In the Future, When Young People Live in Pods

Is the “pod trend” a terrible idea, or am I too old to appreciate it?


Yesterday I wrote about a San Francisco visual artist who wants to improve options for renters by building “pod bedrooms” that fit in apartment living rooms:

Is This San Francisco Man Living In a Box, or Sleeping In a Custom-Designed Pod?

Pods, it seems, are the hot new trend in a crowded rental market; while I was drafting yesterday’s pod post, a friend sent me a link to an even disruptier pod-based living situation:

In Pod-Based Community Living, Rent Is Cheap, But Sex Is Banned

This’d be PodShare, “the FIRST membership-based Live/Work Community.” They take live/work seriously, by the way. Your desk is also your bed.

Part of me is revolted by this idea. Another part is astonished that it took someone this long to come up with it. Why have separate spaces for working and sleeping when you can just combine them? People sleep at their desks and they work in bed, so why do we need two structures?

I want to show you some pictures of PodShare’s Live/Work Community, and the best way to do that is via Twitter:

It’s a little hard to tell for sure, but that looks like a concrete floor, and I don’t see any windows. I do see the chalkboards, where you can erase and replace people’s names as they move in and out of the pods.

Vice wrote that the pod beds “turn into desks by day” (technically, only some of the pod beds have this capability) and if you’d like to see that in action, here’s a Vine:

The woman demonstrating the Murphy Pod (yes, that’s its name) is Elvina Beck, PodShare’s founder. I have to acknowledge that the Murphy Pod is beautifully functional, but there’s also a sordidness to it, with the grim and unforgiving floor underneath and the knowledge that your entire life has been reduced to this single space.

Of course, the idea behind PodShare is that your life doesn’t have to be about where you live; at $35 to $50 a night, it’s designed to be an affordable alternative to both hotels and rent, but it’s worth noting that a month at PodShare still costs nearly as much as I’m paying for my one-bedroom apartment—I couldn’t pull a monthly rate off the PodShare site, but Vice writes “in downtown LA, they are $35 a night, $225 a week and $900 a month”—which makes me wonder what affordable means anymore, not to mention what housing means, what beds mean, what desks mean, and what work/life balance means.

What about the “community” part of Live/Work Community? You saw the pictures, and they do look pretty communal. PodShare includes photos of multiple members who have tattooed themselves with the site’s logo, indicating that this is part of their life they want to remember. (Sometimes I forget that I lived in a group house in Los Angeles for a year, in a room slightly larger than one of those Murphy Pods, sleeping on the floor. I don’t mind forgetting.)

This week The Toast published a short essay of mine in which I described visiting a nascent college and realizing that I was no longer a young person:

I still think of myself as young, but sitting in that room I realized that I wasn’t, really; they talked about the future as if it would change their entire lives, and I talk about the future as it relates to the life I already have.

I feel like that when I think of PodShare, and the groups of people clustered together on the floor, and the tattoos, and PodShare founder Elvina Beck telling Vice that “Pod life is the future for singles which are not looking to settle down, but focus on their startups and experience something new.”

It’s easy for me to say that PodShare is a terrible idea, that it plays right into our dismal economy and the idea that we have to be ready to work all the time, even from our beds—but there are enough people in those photos for me to wonder if PodShare is maybe just not my idea. Maybe it’s their idea. Maybe it will change their entire lives, and I’ll watch, hoping they do well.

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