All of this happened, more or less. I spent a weekend at home with my most of my family. We booked an hour in an Escape Room. We drove into the city, to the seventh floor of a high-rise. Our host locked our coats in a closet and briefed us the Escape Room. We would have an hour to collect clues, piece together the life of 17th century pirate Bartholomew Roberts, get to his hidden treasure chest, and relieve ourselves from 28-square-feet of pirate kitsch captivity. We signed a waiver and locked ourselves in the room.

A fish net hung on one wall, a map of x-marked oceanic trade routes on another. On the floor a thin layer of dust covered treasure chests of all sizes. Next to the door stood a wooden desk, lacquered to a glossy finish, presumably with the sweat and tears of captives sentenced to walk the plank. Opposite the locked door, the clock ticked down from 60:00. It marked the time we had to find the treasure chest and get out.

Behind the desk sat the Roberts’ skeleton. It was plastic and contained somewhere deep in its cavities the secrets of his uncertain comings and goings. Where had he been when? What happened on the way? Why was he there? How did he die? The answers were dispersed on these 28 square feet. We needed them to get out.

There were clues hidden in treasure chests. There were adhesive snowflakes on the walls, grouped according to color to form an arrow pointing in a direction of later significance. There was a hidden passage to a second room, also approximately 28 square feet large, which could only be accessed via chimney-sized hidden door, which could only be opened by stroking a magnetic ring over top of a map according to the directions designated by the adhesive snowflakes. Later there was a third hidden room. The whole thing was complex, low-budget and a little arbitrary.

There were security cameras in the room which monitored us. Occasionally we would get stuck, and the clock would continue ticking, and our host would sense our collective unease and slide a few clues under the door in an envelope, like Chris Harrison delivers the group date assignments on The Bachelor®. Whenever time was running low, my brother David would call it out from the other room.

12 minutes.

By the time there were less than 10 minutes left, we had made it the third and final room. There were four diamonds of different colors hanging in the four corners of the room, and a web of lasers, which itself was protected by a gate, protecting a treasure chest, the treasure chest. We had found a laser pointer in the second room, and thanks to a propitious hidden envelope, knew to shine the laser into the face of each one of the diamonds to open the way to the gate to open the way to the lasers. My brother-in-law Brian initiated the lasers at each one of the diamonds, and the gate swing wide.

4 minutes.

My sister Elisabeth shimmied through the lasers. The rest of us, except for David, stayed back and shouted the ways she should move her body. David stayed in the first room and called out the time.

2 minutes.

Elisabeth made it through the lasers. My brother-in-law tossed her a key and she opened the treasure chest. The host opened the door and congratulated us. We escaped. We high-fived, picked up the plastic swords, eye-patches, and other kitch we had disheveled in hunting for clues, and got ready to drive back into the suburbs. We thanked the host for sliding us the secret hints and then pretending like he didn’t help us at all after we had escaped. We made it out thanks to him.

We had to collect our coats before we left. They were padlocked in a closet and the host was still talking to my mom in the Escape Room so we had to wait. David was impatient, so he took the padlocked, thumbed through the digits, and, without any prior knowledge of the code, opened the door.
I looked at my dad, who was looking at David.

Did he just open the closet?

How did you know how to do that David?

The host joined us from the other room.

How did you get your coats?

David turned and smiled.
I don’t know how we got out.

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