One of the many things I admire about millennials is their willingness to invest in experiences rather than amassing material goods. So when I proposed that our millennial children try Forest Park’s new Escape Factor, they were immediately on board. One of them had already escaped from a room in Nashville and had the T-shirt to prove it.

We booked a reservation for eight, for the night of June 14. When we got to Madison Street, we had some time to kill, so we went next door for a beer. Big mistake. We would need all of our brain cells working in tip-top condition to escape the room. The family was fortunate to have a licensed private detective to help. 

We selected the one-hour escape experience. Owner Dexter Cura signed us up and went over the ground rules. I was relieved to learn we wouldn’t have to move any furniture, or climb on the furniture, to find a clue because I no longer move heavy objects, or climb on them. Dexter escorted us to the room and started the clock. He gave us a word we could chant, if we were hopelessly stuck and needed a hint.

The room was bizarrely decorated. It wasn’t scary. But it was eerie, like we were stuck in a Twilight Zone episode. I was eager to show off my detective skills but, as we started tackling mysteries, I realized there was going to be some math involved. My emotional block to math kicked in and I remained befuddled for the rest of the hour.

I was useless but amazed at how well my wife and kids worked together to solve a series of riddles and puzzles. Some of them had math skills, while others displayed logic and imagination. I did what I could to help out, by writing down their findings on a white board. It was the equivalent of playing catcher in 16-inch softball. Just about anyone could have played this position.

Meanwhile, the digital clock was ticking down. Now that we recognized the difficulty of our task, we feared we wouldn’t make it out in time. We were making one breakthrough after another but as the clock ran down, we became frantic. 

Our MVP had to be my son, Mark. Fresh from graduating college, his brain was still sharp from academia. His young mind was also not clouded by alcohol. Mark and the others were making startling discoveries. But a couple of times, we got desperate and chanted the magic word for a clue.  

Finally, our time ran out and Dexter explained the remaining mysteries. One of us thought we could have gotten out in 90 minutes. But if it had been left up to me, we’d still be in the room. Dexter said there was no shame in failure because only about 20 percent of the groups solve it. He then showed us their 30-minute room, which has a much higher success rate. He said they have plans afoot to build a new room. It will have a game-show theme and is being designed by Yearbook’s Jef Anderson.

My kids were very happy with the experience. Working together as a team is good for families, companies and other organizations. I think it’s an ideal exercise for our Boy Scouts, and I hear they have plans to try out Escape Factor. It could also be a team-building exercise for our village council members and politicians in general. 

Political differences are forgotten when we’re all working together to escape the same predicament. 

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.