A few weeks ago, Adam and I parked in a downtown parking garage (thanks, SpotHero!) near our friends’ wedding venue. The parking experience was easy, convenient, and affordable, and a nearly perfect experience. The missing piece? The parking garage didn’t have enough confidence in itself.
Parking garages seem to be self-aware enough to know that it’s hard to remember what level you parked on. We all have a lot to keep track of, and remembering if we’re in 2 East or Level 5 might leave us wandering all night looking for our car (hmm, that would make a good “Seinfeld” episode). The parking garages have come up with two solutions: 1) A QR code that you can scan into your phone and then will help you reunite with your car (this is very cool, but not the topic of my rant today), and 2) Naming the floors after more memorable things.
The day of the wedding, we parked on the floor called Calder’s Flamingo. Each floor was named for a different piece of Chicago art — or maybe just sculptures? — I can’t remember because I only paid attention to our car level’s artwork. But the only reference to this piece of art was in the elevator, so it was quite a subtle reference.
I bet you know where I’m going with this. If I were designing this parking garage structure …
You’d drive onto our floor and everything would be red, like Calder’s Flamingo. There would be photos, paintings, drawings, and mosaics from local artists depicting the sculpture. There would be signs with fun facts about the sculpture and the artist. “Did you know that Calder’s Flamingo weighs 50 tons and is called a ‘stabile’ (as opposed to Calder’s famous ‘mobiles’) because it is completely stationary?” “Did you know that Alexander Calder was commissioned in 1972 to paint a full-size airplane?”
And of course there would be an actual miniature replica of the Flamingo, near the elevator. During non-peak parking garage hours, art students would be stationed near the replica to answer questions about the sculpture, Calder, and Chicago art and architecture.
I bet you’d never forget your parking spot again, and you’d have learned something great.
Same goes for the parking garage I’ve used next to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where each floor is named for a singer. It’s nice to park on the Frank Sinatra floor and hear his music playing in the garage, but who really was he? What were his major contributions to our culture? Are there no local Frank Sinatra impersonators who could spend time on that floor giving mini-concerts to parkers?
And the Evanston Hospital parking garage does a great job playing the theme song to Big Ten schools on each floor (if I get there at the right time, I can get a spot on the first floor, the coveted Northwestern University floor! GO ‘CATS!); but how hard would it be to have each school’s marching band make periodic appearances, and have admissions officers on-hand to answer prospective students’ questions?
Parking garages — you’re so close to being so great, just amp up your confidence level and really own your themes.
With love, a Chicago driver