Rage rooms are a thing, popping up around the country over the last year. The idea is simple. The rage room is a place where you pay to break things. Glasses and beer bottles are just the beginning. You can sledgehammer a car. Baseball bat a printer. Take an ax to a piano. You can bring in the framed photos of your ex and take a hammer to them.
There are rage rooms in New York and Dallas and now Colorado Springs. Here it’s called Anger Management, and its slogan outlines the idea concisely: “You smash it, we trash it.”
I should admit that, at least at first, I was on the fence about the idea. I don’t know if smashing stuff really results in a more tranquil state of mind. Maybe if you feel like destroying things most of the time, it would feel pretty good to visit a place where that is acceptable. On the other hand, perhaps it’s exactly the wrong thing to do-sledgehammering stuff in a rage room might make you think it’s somehow OK to do elsewhere.
But I had to give it a try. No sooner had I called Anger Management than my cousin Iris pulled up in my driveway. She lives in D.C., so this was a surprise.
“What are you doing here?” I said. “Are you on vacation?”
“You could say that,” she said. “I got divorced. Actually, first I had cancer, and then I got divorced.”
I didn’t know what to say. Probably I should have said how sorry I was. Instead, I said: “I’m going to a rage room.”
“I’m coming,” she said.
On the road, she mapped “Anger Management” on her phone and turned on the radio. “Smashing stuff needs a soundtrack,” she said.
“Classical or metal?” I said.
“Both,” she said, tuning in KCME. At the same time, she began playing Metallica on her phone. “This is totally fresh,” she said. “Totally fresh!”
Soon we pulled up in front of a disconcertingly respectable office building. “You sure this is the place?” I said.
She checked her phone. This was apparently the place “OK,” I said. “Let’s go smash stuff.”
An office door inside read Anger Management. A professionally-dressed woman sat behind the desk.
“We’re here to smash stuff,” I told her.
She nodded slowly. “Talking about it is a good first step.”
“This is the wrong place,” said Iris, catching onto the fact that this was, in fact, an actual anger management therapy clinic.
“I’ll find a doctor who can see you right away,” the receptionist said.
We got out of there as fast as we could. The Anger Management place we were looking for is on East Fillmore. Inside it looks a little like a cross between a dungeon, a playground and the sort of music venue where the Sex Pistols got their start.
Once inside we met the owners, Camille Kroskey and Tyson Swa. About a year ago they were driving across the country when they heard a radio story about a rage room. “I need that room,” Camille told Tyson. “I can’t be the only one who wants to break stuff.” A few months later-January 2018-Anger Management opened its doors to the public.
“Let’s get you two suited up,” said Tyson, leading us into the next room.
Suiting up involved three things: mechanic’s coveralls, heavy-duty gloves, and goggles or a facemask. “When you start breaking stuff,” Tyson warned, “who knows what’ll happen.”
Next came choosing our breakables. We were led into a room that looked a little like a thrift store. There were glasses, mugs, vases of all shapes and sizes, old windows, clocks, even a large ceramic Mickey Mouse.
“The Mouse is extra,” Tyson advised.
Iris selected a series of plates and glasses, a clock, some bottles. “And this gentleman will send a baseball through a window,” she said pointing at me.
“Excellent,” said Camille.
Tyson went to set things up, and Camille invited us to take a few swings with a sledgehammer at a car with a New England Patriots logo emblazoned on the hood. Still unsure if this was something I wanted to do, I said I would pass, but Iris got into it. “I hate the Patriots,” she said, picking up the hammer.
A few minutes later she was sweating and out of breath. “This is a workout,” she said.
“Divorced?” I said. “And cancer?”
She shook her head. “It’s a long story.”
Before she could tell it, Tyson let us know that our breakables and electronics-a printer and a coffee maker-were ready for us.
“When I got sick,” Iris said, “all I wanted to do when I got home was smash all the dishes in my house. I was that angry.”
She picked up a plate and hurled it at the wall. It shattered into a million pieces. “That felt good.” She picked up another plate, then a glass, and hurled both against the wall.
“Here,” she said, handing me a glass vase.
I thought about saying I wasn’t interested, but there was part of me that was. I threw the vase as hard as I could at the wall and watched as it shattered.
I’m not sure what it was-the sound of its explosion, or the feeling of it leaving my hand, or knowing that I was somehow breaking a rule-but the feeling was totally liberating. I picked up the baseball and got ready to hurl it through my window. “Metal or classical?” I asked.
“Both,” Iris said.
“We can do that,” said Tyson. “We can totally do that!”