After an adventurous visit with my two daughters, Amy and Leah, in the Phoenix area, the final leg and last stop on my trip west was to San Diego and a visit with daughter number three, Tristen and her roommate Kristen. Coincidentally, my sister, Karen attended a wedding in San Francisco and afterwards flew down to stay with us for a few days as she didn’t want to just jump on a plane and head back home. We ended up having a really good time in San Diego. All along Tristen had said, “There’s so much to see and do all within 15 minutes in any direction.” So we scratched plans to drive to Joshua Tree National Park and took in all we could right here. One thing a lot of people do (and we were almost those people) is to try to do too much while on vacation and forget to relax and be in the moment. It turned out to be the best decision. So now here it was, our last night. The plan was to do something a little different.

The adventure, as I’ll call it, was previously set up with some people from Tristen and Kristen’s work (the two are travel nurses at the local hospital). So a total of eight of us were to meet up at a downtown area at 6:00pm. We were told we would be part of a game. We didn’t know any more about the details but we thought it sounded fun. We didn’t want to appear to be old fuddy duddies. We only knew the adventure of the game was that we were to be put into a locked room and try to get out in one hour using only problem-solving abilities. My sister and I were all for it. Tristen and Kristen knew several of the people but the others they did not know. We were each coming into this with not knowing the problem-solving skills of any one.

We arrived at the right place at the right time. Looking up from the sidewalk we noticed a picture window with the word, “ESCAPISM” on it. We guessed that it was the place but the door to get there was locked. Was this the way it begins? Hmm.

We introduced ourselves to the others that had arrived. They were all twenty-somethings but Karen and I felt we could do our part, too. The door was now open and the game host invited us upstairs. It was still a mystery as we were led into a large room. Lockers were provided since nothing could be taken into the room. He went over the rules but it really didn’t make sense (to me anyway) since we had no idea what we were challenged to do. First, he laid out 8 cards for us to choose and the one person who picked the joker was the ‘one’. This person when the time came for a certain maneuver was the only one allowed to handle the situation. We would know when the time came is what we were told. Basically we had to solve an abundance of clues and then retrieve more clues in order to find the ultimate key that would let us out of the room all before time was up. If we felt we needed to move something we could only use two fingers if not then it was not part of the game and something could break. We were only given a piece of paper and a pen. We had one hour to figure it all out, the clock began and the door to the room was locked. If we needed a clarification we all had to raise a hand to signal the need for the game host to step into the room. So here we were enclosed in a white walled room with a big clock ticking down the time. The ceiling was open with an assortment of hanging lights. The game host had a window and could communicate with us if needed. One wall had a bee hive pattern with numbers, another had a lengthy poem with kind of doomsday words painted on the wall, another had a floor to ceiling floral painting of flowers, birds, etc. on the back wall which was sealed. The fourth wall had a few scattered images. Around the room were about eight boxes all painted white and all with an attached padlock or combination lock. There was also a life sized mannequin bust painted with shapes on a pedestal and a large box with an attached array of cylinders.

We needed to work somehow as a team. But right away a young woman took charge and proceeded to point out number combinations and in what order. It was math and science equations using the right sequence. One box was opened. In it were postcards of other clues. Karen proceeded to try to work one of the locks to just see if it would open. I was still standing around in a daze trying to get a sense of the whole thing. The bee hive number combination was in a pattern that only you could figure out the more it was analyzed. Meanwhile the clock was ticking. Who knew what happened at the end if we didn’t make it out on time? On one of the cards there was a black painted X and some numbers. I happened to notice a lock on a box with the same X. Sure enough we opened it to more clues. Another box got opened while this was going on and there was a clue card and a long cord with a thick end. Someone decided it was a magnet and proceeded to put it in the open mouth of the bust on the pedestal. When nothing happened she removed it went on to something else. The others were all engaged in various puzzles of number and letters on other walls. A book appeared in one of the boxes that was opened and provided more clues. Karen and I just let them have control since 4 of the 8 of us playing the game were distinctive Type A people. I held on to three cards which had pictures of a glass jar of beads, a telephone and the number 8. I was clueless. No one else had any idea either. The others kept on towards another path of clues. The clock was at the halfway mark. We had 30 minutes left. Suddenly one Type A girl decided to call for help and we all raised our hands. The game host came in and gave us a suggestion on how to figure out one of the problems and left. It worked.

Tristen went back to the mannequin bust with the cord and being a nurse she felt the cord wasn’t down the esophagus far enough since she has done this a number of times on patients. Voila! She drew it back up with a key attached which opened the largest box in the room. Sure enough it had a switch to something and when activated the lighting in the room dimmed, black lights were on and each box now showed a pattern of colors on which had been previously painted but was only visible now. Another twist.

I still held on to the three cards without a reason as to why. Karen and I hung back as the others kibitzed with each other. A clue revealed a switch which opened a part of the wall like a door. In the darkness was an old poster hung on one side, and around the corner was a pay phone. The shoes on the poster were a clue to a box. While a few were figuring this out another one went in and picked up the receiver for a split second, put it down and walked out. Meanwhile Tristen and Kristen were thinking and investigating other clue options. Tristen went back over to the phone, picked it up and paused because she thought someone was speaking but it was so faint. She came out and told me that the voice said, “You’re all going to die.” Okay that was creepy. What kind of clue is that? So while the others were in their own whirlwind I held up what I had been holding all along; the picture of a phone and the number 8. We looked around the room and there on one wall was the creepy doomsday poster with those words as part of a poem. Each word had one number under it. Also a large number 8 was creatively drawn in the background. Next to it was the clock. We had only seven minutes left. What box to open with this strange clue? Time to panic.

Kristen had noticed a box painted with colorful swirls resembling birds. On the poster were also colorful swirls. The numbers were used and the box opened to reveal a heavy, round piece of metal with a hummingbird painted on it. Four minutes to go. We looked around the room for a sign. Would it jump out at us please? We’re almost done for and who knows what our fate will be? Then Tristen went calmly over to the back of the room where the floor to ceiling floral painting was. There on it was a subtle open spot near the floor. She walked over and placed the piece there. It was a magnet which opened another part of the wall to reveal a moveable set of stairs. There was one box left and it was perched on top of the faux wall. Now it was only the joker who could go from here. We assumed the stairs were to get the box, so she rolled it out, climbed up and took it down.

We had two minutes to go. This was it. Do or die. In the box were random items and a glass jar of beads. I jumped up and showed the card with the picture of the glass jar of beads that I had held on to all this time. The joker shook the jar and in it was a key.

We jumped up and ran for the door and sure enough, the key was the right one. Whew!! We lived to tell the tale and ESCAPED.