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Friday, October 2, 2015

SF Weekly Takes a (Pod) Nap

Posted By on Fri, Oct 2, 2015 at 12:26 PM

click to enlarge Peter Lawrence Kane gets comfortable.
  • Peter Lawrence Kane gets comfortable.

I've been having trouble sleeping. 

I could blame work and stress and capitalism and patriarchy, but I think mostly it's due to the bug bites I acquired Sunday night when I gathered a group of local misandrists to worship the Super Blood Moon and cast spells on the patriarchy. (I think we killed it. Go us.) 

My ankles itch. I wake up every couple of hours to run them under freezing cold water in my bathtub and then try to fall asleep again before they regain sensation. This strategy has not been working that well. My ankles still itch. 

So when the deeply unhappy people who spend their time making fun of startups/job creators/innovators/the future on Twitter* turned their attention to DozeSF, a new San Francisco company that offers 25 minutes in a high tech nap pod for $20 a pop, I immediately scheduled one for myself.

And, since everything's more fun if you bring two somewhat reluctant co-workers along, I signed up SF Weekly Arts Editor Peter Lawrence Kane and Music Editor Matt Saincome as well.

Group naps! It's a thing! (DozeSF also has a promotion going on for this, it's first week in business, so our naps were free.)

Despite what the mean people on Twitter* are saying, DozeSF is more small business than tech startup. Proprietor Brandon Smith points out on his website that the company has neither venture capital nor angel investors. After years working in the tech industry, Smith decided to strike out on his own to bring some of the workplace amenities of fancy tech campuses to regular working stiffs. He decided to focus on napping because, he says, the health benefits of dealing with stress and fatigue through naps rather than caffeine are "just as obvious as eating fruits and veggies."

(Lest you worry that Brandon Smith, a very chill looking person who currently takes advantage of his nap pods at least once a day, knows not of what he speaks: he used to work in marketing for RadiumOne. Yes, that RadiumOne. The one whose CEO, Gurbaksh Chahal, was arrested and charged for brutally beating his girlfriend. Chahal got off easy when videotape of the attack was thrown out in court, but Smith's job in marketing meant he had to deal with some of  the torrents of outrage directed at the company over the despicable behavior of a guy he'd never met. I'm pretty confident Smith gets what it's like to work in a stressful environment.) 

click to enlarge DozeSF's Brandon Smith reclines in one of his pods.
  • DozeSF's Brandon Smith reclines in one of his pods.

Retro-futuristic Metronap pods are apparently popular amenities at Google and Facebook campuses (though RadiumOne did not have any). Smith sunk $11,000 a piece into three units of his own, sublet a tiny space on the 12th floor of the Hobart building on Market, and got ready to help SF workers destressify. (N.B. That's not a bad name for a startup if anyone wants to buy it from me.) (N.B.B. It totally already exists.) 

We scheduled our group nap for 2:00 p.m. on Thursday, and at 1:00 p.m. we received an email reminder with a link to a two-page PDF document with tips on how to "maximize the efficiency of your visit."

"This is kind of a lot of work to take a nap," Matt complained. "I just want to close my eyes." I told him to stop complaining (and that everything he said about the nap pods was going to be on the record). 

On our ten minute walk to DozeSF, we discussed why we were or were not looking forward to our naps. Pete was crabby because he'd had a terrible dream about multiplying spiders the night before, but the prospect of a nap didn't really appeal to him. "I'm not saying napping is a moral defeat," he said, "but I don't like it, and I'm terrible at it." 

I shared that I'd also had a bad dream, though mine was about Hillary Clinton. Matt pretended that he had a bad dream about a Hillary Clinton-size spider. He also expressed doubts that a nap pod in an office next to other nap pods would provide the "retreat to a place of comfort" he looks for in a nap. 

When we got to DozeSF, Brandon welcomed us and showed us the ropes. Basically, you take off your shoes (if you want), lie down in the pod, put on noise-cancelling headphones, and press a button. The privacy dome screen slides shut automatically, a female voice coos, "Energy pod activated. Enjoy your MetroNap," and a friendly artificial intelligence interface named Max takes you on a tour of the globe until you find yourself back in 1978 Ft. Lauderdale, where you were always meant to be. 

Or you just relax and close your eyes and listen to the white noise and relaxing music while your chair vibrates and you forget about all the horrible things that are going on in the world and all of the annoying things that you have to do all the time. 

It's really very pleasant. 

At the end of your twenty-minutes, the lights flash in the pod and some '80s synth music brings you back to wakefulness. The privacy dome, however, stays shut. (You have to open it manually, WTF?) Matt got stuck in his and I refused to help him get out until after I'd taken a picture. 

click to enlarge Matt Saincome, stuck in a nap pod.
  • Matt Saincome, stuck in a nap pod.

Pete was way less crabby after the nap. In fact, all of us felt pretty good, though none of us had fallen asleep. We spend hours every day sitting in front of the computer, plugged into a constant stream of news and information. Shutting it all out for twenty minutes was delightful. We all agreed that if DozeSF was closer to our office, or if our employer decided to purchase a Metronap just for us, we would want to use it all the time. 

Smith says that he wants all kinds of workers to have the option of a soothing pod nap during the day, and I agree with him that it would probably make all of us happier, healthier, and, possibly, a little bit nicer. But I'm skeptical that it's going to happen. Our group nap took almost an hour round trip, and while it felt great since it was free, I can imagine being a lot less excited about the experience if I'd shelled out $20. It's a luxury I doubt many baristas and regular folk will be able to afford, so for now, if DozeSF succeeds, it will likely be limited to professionals with disposable income. 

Still, I'm fairly sold on the idea of taking a quick nap/time-out during the workday. Now we just need to figure out how to liberate the nap pods and bring them to the masses.


If anyone knows Bernie Sanders, please suggest that he add this to his platform. 

*This is never ever ever me. 

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About The Author

Julia Carrie Wong

Julia Carrie Wong's work has appeared in numerous local and national titles including 48hills, Salon, In These Times, The Nation, and The New Yorker.

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