Four years ago, I was celebrating a friend’s birthday at an activity centre in Toronto. By the reception desk, we noticed a video stream of two men in a room. One was throwing empty wine bottles to the other, who was then obliterating them with a baseball bat. We could hear the shattering noises, and we stood transfixed. I felt an urge to go inside and smash some glass myself.
I handed over the cash and put on protective overalls and a mask, before venturing into the rage room with a friend. Our half-hour session was surreal. We started tentatively but were soon giving it everything. We teed up bottles on a pedestal, and destroyed a printer; we tried all the weapons – hammers, baseball bats, tennis rackets, an axe – and jokingly suggested rage-inducing scenarios. “Imagine finding your boyfriend in bed with your cousin,” I told my friend. By the end, I knew I would be back.
Within a month, I was going at least once a week; since that first session I have spent CA$6,000, the equivalent of €4,000, in rage rooms. I have a mild case of Peter Pan syndrome, and a reputation as the wacky adventurer of our group, so none of my friends was concerned about my new hobby. At the beginning, I would do a light session of about fifteen minutes, mostly with glass bottles, but I soon progressed to longer sessions of about forty minutes with heavier goods such as printers and television sets. These days, I get a discount.
It was partly the stresses of work that led me to the rage room. I am an entertainer trying to catch a break in film and television, but I still need to pay the rent. Standup comedy, music video production and small acting roles help me get by. I also provide services such as casting and consulting through my production company. The work is great, but it can be frustrating to be denied a bigger slice of stardom. Last year, I had six auditions for a role in a TV show before learning that someone else got the part. In the rage room, all kinds of images came into my head: the script, the audition waiting room, the feedback. I let a lot go, that day.
Romantic pressures also play a part. I see friends settling down, getting married, starting families. Dates bring heavy expectation – women my age want to meet “the one”. Each encounter feels as if it should be the last. It is stressful.
Coincidentally, the rage room is a great place to take a date. Going as a pair makes you more creative. You play games, get competitive, see who can get the cleanest strike.
There is beauty in the destruction: fractures emerging on a plastic printer; jagged cracks running along TV screens; stitches bursting loose from upholstery. Some objects are more resistant than others, which seem designed to break at the slightest touch. My favourite weapon is the crowbar – it has a nice weight, like a sword. Baseball bats also feel good. Sometimes I put on the Game Of Thrones music as I bring the weapons down, ruining any microwave that dares to defy me.
Before discovering the rage room, I tried all kinds of ways to deal with stress: karaoke, trampoline, the gym. Going to the gym is about getting healthy, looking good, but when I’m smashing up toasters, the intent is different. When I behave like a caveman, I leave any negativity behind.
The rage room is a place of honest reflection. During one session, a year and a half after a break-up, the words of my ex came into my head: “I just don’t think you put enough effort into this relationship.” I thought this criticism was unfair. In a flash of inspiration and broken glass, I realised I had been holding on to that thought for too long.
If the rage room has taught me anything, it is that I am not an angry person. I don’t experience rage before, during or after a session. The whole process feels like a calm and controlled release. It is extremely liberating. I think everyone could use a visit.