Severe weather can tell you a lot about people. Sometimes it brings out the good and sometimes the bad. I lived in New Orleans before moving to Baltimore and have been through a hurricane. I grew up in Buffalo, N.Y., and have managed many a snow storm. I've seen neighbors sharing supplies, drinks and friendliness in times of uncertainty.

In difficult times most people offer help to neighbors and strangers. Yet to my mind, in Baltimore we hold to a symbol of exactly the opposite: The chair in the shoveled parking spot.

The chair in the parking spot represents a self-serving attitude. It misrepresents the reward that our work entitles us to. We shovel a spot (that needed to be shoveled) on a public street and then mistakenly believe we can lay claim to our work.

Yet the reward of shoveling is not an indefinite parking spot but rather the common good we have contributed to. The plows cannot shovel every spot and free every snowed-in car. We must help by sharing the responsibility and not just the benefits.

When I see a chair, it screams to me that people feel that they should not be part of a larger good and contribute to our mutual civic duty.

I have seen people in my neighborhood leave nasty notes on car windows of people who disobey this unspoken "code of the chair" — when, in fact, we should welcome someone else having the opportunity to benefit from work we contributed to our city.

Let's remind ourselves that in an often private world we still have to live together and that we should always try to work toward that.

David Kulick, Baltimore

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