The Booth postPitt campus sits in the heart of Oakland, in Pittsburgh. While there are some dorms and even a grassy space known as the Cathedral lawn, really the university buildings are sprinkled in among new and old city buildings that have nothing to do with the campus. When I went to school there, seven hospitals spread out on one side of the campus, each one with a different specialty and each connected by random interior corridors and stairways. Back then, Pitt stadium still stood in the middle of that same concrete hill, and across the street from it was a nondescript parking lot with a little booth that had one of those lever-arms for letting cars in and out of the lot. (And if the arm got stuck while open and you knew the booth operator, you got to drag a large piece of metal on a rope over a sensor in the ground to trick it into thinking a car had passed. And really, if you’re going to do that, you might as go all out and make car noises while you’re at it.)

The parking lot and the booth were nondescript until you knew they were there–and then they became a beacon. My friend Matt worked nights in that booth, checking IDs and letting cars in and out. He had various other duties, too, but nothing too taxing. For the most part, Matt got paid to sit in the booth and study.

It wasn’t long before most of us on the 12th floor of Brackenridge started visiting The Booth, because Matt lived on our floor. I remember when roommates found out that fellow roommates were also talking to Matt–about roommate troubles. Some of the guys would chat with Matt about girl troubles, girls would complain about guys, and in case you thought it was all social venting in our pre-Facebook era, Matt and our engineer roommates would dream up and work on designs for hospital equipment to aid in cancer research and a variety of other mind-boggling pursuits.

It seemed no matter your topic of choice or how big your dreams would become in that tiny booth, Matt would always open the door for you. It was our own warm, well-lighted place in the middle of a stone hillside.

I think of The Booth more and more the older I get. Everybody needs a place of sanctuary. Everyone needs a place to feel welcomed, understood, even celebrated. For us from 12th Brackenridge, that place was The Booth.

For Matt, Marie, Brian, Big D, & Sean T

Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, and is a multi-blogger, poet, and traveler. Her current writing projects, including her daily blog endeavor, #Project365, can be found at