Phil Friedman

7 years ago · 6 min. reading time · ~100 ·

Phil blog
Two Pizzas and a Shovel

Two Pizzas and a Shovel

(hicago Stories
Two Pizzas and a Shovel



The more things change, the more they remain the same...

At least, that's the way it is in Chicago.

I was born, raised, and lived there until I was an adult. Right in the inner city. First on the West Side near Roosevelt Road and Kedzie Avenue. Then on the South Side in Hyde Park and South Shore. And finally in Rogers Park on the North Side.

I left shortly after I graduated college, when I headed to graduate school. And although I still visited family there, I hadn't returned to live. 

Until the beginning of 2015. When I commenced work on a longer-term consulting contract to reorganize and expand the service operations of a Chicago boat yard.

Because the contract was for a year, I sublet one floor of a two-floor renovated condo in Avondale, a Chicago neighborhood that was historically Polish working class. Duplexes, triplexes, and some small, multi-unit apartment buildings, most of which had been converted to condos. All nicely kept and good value when compared to the outrageously expensive yuppified areas of Lincoln Park, Wicker Park, and Bucktown.

The only problem was parking. For most of it was on the street --- and for overnight, by permit only.

_ no anchovies! 1

I told you ~°


About every other week, I flew back to Florida to spend the weekend with my family. And then back to Chicago to fulfill the terms of my contract.

One time in February, I think it was, I returned on a flight that arrived during the midst of a major snowstorm. Turned out, it was a very good thing I had grown up in Chicago. This is why:

In Chicago, when there is a major snowstorm, the snowplows used to keep the streets clear do so by pushing all of the snow from the middle of a street to the curbs each side. Which usually makes it impossible to park a car there, without first digging a parking space out of the man-made drifts. Which is what people do in neighborhoods like Avondale.

However, what I knew because I had grown up in Chicago was that, once someone had dug out a space in which to park his or her car, he or she then staked a claim to that space for the duration by placing a chair or chairs in that space.

And woe be to him or her who chooses to ignore a parking space squatter's rights by usurping a space that someone else has created and claimed during the aftermath of a major snowstorm...

Text Copyright © 2016 by Phil Friedman — All Rights Reserved
Image Credits: Phil Friedman, FreeDigitalPhotos net, and Googlelmages com


If you ignore such a squatter's claim, you might return in the morning to find your car "keyed". Or one of more of your tires flattened. Or worse, get yelled at, or maybe even punched out. Dug out parking spaces following a storm are a serious matter in Chicago.

Anyway, there I was in February, arriving at Midway Airport at the tail end of a major snowfall. I was tired. And by the time I had picked up my rental car and gotten on the road, it was after 6:00 pm.

All I wanted was to go to my rented apartment, eat something, and go to bed. But I knew I couldn't do that. Because I knew I would not find an open parking space in my neighborhood --- unless I could dig one out for myself.

Consequently, I stopped en route at a Home Depot store to buy a shovel. Not surprisingly, they were out of proper snow shovels, and I had to settle for a steel bladed spade with a 60" handle. Not ideal, but I guessed I could manage nevertheless. And so bought the spade and headed to my home away from home.

Fortunately, when I arrived, then well after dark, there was an unshoveled, potential space right out in front of my building. The problem was that there was no place to park while I dug out that space.

I might otherwise have parked temporarily, although illegally in a no-parking zone at a nearby corner, but such spaces had been piled up especially high with snow.

Or I might have simply double-parked while I dug out a space. Except that the drifts now piled up at the curbs each side of the street had narrowed the roadway to a single lane, making double parking impossible.

The problem was made worse by the fact that I didn't have a chair to mark squatter's rights to a space, and so could not park even temporarily very far away, or I would run the risk that by the time I got back to park in it, somebody else might have taken it.

After circling several blocks several times looking for an opportunity to carve out a parking space for my rental car, I said screw it, and simply stopped in front of my apartment building in the middle of the street and turned on my warning flashers.

I figured it would take me only about twenty minutes to dig out a space.  And that it was a short block, so people coming down the street or turning onto the street would see the flashers and figure out to take another route.

Which all worked well for about the first ten minutes. Until a pizza delivery guy pulled up right behind my car and began honking his horn...




