Breather: Peace and Quiet by the Hour

breather map nyc copy

Is your office just too office-y? Is your local Starbucks too much of a Starbucks? Is your house just an apartment and not a minimalist pied-à-terre in the heart of midtown? Sounds like you could use a BREATHER. Specifically, a stay in an office/apartment/quiet space maintained by Breather, a new app that’s like Airbnb + Uber (that’s Ubrnb), where you can rent a room for an hour to relax, take a meeting, or take a nap, all from your smartphone.

Marketed to self-employed professionals or small start-ups to get things done or hold ad hoc group meetings, or for exhausted workers to just take a “breather” (duh) in the middle of the day, Breather is a slightly more traditional, outsourced take on tech-industry nap pods, even if it sounds like an American take on a love hotel. DNAinfo reports, Breather founder Julien Smith “acknowledged that ‘hourly’ is a tainted word, but added that unpermitted adult activity in Breather rooms has not been an issue so far. The terms and conditions require users to ‘wear appropriate clothing’ while in the room.” So even if you weren’t thinking that before, you are now. Maybe reconsider about that nap?

Lingering raised eyebrows aside, Breather speaks to an acutely felt reality of New York City: The spaces we have designated for work and for sleep are so cramped, loud, and/or far away that renting more, different space, even at an hourly rate, seems like a reasonable fix. Breather also operates in Montréal and San Francisco, so at least we’re not the only ones living this way.

Some have pegged Breather as a part of the general trend away from permanent, brick-and-mortar spaces—from pop-up restaurants and food trucks to co-work spaces—and in a sense this is accurate. In another sense, it goes beyond practicality or good moneysense into the realm of just looking for some way or place to not talk or listen to anyone for a defined period of time, a luxury only the very rich can afford in a city where even the libraries are pretty packed most of the time. If Hell is other people, Breather may just be our salvation.

Follow John Sherman on Twitter @_john_sherman.

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