What is it? You know how you used to watch travel programmes as a kid and the overwhelming memory you had of Japan was the pod hotels they have there? Sort of a luxury coffin, wasn’t it, but in your memory it was so clear: the white strip lighting, the smooth plastic surfaces, the clean bedding, the TV studded in the back, down where your feet were. 'It'd be perfect,' you used to think. 'Just the precise amount of space I need to sleep in, and not a square inch more.' From there you would tour Japan, at least in your idle daydreams: up to Kyoto, through the criss-crossed pedestrian squares of Tokyo, to McDonald's for the McChoco Potato, to steaming backstreet-and-curtain places for fresh ramen, fresher than fresh sushi. Then, quietly, cleanly, take off your geta and climb into your coffin at night. Turn the light off and watch Takeshi's Castle in the glow of the dark. Right: now imagine someone made that shit out of pallet crate wood in the middle of a student halls. What now, dickhead;
Where is it? San Francisco, "the hill that got too billionaire-y". No it's not in London. No, I know;
What is there to do locally? Best I can tell, the only two activities to do in San Francisco are "be paid one million dollars a month to work at Facebook" or "watch them blast tent cities out of the way with power-hoses", and also there is Mexican food;
Alright, how much are they asking? $1,200 (£960) a month;
Is it my place to criticise the entrepreneurial ideas and spirit of someone just trying to get ahead in this broken, broken world, with all the gears and traps and weighted systems aimed against them, just someone trying to scratch out a little change in the capitalist hellscape we will never – unless we rise up with fire against them – ever, ever escape? No, it’s not my place. Not my place at all! However—
The snap review of this is: bad!
The problem: the average rent in San Francisco is – and I'm taking this from a single source, so bear with me here – $3,612 (£2,885) a month (from that same source: "The most affordable neighbourhoods in San Francisco are Treasure Island, where the average rent goes for $2,616/month (£2,089), Marina, where renters pay $2,898/mo (£2,314) on average, and Tenderloin, where the average rent goes for $2,903/mo (£2,318)". This was a good and useful aside, and I’m glad I wrestled with the number of brackets necessary to make it happen.
So, at $1,200 a month, comparatively, joining a network of shared housing bunks where it seems like you are legally obliged to write your Instagram handle above your bed in chalk ("Check out this asleep cunt! @whateverthispricksnameis"), joining that makes a grim financial sort of sense. I mean, look at all the clean-faced people here, cheerfully telling the camera how good it is to live here. Look at them, out on a thin little balcony, sitting cross-legged and drinking a bottle of beer! Look at them, criss-crossing in front of the camera, barely making eye contact with one another, fundamentally embarrassed that the world has curled over in this way to make this living arrangement a reality! Look at this lad with a goatee, in 2019, cooking a plain chicken breast in a pan with a wrong-fitting lid! It's good, in a way, isn’t it? We all liked living like students, all the filthy kitchen surfaces and the pasta with sauce, and the traffic cone in the kitchen. Wouldn’t it be good to live like that, forever, long into adulthood, in one of the richest cities in the world?
Well, on one hand, Yes (I feel like I need to constantly caveat every LROTW column with: "I'm sure it works for someone"). On a much much larger hand – the hand monstered and gnarled, 14 or 15 times larger than the opposite hand, the opposite hand actually quite small and delicate and incapable of holding much more than a golf ball, then here on the other side we have a hand the size of a novelty foam finger at a football game, the weight of a number of heavy juicy watermelons, all stacked up – on that other much larger hand, No.
Do you want a 33-year-old woman stocking your kitchen with "collegiate foods" then deftly climbing into the bunk above you? Do you want to give up basically every opportunity to have sex or masturbate for the entire duration of your stay (even Love Island contestants have the hideaway. To reiterate: 16 people currently being monitored by hundreds of HD cameras every second of every day still have more opportunities to privately cum than these San Franciscans paying money not to do it)? Do you want to sleep in a sort of open bunk thing with a TV screen looming over it ("Bro, can you turn that down? Trying to moderate 4Chan over here") and literally not even a full half wall around the bed, like the wall has a gap in it and the bunks are twined shut with wire to stop you falling out of them, I have literally slept with more privacy on some aeroplanes? Do you want a giggling man to occasionally walk in on you pissing with an entire film crew behind him? Do you want to be one of four people laughing in a mostly empty room while sat in computer chairs? Do you want that? Do you? For $1,200 a month? Is that what you want?
Obviously PodShare is a symptom of a disease and not the cause: fine. And it obviously works for some people: also fine. I hate it, I hate everything about it, I hate the number of sheer bunks they have crammed into the space that aren’t even occupied, decent design could have made this twice as liveable: fine. Fine, fine, fine. I don’t have to live in it. Until I do. If you think that some enterprising London start-up types didn’t watch this video as it boomed viral over the weekend and thought, 'Hmm,' then you are naïve and wrong.
A few years ago, a sort of proto-version of these popped up in various Tube line outposts – shared accommodation one-room things with night porters and shared dining rooms and cinema nights and shit like that, bedding changed for you and the flat kept clean, in big towering blocks that you would rent (thanks to the price of amenities sold as perks) for the same or slightly more than you would pay for the equivalent studio rental someone more central and truly alone – and pods and bunks is the next darkly logical step.
You see them, sometimes, rented out on the same Gumtrees and Zooplas that I take a lot of the listings here from: people trying to rent out the rest of their lease because they have gone insane with the sheer number of nightly beer pong tournaments and fun ideas at breakfast. The ideal way to experience shared living through your life is: first, fewer people, then bigger rooms. It seems the market is directly opposed to that. See you in the bunk next to me in four-to-five years, bro. Get with the CoffinLiving.