There are a lot of things to love about South Philly: the Italian market, Primo’s, tattooed hipsters, Pesto, those old ladies with the really big sunglasses and wire carts. But one regional quirk, and the most telling of South Philly’s distinct vibe, is the way people park. The unique parking methods South Philadelphians use unarguably add a degree of lawlessness to the area that other Philly neighborhoods could never hope to pull off.
Be aware that there are rules to be respected if you want to make your way around South Philadelphia without having to reach for your tire iron. That is to say, the various stylized maneuvers respected below Washington aren’t always tolerated throughout the rest of the city. (Imagine trying to save your parking spot with a cone in West Philly. Not only would another car be parked there within an hour, but your cone would be stolen and used for nefarious purposes.)
In order to fully understand these foreign maneuvers, I hit the streets of South Philly to bring to you real-life examples. Take the time to learn them well and you should survive your next drive without road rage. Ignore them, and you may have to abandon your Geo Tracker for a quicker escape route.
The Orange Cone of Denial
Occurring just after you’ve found the perfect spot, this standard parking saver can also assume the form of any household object such as a chair or small desk. Desperate drivers with enough courage may dare to get out and move the cone but this is a grave mistake. As the cones are usually deployed to spots within close proximity of the owner’s home, your car may as well just ask to be vandalized in some heinous and unthinkable manner.
The Vehicular Stop n’ Chat
This crowd pleaser occurs when the driver in front of you decides to stop and talk to his/her cousin for 20 minutes, forcing you to reverse and turn around in shame. We’ve all encountered this blatant disregard for other people’s time and sanity in other areas of the city, but only in South Philly is it respected. Why you ask? Because that Cadillac could belongs to Joey Merlino. Not to mention you’d probably have better luck moving the car with your mind than getting them to move for you.
Last Resort on Broad Street
“I can’t find any open spots. Ah screw it I’ll just stop here, mid-drive.” This one typically occurs when you can’t find a spot on Broad Street and simply decide to stop in the middle of the road. What’s really interesting about this move is how it got started. Somewhere out there is some brave South Philadelphian who possessed enough forethought and cunning to utilize the 4 feet in the middle of Broad Street as a private parking space. Bravo.
The South Philly Shuffle
Everyone knows that double parking is a largely unforgiveable offense in modern day society yet somehow South Philly manages to make it work. By essentially creating twice the amount of available spots, neighborhood blocks are able to circumvent the hassle of having to park all the way around the corner. I mean, who really has the time to look for parking when you can simply trap some unsuspecting person so that they’re entire schedule hinges upon your willingness to move. Shunk Street has this method down to a science, but if you try it untrained, you’ll probably end up knocking on the doors of a hundred strangers just so you can get your Rav 4 to soccer practice.
Perhaps the most effective way to prevent others from taking your permanent spot is to get the PPA to do it for you. A virtual Holy Grail of parking, the handicapped spot ensures you won’t have to bother with that unreliable orange cone anymore. Judging by the amount of South Philly streets comprised entirely of handicapped parking, I’d say that these blocks either have an inordinately high number of disabled people (with ramp-less homes) or simply a lot of close relatives working at the PPA.
Consider purchasing a Smart Card so you no longer have to stuff your pockets with several pounds of quarters. This nifty device will ensure you always have enough cash to use the meter. It also makes a disappointing but useful gift for anyone not looking to get the boot.
Just returned to your car to find the PPA writing you a ticket? Don’t hesitate to say the magic word: rescission. As long as your ticket hasn’t been printed and the parking enforcement likes your face, you should be able to get a free pass.
Photographs by Joeseph Guertin