Pittsburgh where winter can be quite unforgiving. Picture yourself shoveling your car out of a mound of snow, and just when you think your battle with the elements is over, someone else swoops in and takes the spot. Not fun, right?

To avoid such feuds with neighbors, the practice of reserving parking spaces with a chair began. This is a way of telling others, “I put in the effort to clear this spot, and I want to park here. Please, be considerate.” Even though it’s against the rules to save spots like this, something unusual occurs in Pittsburgh. The police and the folks don’t seem to mind much.

source: Wikimedia

As I dug deeper into this peculiar Pittsburgh tradition, I couldn’t help but be amused by the stories people had to share. It’s almost like a rite of passage for Pittsburghers. 

One person mentioned how they once put an old, beaten-up recliner on the road to save their spot, only to find it gone the next day. To their surprise, it had been replaced with a brand-new chair, courtesy of a neighbor who wanted to keep the tradition alive. Now, that’s what I call community spirit!

Another Pittsburgh resident shared their experience of trying to park in a spot marked by a chair. They admitted that they were initially skeptical of the whole idea, but they decided to respect it. As they put it, “When in Pittsburgh, do as the Pittsburghers do.” It turns out they made a new friend in the process, bonding over their shared love for the Steelers.

But what’s most fascinating about this tradition is that it isn’t confined to a specific neighborhood or demographic. It’s a citywide phenomenon that unites people from all walks of life. Whether you live in a cozy suburban neighborhood or the heart of downtown Pittsburgh, you’re likely to encounter the chair-saving tradition.

Now, let’s circle back to the legality of it all. Technically, yes, it’s illegal to use a chair to save a parking spot on a public road. However, the lack of enforcement speaks volumes about the informal, understanding nature of the practice in Pittsburgh. The unspoken rule is clear: if you see a chair, respect it.

If you ever find yourself in Pittsburgh during the snowy winter months, don’t be surprised if you come across a chair reserving a parking spot. It’s a charming, peculiar tradition that embodies the city’s community spirit and resilience in the face of winter’s challenges. And who knows, you might just make a new friend over a shared parking space.