Photo by Max Catalano
Ever wonder what it would be like to be locked in a room working against the clock with your stressed-out colleagues? And no, I don’t mean a typical day in the office. I mean 45 minutes in the Escape Room.
In early April, a few of my fellow Backdroppers and I tried out Escape Room Athens, which officially opened April 8 at 1005 E. State St. A few of our staff members had experienced Escape Room — being locked in a room and forced to solve puzzles to find a way out — on other occasions and decided to see what Athens’ new attraction had to offer. So we got a group of seven together and put our minds to the test.
It took a while to find exactly where we were supposed to go; that was the first puzzle. The front of the building didn’t have a sign to show where we should enter, so we — more specifically my coworkers, as I was pretty limited by the crutches I was forced to use after I injured myself a few days earlier — walked the perimeter until we found the entrance at the back of the building. Inside, a sign with an arrow on it directed us to our destination and, after getting acquainted with the rules of the game, we were led to the small room where the door closed and locked behind us. The 45-minute countdown had begun.
First, we were instructed to listen to a recording of a distressed male voice that emphasized the importance of Psalm 23:4. One time was bad enough, but the crackling audio required a few listens to get all we could out of every word. Then we broke into full-blown chaos. I frantically checked in the furniture, someone else looked under it and someone else tore through drawers and bookshelves in an attempt to look for anything we could get our hands on: a number, a letter or even a color.
In a set of drawers, one of our photographers found the photo project from hell. Pictures each of us had posted on Facebook — one of my photos was from my sophomore year of high school; yikes — were wrinkled up and our eyes had been scratched out with black Sharpie. (That may or may not have been a good thing, because I used to be pretty terrible at applying eye makeup.) After shaking off that awful experience, we regrouped and realized we were surrounded by an abundance of locks, puzzles and clues that made absolutely no sense at the time.
It’s easy to get frustrated in a stressful environment, but it’s even worse when crutches restrict you from moving as quickly as you can. In what was probably not the best decision I could have made at the time, I threw my crutches to the ground and crawled across the dimly lit room like a toddler. I fit in perfectly with the stuffed animals that sat on the floor and the terrifying distorted children’s lullabies that played in the background as we worked.
As the large wall clock taunted us with less and less time, I thought what the hell and began to hobble around on my injured foot, an action that made my injury worse for a few days. But it didn’t matter, because I needed to figure out what the stupid code was for that stupid box in that stupid room. And the odd amount of clues that dealt with a serial killer who might attempt to make us his victims didn’t do much to rid me of anxiety.
I am more than willing to admit I am more of a “Type A” kind of person. I like to do things myself, and I get a great amount of satisfaction from solving a tough problem. If you do a group project with me, there’s a good chance I’m the one making the PowerPoint. I ran — more like speed limped — around the room like a deranged woman trying to find as many clues as I could. I may or may not have tried to solve everything within my reach, and I offer my sincere apologies to my coworkers for maybe stealing their thunder on a padlock or two.
For future visitors of Escape Room, I strongly recommend working as a team and keeping track of the clues you find. After the initial panic-induced chaos, we created a great system — yelling things such as, Type it in backward! and No, you counted the wheel spikes incorrectly! — and got out with more than five minutes to spare. I’m definitely not saying it wasn’t challenging; it was. There were more small clues to find, locks to open and puzzles to solve than any other Escape Room I had done up to that point. It may seem a little pricey at $25 for weekdays and $29 for weekends, but with a ’90s room addition coming in the next few months, I’d say it’s worth it. Especially if you’re looking to form tighter bonds with your coworkers after three-quarters of an hour of stressful puzzle solving. Or if you want to add more stress to your weekends and reinjure yourself because you enjoy making your life more difficult. Up to you.