Can’t Sit Down: The Inevitable Parking Chair Post

single chair from dinette set on street, acting as a "parking chair", Pittsburgh, PA
The classic! A single chair from a dinette set, orphaned and alone, reserving an on-street parking spot. Garfield

Alone in the rain, playing dangerously in the street, a lone chair stands sentry over his master’s cherished sixteen feet of curbside frontage. The seat was once a member of a family—four, perhaps six, identical siblings joined around a matching dining table where the rest of the household would eat and cajole, argue and play. Now though, with that Camelot lost, just one chair is banished to the loneliest, last role of its life—standing on the street, waiting for a car to come home, holding a parking place.

plastic lawn chair holding parking spot in front of small house
Parking chair with backup cone, just in case. Lawrenceville

It’s strange to think of the omnipresent Pittsburgh parking chair as an endangered species or dying phenomenon—it is not, by any means—but the character of the object reserving that spot has changed significantly.

Twenty years ago, the parking scene was still dominated by chairs that once held keisters at the kitchen table. That image of the single chrome dinette chair, rusting and battered, dirty stuffing leaking through cracks in the upholstery, is indelible if you were lucky enough to see them in those salad days.

That time is past, though. Just look at this collection of photographs—the cheap, stackable, white plastic lawn chair has taken over the market and ex-dining chairs are few and far between. There’s still a lot of variety—folding chairs of every make and model and non-chair “chairs” (we’ll get to those)—but we still miss those diner-style seats that used to dot row house residential streets like birds on a wire.

East Liberty

For the last eight years The Orbit has resisted the urge to park our behind in this most predictable of subjects d’Burgh—it seemed too easy and too obvious.

Parking chairs are also really difficult to photograph well. I know, I know—boo hoo to this guy living the dream making fat stacks taking pictures of street chairs in Pittsburgh—do your job, amirite? It ain’t that easy, buddy. You want to see the chair, sure, but it’s (usually) only interesting in the context of a much larger thing—an entire house or a row of them—that it’s related to. So you’ve got to get this little thing in front of really big thing and then houses have all this visual noise distracting you, blah, blah, blah—it ain’t easy.

Anyway, the oddly routine experience of seeing single chairs randomly in the street is also right up our, ahem, alley. So that ultimately won out, even if these aren’t our finest photos.

Finally, if you’ve got a great parking chair, a photo of one, or a story about them, we’d love to hear about it or get tagged on it.

Taped-up. Lawrenceville
folding chair painted in Steelers black-and-gold
Steelers parking chair! Lawrenceville
metal folding chair on street in front of row house in Pittsburgh, PA
plastic chair holding parking spot on street
Parking spot au naturale, Greenfield
brick row house with folding chair in street marking parking place, Pittsburgh, PA
folding chair on street in front of row house, Pittsburgh, PA
folding chair used to save parking place in front of row houses
plastic chair with weight attached to seat by tape
No parking AND no sitting. Polish Hill
plastic lawn chair on street in front of small house
Out front and proud. Hazelwood
stacked lawn furniture in front of row house
Parked parking chairs, ready to deploy. Bloomfield
two high-backed wooden chairs left on street in front of row houses
Parking chair twins! Lawrenceville
wooden chair holding parking spot on street
Chair’s eye view. Lawrenceville

Just in Case You Didn’t Get the Hint …

chair painted with "No Parking" message
“No Parking.” Lawrenceville
metal folding chair with hand-written sign reading "Please do not move chair. Therapist coming."
“Please do not move chair—therapist coming.” Lawrenceville
plastic lawn chair with "No parking" message
“No Parking! You will be towed away.” Bloomfield

Parking Non-Chairs

custom built parking spot holder created from stools and "No Parking" signs
“The Thing” (our term), Bloomfield
traffic cone with Halloween decoration in front of row house
Park here and you’ll get hexed! Parking witch, Southside
stacked milk crates holding parking spot
Parking milk crates, Bloomfield
Traffic cone covered in stickers
The cone of toxic masculinity, Bloomfield
restaurant tray holder used to save parking space
Parking tray holder and 4×4, Lawrenceville
chair and traffic bollard left in front of row houses
The “Anything Goes!” Parking bollard, parking chair with 2x4s, Lawrenceville