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.
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.
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.