I Went to an Anger Room in Asia to Work Through my Travel Stress

By Justin Caffier on November 28, 2017

I am, by nature, not a very angry individual. I don’t know if this relative passivity stems from a healthy realization that there are only a few things within the locus of my control or a less healthy nihilism about everything being ultimately meaningless. Whatever the source of my placidity, I’ve often found myself in stressful situations where I might’ve benefited from a bit more indignation burbling up, be it righteous or not.

As the seminal Pixar classic Inside Out taught us, each emotion serves a purpose in the right context and quantity. Anger is not a specter to be avoided, but, often times, a justifiable reaction that might turn into a tumor should you try to repress it. (They tactfully left that part out of the Amy Poehler kids' film.) I realized I’d been unintentionally neglecting my temper as of late and, as an act of self-care, that would have to change.

I decided the best time to reacquaint myself with my testy side would be while finishing up one of the most stressful activities one can undertake: international travel. I’d exorcise the demons that had been building up over a week in Hong Kong by visiting an anger room called Ikari Area.

Though it’s been nearly a decade since anger rooms—safe spaces for patrons to vent by beating up electronics a la the iconic Office Space scene—made their way onto the scene, this was Hong Kong’s first, and it had only just opened a few months back. Translating to “anger area” in English, Ikari Area seemed the perfect place to purge all my latent negativity before making my way back to the States.

Once I scheduled my appointment, I began the awkward process of attempting to catalog my grievances from over the course of the trip so that I might bring the list with me into the room. This proved more difficult than anticipated when I kept finding sensible excuses for my problems as if cartoon devil and angel consciences were debating on my shoulders.

“The flight over was 13 hours in a middle seat,” I thought, attempting to muster up rage. “Sure, but the flight is being covered, and you’re getting to travel for work, so you can put up with a little discomfort,” I countered myself.

“Those jerks aren’t getting back to your time sensitive work emails and are really hampering your ability to do what you came out here to do,” I tried again. “Yes, but there’s a huge time zone difference, and this is surely not their biggest work priority,” I deflected.

“Hong Kong is too humid,” I thought, reaching. “It’s a tropical paradise,” came the inevitable counterpoint.

Clearly going into the room with a set list wasn’t going to work. I’d have to improvise some jazz in the moment.

With game time approaching, I hunted down the surprisingly hard-to-find address of Ikari Area and traveled to the location in the heart of the Kowloon side of the city-state, only to arrive to a locked front door and a text from the lone staff member working that day requesting an extra hour to prepare for me. Most troubling of all, none of these hiccups were really pissing me off.

After literally and figuratively eating my way through the extra hour, I returned to Ikari and waited a bit more before finally being greeted by Jackson, the harried employee who would be overseeing my tantrum. As he was already apologizing profusely for the wait while he unlocked the door, I could sense there was no way I’d be able to channel any outrage Jackson’s way during the main event.

Once inside and suited up in a protective orange jumpsuit, gloves and mask, I was handed a baseball bat and led into small apartment bedroom that had been converted into destruction therapy ground zero. A smorgasbord of glass bottles, metal car muffler and even a circa-1998 copy machine were waiting for me to unleash hell upon them. Jackson took my phone, so as to record the carnage, put some screamo on the room’s speakers and stepped outside to let me do my thing.

As I swung at bottles and turned the printer inside out, I attempted to mentally project every missed train, unnecessary expenditure and bunk story lead from my trip onto my targets. I’m ashamed to say that, no matter how high the physical exertion made my blood pressure climb, my heart was simply not in it.

I made it through maybe 10 of my allotted 15 minutes, sheepishly tapping out to Jackson like a middle-aged man with erectile dysfunction, knowing the big moment was never going to happen for me. Dejected, I returned to America worried that a fundamental part of my psyche was missing. 

But, once stateside and settled back into my usual routines, my luck turned for the better and my mood for the worse. As I acquainted myself with the news I’d missed out on while logged off abroad, flickers of anger started to pop up here and there. Before long, I was engaging in bug-eyed tirades about Trump, Nazis and all the other ne’er-do-wells of the modern era.

It seems that, rather than turning off my anger valves outright, my brain had spent the last year refining triage techniques so as to send my limited supplies of outrage to only the most deserving of targets. Unused turn signals or phones out in movie theaters are annoyances, for sure, but with such bigger fish to fry, my psyche could no longer bear to waste precious resources on such trivialities.

The anger room, as fun as it was, did not help me recapture my wrath. It turns out, it never needed to. That fire and fury had been lying dormant within me the whole time, waiting for a truly deserving moment to make itself known.

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