January 18, 2009
Most reasonable people would agree that the manual labour required to shovel a parking spot free of snow earns the shoveller a de facto deed to that place for the duration. But when J & I came home one evening to find “our” spot occupied by an interloper, I had to plow the car into a virgin bank of snow, marooning it there — two feet from and at a 30-degree angle to the curb — until I could dig it free next morning. I realized then that our theoretical claim needed to be staked more concretely. My first attempt — a plastic bucket filled with snow and topped with a rock, placed in the centre of our spot — lasted just one day; why anyone would steal a plastic bucket full of snow during a snowstorm? An upended garbage can worked well, but I could never quite shake off the fear that it, too, would disappear one day, and that we’d come home to find our spot annexed by my neighbor for his SUV. The first thing to go in a guerilla war is trust.
Most of our snow has now been washed away by the January rains, and our neighborhood is in a state of uneasy peace once again. Confirmation that these skirmishes have ended came late last Thursday when I heard my neighbor revving his engine and spinning tires — forward, reverse, forward, reverse — to buck, plunge, and slalom his Explorer through the remnants of the Great Wall of Plowed Snow and pioneer a brand new parking spot beside the curb. No longer would J & I need to risk the theft of our garbage can when heading off to work.
And back into storage would go — a block away — another neighbor’s garden furniture: two plastic chairs which he’d arranged on either side of a matching end-table, a few simple props which transformed his snowdrift-walled patch of asphalt into a beachhead of domesticity beside — well, actually in — a public road. It was the dramatic potential of the setting that I loved; whether they made use of the furniture or not, the possibility was enough. I pictured him sitting with his wife on their plastic chairs each weekday afternoon at 3:00, a steaming teaput centered on the tabletop between them, each of them cupping a mug of rooibos in their hands and sharing a plate of Christmas shortbread, oblivious to the cars whizzing past them just a foot away…
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