15 February 2011 ~ 1 Comment

The Inception of Coworking: a short story by the intern

Angel assigned the Cohere Coworking Community’s intern Ryan the task of writing a <500 word blog post about what he thinks is valuable about coworking. His imagination ran amok and what she got is this 2,700 word sci-fi short story based on the movie Inception. Rather than send him back to the drawing board, his story will replace regularly scheduled blog posts this week. The cast of characters is interns Ryan & Betsy, Madame Angel and cameos by Cohere members Lindsay, Skippy and Matt.

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Walking into Cohere that day started seemingly like any other. After settling in I began to start in on my daily checklist hoping to get it done as quickly as possible because I had a few coworkers I wanted to speak to about getting together for some coffee and talking a little shop. The coffee was already brewing and the dishes were clean. Strange, I thought to myself as I walked into the conference room, bathroom, and around the main space collecting the trash to take out back. I grabbed a big mug of coffee to brave the weather outside, and downed nearly the whole cup in one gulp.

I looked up and for the first time saw Angel standing right behind me in the doorway to the kitchen. I jumped a little because I hadn’t heard anyone while I had been walking around.

“This coffee tastes rather… exotic,” I said, trying to make conversation but also choking up a little bit from some strange feeling in my stomach swirling around with the coffee.

“Hmmm… tasted normal to me,” Angel replied with what appeared to be a deviant smile on her face for just a moment. “After you take that trash out meet me in the conference room so that we can talk about your blog post. I want to hear what your idea is.”

I grabbed the trash bags, swinging the back door open exposing myself to the cold and an intense light reflecting off the fresh snow from the sun. My eyes winced in pain and the queasy feeling in my stomach seemed to move up my spine causing my head to spin.

“One more thing,” Angel shouted from behind me. I wheeled around unsteady on my feet to see several other members not sitting but standing inside the collaborative workspace all looking at me. “Hurry!” said Angel with what seemed like a sly smile on her face again, but I was unable to tell as my vision began to blur, “and be careful on those steps, it’s really icy outside.”

The coffee seemed to have spread throughout my body now making my skin warm and making me weak in the knees. I wheeled back around to head down the stairs and as I faced outside the brightness of the morning went *FLASH* in my eyes with a piercing bright light completely blinding me for a moment…

When I opened my eyes again I was in a classroom on campus, unfamiliar to me. The room was full of students some of whom I recognized from my classes, but I was sure I had never been in this particular class before. The teacher and writings on the board appeared completely unfamiliar to me. On second glance I squinted at the professor way at the front of the room whose face suddenly became recognizable. It was Angel. Or was it? The woman looked identical to her but had black glasses and long gray streaks in her hair; almost as if it were Angel’s mom.

I looked at what was written on the board:

in your coworking blog, you must find what is valuable in coworking.

I believe I must have gasped out loud because once I removed my eyes from the board I noticed that everyone in the room was staring in my direction. I turned my head quickly back to the front of the room and saw that the teacher had completely stopped talking and was looking at me as well, seemingly smiling at me in the same way that Angel had back at Cohere what seemed like moments ago.

“You know that you’re dreaming,” I heard Betsy’s voice from behind me, “you never even came into Cohere today, you’re late right now still asleep in your bed at home.”

It suddenly made sense and I quickly flipped around in my chair, surprised to see a number of coworkers from Cohere sitting behind me in class. I got up to pinch myself but the floor was lined with a thin layer of water that had been melting off my boots that were still wet and covered in snow. I thought this to be very strange to be dreaming about but only for a fleeting moment as the soles of my shoes slipped out from under me causing me to go parallel to the ground for a second before hitting my head on my desk.

Everything was black; although I felt no pain in the back of my head where it struck the desk. My face felt like it was pressed against the cold floor and I opened my eyes expecting the cold linoleum of the classroom. Instead my eyes opened up to smooth cement like the kind that you would find in a basement or possibly a roller rink. I looked around, my eyes adjusting to a room much darker than the classroom I had just been in.

There was a small safe sitting on the floor right next to me and a table in the middle of the room, and I noticed it only had a key on it as I began to lift myself from the floor. I grabbed it and just as I was about to put it inside the opening of the safe I heard a voice from the doorway which I hadn’t recognized when I’d been looking around the room. Things had been very strange the last few minutes and I thought little of it when a plate was pushed under the door, baby blue, identical to the ones that I’d seen neatly stacked at Cohere that morning. But I hadn’t been to Cohere at all this morning I was still in bed, and probably an hour late by now.

There was no window on the door but there was a small opening which a black gloved hand shoved through a mug of coffee, also seemingly from Cohere, “drink. It will wake you up,” a voice strangely like Angel’s said sending an echo of affirmation bouncing around the room.

I sipped the coffee and shoved a cookie into my mouth from the plate. I returned my attention back to the safe, forgetting that it had surely been Angel’s voice on the other side of the locked door. I twisted the key and pulled the cold steel open with an unexpected smoothness for as old as the safe appeared. I reached for a torn piece of parchment inside. The first few words of a single sentence were visible.

“Coworking is all about…”

I rubbed my eyes feeling the same strange feeling I had felt from drinking the coffee earlier before this strange trip began. I leaned backwards staring at the single flickering light above me, the statement from the paper racing in my head over and over again. Suddenly the light above me went out and the room turned pitch black. I sat in silence for a few moments then felt around for the table, moving it to the center of the room. In the absolute blackness I fumbled around climbing onto the table and reaching up to adjust the light.

