Monster in the car park

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Spooky underground carparkCar park entrances are yawning mouths. The ceiling height is usually signposted, but still it seems so low I shrug down in my seat, hoping the car roof won't get scratched. Then it's the usual drill: press the flashing button on the bollard, take my ticket and drive past the raised boom gate. 

The big question is: where do I put my car park ticket? I could tuck it behind the sunshade or on the spare change shelf, pop it in the side pouch of the door or into the back pocket of my jeans. Then there's the risk of the ticket falling out, becoming crumpled, bent in half or lost among the used tissues, expired tubes of sunscreen and chewing gum wrappers. I choose my jacket's breast pocket.

If I wind down my window, I can hear the echoing sounds of various car park life forms. A baby crying out, resisting restraint in its seat; the high-pitched laugh of girls, laden with shopping bags, giddy from retail therapy. There's a raucous sneeze from an older gentleman, followed by his phlegmy cough and a mucus-laden blowing of his nose. I glance at the used tissues in my side door and shudder. We humans are a disgusting species.

I steer towards the next level down, lumbering down the winding turns at low speed. It's here I see the exposed rock walls are sweating with subterranean moisture, even dripping with oozing pus in some parts. As I cruise past a particularly slimy part, I have to do a double-take because a craggy outcrop seems to shift, like a grotesque potkoorok monster, restless in its sleep. It's just an illusion; light moving across the dimly lit curve of the wall. 

The car park is a concrete cave, a holding cell, a sarcophagus. From the outside, car parks look like other buildings, but inside, there are darker, deeper modalities. I wind down to sub level four. Here, the lights are sensor-activated, to save energy. I applaud this kind of economical and environmental responsibility and zig-zag across the empty concrete area, dodging square pillars and luxuriating in the fact that there are only half a dozen cars parked on this floor. Free spaces, empty rows: I savour the desolate and bare space. 

Is that elevator music I hear? No, it's more mechanical than that. A low doof doof but the beat is not musical. It's only the rhythms of the service and operations area in the far corner. The air conditioning system, the back-up generators, the electricity fuse boxes and the main frame for the car park computer networks. These are sounds made from algorithmic technology, service data accidentally edited into new rhythms.

It sounds to me like a low guttural cry, the moan of an ancient monster. Can you hear the call of Cthulhu? That monstrous fictional character that lures us away from the light? Is there some strange and ancient being emerging from the corner of the car park? 

'Hey you,' shouts someone from up ahead. Not a beast but a man, in well-groomed suit pants with a snappy vest and stripy tie, strides towards me. He has a chastising expression: 'You can't park here,' he says. I glance around at level four. There are almost no cars to be seen, only empty spaces. 'Why not?' I ask. 'Because this is the valet parking level. You have to pay. You can't park on level four unless you have hotel accommodation. $50.'

Forget it. I wave at the neatly-dressed hotel valet guy and accelerate away. I vow to find a park in the street from that moment on. After all, I think I need the endless sky in sight. I need the birds chirping on the wires. I need the rush of wind in my hair. Demons, be gone. Concrete, I abandon you.

The exit is in sight. The ticket bollard approaches. Oh no. Where did I put that ticket? I look in the money shelf, in the glove box. I snap down the sunshades and search in the car door pouch. I pat my jeans. Where did I put it? Just as a car behind begins its predictable honking, I remember the ticket is in the breast pocket of my jacket. Thank goodness. I pop it in the bollard and watch the boom gate rise. And it's the best feeling I've had all day.

Prue Gibson headshotSydney-based Prue Gibson writes on visual art and art history for Australian and international art magazines and journals.

Car park image from Shutterstock

Topic tags: Prue Gibson, fiction



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Existing comments

Hello, thanks foe this article which sums up my experiences/feelings. I NEVER again go into these cramped, congested, concrete labrynths with their poles waiting for you to hit. I imagine the Underworld has more soul ( so to speak) than these soulles concrete caverns. I can also do without the stress of not finding the ticket which - thankfully enough - is eventually is discovered . Yes, the plein air' , sun and birds are also for me...

NICHOLAS A NICOLA | 30 November 2013  

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