Saturday, November 24, 2018
Saturday Snapshot #16
The Merchandise Mart is an enormous building: four million square feet. When it opened in 1930, it was the largest office building in the world. And while more massive buildings have opened since, it still holds its own as a vast space.
As such, there is no shortage of nooks and corners to hunker down, check your email, read a book, do whatever you need, in relative privacy.
Which made me puzzle over this pair of Jabbrrbox units spied in the second floor corridor last week. They're new, private rental spaces to do business: make a phone call, check your email. They provide power, WiFi. It's as if someone re-invented the phone booth, then tried to charge $30 an hour for the privilege of using it. Eight of them were installed in LaGuardia airport earlier this year. They are soundproof, with a video screen, a camera for conference calls, variable lighting, and a few other features.
Didn't phone booths die out when they were free? To be honest, I can't imagine using a Jabbrrbox, particularly not at the Mart, an environment rich with remote vistas where a person or a platoon could set up camp and work uninterrupted. A 30 second stroll away from the Jabbrrboxes is this utterly abandoned area where you could convene a Security Council meeting in utter privacy. I sat there for 15 minutes reading a newspaper and never saw another person, with all the room I needed to spread out and be comfortable. And it was free.
The Jabbrrboxes, on the other hand, are quite cramped. Did I call them phone booths? Or coffins; I can't tell, I wasn't going to pop the money to try one. I suppose there are situations where they might come in handy: in noisy airports, if you are on an expense account and need to shut out the world so you can make that life-or-death conference call. But even then, you could go to a restaurant, order a nice dinner for the price of an hour in the Jabbrrbox, and both eat and have a workspace to yourself.
Perhaps I am too far removed from the corporate mindset to accurately made a judgment call on this one. But I would call it a solution in search of a problem.