Culture //

No chance to dream

Peter Walsh needed a lot of duty free to forget Fisher’s new sleep pods

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Attention misguided slobs who wrap jumpers around heads in a fitful attempt to sleep in Fisher Library: you are taken care of. The University has installed New Age pods to sleep in. The plural is a misnomer, there is a pod (singular) and it sits behind the palisades on level four, looking like the unwanted byproduct of a steamy encounter between a massage chair and a hooded hair dryer at the Westfield Christmas party.

Lie down in the machine. This takes some doing – be brave, the looks you get on approaching sit between curiosity and contempt – and circle the visor around your head. Darkness! Or rather, a budget airline’s approximation of the dark – a near- dark grey interrupted by sheer light entering in through the windows overlooking Victoria Park, through the space between the visor and the chair.

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Maybe this wasn’t the best place to put the sleep pod (especially considering the number of quiet, windowless spaces available on the lower and upper levels), but this is not a sleep pod so much as it is a manifesto pod. A Welcome To The 21st Century for your University Experience pod, where sleep – like education, or campus culture, or the diuretic stream of All Food and Drink – is reduced to discrete interactions negotiated in micro-transactions. Expect sleeping on the lawns to be banned by 2019.

But maybe I should turn the pod on. Immediately, the thing’s a-whir with vibrations and music and–huh?–lights? Pale blue ones like the Hotline Bling video. Leaning over to read the instructions—ah—it tells you to “experiment with music and lighting”. My 20-minute counter drops to 18. The machine is quite loud, and only a pace removed from a study space on level four, and if you’re the kind of person who puts stock in negative energy then bring a dream catcher, because a palpable amount of bad mojo is directed towards the pod.

By fiddling with the buttons, you can alter your recline: from slouching teenager, to lounging monarch, to full coffin supine. Same too with the music and the vibrating and the lights, which can shift in intensity and tone or be—and maybe this should be the default position?—entirely done away with.

In the end, the economy airline metaphor sticks. You wake in the pod sticky, with all the accumulated grease of an overnight flight and a commensurate amount of rest. It is a vessel not of comfort but of blunt utility. And from it you emerge, leaving as you would a plane, but with one crucial difference. You’re exactly where you left.

Photos: Tom Joyner