The Secret Subterranean World of Pittsburgh Parking


It's like the Mines of Moria. Nestled under the city lurks an unexpected subterranean world. One where water drips in concrete caverns. Creatures lost and bewildered scurry through winding paths, searching for the light. And great hordes of treasure accumulate in jingling tribute, as travelers beg exit without incident.

Yes, these are the parking garages of downtown Pittsburgh.

Getting disoriented there is like some regular rite of passage, an important part of venturing into the mystic city. For me, this weekend it was a trip to see Mel Brooks' "Young Frankenstein" play at the Benedum Center theater. I tucked my vehicle deep into the bowels of a nearby garage, wound around the parking cave's great pylons and Tow Away zones, and made note of my level-- Orange. Floor: G2.

Leaving a trail of breadcrumbs, I found my way to the elevator, and rose back into the world of the living again, as it spat me out into the marble-floored lobby of some high-rise. I spun through revolving crystalline doors and out onto the street.

After we put on the ritz with ol' Frohdrick Frahnkensteen and his monster man-about-town, I returned to the block where my car rested, miles below.

Yet-- it seemed everything had changed. I had left a building with a shining glass front. It took a moment for me to locate the ramp my little steed had originally descended.

Ah, and there! Next to it. A building with a revolving glass entrance!

I entered, crossing its marble floor.

I stepped into its elevator on the left. I descended. I got out on G2.

It was not orange.

Eyebrow raised, I exited the elevator expecting the Orange percentage to increase 100% as I rounded the corner.

It didn't.

My GOD! In the three hours I was in the theater, someone had repainted the entire floor and stolen the ticketing machine that had been there, as well as my car!

Or, well, maybe I was on the wrong floor.

So I got back in the elevator and pushed the button once more. Perhaps I was wrong. Perhaps it was G1 and not 2.

The elevator rose. The doors opened...

A complete absence of Orange. Creatures scuttled from the elevator light. Something howled chillingly in the distance.

I was in the wrong parking garage.

I ascended once more, offered a blushing, cheesy grin to the guard at the security desk, who had now seen me twice in five minutes-- probably a record-- and I stepped back out onto the street.

I slipped my parking ticket from my pocket, and against raging winds, ventured down the block. I read the address on that ticket, yet it, and the name of the garage matched absolutely nothing on the entire street.

But then-- then I saw it. Another set of gleaming glass revolving doors. Another building with a bright marble-tiled entrance. And there- an older couple dressed up and walking purposefully toward them.

Could they possibly know the path to the Mystic Orange Parking Garage of Lore? The Otherworld that only the denziens of this labyrinth could know?

Look! An elevator! On the left!

And buttons-- a G2!

Oh, fellow travelers, could it be? Had we found the walkway through the mysterious underground city?

The doors cracked open to reveal the warm, inviting orange glow. And there, my breadcrumbs still lay, a crumbly trail to my beloved four-wheel steed.

I had made it!

Of course, finding the Exit was a whole other story.

8 comments:

TheApocalypse said...

I had a very similar experience when parking for the marathon. I was definitely expecting to have an encounter with the Morlocks as I drove 4 stories into the depths.

Jenn Thorson said...

TheApocalypse- You, too, eh? See, I knew I couldn't be the only one! How much you want to bet it's not wholly the price of parking that prevents people from going downtown more often-- it's the intimidation of not knowing where you'll end up-- or if you'll ever find your way home again, once you park.

And the fact that most garages, you go in one way-- you go out a completely different way and are tossed out on some other street than the one you came in on.

It's like Wonderland without all the tea.

TheApocalypse said...

"It's like Wonderland without all the tea."

Heh, I like that.

sharonheg said...

Yep...you haven't lied (through hell) until you've experienced the parking lot of the Tampa International Airport. NINETY MINUTES it took me to find my car, after a daylong business trip to Ft. Lauderdale. NINETY MINUTES in stifling heat (the annual Humidityfest was in full swing) and the most uncomfortable shoes on earth.

I feel your pain.

Jenn Thorson said...

The Apocalypse- :)

Sharon- Oh, and after a day of traveling, I'm sure ALL YOU WANTED was to get in your car and go home. But noooo. Not to be.

Our airport, fortunately, is one gigantic flat set of lots. So I know pretty much where I'll be. It makes me thankful.

Surfie said...

I HATE parking garages, be they above- or underground. The ceilings always seem WAY too low, the spaces are way too narrow,and even in my tiny little car (Scion xA) I feel like there is no way I'm going to escape unscathed. I'm sure to lose at least one mirror and maybe a few layers of paint down one side. I'd have never survived all that AND sneaky revolving doors that spit you out at the wrong parking garage.

Brava, my dear! You survived the guantlet!

screwdestiny said...

I loathe parking garages. I have a terrible story about getting lost in one when we went to Circus Circus one summer in Las Vegas. Basically, it was about 109, me and my friend didn't want to be there, and we spent a good 30 minutes trying to find the car before dying of heat. It was awful.

Jenn Thorson said...

Surfie- And so often these small spaces are also TWO WAY, which means you and some other driver have to try to avoid knocking each other's mirrors off, etc. It's a test of skill.

Screwdestiny- And when you're parking to go into somewhere, you're thinking about your destination-- not necessarily where you put the car. After losing my car before, I now try to force myself to at least make note what floor I'm on. Otherwise, forget it.