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Again the joy of overnight street parking

Memorial Day has become the unofficial first day of summer and Labor Day the unofficial first day of autumn, so it's high time we make April 1 the unofficial first day of spring.

Because the date signifies the start of the month when trees and flowers begin to bloom or because the baseball season begins or because the giant snow mounds at plazas have turned a spectacular shade of black, with charcoal highlights?

I suppose. But the primary reason is because for most suburban residents, it's the first day in five months that we can park our cars in the street overnight with no fear that we will awaken to a ticket on our windshields.

That would make Nov. 1 the unofficial first day of winter -- making winter five months long instead of three, which seems about right this year -- when parking is banned during overnight hours so that snowplows have an unobstructed shot at clearing the road.

It has always struck me as an odd law because (a) It is perfectly OK to leave your car on the street for 18 hours or more in most communities, even though snow continues to fall and plows also tend to operate during that time period; (b) It snows before Nov. 1 and after April 1; and (c) Even if the temperature is 75 degrees, you can get a ticket for breaking a law designed to allow snowplows to come by.

We could use a more common-sense approach to winter parking. In Halifax, Nova Scotia, this year, officials ended their winter parking ban early because the weather was going to be really nice and there didn't seem to be a point anymore. In describing how he believes a parking ban should work, Mayor Peter Kelly told a local radio station: "When there's no snow, you're able to park, and when there's snow, you clearly won't be able to park."

Until that magical day comes here, some of us will continue to mark the changing of the seasons by the sight of our streets lined with cars all night.

This may seem like a strange thing to celebrate in suburbia, where most people have either garages or ample driveway space, thus making on-street parking seemingly unnecessary. And there's no question that a car in the street is more likely to be hit by a driver who isn't paying attention or broken into by a thief who is. But there are still a lot of reasons to want to park in the street:

You have a portable basketball hoop that you put in the driveway all summer, which takes away parking area. Motor vehicles and basketballs do not go as well together as you might think.

You're tired of starting your day by going backward. You'd like your first move of the day to be forward.

Since your kids started driving, they always manage to park their cars behind the ones that need to leave before theirs in the morning. So you start every day scraping ice from windshields and reshuffling the driveway deck.

You turn your garage into a family room in the summer.

If your old car is leaking so many fluids that you've lost count, you'd rather have that big stain in the street than in your nice, clean driveway.

Whatever the reason, there are going to be a lot of smiling faces in area towns starting this Friday, and maybe the only reason is because we now have the option to park somewhere else.

I think Kris Kristofferson said it best: "Freedom's just another word for parking in the street."

At least that's the way I sing it.


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