Steve Shew manages Toronto's first rage room, where you can suit up with coveralls, leather gloves, and a full face mask before taking a crowbar to a room full of defunct office equipment. The appeal for Rage Room users is pretty obvious—we've all lived vicariously through that fax machine scene in Office Space. But what about being on the other side of the rage and cleaning up after all those smash sessions? We talked with Shew about why it feels so great to smash shit, who goes on a rage date, and what it's like to watch all that destruction day in and day out.
VICE: Where'd you get the idea to open a rage room?
Steve Shew: We have a nine-thousand-square-foot facility. We had some spare rooms. While we were renovating, we were tearing down walls, breaking things down, and thought, Oh, it's kind of fun to break things! This idea [for a rage room] already existed in Eastern Europe. We've seen Office Space . So we thought here in Toronto, with a lot of corporate jobs, people are probably stressed out and want to smash some printers, too.
What's the set up like?
It's fully enclosed with no windows, but we have a camera inside, so we can watch and make sure everything is going OK. We also have this two-foot-tall block that we use as a smashing block—people can put their stuff on there to smash.
Who typically comes in?
Young professionals, between twenty-five to thirty-five. Surprisingly, seventy percent of our Rage Room customers are female.
Ever have couples come in to rage it out?
We can set up the rage room for up to two people. Couples are some of our most popular clientele and range from first dates to longtime couples. We ended up creating a Date Night package—two printers and fourteen items to smash. That idea was borne from Valentine's Day, because we realized a lot of couples were surprising each other with a visit to Rage Room.
What is the most popular music to rage to?
We hear a lot of Drowning Pool's "Bodies (Let The Bodies Hit The Floor)."
Why all the rage?
The two most common reasons are to let off steam because their lives are stressful, from their jobs or whatever. The second reason is they want to try something new.
You mention they can bring in a box of their own stuff to smash (as long as it fits through the doorway)—what's inside the box?
Typically, it's their exes' stuff. And old mementoes from their ex-relationship. Instead of throwing that stuff away, they can bring it to Rage Room to smash up. So they don't have to worry about cleaning it up. We take care of all the cleaning.
How mad do they get?
Sometimes they'll scream. They'll let out their anger. A lot of times, if it's people bringing in their exes' stuff, they'll be like, "Oh, you think you're so good! Argh!" (smash) or "You think you're always right!" then more smashing.
What was the longest rage session you've witnessed?
One client booked back-to-back rage sessions: for an hour and a half of just breaking stuff.
Any particularly memorable ragers?
We had these six burly biker dudes covered in tattoos. We don't know if they were part of a biker gang or whatever. They were super pumped up. They really destroyed so much stuff in the rage room. They bought over ten printers and more than ten VCRs and got too carried away. One guy hit the VCR so hard it broke through one of our walls. Then we were like, "Oh that's OK, we can patch the walls." Then the last guy going in—I don't know what came over him—but he grabbed the VCR and threw it straight into the ceiling. And we only have the one rule: to not throw things into the ceiling. It hit the light fixture, which popped out of the ceiling. He was about to smash the light when I stopped him. Ever since then, we've protected the ceiling.
Do you hit up the rage room?
Not really, because most times I'm just cleaning up the mess they've made.
How long does it take to clean?
It only takes about five minutes to clean up. We have a huge garbage pail that we dump all the electronics and glass into. We have a service come and recycle all the electronics. We get the stuff from people donating, buying from Salvation Army or Value Village. We also have office renovators who will bring in old printers.
Most common smash object request?
Printers are the most satisfying thing that they want to smash.
What's the best part of working here?
When people come out of the rage room. They talk about the interesting experience that they had. It's nice to hear about how they felt afterward. We always take a picture of them, and they'll post it on Instagram, so their friends can see it.
Why is breaking shit so satisfying?
It's almost a cathartic experience where you're letting off steam and expending all that built up energy. Your whole life you're told not to smash stuff. Not to break things. Always behave. Not in the rage room, though. We always tell people: "Have fun smashing!"
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