The word escape means different things to different people. Escape could mean getting away from something that curdles the blood and hazes one’s judgement. It could mean getting away from a loveless marriage or a life baked hardpan hard. And it can also mean escaping from a World War II prison camp with the help of the world’s most famous board game, Monopoly.
Aaaaahhh Monopoly… Who hasn’t spent a few pleasant hours trying to steal Monopoly cash when your sisters aren’t looking or perhaps sprucing up some of those ill gained properties with a few stolen green houses or red hotels….then watch as the sisters grovel – unable to pay the exorbitant rent that you charge…and then see them curse their unfortunate choices of the thimble, the joyless iron, or that little yapping Scotty dog. Okay, none of that actually happened (I’m pretty sure), but the point being, is that we’ve all enjoyed the game. It began to be mass marketed in 1934 and I’m sure there are some of us who recoiled in horror and disbelief upon hearing the plans to replace the Scotty, the race horse, the hat, the wheelbarrow, the shoe, the battleship, and of course the thimble. (The new pieces have been chosen, but their lameness prevents listing.)
During WW2 large numbers of British airmen found themselves in POW camps trying to figure out how to escape. Well, here comes the Monopoly angle: Germany, in a rare nod to the Geneva Convention, allowed humanitarian groups to distribute care packages to the prisoners and one of the items allowed in those packages were “games and pastimes.” So the British came up with fake charities that sent Monopoly games to the prisoners. The games were licensed to the British, so instead of having streets from Atlantic City like the American game, the British ones had streets from London. Carefully placed inside the boards were escape tools like tiny compasses that could fit on the fingertip, metal files, German money which was mixed into the Monopoly money, and most important, silk maps (silk because they were hardier than paper, wouldn’t tear easily or desolve if wet and they didn’t make noise.) Royal Air Force flyers were told that if there was a red dot in the free parking area of the board that it was a “special edition” with the escape tools within. It is estimated that more than 35,000 P.O.W’s successfully escaped from prison camps with approximately 1/3 using the rigged Monopoly sets. In a way this gives new meaning to the “get out of jail free” card. Unfortunately, there are none of these special boards in existence because the airmen were told to destroy the boards in order to keep the secret from the Germans. Escape they did with the help of the escape tools and old Rich Uncle Pennybags (that’s the name of the chubby guy with the stash and the top hat who is always so happy ) .
Escape can mean many things. Some want to escape reality, some want to escape a mundane existence. Some want to escape the sin-then-repent cycle, some want to escape the necessity of choice. But for many of us, you can never escape
the want and need for a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken or a pair of Double Doubles with grilled onions and a fry pack when you’re hung over. Groove.