A destruction session at Spokane's Rage Xscape unleashes more emotions than just rage

click to enlarge The author varied her weapons of choice depending on her next target. - YOUNG KWAK PHOTO
Young Kwak photo
The author varied her weapons of choice depending on her next target.

I pick up a mirrored glass candle holder from an industrial shelf of fragile items, inhale sharply, and chuck it against a concrete-and-brick wall. Smash! The crystalline applause of shattered glass fills the room. Next, I place a delicate purple vase on the cement floor and roll a bowling ball its way until — puh-kshhh! — the vase pops and collapses to bits. This is all legal. In fact, I paid to do it.

Rage Xscape on Division Street downtown is currently Spokane's only "rage room," where patrons can use an array of tools to demolish objects from thrift shops and donations to the business, or in some cases, their own stuff. Vivid stenciled lettering on the streetfront windows beckons passers-by to "COME BREAK SH!T"

The DIY look of the place stirred my curiosity when I walked past: Uh, is this real? The website informed me that the place is real but requires an appointment. Owner Kitten Rose opened Rage Xscape in June 2021, with enthusiastic help from her teenage kids. The small business is a work in progress — coping with email trouble and a break-in in April — and Rose plans to offer walk-in options by summer.

Packages correspond to different rooms and activities: "Heartbreak Lane" gets you 15 minutes in a "throwing lane." "Spring Cleaning — B.Y.O.B." is for families to bring their own approved breakables, while "Couple's Paint Party" features a black-light-lit room and spray bottles of nontoxic paint.

Since my punk and rural friends balked at the concept of paying to break stuff, I opted for a solo "Mini Rage" session: 30 minutes to demolish 15 items, with the option to buy add-on breakables later. A $20 deposit secured my appointment. On the day of, I pay the remaining $15 upon arrival, sign a waiver, then suit up with shop-issued work gloves, Dickies coveralls, goggles and hard hat.

click to enlarge YOUNG KWAK PHOTO
Young Kwak photo

Back in the break room (pun!) I prepare for my next smash, surveying "weapons of destruction" before me — sledgehammers, golf clubs, metal baseball bats, a ball-peen hammer — and select a crowbar. I grab a porcelain dog trinket, rest it on a handy T-ball batting tee, and whack the knickknack: Kssssh! Adrenaline is rushing like river rapids, and my heart is pounding. But I feel great.

What starts as a giggle rises to a shriek, then erupts into a roaring cackle. I hurl 1970s dinner plates like frisbees. I can't stop laughing.

Rose says my giddy reaction is common: "People are nervous at first, then after the first break I can see their body relaxing, and they laugh." Rose believes allowing debris from previous rage sessions to pile up at the base of the break wall — instead of clearing every scrap between users — "kind of encourages more destruction."

She's right. Soon I'm in a frenzy. After destroying a ceramic Santa mug, I chase down large shards left by others and crush them smaller with a hammer. But it's not rage that I feel, it's childlike joy. As children, we're taught to be ultra careful around breakables, so it makes sense that my inner kid is glowing with sly glee as I smash an ingrained taboo.

I do tap into adult rage, however, when Rose hauls in a special treat: an old Epson printer! Smacking that hunk of junk with a crowbar feels personal, because it's the same unreliable printer I have at home. Whack! "This is for firmware updates!" Thunk! "This is for low-on-magenta B.S."

Focused on tech frustrations, I think about planned obsolescence and all the awful, powerful systems doing harm to people and nature alike. "It doesn't have to be this way," I fume. Wrecking objects doesn't solve these Big Problems, but it does release steam from the fiery grief and intense care that burn beneath the rage.

Now I understand why a wide range of clientele come here: to celebrate, to hulk out, to mourn. Rose tells me a family once arrived right after a funeral for their loved one. Counselors and nurses visit frequently, as do bachelorette parties. "This can give you a reprieve from regulating your emotions," Rose says.

As I unzip my coveralls and remove my PPE for washing, I'm glowing with endorphins. The blissful buzz feels like I've just had a massage or performed (well) on stage.

For the final step, Rose instructs me to grab a permanent neon marker and tag the black lobby walls already covered in graffiti. From "Better than therapy!" and "Family time best time" to "F— you & abuse" and "I got divorced today," messages vary wildly.

I contribute to the wall's cacophony then re-enter the spring day feeling oddly accomplished, strong even (though I will wake up with a sore forearm). On the car ride here, I psyched myself up with loud Nine Inch Nails; now I wind down with slow oldies and Nirvana's "Something in the Way." My euphoria lingers for hours. ♦

Rage Xscape • 122 S. Division St. • Open Sun-Thu 9 am- 9 pm, Fri-Sat noon-10 pm • Prices and packages vary • ragexscape.com • 509-316-0021


BREAKING POINT-ERS

  • Sign the liability waiver online before you arrive. Once on file, your waiver is valid for a year.
  • Charge your phone battery with enough juice to film your session (there's a wall-mount for customers' use) or blast your own music through the room's Bluetooth speakers.
  • Closed-toe shoes are a must. Don't show up in sandals or flip-flops.
  • Bring your own protective eyewear, if possible. I found the goggles to be heavy and awkward.
  • Don't "pre-game" beforehand with alcohol or drugs; you'll weaken the amazing natural high.
  • Expect to get sweaty and smelly.
  • Ending a marriage? Get a 10% discount on your divorce day.

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