Breaking stuff, it turns out, can soothe the soul.
Do you want the bt, the sledgehammer, or this little guy?” Kat Burson offers a claw hammer as if it’s a daisy. A registered nurse and the owner of Smash Pit, a Springfield “rage room,” Burson knows a lot about healing and catharsis through violence. In her medicine kit, bigger sticks make a better balm.
I’ve loved baseball for four decades, so the bat wins. “Music?” she asks as I put on the necessary work gloves, catcher’s gear, and chainsaw face shield.
“Sure.” As she opens the door to a plywood-walled room the size of a middle manager’s office, the driving bass of Tool’s “Schism” begins. Inside, on the concrete floor, plates and glasses encircle an Apple monitor, keyboard, and Cisco office phone; equipment clearly curated to dispel white-collar grievance.
“I hit estate sales, Craigslist, ‘free stuff’ ads,” Burson says. “I spend a huge amount of time hunting down the right items.” With charming conviction, she explains that Smash Pit is more than a fun place to rage. “People need a chance to realign, especially in these strange times. I want to offer a safe, no-judgment zone for people to let go—so, have at it,” she says, smiling, as the door swings shut.
Alone in the room, I freeze. I’d been anticipating some harmless fun with a side-order of catharsis. But now, I’m recalling my 16-year-old self being grilled in a police station after an afternoon of shooting illegal bottle rockets at passing cars on Main Street. Back then, I wasn’t a bad kid. But small-town boredom stoked a destructive streak that almost dashed my dream of a college scholarship. I occasionally broke windows, picked fights, and once blew up an abandoned car with a homemade bomb, for gosh sakes.
Now, bat in hand, I worry about tempting fate. Would smashing things unleash the adolescent beast I’d tamed so long ago?
Relax, I think. You’ll be okay. So I begin, tentatively, juggling plates. Only I can’t juggle. Oops! The clatter feels satisfying. Next, I tee up some glasses and practice my golf swing. The shards hit the floor with a musical tinkle. “Try the office stuff,” Burson suggests as she pops her head in the door.
The Cisco phone conjures two decades spent in my personal Dante’s Purgatorio: a series of light-gray cubicle jungles. I remember the dropped calls, the flubbed transfers, the maddening voicemails. When Burson opens the door fifteen minutes later, I’m sweating and wheezing amid a workplace apocalypse. My smash-a-palooza has passed in a blur. I feel pumped but peaceful as Burson leads me to a chair in the waiting room to debrief on how humans calm the mind. Meditation, exercise, even smacking a tennis ball, all bring “realignment,” she emphasizes.
I confess, I can’t remember my time in the room. Criminal defense attorneys use the term “traumatic dissociative amnesia,” when arguing their clients don’t recall committing their crimes. I no longer need convincing.
Does Burson ever wonder if she might be courting harm, rather than healing it? The thought hasn’t crossed her mind, she says. She hasn’t had a single customer take a turn for the worse.
I leave Smash Pit and reenter metro-D.C. traffic feeling unusually groovy. But when I arrive home in Loudoun County, two hours later, I’m frazzled. Then …….