Last night a group of eleven friends and I went to the lower east side to voluntarily get trapped inside an old theater. We had sixty minutes to figure out clues and solve puzzles in order to…(dun-dun-dunnnn) Escape-the-room! I wouldn’t consider myself particularly good at solving puzzles or mysteries, for that matter. Most of the time, I’m pretty chill. When I lose something, I just assume it will show up, and eventually, it always does.
But this fearless act was different than all my previous ones because it required other people in order to finish…and not strangers, but people I knew…so, the question remained: How well could I work together with a group? What role, if any, would I play in helping us escape? And, could we collectively work together to not only escape the room but…make it out (dun-dun-duuuun) alive?
We entered the theater and it was old and dusty with puppets and muppets hanging from the walls. It looked a bit like Pee-Wee’s playhouse gone wrong. We greeted each other with hugs, smiles and general niceties…but would that last? Could someone in our group turn on us? Would it be…(dun-dun-duuun) me?
To protect the integrity of the game and it’s future players…I won’t give away any of the details but I will explain how it went down. Mariah was our host; She told us she would be present in the room and we could ask her for three and only three clues. She then said she would step out of the room so we can look it over and then the game would begin. (Door slams). We all look at each other blankly. We were given one prop to go with. And sure enough, the clock started counting down. Oh, it was ON!
Right away I thought to come up with a strategy. I announced to the group, “Hey guys, maybe we should split up and take a few people over there and back there and see what we can find?” Response? Crickets.
A few seconds later, our first clue was found. I don’t even remember looking at it. I just heard excitement and furry and stepped away so the others can figure this puzzle out. It seemed clear from the beginning that I had no idea how to approach this game, so I left it alone.
And then one superstar evolved from the group…Emily. Part spy, part musical theater actress, Emily just seemed to know where everything was. She opened this, figured out that and she was super calm and cool throughout. It was uncanny, actually. I was started to suspect that perhaps she played this game before. I mean, just who was this Emily anyway?!!
Ten minutes passed and we unlocked a special red button, in which I announced, “OMG, WE DID IT!!! WE ESCAPED THE ROOM! WE’RE GENIUSES!” (Really, I did nothing up until this point!) Jeff responds, “No, this isn’t the end…” and sure enough, the button was pressed and a riddle started playing. Boy, was I wrong. This was only the beginning of my confusion.
Twenty-five minutes passed and we finally gave in and asked Mariah for a clue. And it was a good one. We unlocked, I mean, Emily unlocked yet another box, with two clues. At this point, I felt useless. Did I actually graduate college? Just what kind of smarts do I have if I can’t even figure out this game?
As I pondered my existence, I noticed everyone in the group was working on this one clue while this other clue was sitting dormant. I stepped aside, grabbed it and went on my own.
“Hey guys! Over here!” I shouted. “I unlocked this one!” Everyone was shocked – including me. I started to gain confidence. I felt of value. Yes, yes…I remembered who I was…I was…good enough to uncover one clue!
This began a pattern. Everyone working on one thing and me chiming in, “Hey guys, what about this…” and I led us to another THREE major clues! Like, boom-boom-boom. I was on fire! In fact, after the forth one, I shouted to the universe while jumping up and down like a kid, “OMG!!! I AM SMART…I AM SMART!!!” I was thoroughly impressed with my skills.
I can’t take all of the credit because clearly, we all worked together to get it done. I may have gotten us in one door, but everyone else did the uncovering and solving of the puzzles to get us further. And then…
Four minutes left in the room…palms sweating…heads shaking…voices trembling…tumbleweed floating by…we were at the end of our streak. Could we make it out? Alas…one more lock to undue…and there she was….the big, red button. OMG. Could this be it? And sure enough…one press and the clock stopped at 56:59!! WE DID IT! We made it out. Oh yes, we crushed it.
There were hugs and tears and laughter and high-fives, finger-snaps and fist-pumps (in my mind, that is)…we all received metals of honor. (really, just this group picture) and the satisfaction that we, as a group, escaped the room!
I have to say that this experience restored my faith in myself again. I am smart, I am of value and I CAN unlock mysterious clues that make no sense. And even when doubted, even when people don’t hear me the first time or the second, or even the third or the fourth and sometimes, the fifth…I still speak my mind. I still act on my instincts. And I’m not afraid to be wrong. Cause even if I was, my one idea would lead to someone else’s better idea and then maybe an even better one on top of that one…and so on.
So, my friends…when faced in seemingly impossible circumstances, always stay in the game, even if you act like a fool…you will never regret the fun you had while playing.