Early on Thursday morning, on the drive into work, David Ivaska rammed a couple barrels in South Boston. He did this because they’re the only thing people put out as space savers that you can really punt with a bumper. Cones just get stuck under your car.
More than a day had passed since the neighborhood received a laces-high dusting of snow, but on his way home the streets of Southie were still 100 percent in on the space-saver game. So Captain Cone went on a tear. For whole blocks, Ivaska, who is 40 and lives in the three-decker he grew up in, chucked every space saver he could find, except for the cones, which he stacked in his trunk until it wouldn’t close. When he posted the photo of his trunk online — Ivaska became a Facebook folk hero as a space-saver vigilante — he did so to a hero’s welcome.
The parking situation in South Boston is certainly in need of a hero. It has surpassed horrific, even in perfect weather. There is simply nowhere to put the 15,076 cars that have a resident parking sticker. The Boston Transportation Department does not have a firm number for the available parking spaces in the neighborhood, but they say it is definitely less than that.
Add snow, which shrinks the number of available spaces, and then remove every remaining space from circulation for several days, and you get a situation that gets insane at the first mention of snow.
So far the new mayor has followed the old mayor, and allowed for the space savers to remain in shoveled spots for 48 hours after the end of a snow emergency. But last week, when Mayor Martin J. Walsh called his first snow emergency, the flakes did not arrive as forecast, but the space savers certainly did. Technically, the space-savers were OK, in terms of the law, because the city had issued the emergency. But still, they didn’t need to be there, in Walsh’s view.
Walsh said he supports the concept of the earned spot. “If you use manual labor to get your car out, I think for 48 hours, a couple days, you can have it,” he said. But last week, after the forecast fizzled, Walsh said “there was clearly no need for saving spaces after that storm.”
Still, many did, especially in South Boston, where residents report being locked in by the system: Whether they agree with the idea or not, if they don’t put one out for themselves — even with no snow on the ground — it would simply mean they have no place to park. So people like Ivaska and a man named Dan Bothwell went on a tear around the neighborhood, tossing everything they found in a parking spot. “I call it my Winter Olympics,” said Bothwell, 37.
“People say to me, ‘Why do you get so mad?’ ” he said. “I say, ‘Because it’s not a South Boston parking issue, it’s a common sense issue. If you get 12 inches and you shovel your spot, you get it for a day. But everybody hates people who abuse it, yet they won’t be an adult and move the cone if they need to park. If something happens to your car, you go to their house.’ ”
The situations can get famously tense. Already this winter, punches have been thrown and nail guns used to shoot out tires. “I hope I’m wrong, but I honestly believe something bad will happen to someone soon. It’s out of control.”
The mayor said that he sees no problem with people moving markers from spots if a person has not shoveled — “That’s not an earned spot,” he said — or if they’re past the 48 hours, and he has a particular peeve with people who put them out before the first flakes fall.
“You can’t put it on blacktop,” he said. “To me, that’s not grounds for saving a space. That’s not how I grew up.”
The streets are empty now, but storm fever will arrive again, and so will the early space-savers. Captain Cone is not betting on common sense.
The early space-savers are Ivaska’s favorite abusers; as he throws the marker on the sidewalk he might wonder who it belongs to, and what they might do to the car that parks there. But it won’t stop him, because for Captain Cone, this is about justice and what he sees as a group stupidity.
“People text me pictures of cones, and act like I have a cape and a mask on,” he said. “Do it yourself. Have pride. I do it because it’s ridiculous that I have to do it.”
Billy Baker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @billy_baker.