Friday, February 26, 2016

Escape Rooms

I have had the pleasure of taking part in several “escape room” challenges whereby the players are placed in a controlled area and given a set of hints, clues, and puzzles that, if properly solved within a predetermined timeframe, allows escape.It is like Saw without homicide-inducing duress. If done well (and our town has some gifted practitioners) the solve is a combination of knowledge, observation, and dumb luck.

The idea of a physical escape room is based on a genre of digital escape games which were, in-turn, inspired by an online-interactive text adventure called Behind Closed Doors. While researching this, I also discovered that there are a number of marginally-erotic novels of the same name. It would seem that to market a book with a title like “Behind Closed Doors” one must utilize a suggestive portrait of a female silhouette that may or may not be blindfolded. But I digress….

Despite this official history, I maintain that the truest form of the escape room began decades ago with the advent of timeshare presentations. The premise is that you would receive a complimentary (or at least, greatly subsidized) vacation in exchange for agreeing to sit through a “brief presentation.” You are assured that there is no obligation to buy anything, they simply wish to present discerning consumers such as yourself with some exciting “investment opportunities.” Most promise you will be in and out in less than two hours.

The truth can be far more harrowing. Tales abound of people whose experiences sounded more like hostage situations than informative talks. Sales associates would even use guilt to remind you that if you left without making a purchase you were nothing more than a common free-loader. You should be ashamed of yourselves for taking advantage of the generous shareholders at Del Boca Vista Phase VII. Have you no shame?

When I was still a teenager, my friend’s family allowed me to tag along on their Caribbean cruise vacation. I was grateful for the opportunity and enjoyed the trip immensely, but what I did not know is that his parents had agreed to subject themselves to a timeshare presentation in exchange for discounted travel accommodations. His mother had one of the sweetest temperaments of anyone I had ever met. His father, while unfailingly kind to me, had a much sterner disposition. He was a man that wasn’t to be trifled with.

So when they left the hotel room that morning to attend the presentation, I had no doubt that he would make good on the promise that he “wasn’t buying” what they had to sell. I figured that by the time Mr. Mike got ahold of them they would be paying his mortgage and we would be sleeping in the captain’s berth for the remainder of the journey. Imagine my surprise when, three hours later, they returned glassy-eyed and the proud owners of a seaside condominium time-share.

I was devastated. What exactly had occurred in Event Room C? Did they restrain him while ominously detailing his child’s bus schedule?   It was inconceivable that Mr. Mike’s resolve could not only be worn away, but replaced by something akin to enthusiasm. I knew from that day forward that I should never step into a timeshare presentation or I would spend the rest of my life trying to rationalize my purchase of an alley-view driftwood bungalow on a superfund site. If they could get to Mr. Mike, no one was safe.

While I have neither the financial resources nor attention span to bring such an enterprise to fruition, I thought it would be interesting to helm a set of “socially awkward escape rooms.” Actors would be hired and you would be placed in the following precarious scenarios:  

  • A family Thanksgiving meal that had to be moved to Saturday afternoon because your daughter’s new boyfriend’s belief system only allows for the consumption of poultry on 8-letter days.

  • You run into a high-school acquaintance at Kroger who, after years of being put-off by your disingenuous promises of getting together for coffee, specifically just heard you tell someone in the cereal aisle that your next two evenings were “wide open.”

  • You walk in to your boss’s office only to discover that the creepy married guy at the gym who keeps asking if you need any assistance “strengthening your pelvic floor” is her husband.

  • Your siblings have decided that your mother’s memorial service would the most appropriate venue to air their grievances concerning the distribution of her third husband’s riverboat-casino jackpot winnings.

  • Thanks to an auto-correct mistake on a hastily-posted Facebook status about the lap pool at your new gym, your mother is calling to clarify what you meant by “Glad to finally be a part of a club where everyone else is as passionate about weekend swinging as I am!” #TheMoreTheMerrier

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