The Hidden Beauty of Parking Garage Rooftops


Going to college in the city is exciting. There are endless ends to your boredom, museums to aimlessly wander around, street festivals and street performers to engage you. Limitless options for adventurous foodies waft into alleyways as bikes weave in and out of traffic. The constant hustle and bustle of the city soundtracked to ambient ambulances and screeching subways. Everywhere you look there are people with their own lives and unique perspectives. Some of them are lost tourists, with heads stuck in maps and bodies stuck in duck boats. Some of them are covered in pigeons. Some of them are wearing social-interaction-repelling earbuds, walking past briskly. It is never fully dark, pinpricks of light always somewhere nearby attached to a sticky lamppost. When the sun goes down the party animals and ambivalent introverts crawl into basements and listen to local bands, heads bobbing, feet tapping. A drunken energy vibrates out of bars and onto the streets. Lights bounce off of stained glass windows from churches and theatres. Most of the time the feeling of not being stuck or secluded on a small campus is worth it.


Other days, it overwhelms you and all you want to do is get out. But where to go, when the train can only take you so far and you probably don’t have a car? You can try to go to the park or sit by the river. You can hide among the stacks of your favorite bookstore. You can passive aggressively ask your roommate for space. You can pretend that the college library is quiet enough for you. You can attempt to balance your life on a cafe table. But inevitably you'll always be disturbed by a disgruntled employee or sweaty runner or fellow student or confused tourist. And you’ll immediately be brought back to the tireless city you were trying to escape.


What if I told you that there was another escape, where you were least likely to run into anyone you knew. Where you could be totally alone, save for the rare car passing through. I’m talking about parking garage rooftops. I know it may seem like a dumb, weird, or risky idea to some, but I’ve found solace in the concrete canopy. Every so often when I need to break free from my collegiate confines, I sneak into a parking garage elevator, telling the tenant who is only sometimes there, that I’m “just running up to grab something from my car,” hurriedly pressing the door close button. The metal tube whisks me up and away, all the way to the top of the building, where the wind either smacks or caresses me, depending on the season.


I stand at the edge of the top floor of this stacked parking lot, and I am taken away from the sounds of the city and the deadlines of life. The parking garages in the city have different views depending on their height and location. Some overlook historic districts and farmers markets and when you catch a breeze you can almost taste the fresh fruits that the vendors are vigorously selling. Others overlook highways and roads, featuring the white noise of cars whooshing past, nothing more, nothing less. Occasionally you’ll find a rooftop in a more residential area, which will put on on the same level as the tree tops, reminding you of how small and amazing you are.

There are rules to follow when looking for consolation and seclusion at the top of a car hotel. You must make up an excuse upon a parking attendant asking for your ticket, and apologize profusely for your feigned stupidity. You must not stay for too long or too short an amount of time so as not to raise suspicion. You must be aware of security cameras, if there are any at all. Take note of where they are and any blinking lights near them. Do not glare at drivers and car passengers as they pass you with confusing stares and dubious eyes, because they can easily tell on you upon exiting the garage. If an attendant asks you to leave, politely do so, and do not go back to that specific garage for approximately one month. Bring a blanket to sit on or wrap yourself in if it’s cold out. Maybe some tea or coffee from your preferred pretentious barista, if you want to get extra cozy. Take a deep breath and take peace in the fact that you are finally alone.

Photography by: Sabrina Ortiz