Escape Doug’s Room – The New Yorker
Welcome to the Escape Doug’s Room experience. While there are plenty of escape rooms where you and your friends can pay to kill a few hours solving puzzles and answering riddles rather than talking to one another about anything meaningful, Escape Doug’s Room provides something truly unique. Because Doug’s room isn’t a sterile, corporate facsimile of a room—it’s an authentic living environment, and it is not for the faint of heart. So, are you ready? That was a trick question: you must be ready, because we’ve already begun, and you, my friend, are already Doug.
The goal, of course, is to escape the room, but that is easier said than done, for you will face such trials as you have never faced before. Behold the ringing telephone on the desk. It’s your mother, Doug. She wants to know how you are, but such pleasantries are almost certainly a ploy to trap you into having a conversation about whether you’re dating anyone and why you avoid talking to your hyper-masculine father, whom you could never please. You could ignore the ringing phone, but what if, in addition to making you feel inadequate and weak, your mother provides you with an essential clue? Are you willing to take that risk, Doug? Are you?
You could simply turn the doorknob and exit the room the same way you entered, of course, but consider the possibility that your roommate may be watching “Love Actually” with his girlfriend on your living-room couch. If he is, we all know how hard it will be for you to restrain yourself from commenting on what a stupid movie it is, which will only further alienate you from your roommate’s girlfriend, who is already uncomfortable around you because you once accidentally walked in on her peeing and stood there in shock for a full two seconds before saying, “Oh, you’re in here,” and slowly retreating. In short, leaving through the door is not an option.
Perhaps, while you’re stuck in here anyway, you should get around to sending out that stack of résumés. You’ve been meaning to do it for months. You even have the addresses in a spreadsheet on your computer. All you’d have to do is open the Excel file, open Gmail, tweak your general cover letter for each company—oops, I can see that you’ve already lost interest and have opened your mini fridge to see whether the half pint of Ben & Jerry’s you left in the tiny freezer compartment three weeks ago is still edible. I guess you’ll never know if sending out those résumés would have unlocked the secret door in the back of the dresser that led to the clue that—dude, it’s covered in ice and has a gummy film around the rim. Just throw it away already!
O.K., look, it seems like you could use some help escaping this room. Nothing to be ashamed about. Might I suggest using the notepad on your bedside table to make a list of the pros and cons of leaving? Who knows? Maybe doing so will release a spring in the drawer that will open up a secret panel that will reveal a key that will unlock the safe that contains the marble you need to drop into the maze on the wall to unlatch the lock on the window and set you free. Maybe that would happen, or maybe you’d just realize that even if you did escape you’d still have crippling student debt, inadequate work experience, social anxiety, and a wart on your left heel that just won’t go away.
Come to think of it, escaping this room seems more and more like a futile challenge set up to distract you from your personal and professional failures. And it’s not like the world outside this room is that much better. Between the rising tide of populist nationalism and global warming, even if you do succeed in leaving, you’ll have, like, twenty, thirty years—tops—to enjoy your success before either a nuclear war wipes us all out or the melting ice caps cause mass flooding.
Either outcome would most likely lead to the extinction of humanity, except for the privileged few who can afford to launch themselves into space in some sort of self-sustaining ecosystem. You could probably just stay in this room and await the inevitable end. Just make due with the freezer-burned half pint of Chunky Monkey and rewatch “Arrested Development.” Probably no one would even miss you if you never got out of here. Except, maybe, your mother. Whom you should call back. Because she really does have the first clue you need to escape. I’m serious. Pick up the phone. Now. Or not. Hey, it’s your fifty bucks, Doug.