Remember that scene in "The Dark Knight Rises" when Bane blows up Heinz Field as Hines Ward returns a kickoff for a touchdown? It's impossible to forget the visual as the football field just collapses upon itself as the players fall into the center of the Earth, as far as we can tell. Remember? Well, fiction became reality a few weeks ago in the streets of Pittsburgh.
A sinkhole opened up on 10th Street Downtown and a bus fell right through it. Luckily, nobody was seriously injured, so people were able to turn the situation into a joke. Lilly Silknetter wasn't there that day, but she was inspired by the way the city reacted.
"It fascinated me that I hardly heard anyone complaining about traffic jams or local infrastructure, which would be valid complaints," Silknetter told us. "Instead, there was this instant, relentless onslaught of cheerful news articles and memes. One person had a Halloween costume that was seriously excellent, and local bakeries made sinkhole treats with little buses poking out of them. It was hilarious and it really connected people across the city."
Silknetter wanted to hold on to that feeling of community and the ability to laugh at the absurdity of life—so she had the bus tattooed on the back of her arm. Silknetter took a sketch of the bus to tattooer Kaitlyn Teressa, they shared a laugh, and in no time the tattoo was blowing up on social media.
One of the worst things to happen to the tattoo industry is this idiotic notion that tattoos need to be very serious and packed with "meaning." As Silknetter's tattoo shows us, tattoos can mean whatever the hell you want them to. They can be fun! They can be silly!
After years of being forced to listen to celebrities drone on about how their shitty infinity symbol tattoo reminds them of the circle of life and how they must always keep grinding to be so blessed, or whatever nonsense they are spilling, too many of us have become conditioned to buy into this crap. Tattoos are a personal and intimate thing, they can mean (or not mean) whatever you want them to, and people that want to judge your reasoning should be shot into the sun.
Sorry to get on our soapbox there, but it needed to be said.
We spoke with Silknetter about her clever sinkhole bus tattoo, the process behind it and her love for Pittsburgh.
Inked: Thanks a lot for speaking with us, it'll be pretty easy and painless, I promise.
Lilly Silknetter: That’s what my tattoo artist said. I hope your prediction is as accurate as hers.
For all of us not in Pittsburgh, can you give us the backstory behind the sinkhole? What happened to that bus? How has the sinkhole touched your life?
Basically, a giant hole opened up without warning in the middle of downtown Pittsburgh and swallowed half of a city bus, leaving the front end up in the air. No one was hurt beyond some “minor neck pain” and they lifted the bus to safety with a crane shortly afterward. This all happened during Monday morning rush hour, and within hours there were hundreds of photos floating around online. My boyfriend was working downtown and sent me a picture, and I couldn’t even figure out what I was looking at initially. The visual was so absurd—this enormous gaping hole in the street with a bus sticking up out of it like the Titanic.
I wasn’t downtown that morning, but everyone around me was talking about it.
When did you decide that the sinkhole bus would be a good idea for a tattoo? Why?
It was about a week later. I’ve always wanted a Pittsburgh tattoo because I truly love this city, but I didn’t want anything too sentimental or serious. I thought this was a wonderful example of how lighthearted the people of Pittsburgh can be. It’s also a reminder to take myself less seriously and respond to chaos with laughter. So yeah, it’s a silly tattoo for sure, but it’s meaningful as well.
How did Kaitlyn, the artist, respond when you brought in the idea? Had you been tattooed by her before?
She was pretty excited about it. I wasn't sure how she would feel since this is way different than her usual work, but she understood the thinking behind it completely. This was my first time getting a tattoo from her, and definitely won’t be the last. I brought a sketch my boyfriend had done for me, and she brought it to life exactly the way I wanted it.
How have people in your life reacted to the tattoo?
In real life, it’s been overwhelmingly positive. People are usually like, “oh my god, seriously? This is amazing!” A surprising amount of people ask to take pictures of it. I was nervous to tell my mom, but she was actually delighted. She laughed so hard on the phone.
On the internet is a different story. My friends have read a lot of the comments on the local news articles, and it’s a lot of the usual internet trolling. Strangers have made assumptions about me and trashed the tattoo. It freaked me out at first, but I loved my tattoo before it made the news, and I love it now. I’ll just continue avoiding the comments sections.
Tell us a little about some of your other tattoos. Is there humor behind them? Or was this a one-off?
The ideas behind most of my other tattoos were pretty serious—honoring my parents, my spirituality, tough shit I’ve gone through, that kind of thing. I have a quote from a favorite author. I have a matching tattoo with two of my dearest and oldest friends. The sinkhole bus was a major diversion from my usual themes.
What would you say to someone who mocks you for getting a fun tattoo?
Are tattoos not supposed to be fun? I've met plenty of tattoo artists and heavily tattooed folks, and they're some of the zaniest, most fun people I know. But obviously people have mocked me online, so I guess it's a valid question. Online, I probably wouldn’t say anything to them. It’s not worth getting pissed over. If anyone said something negative in person, I think I’d laugh and tell them to chill. Maybe ask if they need a hug. It's not that deep.
What's the next type of disaster that would have to befall your city for you to get a tattoo about it?
Hopefully, Pittsburgh doesn’t have any more disasters. But if there’s a really nonsensical incident, maybe involving a giant pierogi statue or something, I’d consider it. The space on the back of my other arm is still free.