Our Hidden Talents

There will come a time, and that time will probably come quite soon, when all unimportant professions are inhabited exclusively by 3D-printed automatons. In the important professions this has already happened. Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos are robots of quite primitive design; Elon Musk is the result of an experiment with personality algorithms, Bill Gates a failed experiment with same.

The machine takeover has been total in professions from (at the top) banking, (in the middle) politics, and as far down as estate agents. Any job in which a human personality is a hindrance, which is to say any position of power and influence, which we might call ‘management’, is ripe for automation.

We at Escape Rooms have thus far escaped this fate. We are so lacking in significance or import that no one has thought it worth the effort to replace us. (Though the boss has bought a 3D printer, and a number of miniature human bodies have been popping up around the office, so we probably won’t survive much longer.)

As such, we retain a fair few hobbies, quirks, skills, talents, and other such dangerous abnormalities.

Oscar, for example, my dearest friend and colleague, is the finest writer and poet I know; and, given his talent for sustained rapid ambulatory action, known to humans as ‘running’, would make a superb shop-lifter. (A skill which may prove useful, since we writers are notorious for our inability to make a decent living. Karl Marx was uncharacteristically on the money when he lamented that Das Kapital would not even pay for the cigars he smoked whilst writing it.)

Dora is already a published author, as well as a fine designer; and, by putting up with my constant suggestions for Nazi-themed sales material (which I still think is a good idea – it worked very well for Goebbels) has proven herself remarkably patient.

Eszter has the most wonderful ability to distil disdain into a look or a single terse sentence. It is equal parts hilarious and terrifying, depending on whether you are the observer or the recipient, and an immensely undervalued skill. As a manager, it is of course her job to keep us in line. And the sure and certain knowledge that you might be dispassionately murdered, and that you’d surely deserve it if you were, adds a degree of excitement to the workday.

We have, it must be said, attracted a disproportionate number of actors to our staff. Indeed, by my reckoning, roughly seven in every ten job applicants aspire to join that most dishonest of professions. In the short time I’ve been working here, we’ve dispatched actors to work in film and theatre. (Of the former: Anna signed an NDA, so we know nothing at all about it save that it’s a big enough project to warrant an NDA.)

Of those who remain, all are exceptionally talented. Take Lily, for example. Anyone who can come in at 10am after a night of several bottles’ length earns my esteem, since I am otherwise the only person with so unholy a constitution. Perhaps it’s that we both hail from Bedford, and must drink to forget it. But to see her snap from death-stare to bright and cheery in an instant (and then back again once the customers have left), is a feat, both of artistic genius, and of such sheer physical resolve as would embarrass Ranulph Fiennes. Or was that Ralph Fiennes?

I am, naturally, far too modest to boast of my own meagre accomplishments. Though I am still invited to write these blogs, which is an achievement of a kind. I also write, for anyone who’ll have me, and have dabbled in poetry (principally Oscar’s fault), and discovered some time ago an ability to speak in complete sentences. That it often leads to complete – and lengthy – paragraphs is something any interlocutor unfortunate enough to engage me will quickly discover. I have a prodigious memory, for poetry and prose and inconvenient facts. And I have never knowingly lost an argument.

But enough about me. I leave you with the video at the top of this piece, featuring a motley collection of Escape Rooms staff who caught the tread of dancing feet. I am not qualified to judge their performances. I can say that one of them won us a hefty bar tab at our last Christmas do.

Some are still with us, some have ridden into the sunset, or loitered off down the moonlit street, and have since been replaced. Usually with more actors.

Perhaps, in the fast-approaching future, they – we – shall all be supplanted by wire-pulled automatons, slim silhouetted skeletons, sliding through the slow quadrille. But, until then, and as this video attests, we shall continue to affirm the dubious merits of our species.

And down the long and silent street,
The dawn, with silver-sandalled feet,
Crept like a frightened girl.

By Benjamin Mercer