By Patricia Benitez
Adelina San Miguel is gripping a sledgehammer, her weapon of choice. In front of her, six glass plates sit on top of an oil drum.
“Just let it all out,” she thinks to herself.
She grits her teeth and pounds the sledgehammer against the plates, sending shards of glass flying and crashing onto the concrete floor.
“Oh yeah!” she yells with a smile flashing across her face.
The microwave is her next victim. She grabs it and slams it on the floor. She swings and pounds and thrusts the sledgehammer against it. Miley Cyrus’ cover of “Heart of Glass” blares to the beat of San Miguel’s throbbing pulse. Within minutes, the microwave resembled a flattened car in a junkyard.
The wooden walls around San Miguel are coated with red and black graffiti. She bounces around the small room, demolishing objects one by one, shattering Christmas ornaments, cracking a car windshield and smacking more plates with a bat.
The cacophony of shattering glass and clanging metal should make San Miguel cringe. But here, breaking things isn’t only allowed, it’s the objective.
Paying to Rage
San Miguel is in a rage room, a place where people pay to destroy items such as plates, televisions, windshields and more to unleash their anger or relieve stress. A rage room session can cost customers anywhere from $25 to $300, depending on how much time they want in the room and the number of objects they wish to destroy. Some people bring in their own items while others let the business owners provide them with the community’s donations of unwanted objects.
After putting on goggles, gloves and an industrial suit for protection, customers can choose from an arsenal of tools or “weapons.” Then, they destroy everything in the room. And the best part? No consequences and no clean up.
Rage Rooms: An Unproductive Outlet?
Jonathan Abramowitz, clinical psychologist and professor at UNC-Chapel Hill, had never heard of rage rooms until recently, but is open to the concept as a temporary stress reliever.
“It can’t hurt,” Abramowitz said. “It might make the person feel better in the moment, but it also doesn’t take care of the problem that’s causing the anger.”
For San Miguel, her decision to try a rage room was inspired by a conversation with her psychologist.
“I need to smash a microwave,” San Miguel said to her psychologist who later encouraged her to actually smash one in a rage room, which provides a safe and fun environment.
San Miguel felt as if the isolation during the pandemic had changed her in the same, forceful way that a sledgehammer disfigures a microwave. She was also experiencing heightened anxiety and frustration due to someone owing her money for weeks.
San Miguel is a pole vaulter, so she needed something more stress relieving than lifting weights in the gym. She figured that smashing objects with a sledgehammer for 30 minutes would be intense enough.
That’s when she booked a session at Wreck it Rage Room in Durham, North Carolina. Customers can play their own music in rage rooms, so she spent days adding motivational songs to her “Hard Hitters” playlist before her session.
Now, after 25 minutes of slinging the sledgehammer, her back muscles beg for mercy. But San Miguel isn’t done yet. She bangs her head to the beat of Childish Gambino’s “Bonfire” and puts a couple final dents in the microwave. Then she drops the sledgehammer, done with her session.
All that remains is a battlefield of smashed metal, shattered glass and an industrial jumpsuit soaked in San Miguel’s sweat.
As Abramowitz inferred, San Miguel knew her rage room session wouldn’t solve any of her problems. It didn’t put the money in her hand nor did it end the constant feeling of isolation during a pandemic. But in the moment, she felt light and euphoric.
“You will definitely see me again soon,” San Miguel said to Kasey Taylor, owner of Wreck it Rage Room.
An Unconventional Business Idea
When San Miguel left, Taylor and her two brothers cleaned up the debris with rakes and snow shovels. Taylor doesn’t mind cleaning up after her customers. She knows the importance of releasing anger without worrying about the mess.
After being on dialysis for six years and parenting as a single mom, Taylor longed for a way to psychically release her frustration. She’s not a talker when it comes to her emotions, so she tried a rage room and was fascinated with the concept.
“Where can you go to just shatter a bunch of plates and not get in trouble for it?” Taylor said.
After researching the logistics of owning a rage room, she opened her own. While some of her customers such as San Miguel book solo sessions, others bring their friends to collectively smash objects. Rage rooms can usually host as many as 10 people.
Rage Bringing People Together
Kate-Eliza Dean was invited to a rage room session with two of her friends on a Sunday afternoon. During the session, Dean’s friends stood back as she used a crowbar to smash a car windshield.
“Yeah girl, get it!” one of her friends yelled.
“Smash it!” the other added.
She felt as if she was living her fantasy of destroying an ex-boyfriend’s windshield.
After they each took a turn hitting the windshield, they annihilated the white microwave together. The room began to smell of thick sweat and chaos.
“We’re women against microwaves!” Dean said. They all bursted into laughter as they attacked the microwave from all angles with their weapons.
When they finished, sweat and relief oozed out of them from every pore. “It’s like a level up from a workout,” Dean said, “Just a huge stress reliever.”
Whether people are breaking items solo or with a group, they can at least say they have demolished a microwave once in their lifetime.
“If you have never smashed a microwave,” San Miguel said, “It will change your life.”
Edited by Katie Bowes and Jorelle Trinity