Real Pittsburghers get confused and confounded when driving into those oversized parking lots at suburban shopping malls. All those spaces, each one carefully delineated by bright white paint — it’s too much.
When we see parking lots that big, our first question is, “Where’s the stadium?” Then we’re overcome by an urge to set up a grill, pop open an Iron City and paint some part of our anatomy black and gold. God created asphalt for tailgating.
Give us the tightly packed, overcrowded streets of Shadyside, the South Side or the Strip District. Give us a true parking challenge. Asking a Pittsburgher to slide his ’97 Impala into a battleship-sized space at WalMart is like asking Andrew McCutchen to play tee ball.
True fulfillment for us is attained only by driving down narrow strips of concrete in search of a chair-less, non-yellow curb space that’s one-inch longer than the length of our car. Parallel parking? Ha! We Pittsburghers practice parallel bumping, a technique that allows us to wedge a 12-foot long vehicle in an 11-foot space.
On other occasions, we empty our retirement accounts so we can enjoy the privilege of securing our automobiles (heretofore referred to as “sardines”) in paid lots and garages (heretofore referred to as “cans”). With great pride we display our vehicle’s dents, dings and scratches. We share stories of being ticketed and towed in the way people in other parts of the country share fishing stories. Want to “wow” your friends at a party? Tell them about your experience at the tow pound.
Last week we discovered a file of pictures showing our forebears blissfully enjoying their own versions of temporary vehicular storage. Tears came to our eyes when we saw the images inside. Our predecessors, through determination and creativity, elevated into art what had been an everyday, mundane act.
The picture of Fred Tutino scaling a parking meter should be sculpted in marble and placed on the courthouse steps. It’s a true representation of the Pittsburgh spirit. (The meter, by the way, had been raised by thieves who thought they could simply lift it from the sidewalk. They were unaware that parking meter poles extend to the Earth’s core.)
And our hearts skipped when we read a caption in which North Side parking lot manager Harry Barbe recalled bygone days when he was allowed to jam 50 cars into a space designed for 17. “You had to climb in the windows to get into them,” he said.
Man, that’s poetry.