Last week, I was in a predicament. It's one of those things that's going to sound like a humblebrag, but it was nerve-wracking at the time. I had to go to a fashion preview in Midtown, then do a Skype interview for a volunteer repro-justice position I'm really excited about, then head downtown for a women's networking happy hour my friend was throwing.
There was about half an hour between each event, and I realized that when I was looking at my calendar, I had absolutely nowhere to take the Skype interview once I got uptown. I definitely couldn't try to taxi home, I was too far away from my alma mater to go in and crash an empty classroom, and I don't know anyone who lives in that area of Manhattan who could let me sit in their living room.
I think one of the problems of living in a big city with high real estate prices is that, outside of your own neighborhood, you tend to lose the "third space" — or end up with a very limited version of it. Basically, I can find a bunch of bars or coffeeshops, but they're neither accessible nor inexpensive, and the Starbucks by Penn Station hardly qualifies "welcoming or comfortable."
I did what everyone does when they're stressed in New York: I called a friend who had lived there way longer than I had. His advice?
"Oh, just find one of those test-prep rooms in K-town."
One Yelp search later, I had found NY Study Room. A 10-minute walk away from the preview, and next to a store exclusively selling sheet masks (reader, I didn't), it's the student-friendly version of a coworking space, or the safe-for-Skype-chat version of a by-the-hour motel. You sign in on an over-18 or under-18 list, and for $15 an hour, you get a private room with fast wifi.
The proprietor seemed a little confused as to why a woman in her mid-20s was there, but she gave me bottled water and some makeup wipes (still not sure why, but I used them last night, so thanks!) and I was on my way.
My experience wasn't a unique one, apparently, because when I told another friend about it, she mentioned Breather (did you think you were going to get through all that NYC-specific anecdata without an app recommendation?).
Breather helps you locate short-term room rentals for meetings, appointments or the titular breather. That friend who recommended it is a freelance event producer, and she'll rent out rooms a day at a time in unfamiliar cities so she has a "home base" and can either bring clients in for meetings, or work on her own there.
The rooms have an added bonus of looking like they're straight out of a West Elm catalogue. It's a little more expensive than what I was looking for (rooms range from $45-150/hr), but I imagine it's great if you're a consultant or working freelance.
Now, tell me about the weirdest place you've ever taken an important phone call, and if you're Team Pants or Team No-Pants when you do Skype interviews.