PH siospoets|

Em LEG] 2 huencer

I ignore him and keep shoveling. Being half-finished, there is no way I am going to stop shoveling or drive away from my half-dugout parking space. 

After several honks, he gets out of his vehicle and approaches me, shouting aggressively to get the hell out of the way. 

I ask him where he thinks I can go and explain I have less than ten minutes of work left --- at which point, I will be happy to park my car and let him pass. Or he can back down the street a quarter block to the corner and take the cross street around.

He says that isn't good enough, that he has two pizzas to deliver which are getting cold, and his boss will be pissed at him. 

To which, being trained in interest-based negotiating, I offer to buy the two pizzas from him at whatever the bill says, and throw in a tip to boot. If he will just wait calmly for a few more minutes. All the while, I keep shoveling.

He says no deal. That he is going to call the police and have me arrested for blocking traffic. 

I say go ahead, call the police. All the while, I keep shoveling --- figuring that, if I can keep him talking long enough, the problem will resolve itself as soon as I finish and can park the car.

He pulls out his cell phone, calls the police, talks for a minute, and then holds out his phone to me and says the desk sergeant wants to speak to me.

By now it's well after 9:00, I'm really cold, my feet are wet through my shoes, and my toes are numb. I am also myself getting really pissed about his harassment. 

So while I kept shoveling, I say loud enough for the desk sergeant to hear, "If the police want to talk to me, they can come out here and arrest me. But tell 'em to bring shovels and a tow truck, because my car is stuck."

And I keep shoveling.

Out of the corner of my eye, I see the pizza delivery guy talking again to the cop at the other end, and I hear him say, "Yea, the old guy says he'll be done in ten minutes, yea, yea, okay, but this is shit." Then he hangs up, more pissed off than before.

I keep shoveling, thinking, "Old guy? OLD guy? F@#k you, kid."

He says, "I've had enough of this; I'm just going to punch your face in."

To which I reply, "Better think about it first. You have two pizzas. I have a five-foot steel-bladed shovel. How do you think that's going to work out for you?"



Well, he huffed and he puffed, and... he stomped back to his truck.

Just about then, I finished digging out enough of the space to enable me to move my car off to the side, so he could pass. 

Which he did, flipping me the bird, and laying on his horn, as he drove by. Case closed.

As is usual with my Chicago Stories, I am not sure whether there is a moral to the tale. Or even if there is, what it might be. 

Perhaps, in this case, that talking long enough about a problem gives it time to resolve itself. Or not. --- Phil Friedman

Author's Notes:   If you found this post interesting and worthwhile, and would like to receive notifications of my writings on a regular basis, click the [FOLLOW] button on my beBee profile. Better yet, elect there to follow my blog by email. As a writer-friend of mine says, you can always change your mind later.

Should you be curious about some of my previous Chicago Stories, you're invited to take a look at the following:

"Wake Up Little Susie" 

"Vending Machines Are People Too"

“Life is Like a Monza Wall”

As well, feel free to "like" and "share" this post and my other articles — whether on beBee, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or Google+, provided only that you credit me properly as the author, and include a live link to my original post. 

About me, Phil FriedmanWith 30 some years background in the marine industry, I've worn numerous hats — as a yacht designer, boat builder, marine operations and business manager, marine industry consultant, marine marketing and communications specialist, yachting magazine writer and editor, yacht surveyor, and marine industry educator. I am also trained and experienced in interest-based negotiation and mediation. In a previous life, I was formally trained as an academic philosopher and taught logic and philosophy at university.






Life Lessons

Phil Friedman

6 years ago #34

Thanks, Wayne Yoshida, for the kind words. It's strange that you can't see comments 1-40 because I can.I have no idea why, but that seems to happen every so often. Try again is a bit and see if the comments reappear -- that is if you care to explore the issue. Best. Phil

Wayne Yoshida

6 years ago #33

Another great wintertime story. BTW, what happened to comments 1 thru 40?

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #32

Yep, Todd. Now you know why I can't take complaints about "aggressive" behavior on social media too seriously. Cheers!

