Mission Impossible: My brave escape from an Escape Room

Mission Impossible: My brave escape from an Escape Room

Escape Room - locked doorLast weekend I did something new and different. I tried a new adventure called an Escape Room. For the uninitiated, escape rooms are the latest fad activity in which they lock 8 to 14 people in a room. The group is given clues and puzzles to solve in order to make their escape. I’m a puzzle person.  Sounded like a fun outing.

I invited thirteen of my closest, soon-to-be-ex-friends to join me. The theme of our escape room was Jules Verne’s classic novel, 20,000 Leagues under the Sea. Our mission: Find the key to escape before our submarine, the Nautilus, ran out of air.

Being a natural-born leader, I assumed the part of legendary Captain Nemo and immediately took charge of this mission. I’m not sure precisely when the mutiny began. It might have been when I ordered my crew to report every five minutes with any new clues they had unearthed. Or maybe it was when I ordered them to swab the decks. Group morale is such a touchy thing.

Turns out escaping from an escape room is an extremely difficult challenge. We had to solve a myriad of puzzles to unlock boxes, only to find inside even more enigmatic puzzles. As the Captain, I quickly came to two important realizations: 1) getting out of this escape room was going to require enormous brain power and concentration, and 2) I did not bring nearly enough money to bribe the staff to tell me what the clues meant.

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My Visit to Whimsical Chumleighland

My Visit to Whimsical Chumleighland

I recently took a trip back in time, and it did not require inventing a time machine or ingesting any hallucinatory drugs. I simply drove ten miles to a quirky, iconoclastic place in the middle of nowhere called Chumleighland in the Woods. It was named in honor of its owner, Reverend Chumleigh – who, I soon discovered, is not an actual reverend nor is that his real name. So why is it called Chumleighland? Heck if I know. Why did God make the Duck-Billed Platypus? There are some questions to which we may never find the answer.

What a fascinating, strange visit it turned out to be. My wife and I had seen small ads in the local newspaper about this odd-sounding place hidden away in the forest near the southern tip of our island. We had no idea what to expect. We followed Google Maps but when it announced, “You have arrived,” we could not locate anything resembling a building, a park, or even traces of previous human contact. 

Suddenly, I spied a tiny sliver of a clearing in the woods, barely wide enough for a refrigerator, with a closed gate. Then out of the thicket emerged an older chap with long grey hair and a scraggly beard. He gave off a Gandalf meets Jerry Garcia kind of vibe. He donned a t-shirt that read “It’s Mueller Time” and featured a cartoon rendering of Robert Mueller in cool-looking sunglasses. “Do you know how we get to Chumleighland?” I asked uncertainly. “Just drive into the grove. Park anywhere and follow the torches. Oh, and watch out for the cats.” That was my introduction to the good Reverend Chumleigh.

We parked by a massive oak tree, as there was no parking lot. Dutifully, we followed the torch-lit path, which meandered beside a miniature train track, like what you’d see at a children’s petting zoo. “Oh, the train should be running again by next week. I just have to clear some felled trees,” explained our ebullient host. Somehow that almost made sense to me. Continue reading “My Visit to Whimsical Chumleighland” »

Being a People Pleaser Can Get You into Trouble

Being a People Pleaser Can Get You into Trouble

[WARNING: This blog post contains a visual image which some readers may find offensive and which could cause nightmares. Elderly people, young children and readers with weak constitutions may wish to avoid proceeding further.]

There is something seriously wrong with me. No, I’m not talking about my moderate OCD. Or my phobia of snakes. Or that I listen to Gregorian Chants – even though each one sounds exactly the same.

No, I have an even deeper personality flaw: I’m a chronic people pleaser. Throughout my life, I’ve been hard-wired to want to please people and have sometimes gone to ridiculous lengths not to disappoint them. A few cases in point (all of these are true):

In high school, the class I hated the most was Latin. But my teacher, Mr. Vandenberg, really liked having me as a student. So, at the end of the year, he asked if I’d sign up for Latin 2. I swore I would NEVER take Latin 2. But I caved, because I did not want to disappoint him – which is why I also took Latin 3 the year after that.

In college, I always gave my roommate the bed closest to the window. In grad school, I offered my apartment mate the nicer bedroom. Not because I was a great guy, but because I wanted them to like me.

Once when I was a sales manager my team had a record-breaking quarter. I took them out to celebrate. The reps only wanted one thing from me at the party: to watch me smoke a fat eight-inch cigar they’d bought just for the occasion. I don’t smoke. I’d never smoked anything stronger than a candy cigarette before that moment. But they all were cheering me on, and well, I didn’t want to disappoint. So, I puffed, gasped and choked my way through the entire cigar. It was torture. And they loved that I was a good sport. Then I excused myself to the bathroom so I could throw up.

A few years later, I was boarding a commercial jetliner on a business trip with co-workers. One of them urged me to walk into the cockpit, hold out my boarding pass and tell the pilot with a straight face, “I believe you’re in my seat.” So, I did exactly as he asked. Thankfully, I was not arrested. But that may explain why I’m now on the terrorist watch list.

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A Night at the Opera

A Night at the Opera

opera-viking-ladyMy wife always complains we don’t do enough things to expand our cultural awareness. Somehow she does not consider The Big Bang Theory enough of an expansion – I keep telling her she’d learn some interesting factoids about particle physics if she just listened to a few Sheldon Cooper rants. Her needling me about my lack of cultural curiosity offends me deeply because I’m an extremely sophisticated, erudite person. As proof, I would point out my usage of the word “erudite” in the previous sentence (which I found on a Google search of obscure, smart-sounding words).

Last summer, my wife and I went to one of those fancy pants, highbrow movie theaters where we saw a Danish film with English sub-titles. Not trying to brag, but I made it almost two thirds of the way through. I even went to a snobby, avant-garde modern art gallery opening once for an exhibit that turned out to be a collection of wooden furniture covered in thousands of nails (I’m not making this up, I swear).

I can endure boring, elitist, over-priced entertainment as well as the next beaten down husband. I’ve gone to the ballet. I’ve stayed awake through several Shakespeare plays – and had a vague idea of who the bad guys were in a couple of them. I even survived a modern dance recital my wife roped me into in which each dancer represented a different vegetable. (I’m pretty sure the guy in the green leotards was a zucchini, but he might have been a cucumber.)

So, don’t tell me I’m not willing to expand my artistic horizons. But every man has a line he won’t cross. And for me, that line is OPERA – that is, until last night, when my wife told me, “Turn off CSI Miami. We’re going to the opera tonight.” Fortunately, I was already wearing my dress shorts.

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