04/19/2012 11:56 am ET

The Parking Sticker Monster

Suddenly they're everywhere. Nestled in gutters, clogging up dashboards, swirling around alleys and avenues like ticker tape after a parade. I unknowingly spent an entire day with one stuck to the bottom of my shoe. Nobody's sure what to call them. Parking stubs? Pay box receipts? Beelzebub's confetti? Three years ago, they didn't exist, but today they have become as much a part of Chicago's fabric as kielbasa and bribery.

Each stub--hugely valuable during its two-hour lifespan, garbage afterward­­--seems to beget exponentially more. Put a couple together and they apparently reproduce, then their offspring promptly do the same, spawning a whole promiscuous sticker family.

At some point, I began collecting stickers in hopes of turning trash into a stunning work of art that would reflect Chicago's bureaucratic follies.