No, it is not a seat on the symphony board or even in the orchestra. I’m talking about the chair that is put out in the street to save a parking spot. Iconic tradition. It can be found in a few other cities, but no one does it better than the Yinzers. I really don’t how it came to be so revered and respected, but it has been around since I was a girl. I remember the day I learned to respect The Pittsburgh Chair.
It was the 70’s. My grandfather used to have a big Buick Limited. It was huge. You could fit seven people no problem. Well, one very hot summer day my grandfather drove my grandmother and I down to Carson Street, why I can’t recall, but even back then, parking was at a premium. There was only one place the big boat would fit, and it had a chair right in the middle of it. ” Get out, and put that chair on the sidewalk!” said my grandfather to me in an angry tone. My grandmother protested! He proceeded, “They don’t own the street! Move the chair, Janice!” What was I to do? I ask you, and make my appeal, for it was unthinkable on my part to disobey, but one grandparent was saying one thing and one was saying another. The cars behind us started to beep their horns. The pressure was mounting. I had to choose. My choice was clear. My grandfather was at the wheel, he was yelling, the horns were beeping, my head was spinning! I got out from the big back seat and moved the folding wooden chair to the curb. I knew right away that this was a mistake, but sometimes a kid has to do what a kid has to do because as a kid, you hold no power. Well, I hate to tell you what happened next. As my grandfather was parallel parking, I was still standing on the sidewalk beside the chair. I wasn’t quite sure what to do. It seemed silly to get back in just to park only to get back out again. So I stood there. And then it happened. A man, in a sleeveless t-shirt and trousers came out of the house in front of the parking space. He was unshaven and holding a beer bottle. He began to scream! Words I had not heard before and was pretty sure that I shouldn’t hear. He bypassed me fortunately and went straight for my grandfather. Words were said. Both sides stating their case to the other. Finally, my grandmother, who was not in the conversation suddenly ended it simply by saying, ” Carmine, move the car.” Then she told me to get back in. I was only too happy to obey. Without another word, my grandfather pulled the big white Buick out of the spot and off we went down the street. As I turned around to look behind me, I saw the man putting the chair back in the street. It was then the fear and reverence for the chair overtook me and I learned two very valuable lessons that day. One, my grandmother was a very smart woman, powerful in her own right and I ought to pay close attention to her from now on; and two, never and I mean NEVER, MOVE THE CHAIR!