John DeVore is a writer and editor living in Los Angeles. He was written for The New York Times, Comedy Central, and Maxim Magazine, the noted literary journal. He is currently managing editor at TeamCoco.com. If you follow him on Twitter at @JohnDeVore, he will be your best friend. Forever.
"Where are you staying?"
"The Pod 51."
My friends looked worried, as if I had just admitted to volunteering for a social experiment. The kind you subject yourself to for fast cash.
They offered to put me up. I didn't need the charity.
Instead of staying in one of New York's one hundred million regular hotels (note to editor: that should probably be fact-checked on Wikipedia?), I had chosen to spend a few nights at a swanky dormitory that played techno in the lobby.
Why? Because I make impulsive emotional decisions. It should be apparent that I am, in no way, a qualified critic of the hospitality industry.
My friends peppered me with questions about where I was staying, but all I wanted was the one delicacy cruelly denied me in L.A.—a Jamaican beef patty. I am obsessed with those pastry wallets stuffed with meat slurry. But the answers to their inquiries were the same: it's nice, inexpensive-ish, the decor is mod polka dots.
I made a last-minute decision to fly home to crowded, grimy New York from laidback, sunny L.A. I had moved to Los Angeles a year before because I've never met a cliché I can't prove true.
There really is nothing more tedious than the "L.A. vs. NYC" debate, especially since I suspect the answer is "Chicago." I just missed civilization. (When I refer to New York City as "civilization," the Visigoths roll their eyes and drink their kale smoothies.) Mostly, I missed my dear friends who let me kvetch, which is the Yiddish word for a person who is charming and erudite.
But for this trip, I refused to "couch surf" because "couch surfing" is like that health insurance rule in the Affordable Care Act about young adults being covered until they're 26. After that, get a room. There are perfectly nice hotels in Queens one stop away from the Island Of Rich People (A.K.A Bankhattan) and I recommend them—The Verve is reasonable and its continental breakfast is a mighty bounty of refined carbs.
For this trip, however, I was feeling a little Samantha, and wanted to bed in glamorous Manhattan.
The average American hotel room size is 325 feet—and within an hour of my arriving in such a room I have filled every square foot with socks, pants, and every single formerly folded towel in the bathroom. This is because I am paying a premium to be a slob in a large room with a recently used bed.
But New York's Pod Hotels average 100 square feet, which is barely enough room for light calisthenics in the morning. It is, however, enough room to crash in relative comfort after a day of urban adventuring. Hobbits beware: don't stay at a Pod Hotel is you don't like adventures.
The Pod Hotels challenge the idea of what a hotel room should be: instead of a personal bunker packed with booby-traps that trigger credit card charges, it's a small clean room fit for a funky Spartan.
The "capsule hotel" idea is an import from tightly packed Tokyo, a metropolis even more compact than Gotham. "Waste not, want not" makes economic sense in such an environment.
My favorite hotel rooms are the ones at the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Vegas. The bathrooms are bigger than the Pod Hotel's smallest rooms.
Do I need that much room? No, I don't need the third trip to the prime rib station at the all-you-can-eat buffet, either.
I doubt a Pod Hotel would be popular in, say, Texas, where my entire family resides, because vast empty space is to the Lone Star State what relentless sunshine is to Southern California.
There are two Pod Hotels, one on 51st and one on 38th, and I made reservations at Pod 51. The management was perfectly cordial and the cafe offered tasty treats from Balthazar Bakery and Murray's Cheese.
The hotel's website says it's a "stylish and hip budget hotel." I am not hip nor stylish, but I was on a budget. I would, however, like to feel hip and stylish while being on a budget. The cost for two nights was around $500-ish. I think that rate was the result of my last minute booking.
Here's what else the hotel has: free WiFi, an iPod dock, and a safe for my valuables (I do a little light national security work on the side, so a secure location for a thumb drive with launch codes is SUPER handy).
Oh, before I forget: the shower nozzle was great. It was something out of a Dwell Magazine spread. It was like being peed on by two-dozen tiny angels.
In the overpopulated dystopian future all luxury hotels will be like the Pod Hotels. The rooms are stylish little rooms crammed with space-saving amenities—tiny sinks, tiny flat-screen TVs, a normal-sized toilet you can see from your futon-esque bed. The room I had booked was a "double-pod," which meant I didn't have to share a bathroom with hip and stylish European kids on a budget. Some of the rooms have bunk beds, which works out great if you're the twins from The Shining.
Once upon a time, many years ago, during my dad's final visit to New York, I proudly got him a room at the Hudson. You might know that show-off boutique hotel across from the Time Warner Center as the former home of a brightly lit bar designed by French aristocrats from another dimension. The room cost more than half an associate editor's paycheck and it was snug like a coffin.
The size of the room insulted my dad, as did the attitude of the staff that we should appreciate the sophisticated crawl space, and he grumpily decamped to the midtown Hilton where he proceeded to immediately shed his clothes. Like father, like son.
He had been to New York numerous times and knew that it didn't offer Vegas-like palaces. But the snob is the natural enemy of the Texan.
The Pod Hotel was not pretentious.
The energy in the hotel was youthful and exciting, especially if you're young and and prone to excitement.
I think of myself as a slight variation on Benjamin Button: born old, and then, progressively, over the years, stayed old. I am a firm believer that decrepitude is wasted on the elderly. The multicultural clientele from Sweden, Japan, and Brazil were all thrilled to be in the Big Apple, and for a brief moment, I felt all might be well with the world.
The rooms aren't soundproofed and the halls could get noisey. I heard a long, boring, droning conversation in German in the next room. At its worse, the Pod Hotel felt like a cell in the administrative segregation block of Virgin SuperMax. The din was only for a few hours. Overall, sleeping at the Pod Hotel was not unlike what I imagine it would be like if I were a dormouse sleeping in a slipper.
I'm not sure the marketing is 100 percent on the mark. Podcasts. Pod people. Pod-races. In a perfect world, we can all agree on what "pod" means. What it shouldn't mean is "Willy Wonka's Hostel."
What the Pod Hotels should convey is that living in close-quarters is fun. A journey. Each room a compartment separated by bulkheads in a giant vessel powered by dilithium crystals. Which is why both hotels should consider rebranding themselves as "The Disco Starship."
Oh, man, there could even be a secret handshake!
I am coming back to New York soon. The filthy floor of the Jet Blue JFK terminal will be kissed. I will then purchase a tube of topical cream for my lips. I will probably stay at a Pod, only, this time, I'll bring ear plugs. Also: I'll try to make a new friend from a foreign country, like Canada or Seattle. It's easy for me to make friends, because I am a person who is charming and erudite.