I went to a startup for naps and slept in an EnergyPod like a robot
Immediately after reading about Doze — a company that rents out EnergyPods for midday naps — I booked an appointment. I did so partially because I find reveling in our contemporary Boring Dystopia strangely appealing, and also because I was really tired. Lately, instead of falling asleep, my brain thinks about things like “everything I’ve ever done wrong in life” and “the utter futility of existence.” So shut up and hook me up to the giant snooze egg! Commodify my exhaustion!
Doze HQ is inside the Hobart Building, in San Francisco’s Financial District. I took the elevator to the 12th floor to an ornate, marble-walled hallway, rounded a corner, and found the office behind a door that could have a grizzled private eye’s name chiseled on the glass.
Inside sat three EnergyPods — a reclining chair pod thing built by an Edgewood, NY-based company called Metronaps that promises to improve worker productivity and morale. They’re offered as a perk by many large tech companies in the Bay Area. They made me feel uneasy.
Behind the desk next to the door was Brandon Smith, the lone boss and employee of the company, which he’s financing from his own savings. As he explains on his website, Doze is “more like a Mom n’ Pop shop than a startup.” He stressed that he’s trying to bring tech company amenities to people who don’t work in tech, like CPAs and Starbucks workers. Whether or not they’re willing to pay (or can afford) the $20 for 25 minutes of napping has yet to be determined.
Brandon directed me towards the pods. I chose the one in the middle, and laid down in it. I put on the provided headphones, and futzed with the settings on a small armrest panel, turning the pod on. The chair moved backwards into a napping position, the lights dimmed, the back started vibrating, and ambient music started playing. A timer on the armrest panel started counting down my 25 minute session. The pink glowing light behind me faded out. It was going to make me nap, whether I wanted to or not. I closed my eyes.
The inside of the pod is about what you’d expect. It’s dark, but not pitch-black. If you can’t fall asleep, it’s light enough that you can contemplate the bolts on its ceiling, or the tops of your legs sticking out into the terrible daylight from which you just escaped. Gradually, my defenses wore down, and I started drifting away. I became one with the egg.
At the 25-minute mark, the music on the headphones started rising, and the lights in the pod faded in, changing colors from orange to white, a simulated sunrise.
I tried to leave, but I couldn’t figure out how to open the pod. I hit every button on the panel, and nothing worked. I briefly panicked — I was going to die while trying to nap in a big egg, and they’d have to bury my skeleton inside this dumb coffin — but then I figured out that the door just opens manually, you just give it a little push, like, you know, almost every door in history. Heh heh, whoops.
I left Doze feeling relaxed and well-rested.
That Doze’s opening was met with almost immediate scorn is understandable. San Francisco is being gutted by aggressive free market capitalism and fantastical tech wealth. In this context, a startup charging money for naps is a perfect villain, especially when a church only 1.4 miles away installs sprinklers to prevent homeless people from sleeping on their steps. Especially when the average rent in the city is ~$3,500/mo (or: 175 naps). Especially when thousands are getting evicted from their homes to make room for millionaires with bad ideas. Especially when a massive evil anti-union tech company is actively trying to gentrify Oakland. And on and on, the misery is infinite.
But Doze seems less a villain than another silly symptom of the current miserable tech boom. Getting angry at its existence feels trivial — like getting mad at a massage parlor or a place with sensory deprivation tanks — when there are so many other more worthwhile targets. It was just one guy in a small office with a bunch of comfortable egg chairs. And also, I’m almost embarrassed to say that it was … actually kind of weirdly pleasant?
Or I don’t know, maybe I’m just too fucking tired.