Suddenly it flashed back on. Somehow it seemed to be in front of me now instead of above my head. It was so intense I could not see anything else in the room except for the warm light blinding. I moved my head to the side and my heart jumped with amazement. I was gone from the dingy room with the key, and the flannel and jeans I’d been wearing had been replaced by a suit and tie. I was on a stage in front of all the Cohere members and they were clapping. I put my hand up to block my eyes from the spotlight on my face but it fumbled into a microphone causing it to wobble and nearly fall. I peered around seeing Angel coming to the stage and pushing me to the side.

“I can’t believe that it has been over a year since we started, and I can’t believe how far that Cohere has come and how far that I have come from not knowing what coworking was at all to becoming the Madame of such a successful space with such amazing members,” she said into the mic, becoming more emotional than I’d ever seen her. “It really is all about the members though, it always has been. You are ones who made Cohere what it is, the members are the ones who have given it meaning!”

Each time Angel said ‘members’ she seemed to articulate it more, strangely emphasizing the word. It seemed to draw the audience nearer, until the fervor in her speech had brought them all into a half circle surrounding the front of the stage. They all began to roar with applause  after the last part of the statement.

Suddenly I heard Betsy’s voice again from behind me, “get in the picture!”

Skippy had appeared on the stage with his camera and I felt myself sandwiched between Angel and Betsy smiling with our backs to all the members below the four of us up on the stage. I took a half step back to get even with the other two in the frame, but the edge of the stage had as if by magic moved more than a foot closer to where we were standing. My heel slipped and I felt myself falling backwards off the stage my face turning to pure panic as the bulb of Skippy’s camera exploded blinding my eyes.

As it went dark again I found myself no longer falling off the stage but back in the dark room, the table slipping out from beneath my feet. I was nearly half way to the ground as I turned to look at the ground seeing only the piece of paper fluttering to the ground along with me.

“Coworking is all about…”

I was back on the ground again with the cold floor on my face. I opened my eyes for just a moment, realizing I was back in the classroom where I had slipped getting up from my desk, not the locked room.

I could hear Betsy talking to me again. “This is not real, you’re at home dreaming in bed,” she said shaking me hard on the back of my shoulders. She raised her voice, “WAKE UP! WAKE UP! WAKE UP!”

I woke up, hoping to wake up from the dream and see my alarm clock reading that I could still make it to Cohere at a reasonable time. I rose from my back looking around in amazement finding out that I wasn’t in my bed at all. Angel and Betsy were right above me looking at me concerned, although they both seemed to be trying to hold back smiles.

“Must have been one crazy dream, intern,” Angel said laughing a little, “you’ve been out cold for about ten minutes. You slipped on some ice at the top of the steps. I told you to be careful because it was slippery.”

I peered around bewildered and remembering everything that I had just gone through, and the strange ways the members of Cohere had infiltrated my dreams like that confusing movie with Leo DiCaprio.

“You kept talking about Coworking and the blog. Is that finished?” Angel asked me, a hint of the deviant smile I had seen right before I had slipped.

“Right,” I said getting up to my feet and checking for but unable to find a bump anywhere on my head to signify I had fallen. Strange, I thought but responded back to Angel saying, “it’s about the things that I find to be truly valuable at Cohere. I’ll send you a focus statement about it via e-mail in just a sec.”

I turned the corner into the lounge to see Lindsay in front of the dry-erase board. As soon as I turned the corner and looked at it she went into a frenzy to erase it. I was sure that I had seen my name and the word ‘Inception’ with an arrow pointing to something about a blog post. Was I just paranoid or were the programmers here capable of planting an idea in my head using some kind of computer code? I looked over my shoulder at Matt who was staring at me but quickly minimized something on his screen and averted his eyes. It seemed as if a grin had crossed his face before he turned, and several of the other members were smiling at me with the look in their eyes that they knew something that I didn’t.

I sat down in the lounge completely confused and pulled out my laptop. Without thinking the words began to spill from my fingers as if the entire post had been downloaded somewhere into the back of my brain:

What are the reasons why I like Cohere so much? What makes Cohere such an ideal place to get work done? What makes the atmosphere at Cohere so special and unlike anywhere else? What makes me love coming to my internship? What makes me want to be friendly, creative, and gives me inspiration? Where do I learn the most outside of the classroom? How can you practice communicating in a business setting without having to worry about losing a potential client?

I paused for just a sec noticing that Betsy was reading the post over my shoulder. Suddenly the answer to all the questions I just asked became clear in my head:

The Members!

“So, you don’t actually believe that you fell down do you?” Betsy asked smiling and walking away after I had typed the words. I looked up and saw Skippy smiling at me from behind his computer, the camera he had pointed at me on the stage around his neck.

“Noooo, it’s impossible,” I thought letting out a little laugh that let me know I hardly believed in my own personal reassurance. “What a bizarre dream!”

This blog post is based off of the movie Inception. It is also a personal commentary on how the people at Cohere and the ideals of coworking have subtly become such a major part of my life and of how I go about doing work. Although Angel has orchestrated the whole thing and put me in a position to grow and to find information by myself (often holding my hand until it becomes clear for me), it is really the members who have inspired me and helped me to see more clearly exactly what coworking is all about and why it is so great.

Although the space where Cohere is housed is awesome, the time spent here wouldn’t amount to much if the people here weren’t so dynamic, creative, and intelligent. I’ve never thought that I had anything that really makes me stand out. The people all around me at Cohere have shown me that with hard work you can really make something of yourself and truly take control of your life instead of letting your work control you. They are amazingly intelligent people, and the unseen energy that bounces around in Cohere is what I would say is the hallmark of coworking. The community that’s been created here does amazing things and I think that anything that they collaboratively put their best efforts to would never be out of their reach (even inception). They are the source of the sustainable energy that makes anything possible.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_4CT5YAJUTSLMUZWB34RESQ7RKI EdyColifa

    really excellent history.