The attendant at my regular parking garage looks like Pat Morita and I’m a bit obsessed with him.
I see him twice a week or so, whenever I have meetings in town. Without fail, he approaches my car, a burning cigarette in one hand and a wad of cash in the other. He hands me my parking stub and cat calls: “Ooh hoo! Makin’ money! Makin’ money!”
Does he think I’m some pantsuit prostitute? After a few times, I realized this was his trademark greeting, a pep talk of sorts to all us morose corporate souls, dragging our wheelie laptop bags behind us like balls and chains.
Today, a young man reeking of high finance (and failing to look hip in a fedora) looked affright as he grabbed his stub and quickened his pace to the stairwell. Rookie.
“How long ya stayin, lady? Pat Morita says, as always.
I lie and say 30 minutes because I don’t want to leave my keys and get blocked in by the phalanx of cars and SUVs that will end up packed into every last inch of this garage by midday. I made that mistake once and will never do it again.
“Ok, see ya latah,” he says
Pat waddles back to his tiny office, no bigger than an outhouse. It has a small microwave with a piece of charred bubble wrap hanging over it. A Healthy Ones frozen lunch sits on top of the bubble wrap next to a frozen 12-ounce Mountain Dew.
This garage is insane. It operates like a nightclub – one out, one in -- with a “bouncer” standing by the ticket gates, waving in cars when spaces open up. I use the word “spaces” somewhat tenuously. Spaces are irrelevant here. Cars are packed end-to-end, almost all the way to the exit for most of the day. A line starts forming outside early and usually doesn’t subside. I’m sure they’re violating all kinds of codes, but I don’t care. Nobody cares. It’s the cheapest garage downtown. To get a rate this low, you’d have to park in the Seaport and then cringe in that icy head wind (hag face) over the Fort Point Channel.
If you get blocked in, though, you need a crash helmet and nerves of steel when it’s time to leave. When you return for your car, Pat Morita dispatches his posse of attendants who look like A Tribe Called Quest. They fan out with pockets full of car keys and snap into action, moving the other cars around to dig yours out. This is no small feat. These guys must be masters of sliding block puzzles. They’re doing 18-point turns, swearing at each other, screeching in chaotic unison, like bumper cars trying NOT to bump each other. Sometimes alarms are set off, and I’m sure there have been accidents. But most of the time they get it right. Even though it's terrifying to behold.
The garage has been here as long as I can remember and the city has really morphed all around it. I’m surprised it hasn’t been replaced by luxury condos or a Chipotle. They must doing something right. Still, it looks as out of place as I feel these days wandering around town.
When I worked here, it was a giant construction site with a lot of jackhammering, dust and detours. Now, it’s almost serene, walking down pretty, tree-lined streets that don’t dead end into glory holes (and having work days that don’t end with me drinking cheap wine out of a shoe at Weggie's Pub.)
Still, I'm happy to be back in here and makin' a little money (Ooh hoo!) from time to time. Even Pat Morita is happy -- almost jolly -- in his work, even in his little outhouse office.
At the end of the day, I retrieve my car and Pat’s still there.
“Hi, lady! You make money today.”
“Good, good! Ya gotta make money! See ya latah!"
I climb into my unblocked car and maneuver my way down the ramp, trying not to sideswipe any cars illegally squeezed onto the median.
Then it hit me. “Makin' money” is not about Pat’s customers at all. It’s about him! It’s like his own personal ka-ching. Every time he hands out a parking stub and crams in another car, he’s raking the cash in hand over fist. Makin’ money! Likely a lot more than most of us. Good for you, Pat.
As I caught sight of Pat in my rearview mirror, I swear he rolled up a dollar bill and began to smoke it.