Unashamedly old school, I have to admit the mere mention of the word “pod” evokes images of alien metamorphosis in Don Siegel’s classic 1956 sci fi shocker Invasion Of The Body Snatchers. With its theme often hotly debated, the movie was open to a range of interpretations with one commentator David Wood noting, “the sense of post-war, anti-communist paranoia is acute, as is the temptation to view the film as a metaphor for the tyranny of the McCarthy era”.
Whether the pods in Siegel’s thought provoking Body Snatchers have any correlation with the explosion of so called ‘pod’ or capsule hotels worldwide is open to question – but perhaps you have to wonder. The phenomenon began in space (as in lack of space) conscious Japan back in 1979, with the tiny compartment like rooms designed for cheap overnight stays, especially for drunken businessmen too sloshed to make their way home.
Its popularity has since spread throughout the world with a number of pod hotels recently opening for business in Sydney. Both the Capsule Hotel and the Space Q Capsule Hotel in the CBD offer pods from around $50 through to $80 a night, approximately half what you would expect to pay in a budget hotel. A typical pod has a bed, a TV and a few other gadgets to keep you amused with shared bathroom and toilet facilities. If you have missed the last train to Blacktown it’s a lot cheaper than a taxi or Uber but the catch is these hotels are often booked out days ahead. Don’t expect to walk in, especially on a weekend night.
The added attraction at Space Q is that the pods are designed to look like sleeping compartments on some interstellar spaceship, an obvious appeal to trekkies or anybody with a burning desire to one day travel to Mars. No doubt there have been cases where highly stoned patrons have embraced the spaceship concept as an hallucinogenic reality, only to be bitterly disappointed the next morning when they stumble sober onto George Street, rather than alight in some far flung galaxy.
I recently spoke with one enthusiastic pod patron Jason, who described the experience at Space Q as being on the set of a B-grade sci-fi movie, with the faux fibreglass capsules creaking everytime somebody entered or turned over in bed. He was definitely looking for that inter-galactic experience but described the capsule as more “microwave than fifth element.” I wondered whether the late night patronage generated an unwelcome level of noise throughout the night but Jason explained that most of the patrons were glued to their devices with the atmosphere eerily silent.
I was also interested to learn if there was any late night ‘pod nookie’ in the capsules strictly designated for one person – what you might call “two peas in a pod.” Jason explained that this was very much verbotten on the part of management and loving couples were separated for the night, left to interact solely through their phones and iPods. No doubt future pod hotels might incorporate a honeymoon suite although in many ways this would be against the spirit of the traditional solo experience.
With Sydney fast becoming more and more congested we may well see a steady growth of pod hotels through the city and suburbs. Indeed the concept could well be extended to provide ultra budget long term accommodation, especially for the homeless. A podmobile, about the size of an old double decker bus, could roam the city picking up late night revellers and anybody looking for a cheap kip to see them through the night.
The scenario is also there for a 2018 remake of the Don Siegel classic in which unsuspecting Sydneysiders are lured into pod hotels by an alien force hellbent on transforming them into a series of zombie like duplicates, free of any human emotion. My God, it could already be happening!