A Series Of Unfortunate Events Completely Unrelated To That Book Series

Handcuffed and being walked by a stranger into a foreign room concealed entirely in blackness, one thought crossed my mind.

What could possibly go wrong?

In theory, a lot. But none of that matters, because none of it did go wrong. In a minute the lights turned back on and my friend and I were just where we expected to be—a 1920’s jail cell with various unusual artifacts for us to riffle through to discover how we were going to undo the handcuffs and escape our prison.

You never quite know what you are signing up for when you decide to go to an escape room. I’ve walked out of a hallway and into an 1850’s lighthouse keeper’s office—unaware that it was haunted. I’ve attempted to escape the brig of a pirate’s ship to alert my beloved town that it would be sacked at daybreak—unaware that I was going to have to use that god-forsaken invention of Morse code to do so. I can handle creepy special effects and handcuffs and maneuver a wide variety of combination locks, but don’t give me Morse code. It hurts my brain. But as I was saying…

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You Never Quite Know What You Are Signing Up For In An Escape Room, Or In Life In General

Escape rooms are unpredictable and fun and all, but relationships with all of us unique characters must make for the most exciting, plot-twisting adventures. After escaping the unexpected experience of handcuffs in darkness, blissfully unaware, I drove into the latter category.

Fresh out of the escape room, I drove my friend and I through your standard Florida summer thunderstorm. Summer was not going to give over to autumn without a fight, and so summer rain drops threw themselves fiendishly at my windshield while the angels were feverishly rolling bowling balls up in heaven. The sun was lost to that thick smear of gray that touched one horizon and stretched all the way to the other, with the occasional streak of dark blue, something like the casual stroke of a palette knife on canvas. It was the perfect backdrop for us to chatter excitedly as we came down from our escape room high.

I dropped my friend off at her door, unaware that she had left a small notebook on the passenger seat. That was Unfortunate Event Number One. And then I went home, once again blissfully unaware that Unfortunate Event Number Two was already simmering. The dark and rank bowels of my lovely home were silently churning, preparing for the inevitable eruption that would spew disgust and misery into my humble existence.

Dang That Was A Dramatic Sentence. I Think I’ve Always Wanted To Write One Like That

Unfortunate Event Number Two began to make itself apparent not more than a couple hours later. My daughter—not quite old enough to be trusted with an entire roll of toilet paper—had fairly well decorated the toilet bowl. The porcelain throne wouldn’t flush. This didn’t seem something too out of the ordinary. I went to bed after informing my husband. I am certain that there is something in the fine print of our marriage license that states all toilet problems will be handled by him. He has yet to get the magnifying glass out to confirm this.

In the morning the birds were singing and the sun was trying to sing through my window pane, and the world was glorious…until I went into the bathroom. There was a suspicious liquid, with a foul smell, that had settled itself contentedly an inch deep in my bathtub, and it had no intention of draining away. And then horror of horrors—it had come to call in the shower too!

I went to the living room, where my husband broke the bad news to me. The septic tank was full. And it was the weekend. He had to call the poop-pump-truck man’s emergency number. As the call was ringing, he wondered aloud if our situation fit the criteria of “only a true emergency.” The smell began to drift from the other bathroom as though in response.

In The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, the narrator talks about how much the Grinch hated the joyful sounds of the Whos. “Oh, the noise! Noise! Noise! NOISE!” In this case, with the same narrator emphasis we have “Oh, the smell! Smell! Smell! SMELL!”

“He says he can be here in two hours,” my husband said.

I decided to take a drive in the fresh air, and there on the passenger’s seat was the little spiral bound notebook belonging to my friend.

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And Thus, We Get Back To Unfortunate Event Number One

These eyes of mine have been literate for about thirty years now. These eyes of mine read signs without an instant of thought. They scan nametags and mailboxes without the slightest of concern as to whether or not said things may be privileged information—it just happens, in an instant.

That spiral notebook was folded over so that the middle of the book was on display, and in large writing that filled up the whole middle of the page—the sort of writing one does when scribbling notes while on the phone—were the words:

Uncontested: $6,000
Contested: $6,500

I was aware there had been a slight edge to my friend’s talk of her very long and primarily happy relationship with her husband, but divorce had never been on the horizon, at least as far as I knew. And now I knew, and I also knew that she would know that I knew. I then spent the next ten minutes significantly over thinking what ought to be thought.

I could close the book and give it back to her, and pretend that it had never been open to that page for my eyes to rest on. But there is the chance that she will remember she had it open already, and then my closing it could imply that I had tinkered with it, and maybe even riffled through the whole thing and seen who knows what. I could return it exactly as I found it—in complete honesty—and act nonchalant like I had not accidentally read the open page…not in complete honesty.

I decided that I would do just that—I would return it exactly as I found it. And so I did, assuming that she would just accept it back without even looking down at that horrid page and the topic would change, forgotten.

No such luck. She immediately looked down at it, an embarrassed look washed over her face along with whatever heavy emotions had already been brewing there, while I stood there trying to be sure my face looked completely devoid of thought. An awkward conversation dragged on for five more minutes before I broke away.

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I Decided To Go Back Home Because I Felt More At Ease Dealing With Poop

The poop-pump-truck man had arrived. People talk about nurses and doctors and policemen as heroes, but let us not forget those wearing capes a little less noticeable—a poop-pump-truck man is a true hero.

And even better, he looked like a slightly overweight Eminem. He had the same short cut blond hair and a perfect replica of Eminem’s nose set right there in the middle of his face. I did my best to gawk at him between the blinds while he stood idle for a moment chit-chatting with his fellow poop-pump man. His hands left the shovel handle to make a gesture and in that moment I could practically hear the words bubbling out of him in rhythm. I just knew that he was going to start rapping, and that it would be about pumping poop.

But I couldn’t make out any sound through the glass. Maybe I should call that Unfortunate Event Number Three.

Big Dog began threatening the poop-pump men through the window. Clearly he wanted our house to maintain its poop-scented ambiance. My son, on some random whim, began playing his harmonica. It felt like we were in some sad old western movie wherein we sang songs about how we were too poor to have a proper outhouse.

And then the truck started pumping and the drains started working! Big dog decided that he would let the poop-pump men live, and took a nap. The harmonica stopped. All was at peace in our home as we mediated on the lovely hum of the poop-pump-truck engine.

And now that all of these unfortunate events have come and gone, I think I will go to sleep.

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