We all need a friend that helps us step out of our comfort zone. They are the type of person who throws some uneasiness at you to help you grow as a person. Hopefully, you have one of those. But has yours ever told you “I will ruin you”? My friend, Kim, has said that to me because she is my tear down your comfort zone and force you to eat it friend. Kim’s objective is making sure I never feel comfortable for too long and that is how she got me kidnapped by a psychopathic, nymphomaniac serial killer.
Okay, so it wasn’t a real psychopathic, nymphomaniac serial killer, but according to my anxiety attacks, it might as well have been. A month or so prior to our kidnapping, Kim had invited me to a place where you get locked in a room with a zombie and you have to solve clues without being caught by the undead. That invitation was declined. I repeatedly asked her if she thought that was her idea of a good time, and she insisted that it was. That is when I realized the zombie had clearly eaten her brain.
So when she planned a double date night I was leery of her plans.
“What are we doing?” I asked.
“Don’t worry about it,” she said.
“Is it dressy? Should I wear a dress?” I uncork a bottle of my self-prescribed anti-anxiety “medication”.
“No, you won’t need a dress.”
“Should I wear running shoes?” I take a few sips of the now opened Pinot Noir.
“Stop worrying about it.”
Mark and I met Kim and Kevin in San Francisco, at a bar near Mark’s work. The bar was called Pink Elephant, an innocuous name for the beginning of the evening. Kim went on to explain that we were participating in something like the zombie event, a locked room with clues on how to escape. As Kim talked, I looked around the full bar and thought, “I bet none of these people have friends who want to kill them.”
While Mark asked Kim more questions about the place, Kevin leaned over and told me, “Kim said she didn’t tell you what we were doing on purpose- because she knew you would freak out.” I mimed breathing into a paper bag.
Kim heard this and stopped talking to Mark. Turning to me, she said, “I get a lot of joy out of fucking with you.” And this is someone I consider a good friend.
After a much too short Uber drive to the lower Nob Hill neighborhood, we arrived at the place. The Paniq Room hosts parties of 2-6 people and offers a delightful variety of rooms known as “Jail,” “Geek,” and our room, called “Sicko.” The “Jail” room is self-explanatory but I assume without the pruno in the toilet. In the new “Geek” room, you are stuck working and you have to find an investment check before your time runs out. (Unless that check is real, I will be skipping this one.) And lastly there was our room, “Sicko,” which will be described in more detail later.
The first place I checked out was the restroom because Kim made sure I had a couple of drinks before embarking on this. By the time I had finished, a gentleman wearing a blue shirt (henceforth will be known as Blue) was talking to Mark about the waiver we all had to sign. And I did as I was told because I always want to be perceived as cooperative, even in a mock kidnapping. I let my party be aware that if anyone came up and grabbed me, I would scream. That is when Kevin, a practitioner of Jiu-jitsu, showed me what I should do to the arm of someone who grabs me.
In the waiting room, there is a coffee table full of puzzle games like Rubik’s cubes and a chessboard. I suppose those are for you to feel superior if you win at them and potentially ready to take on the mind of a serial rapist. Also in the room are motivational sayings, none of which helped me.
There was also a smaller section, separated from the entrance room by a covered window, which was about the size of the walk-in closet I want in my house. The door was open (or maybe missing) so Kim and I took a peek inside. There was another gentleman in there wearing a red shirt (henceforth known as Red). Red was at the command center apparently, because in front of him was a monitor with feed from multiple cameras. This would allow Red to watch what was happening and help us (or laugh at us). It was voyeuristic and perverted and in an odd way, made me feel safer.
Blue started explaining the game. Sicko, a stalker/ nymphomaniac/killer, has kidnapped us. We have one hour to use various clues to figure out how to escape from his apartment. Should we get freaked out and need to exit the room, there is a red box on the wall that has the key. “Don’t open that unless someone absolutely needs to get out,” he says, as Kim and Kevin point at me. I continued listening, feeling insulted but comforted by the fact that I was with people who know me so well. Blue also told us that anything with a sticker that displayed a hand with a line through it meant that there were no clues in there and those shouldn’t be touched. “Just what a psycho would want you to think,” I thought.
“And who wants to hold this?” Blue asked, handing a walkie-talkie to Kim’s outstretched hand. “You can use these to contact us if you get stuck. When Sicko is approaching his apartment, you will hear this sound.” A shrill ringing emitted from the walkie-talkie. “You have to find somewhere to hide- and not standing up with your hand blocking your face- or Sicko will grab you and chain you up for the duration of the game.”
“Did you hear that Stacy?” Kim asked, her little faith in me waning.
“Joke’s on you- I like to be tied up,” I answered, my nervousness coming out of me in the form of an immature joke. From in the control room, Red started clapping. I put my head back in the game and said, “What does this Mr. Sicko look like?” I asked Blue.
“A lot like me,” he answered. “Are you ready?”
We followed Blue down a white, non-descript hallway. As he opened the door, we all walked in and headed in different directions. Kim immediately opened the box you weren’t supposed to, further cementing in my mind that she wouldn’t even put the lotion in the basket. The room wasn’t big, 300 or so square feet and it consisted of an L-shaped kitchen, a glass coffee table, a leather chair and sofa, and a cabinet with a “no touch sticker” on it. All over the floor were condoms, mostly unopened; on the wall was graphic graffiti. It looked like the apartment from every guy I dated in the 90’s.
I have no desire to write about the puzzles and various things we had to solve because I don’t do spoilers. Sicko did come in twice but we were all able to hide- I got to second base with Kim when she and I both hid behind the couch. Through a team effort, we were able to unlock the door in 35 minutes. (The record was 21; we were just proud that we were able to solve the clues to get out.) Our separate strengths worked well for our team. Kim found many of the clues. Kevin and Mark solved the puzzles quickly. And yours truly scored well on a quiz about porn and serial killers that in turn gave us a code to a lock. When finished, Blue showed us the collar he would have put us in had we been caught (which Kim tried on voluntarily). He also gave us the helpful information that there was a bar half a block up, in case we needed it.
So we sat in Aces where we had a post-kidnapping analysis. We talked about the red herrings in the room plus the cheats that weren’t supposed to happen but had worked out for us. We were thankful for the drinks and food beforehand, as we were much more relaxed because of them. We made a mental note that it would probably be difficult to have performed that while stoned, as all the walkie-talkie would be used less for help calls and more for “Hey- can we get some pizza?” questions. We patted ourselves on the back for the awesome team effort, drank our drinks, and went home to our own houses that have Legos tossed on the floor instead of condoms.
The next day, I got an email from Kim that said that she purchased tickets for one more session at the Paniq Room. I am looking forward to another night of Kim, bubbling over in joy out of fucking with me. We are leaning towards trying the “Jail” room for our second adventure. In the meantime, I am going to learn how to fashion a shiv out of a wine bottle.