OUTBOX: The Future of Work?

Think outside the office. Opening day for OUTBOX, a pop-up outside office in Silver Spring. #dtss #md #merrland

I’ve got one word for you: BOXES. Whether it’s a tiny house or a new transit van, the future is modular. It’s four walls and temporary, brought to you when and where you need it.

That’s the thought behind OUTBOX, temporary outdoor office space constructed in downtown Silver Spring. Created by students at Montgomery College, they describe it as:

OUTBOX is an innovative workspace offering on-the-go professionals a perfect spot to escape the office this season. Work, ideate and create in the fresh air.

student designers at OUTBOX

Beats the hell out of my windowless, gubment-issued cubicle so I was dying to check it out. OUTBOX is as described, an open-air, covered space with chairs, tables and wifi.

Cool, but probably not necessary in downtown Silver Spring, where there must a dozen places you can work in, from coffee shops to the public library. I’d rather go to Peet’s.

Where this would be ideal, however, are places far from city centers where wifi is ubiquitous. When I was traveling out west last year, I would’ve loved OUTBOX. It would be perfect for a Utah rest stop in the middle of nowhere, allowing travelers a chance to check their email, look up hotels and reconnect to the world.

Meeting in a box. Office workers enjoy a sojourn outside the office in OUTBOX, a Silver Spring pop-up #dtss #merrland #md #igdc

OUTBOX would also be great at places where you need temporary workspace, like a convention or a concert. It would make a great press room for reporters, social media mavens and photographers covering such events.

Cheap, flexible workspaces are the future. Investing in massive buildings filled with white-collar workers is a waste of money. Why pay for half-empty desks? Here’s to a better alternative, one that employees might enjoy more: the box! It might not be OUTBOX but we’re all going to be working and living in such places pretty soon.


Friday Photo: Bump N’ Grind Edition

My first flat white. It's like a cappuccino but without the froth. I had it at Bump 'n Grind, a new coffee place with bearded baristas and a tattooed clientele that's right up the street from the suits at NOAA. #igdc #coffee #flatwhite #dtss #lifeiswander

This was my first flat white. I’m a convert. Made with espresso and steamed milk, it’s like a cappuccino but without the froth. The rich milk and the caffeinated jolt make it a great afternoon treat. The flat white is an Australian invention. I welcome it.

If you read my earlier post, you know I have mixed feelings about Silver Spring. But I really like Bump N’ Grind, the new coffee place where I got this lovely drink. They make great coffee, there’s plenty of room to sit and it’s convenient to my office – everything I want in a coffee place. It’s a little hard to find on East-West Highway but if you like coffee, it’s worth the trip.

Fear and Loathing: Life as a Silver Spring Pedestrian

This is why I'm glad I bike/Metro. Crazy MD driver trying to force her way thru traffic.
How, exactly, am I supposed to get across the street?

I commute to Silver Spring from DC every day and I hate it. As the train pulls into the station, I see the looming specter of the failed Silver Spring Transit Center and I’m filled with low-grade dread. Why do I hate it so?

Bisected by six-lane highways, downtown Silver Spring is a spectacularly pedestrian-unfriendly environment. Trudging the streets as cars whiz by at 50 mph, you immediately feel like an outsider. I have to cross a river of cars just to get a cup of coffee. Every morning, I press the “beg button” and wait for the light to change to ford the river of cars on East-West Highway.

If I’m lucky, the light turns red and everyone stops. More typically, the light turns yellow and drivers rush into intersection blocking the crosswalk. Pedestrians have to weave around cars, trucks and even 60-foot long articulated Metro buses. I get my coffee at Peet’s and repeat the process, keeping an eye out for impatient drivers coming up behind me as they blow through the shopping center stop sign.

The first thing the new MD governor should do is blow up the crumbling, never-opened Silver Spring Transit Center
The Silver Spring Transit center. Five years late and a $100 million over budget. Built with flawed concrete and now the subject of litigation.

