I love parking garages! Nearly all of us who work in the city get to enjoy their attractive surroundings. Gray is my favorite color and bare concrete caresses my eyes with its raw and natural beauty. The garage where used to park on a regular basis is, of course, the one I loved the very most, the old Municipal Auditorium Garage.
Strangely, while most parking garages are structures that stretch skyward into high rise towers of concrete and steel, the parking structure where I parked started at ground level and went down. The first level had a bit of daylight seeping in from the open doors; after that it was strictly artificial light with large blowers and all sorts of ominous vents and pipes protruding from the ceilings. The lowest level I affectionately dubbed “parking hell.”
The stairs and corners had the unmistakable stench of urine some days. There used to be certain parking places that I learned to avoid so the smell didn’t get in my car. Ah, survival in the city. Bad as it is, at least I knew where I was in that garage and the location of the stairs and exits. This garage from hell was eventually demolished. It couldn’t happen to a more deserving structure.
Somehow I never feel safe in these places. I think perhaps I’ve seen too many movies and television shows where a woman is assaulted, run down, raped or mugged in the shadows of a parking garage. I always feel vulnerable, like an adventurer in Jurassic Park who, after leaving the car, should run for my life without looking back. I’ve never seen any dinosaurs in a garage, only a few homeless people and once a rat scurrying along the wall. On second thought, those homeless folk might have been garage customers who gave up searching for their cars and collapsed in exhaustion.
Some of the structures in this city seem to be engineered for confusion. Do they give prizes for worst designed and most confusing parking garage? Should they ever decide to have such an award, there are two I’d like to immediately nominate.
Nomination One: The 23 Street garage at Centennial Medical Center, a marvel of inefficiency. You go in the right hand entrance for the hospital. That makes sense. However, the left hand entrance, which looks exactly like an exit, is the entrance for the doctor’s building parking. Additional parking is available, but people seem to via for the closest possible places in this concrete jungle of pillars and posts.
They really need to build rest stops for the lost souls in this purgatory. It became so bad that they had to put up pictures so people could remember where they were parked. “I’m parked where the little campfire pictures are, or by the flowers, or in the bird section.” Of course, if you can’t find the bird section, you are still screwed even if you do remember the birds.
Nomination Two: The Tennessean Garage at St. Thomas Midtown Hospital. This garage is a concrete maze like nothing ever witnessed on the face of the earth. Part of the parking is on up inclines and part of it is on down inclines. Drivers can flip a coin over whether to continue up or go back down to find a parking spot. It is so confusing that it absolutely defies logical explanation.
The levels in this garage are all named on a Tennessee theme: the Knoxville level, the Nashville level and so on. Everything is associated. How clever. Problem is lack of distinct naming makes it easy to forget which Ville you are parked in. People wander around its vastness searching for their cars and gasping from lack of water. Camel caravans go by. Lost and wandering souls are ignored and customers with compasses and canteens keep on walking.
Ah, I do love parking garages! I could go on and on, but I won’t. When the engineers or architects die who build these things, I hope they do NOT go to hell. I hope they are condemned to an eternity of looking for lost cars in a parking garage.