They’re dark, they’re dirty. They’re monuments to America’s suicidal obsession with cars. They’re filled with people hurrying from one place they don’t want to be to another.
Parking garages are constant reminders of the unending banality of human existence. Their presence in our cities and our suburbs constantly chips away at any sense of meaning we have left.
But rather than complain about a universal that has no objective existence, let me describe a few parking garages that have made me question the narrative I have constructed for my life. These are not the “worst” parking garages, for each unhappy parking garage is unhappy in its own way. Rather, they are my personal glimmers of emptiness against a black backdrop of emptiness, points of acute dread in a lifetime of dull malaise.
1. Upton Mall Parking Lot: This is where it all started. My father would park the family SUV here en route to Sears every Sunday. As a distinguished actuary, he spent his days assigning risk and value to human lives, and he hated it. So he distracted himself by spending his fat paychecks on a constant stream of new furniture. No couch would remain the family couch for more than a month, and everything in our so-called home was new and frightening. The only constant was the interior of that Sears and the drab concrete structure that lead up to it.
2. Palo Alto Crosstown Mall Lot: This designer lot features an elaborate stucco entrance, a concierge, and an automated system directing you to the nearest parking space. While you’re out shopping, underpaid workers wash your car. Just as the posh trappings of this garage could not distract me from the frustration of driving past aisles on aisles of parked cars, so I came to realize that everything I call a success in my life is but a distraction from the fact that I will one day die.
3-7. Magic Kingdom Orlando Lot F, Ikea Fort Myers Lot, PPL-3256, Andy’s Lot 3, Mercer Transit Lot for Barto Station: These five parking garages, built in different places at different times by different contractors, are completely identical. The locations of the parking spaces, the interiors of the elevators, even the layout of the receipts are the same. Many might take this as a sign of some universal order, but I recognized it for what it was: proof of the sad monotony of a universe where everything has already been done.
8. The Eye of the Needle: One parking space, one entrance, no exit. If you attempt to leave through the entrance, the attendant asks you to Recite. Your answer is never satisfactory.
9. Kohl’s Issaquah: When I first visited this parking lot I mistakenly thought that it held no unusual terrors. But every subsequent time that I entered it, the ramps and elevators rearranged themselves into progressively more diabolical mazes. A year ago, I lost track of the passage of days while trying to exit it. I have not since returned.
10: The world: Which is but a deceptively large parking garage.