Saturday, February 13, 2010

Parking Chair Zen

There is this Yogi Berra quality to what makes up the essence of Pittsburgh. With Yogi, the words may not be the most articulate, but nobody doubts the inimitable philosophy that comes through. Similarly, who knew that the typically haggard parking chair was really an expression of our inner Locke?

Mike first let us know that there were deeper issues involved. So deep that the parking chair has become yet another one of our ambassadors to the world, media wise. We are almost talking G20 level exposure here. Just in the last week: first it made the New York Times, then the Chicago Tribune, then the New Republic and then the New Republic again. A simple chair*, a lot of snow and what for many is merely an expedient or even desperate measure is really something a lot more; possibly even a regurgitation of some of the fundamental debates that along the way helped found a nation. Property rights, freedom, constitutional legal debates and more. If I could fit Henry George in there as well I would.**

The neo-chair is transforming with the times. My brief foray into Wikipedia world, the creation of a Pittsburgh Parking Chair page, now has been a curious story unto itself. Expanded voluminously by many it has now been subsumed into an even newer page titled: “Parking Space Reservation in Snowstorms”. L'audace!! I kind of get the logic, but it’s missing the point. It’s as if someone out there took over the entry for the Terrible Towel with something like “Absorbent Linen used for cheering during sporting events”. That just wouldn’t do. Wikipedia might even have suffered the penance of the Tennessee Titans for punishment if that had actually happened.

And just to prove that the parking chair is a celebrity unto itself, it even takes center stage in Ms.Montanez’s column in Pittsburgh Magazine this month. The brief Null Space link in there clearly doubled the hit count here yesterday… and counting. Along with online coverage, discussion on TV and I am sure radio make it an omnimedia chair at this point. Dare I say viral chair? Gotta be a way for the region to capitalize on this even more. In the past we’ve spent $millions on projects to generate attention that never come close to this level of exposure. ***

I wish I could tell how long the parking chair has had some sort of cultural identity unto itself. The parking chair isn't new at all, but it's almost Warhol-like re-emergence here is. I bet that in the 40’s people just did it and never considered it noteworthy in any way; it just was. One of the older references I can find was a 1994 Peter Leo column where he suggests the parking chair might only then have become passé.**** Yet now almost two decades later it has it’s own Twitter #hashtag. What is old is new again? Or maybe the chair reflects one of those timeless things that make Pittsburgh Pittsburgh.

*     or other household ephemera I know full well.
**    I'm calling you out O!  Snow, the Parking Chair and Henry George. Discuss.
***  The city has said the snow cost comes to a cool $million thus far.  We love to add up the benefit of earned media from the G20. Surely we've generated a million in media buzz at this point. Maybe this was all staged for the attention? I guess that would make John V. the equivalent of James Kelloway.
**** Peter was also one of the bigger Parking Chair defenders it seems.  See Chair Raid Undermines Our Society also from 1994 in the PG.


Blogger Lady Elaine said...

Don't forget me nully! I have a dozen or so pics on my site, named after the parking chair.

Saturday, February 13, 2010 9:30:00 AM  
Blogger Bram Reichbaum said...

Parking chairs will never be a profitable concept. Not only do they embody thrift, reuse and a total lack of pretension, but the grammar of the parking chair is anathema to both the maintenance of order critical to any capitalism AND the sheeple mentality necessary to encourage regressive capitalism. It is only in times of crisis that we remember that this land is our land, that we can take as much of it as we can seize, use profitably and defend.

Saturday, February 13, 2010 4:37:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

If they taxed only the value of the land, instead of the value added by shoveling, development would be encouraged.

Sunday, February 14, 2010 5:24:00 PM  
Anonymous DBR96A said...

Look at all those stupid, parochial Yinzers in New York and Chicago!

Monday, February 15, 2010 3:23:00 AM  

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