Sometimes the best moments of joy are the ones you aren’t expecting.
It’s the evening of the first day of the cruise. We’ve already had a fantastic day of catamaran-ing, snorkeling, ocean swimming, beach time, sunny weather, and rum punches. We’ve had a scrumptious dinner with the kind of service one gets on a cruise at 50% capacity. And now… now we’ve decided to try an escape room.
You can see the sincere look of trepidation, dare I say panic, on Katherine’s face in this picture. An envelope full of puzzles, a box with six complicated locks, and 45 minutes to finish them? I love doing puzzles, but I’m usually doing them solo. This is not her jam. Nor is it really Peter’s. Jack has occasionally enjoyed puzzling with me, but he is unproven. No other help was coming; our family was our team. I was hoping we’d figure out a few of the locks before the 45 minutes were up.
Instead? We won the whole thing, with 3 minutes to spare.
The envelope was full of laminated comic book covers, each with a puzzle on the front, and a cryptogram (which I immediately attacked, because I enjoy them). Jack tackled an observation puzzle that involved finding three numbers outlined by cracked windows on the background skyscrapers. Katherine solved one that required putting sentences in the right order, then solved another puzzle that required counting the points on the weapons of the unmasked villains on the cover. As Jack tried the uncovered numbers from those puzzles on the various locks, Peter and I solved one that required putting comic book words like BAM and OOF and CRASH into the gaps of several sentences. We collaborated, too — I identified that a puzzle required spotting capitalized letters in sentenes, but Katherine and Peter pointed out the letters in the title that I had missed. One by one the locks fell, until all six locks were gone, leaving one more locked box on the inside and a bunch of comic book “starbursts” for which my cryptogram had an enigmatic hint about counting the points of each burst. It was Peter who identified that the contraption which had held all the locks could be overlayed on the final comic book cover to highlight five symbols, which Jack found on the final lock. Then it required all of us staring at the starbursts, puzzling over the clue about putting them in descending order to find a phone number. We had a few false starts before we uncovered the answer — matching the starbursts with the ones on the various comic book covers, and putting the number found in each (“Issue #9!” “Cost: 5 cents!” “March 7!”) in order to get the final phone number.
The cruise director running the event may have been super impressed, but not nearly as impressed as I was. Though some of the puzzles weren’t too bad, take together, this was not a trivial challenge! It required observation, problem solving, collaboration, imagination, ideation, and teamwork. And we all surprised ourselves with our ability to complete it. It was a phenomenal evening capstone to a morning and afternoon of reveling in our choice of vacation.
Unexpected joy on top of an already joyful day. Our cup overflows. Joy begets joy.