Working in Silver Spring, there are some intersections you learn to avoid, like East-West Highway and Colesville Road. Accidents happen there regularly and sometimes include pedestrians. You also know where drivers make rolling rights on red and which crosswalks they ignore (all of them).

I bike everywhere in DC. I do not bike in Silver Spring. Why? There are no bike lanes of any kind. Traffic is fast and crowded. There’s BikeShare in Silver Spring but I’ve never seen anyone use it. People know that biking in the street is an experts-only activity.

Some friendly signage.

While Silver Spring is pedestrian-unfriendly, it is filled with pedestrians. Huge employers are located downtown like Discovery and NOAA (where I work). They fill the streets at lunch hour and after work.

The neighborhood where everybody jaywalks – that’s what Greater Greater Washington calls it. They do a great job at illustrating the consequences of poor design. Silver Spring has organized the city for cars, not people.

My first flat white. It's like a cappuccino but without the froth. I had it at Bump 'n Grind, a new coffee place with bearded baristas and a tattooed clientele that's right up the street from the suits at NOAA. #igdc #coffee #flatwhite #dtss #lifeiswander
A flat white at Bump N’ Grind.

There are places that I love in Silver Spring – like the cool Bump N’ Grind and the awesome Big Greek Cafe ($5 gyros on Wednesdays!). The city has also tried to sex up their image to sell apartments.

But poor design makes it impossible for new residents and local employees to spend their cash. You’re not going to go to that cool coffee place if crossing the street is a death-defying act. Until Silver Spring becomes truly walkable, it will continue to be regarded as a second-class city.



Friday Photo: Giant Hand Edition

Snow on the giant hand at @noaa Building 3 #dtss #igdc #snow
The Hand of Noah in front of NOAA Building Three.

The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is a large federal bureaucracy in Silver Spring, MD. I’ve worked there as a contractor in two separate stints – three years in the National Ocean Service (NOS) and a little more than two years (so far) in the National Weather Service (NWS).

If you work at NOAA, you refer to where you work by building number.  In NOS, I worked in Building 4. In NWS, I work in Building 2. The sculpture above is in front of Building 3. I don’t blame you if you’re confused.

According to the NOAA Library:

The sculpture in front of NOAA’s SSMC3 building (at 1315 East-West Highway) on its Silver Spring, Maryland campus is called “The Hand of Noah”. It was given this title by its sculptor, Raymond Kaskey, in 1991, and symbolizes NOAA’s stewardship of the environment.

In NOAA-land, the giant hand makes a convenient landmark. “Meet me at the giant hand,” is a phrase you hear a lot.

I took this photo during a beautiful, short-lived snowstorm in Silver Spring. I’ve wanted to get this pic for years and, finally, the weather and my schedule cooperated. Like the birds in the sculpture, I feel free!

Can sex sell Silver Spring apartments?

I Instagrammed this ad for a The Point at Silver Spring because it seemed so ridiculous. Silver Spring is not sexy. It’s where women in tennis shoes get on trains for downtown DC and where lanyard-wearing feds shuffle off to NOAA.

I know – I work there. The biggest claim to fame Silver Spring has is its failed transit center, a hundred million dollars of crumbling concrete destined to demolition. Compared to the rest of the DC area, highlights are few – except for the $5 gyros, which are awesome.

On my Instagram account, a couple of people commented on the photo. Their profile pics looked familiar… turns out, they’re the people pictured in the ad. They’re actors who were hired for a swingles-style photo shoot to promote the new high-rise.

Social media is a strange world that connects disparate people instantly, just through a casual photo taken on a Metro platform.

And sorry to disappoint you but the sexy singles in the ad don’t live at The Point. Your neighbors will probably be middle-aged government employees working at NIH. You won’t be invited over for champagne by fitness models in evening wear.

You’ll be there. But  she won’t for an apartment cannot give you a different life.