I’m gutting an early-edition Xbox with a crowbar on the second floor of a corporate office park just north of Atlanta.
Its metallic innards crunch beneath my feet as I reach for a Pellegrino bottle — one of those giant ones — and launch it like an emerald javelin across the room, shattering it against a giant bull’s-eye on the opposite wall.
Then I casually toss a plate in the air — like my Little League coach used to do — before reducing it to fine particles with an aluminum baseball bat.
This is The Break Room, one of three “rage rooms” in the U.S. where customers are provided protective equipment — a helmet, goggles and gloves — and their “weapon” of choice — a bat, lead pipe and 7-iron, among many other tools capable of Hulk-like smashing — to release their fury over the course of 15 to 20 minutes. (The other two rage rooms — The Anger Room and The Wrecking Club — are in Texas and Manhattan respectively.)
I’m hardly rageful; more like a lazy golden retriever. But I do live in a constant state of angst — that I shouldn’t have said that thing to that woman; that I’ll miss a deadline and lose my job; that I peaked at age 19 — which creates a not insignificant amount of combustible pressure within me.
Perhaps then it’ll be released by heaving this plate against the wall like in American Beauty?
I’ve selected the “Large” package for $45, which appears to include an Xbox from 2002 and 16 items that didn’t find a buyer at my Aunt Edna’s tag sale.
“We have anything and everything that you’d want to destroy,” explains a Break Room employee. “TVs, fax machines, glassware, beer bottles, trinkets we find at thrift stores. You also can pay an additional price to bring your own things, which is popular among divorcees.”
Like the group of sweaty, 30-something ex-wives emerging from the Break Room as I enter. “It’s badass,” one of them says, handing me a sledgehammer.
People are usually skeptical when they come in, explains Patrick, my destruction sherpa, “but they’re often transformed when they leave and say it’s better than trying to channel energy through yoga and exercise.”
Patrick invites me to use the Sharpie and paper hanging on the Break Room wall to tape the name of a vindictive ex or dick boss on an item before destroying it. This way, he explains, “instead of actually hurting the person, you’re projecting those emotions on a piece of paper!”
It sounds better, though, than what science has found, at least according to Raymond Novaco, a professor of psychology and social behavior at the University of California, Irvine who has been a leading researcher of anger and violent behavior for more than 20 years. “I have little positive to say about this type of ‘recreational destruction,’” he says. “There could be value, but only as a short-term goal to prevent actually hurting somebody at home or at work and only with a plan to constructively address underlying problems or frustrations. Psychotherapeutic use of catharsis is very different from venting and violence as entertainment, the latter having become all too problematic.”
That’s because, he explains, repeatedly engaging in such activities could serve as a “rehearsal” of sorts, making you more likely to actually take a sledgehammer to your dick boss’s Beemer when you combust — for whatever reason.
Nonetheless, it’s a risk thousands have fearlessly undertaken here at the Break Room, where Buffalo Wild Wings has supplied old jukeboxes with multiple flat screens which, for $50, can be yours to disembowell.
By the time Patrick sounds the two-minute warning I look like I’ve completed a 90-minute Bikram yoga class. Breathless and sweaty, I opt for a few farewell hacks at the Xbox with a crowbar on the way out, which is immensely satisfying.
I return to my hotel mildly calloused and sore, as though I’d had a quick workout — a welcome perception. And there is, undeniably, something awesome about breaking shit. But it’d be a stretch to call it game-changing.
Point being, the worldly possessions of my boss and exes are safe — for now.