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #31

Yes re anchovies, Aurorasa. I make pizza at home for my family. I use Boboli pre-baked pizza crusts, add my own sauce (spaghetti sauce with a couple of pinches of sugar to kill the acidic after taste) and the best mozzarella cheese I can find. Piles of it. Add chopped onions, and topped cherry tomatoes. Sprinkle with a mixture of Parmesan and Romano cheeses. Bake 15 minutes in preheated oven at 450 degrees F. Better than just about anything you can get in a restaurant, with not much more effort that baking a frozen pre-made. The piece de resistance are the addition of flat anchovy fillets in olive oil. But my wife and daughters won't let me put them on until after the pizza is baked. And even then they make me keep the anchovies in a glass container, and add them only to MY pizza as I eat it piece by piece. Not only that, but they make me sit at the den coffee table, while they sit at the country kitchen breakfast counter. Living in a household full of women is not easy.

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #30

Interesting thing, Paul, is that most people who spend some time in Chicago think it's a much friendlier big city than NYC. It's hard for me to be objective, as I was born and raised, and so feel comfortable in Chicago. Although for a long time now I've considered Toronto (and Canada) my spiritual home. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Paul Walters

7 years ago #29

Phil Friedman methinks a pamphlet explaining snow etiquette and parking rules should be given out on arrival! Scary people in Chicago!

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #28

PS - Of course, pizza in traditional Italian homes was always "deep dish" because it was made with the left-over dough from baking bread. Being leavened, it rose to a thick crust.

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #27

Okay, Aurorasa, let's set the history books straight. When I was very young, growing up on west Roosevelt Road, pizza was available at bars and a few "pizza joints". It was all thin crust (pre- Uno and Due), and available in only three versions: plain cheese, cheese with Italian sausage, and cheese with anchovies. I took up eating anchovy pizza as a teenager. Almost all of my close friends were strapping big football players. When we went out for pizza, they would devour entire extra, extra large pies before I could finish one piece. But once I started having my "share" topped with anchovies, my share was always there, waiting for me, no matter that I ate a lot slower than they did. Hunger is the mutha of invention. :-)

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #26

Aurorasa, having grown up in Chicago, I knew there was no way any police were coming out in that storm to deal with an "old guy" whose car was stuck in the snow. For once they got out there, if it turned out I really was stuck in the snow and blocking traffic, they would have been bound to stay with the situation until a tow truck arrived, and that would likely have been several hours.

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #25

#33 Thanks, Wayne, for reading and commenting. With regard to the telephone number for Pizza, Pizza, the real interest in that it is probably one of the most successful national marketing campaigns ever. The jingle was "Nine six seven, eleven eleven. Call Pizza, Pizza."

Wayne Yoshida

7 years ago #24

So I had to Google the number. are they related to Little Cesar's in the USA?

Wayne Yoshida

7 years ago #23

Excellent story Phil. Now I know why you live in Florida. There are several morals here. Like the keep shoveling while talking thing. By the time the cops arrive, you'd be done, and issue solved. Patience and perseverance. . . The art of negotiation - Buy the pizzas plus a tip. . . and the consequences between a couple pizzas and a shovel . . . I lived in Mammoth Lakes for a year (ski town), and I don't think they (we) did the chair thing to mark one's parking space. However, I do know how important a shovel is in snow country. I was really pissed when my shovel disappeared from my front porch one early morning. Turns out my neighbor borrowed it to get his car out of the driveway. . . and left it at the parking space. . . How about this one: I met a co-worker who grew up in Sunny So. Calif. and never traveled very far from home. We went on a business trip to Boston during the winter for a couple of days. Our rental car had a snow brush/ice scraper on the front seat. He thought it was a back-scratcher. Funny true story!

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #22

yep, Andy, you did read this before in a W4W discussion on LinkedIn. And actually you were the person who encouraged me to share the story as a post. I commented on your piece on The Good Man Project --- totally trashed the post. Naw, just kidding. Solid post that everyone should read. My best to you.

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #21

It is true, Richard, that snow storms leave many who park on the streets to their own devices. I have to say that, on the whole, Chicagoans are a pretty decent lot when required to work through the dislocations created by storms. For example, while this small "incident" was going on, at least a couple dozen people came to turn onto the street, saw what I was trying to deal with, and simply took another route around the stoppage. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #20

Thank you, Aurorasa, for reading and commenting, and by the way, for the kind words. I believe you are correct, humor and comedy are the most difficult to write, save perhaps only for satire --- which is not the same as comedy. For the record, I know you understand this but would like to point out that I do not consider my "Chicago Stories" series to be "humor", but rather the retelling of some colorful, true stories, some of which are tinged with a bit of humor. I think of them as Runyonesque. Cheers!

