It took me a while to find the place. Google maps had me driving into a residential area at first. But I re-calibrated my brain (and rechecked the address) and soon realized I made a left turn a little too early. Yeah, I’m sure I’m not gonna have any problems breaking out of my first escape room.
I passed by a few other businesses, trying to find it. There was a bar… then a mailbox…. and a business with a non-descript red door… and finally, the neon-bordered windows I was instructed to locate. Parking in front, I went inside.
It wasn’t as fancy as what I saw on The Big Bang Theory that time. Nor did I see any CGI like in the movie. It looked a lot like the waiting room of a dentist’s office.
My friends were already there and chided me for being late. One of the employees quickly greeted me and asked if I was “their 6th” – meaning, was I the 6th (and final) in the group. I politely said yes and was handed a liability waiver.
“It’s in case you drop something on your foot,” the employee told me. “Don’t worry about reading the part on the back that’s written in UV ink.” A couple of my friends laughed. Was this guy serious? I signed it, anyway, because my friends were obviously annoyed at me being late.
After about a minute of catching up with my friends, the employee introduced himself as Jim. Then Jim started explaining how a lot of different locks worked. He then went over some basic rules. Most of the rules had to do with not breaking anything or recording things inside the room.
“You don’t have to be an escape expert to get out of room,” Jim insisted. “You simply need to know how to think logically. Also, pay attention to your surroundings and communicate effectively. Communication is key.”
After that, I felt much more confident. I also believed that we definitely could escape this in time.
The First Minutes
The time had come. After a brief bathroom break, we entered the room together. It looked like an office on the inside. “Is this the room,” I asked?
“This is the beginning of the room, yes,” Jim answered.
Interesting. What was the theme of this one again? Find out if your boss is embezzling? I think that’s what it was. Some of my work friends and I actually had felt at one time that our actual boss was embezzling. That was one of the reasons we chose this room. It was kind of an homage to our real world situation. In a way. But, here I was now, not paying attention to what–
“Good luck,” said Jim and he walked out the door, leaving us all inside.
“Wait, what did he say?” I asked Holly.
A countdown began on a television screen. Everyone else started scrambling around. I missed something. What’s happening!?
I just start doing what everyone else is doing – moving things. Looking under things. Looking on top of things. Opening boxes. “Oh, hey, you guys. What’s this?”
I had found a bunch of colored tiles with magnets on the back. It was our first discovery as a group, and I found it. Me. The new guy. I’m so much better than these people.
“Here’s a padlock on a drawer.”
“I found a scrapbook with a bunch of photos of people.”
“I found a key inside the pocket of the coat hanging on the door.”
“There’s a color coded sequence on this computer monitor. It’s blinking in sequences.”
Everyone was finding a lot of things. But nothing seemed to fit together at first. I was feeling a bit overwhelmed.
The Clock Ticks On…
Fifteen minutes into it, we had begun to break off into smaller groups. One of the photos in the scrapbook showed a photo of an item located inside one of the many books on a bookshelf. We turned to the same page and there were instructions for my color tile puzzle.
All of the tiles had different numbers on them, but when I placed them in a certain order, then performed some adding and subtracting, I was able to come up with a combination.
It wound up that that same combination opened a hasp lock that was on the other door in the room. When Chad was able to come up with another puzzle solution, he unlocked a second lock on the same door. This allowed the door to open and for us to escape within just a few min–
Wait, no. It opened up another room. Another room full of different kinds of puzzles again. It turned into another scavenger hunt, of sorts. Everyone looking in things, under things, on top of things. People moving quickly and telling everyone when they found items that looked out of the ordinary.
I wanted that same thrill of finding something and communicating it to my friends. That sense of accomplishment when you’ve done your part to advance the game towards a common goal.
I found a binder with four pages in it – each of which were a different color. It seemed out of place, so I announced it. “Ooo! I need that,” Brenda said excitedly as if her night had instantly become ten times greater. And, in a way, it really had.
We were all working together and having a lot of fun. This was not exactly the experience I was expecting, which was fantastic!
The End Game
There was so much that happened, a lot of it seemed like a blur while it was happening. An hour flew by faster than I could imagine as the clock started ticking to less than ten minutes remaining. During the prior fifty minutes, we had acquired a ton of information and solved 14 or 15 puzzles together.
In the end, we still didn’t have all of the evidence we need to prove our boss was embezzling. But even with just a few minutes left, we were already laughing about everything fondly. And then, Chad solved whatever puzzle he was working on at the time and exclaimed to the group, “He definitely did it! We need to get the safe open!”
There was a sudden mad rush for (what seemed like) the final puzzle. Within less than five minutes to go, we were able to piece together the combination for the safe, get it open, and find a stash of about $5M in stolen bonds. A video started running on the tv screen about how some unnamed employees had discovered their boss had been embezzling from his own company for years. Thanks to those heroes, he would be spending the rest of his life behind bars.
There was a lot of chaos, puzzles, logic, and a LOT of fun. Coming out of the room, I was smiling ear to ear. By the smiles on my friends faces, I knew they had fun, too.
The game guide offered us a canned soda or bottled water for the road “because fighting crime gets you thirsty.”
Overall, it was a surprising and fun first experience. I had been expecting to go into the room and it would be something simple. But it really involved thought (in a fun way) and helped us all see how great we were at actually working through problems together.
My final thoughts on my way home was wondering who I could ask from work to go to the next one.