Bankers are chained to their desks, figuratively. Now they are locking themselves in a room, literally.
No, it's not a prison cell, as even Ben Bernanke wanted more bankers thrown in the slammer. But this room is filled with three little pigs -- and they must escape within 59 minutes and 59 seconds by solving a series of puzzles. "Room escape" is a phenomenon that large banks and other corporations have discovered and are using as a team-building exercise. Intrigued by the buzz, I tried it.
All Locked Up
A few months ago, I dropped by 59:59 Room Escape, which is near the Empire State Building in New York City. My roommates included other bankers, traders, lawyers, and one industrial design engineer who proved useful in unlocking an actual lock that baffled the "let's delegate to someone else" financial types.
The host explained that we were on a rescue mission to save the three little pigs. One person (me) played the role of a little pig that is locked up in the prison cell within the room for the other "pigs" to save. Upon his successful exit, the group as a whole tries to escape from the room itself, before the big bad wolf devours them all in an hour. You can't make this stuff up (well, I guess someone did).
The room was decorated like a deciduous forest, with hunter green walls, decorative plants, bamboo tables, and wooden trunks. From my cell, I was able to guide my teammates to solve the relevant riddles and unlock me from my confinement. The puzzles varied in style: some required out-of-the-box thinking; some evoked senses such as hearing and smelling; and yet others required piecing together fragments to reveal hidden messages or viewing things from a different angle. Ordinary-looking objects turned out to be important clues, and answers to puzzles were all somehow connected with the theme. Our team eventually escaped the room in time -- proving that it's hard to keep a banker locked up.