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #19

OMG, Michele, I must nominate you for Yuppie of the Year: " I then walked 2 miles to find an open coffee shop. Even my neighborhood Starbucks was closed." I hope you didn't ruin your Alexander McQueen shoes and Tumi briefcase. Just teasing.... really. :-)

Milos Djukic

7 years ago #18

Phil Friedman, and his humor again :) Nice! After fractals and complexities everything is light entertainment. There's no business like show business. About a pizza I am not so sure. For Phil: Inverno by Franco Battiato

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #17

Well,Jim, those shoveling skills of yours had to have been honed somewhere and at some time. Once you became a writer, only the medium changed. Cheers! :-)

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #16

Jim, you ask, "what's with all the nostalgia?" What's with all the nostalgia? From the King of retrospection and introspection, not to mention vivisection (or is that last chef Paul \?). Just wanting to display my more sensitive side. Cheers! :-)

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #15

Neil, from The Wisdom of Chung King (circa 650 AD): For carrying a load, nobody really likes a wise ass. Cheers! :-)

Jim Murray

7 years ago #14

I also grew up in the snowbelt and made good bucks in the winter shoveling sidewalk and driveways for the old folks in the neighbourhood. Brought back memories of winters past. I'm just praying for the snow to hold off till we get moved. What's with all the nostalgia?

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #13

Neil, from The Wisdom of Chung Kind (circa 650 AD): For carrying a load, nobody really likes a wise ass. Cheers! :-)

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #12

We're witing for you here, Randy, in the land of the newly wed and the nearly dead. Cheers!

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #11

Thanks, Paul, for reading and commenting. I like your "La kawlisse de marde blanche". The next time I argue with a Quebecois, I will use a shortened version, "La kawlisse de marde!". Did I get that right? :-)

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #10

Thanks, Don. Really pleased that you like the series. Not my usual cup of tea. I agree with your take on the moral of this story: "Even when you shovel a load of shit out of the way someone's gonna be pissed with you..." BTW, did you Canadian guys and gals notice the telephone number on the side of the pizza delivery truck?

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #9

Mohammed, thank you for reading and commenting.

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #8

Thank you, Aurorasa, for reading and commenting. I am pleased that you liked the story. My goal is to establish myself as the Damon Runyon of Chicago. Well, not really... but there are a lot of colorful tales to be told.

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #7

Michele, in Chicago, the radio jocks declare when the squatting period ends. And interestingly, virtually everyone complied. Thanks for reading and commenting. Pleased to hear that the piece elicited some good memories. A broom and a dust pan, though??

don kerr

7 years ago #6

Phil Friedman The moral seems clear: even when you shovel a load of shit out of the way someone's gonna be pissed with you. Seems to me this pretty much defines your life mission!!! Lovin' your Chicago series my friend.

Mohammed Abdul Jawad

7 years ago #5

Aha...the snowy scenarios with chilling troubles!

Randy Keho

7 years ago #4

Thanks a whole hell of a lot Phil Friedman As if I needed to be reminded that I will soon have to deal with that white "chip" referred to as snow. The leaves on the trees have been turning and falling for a couple of weeks now, leading to a rise in my blood pressure. Meanwhile, you bask in the Florida sun. I hope those damn Canadian snowbirds wreak havoc on your roadways and fill up the tables at your favorite eating establishments due to those damn early bird specials.

Neil Smith

7 years ago #3

As Roosevelt said: "Speak softly and carry a big shovel". Nice story old guy.

Mohammed Abdul Jawad

7 years ago #2

Phil Friedman When you are stuck in a problem and left alone to resolve it, then it doesn't matter what the world says. Perseverance matters, with little courage to keep yourself on the move. Even if someone interrupts, poses hurdles or annoys you with obstinacy, be on your to tackle the situation.

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #1

For my Chicago-based friends Randy Keho. Cheers!

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