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Smashing Times for Stressed Spaniards

"Aaaaarrrghhhh," yells unemployed Argentine Jorge as, picking up a hammer, he goes on the rampage, demolishing a hotel room in the middle of Madrid.

Elsewhere in the same hotel, seven 'colleagues' are doing the same to another 20 rooms, but the hotel manager doesn't bat an eyelid.

On the contrary, the smashing time is a deliberate plan the NH Hoteles chain hatched to kill two birds with one stone: Lay the groundwork for extensive renovation of its establishment on Alcala boulevard while allowing eight stressed out city residents to let off steam.

"That's got to be worth 15 years' therapy," says jobless Jorge afterwards.

The unemployed 26-year-old was a little reserved to begin with, letting on only that he felt "very stressed" amid issues such as "hair loss and stomach upsets," as well as a so far fruitless job search.

But once he got hold of the hammer there was no stopping him and soon he had virtually destroyed the room, its bathroom and the television and cupboards for good measure to "get rid of some daily stress."

Throwing a chair against the walls accelerated the job.

"I never thought it would feel so good," Jorge beams after he and the others set to work having donned white overalls, a helmet, mask and safety goggles.

"This anti-stress technique consists of destroying everything in order to feel liberated," explained Eduardo Aldan, a Spanish actor charged with selecting the edgy eight for the demolition job on Madrid's central Alcala boulevard.

There were an initial 1,000 candidates -- which means there are plenty of frustrated people still out there, hopefully without hammers.

Those selected were "the most stressed," Aldan explained.

Journalists outnumbered the wreckers after NH Hoteles, which runs 335 establishments in 21 countries, decided the idea would be a good publicity stunt as well as boon to the room busters.

"It was great," enthused Pablo, an IT worker aged 32, after undertaking an activity which allowed him to forget for a brief while "the bank, the lack of free time, and the home" he cannot afford as prices spiral in the city.

"I want to wreck a few more," he let slip as he emerged from a cloud of dust, smiling broadly.

The eight had to undertake a series of tests before they made the final cut, the initial 1,000 first whittled down to 12 finalists.

First, they had their pulse taken then it was on to a questionnaire to determine their anxiety level.

By test three things had got physical, would-be participants urged to warm up by pummeling a punch ball dressed as an archetypal boss while yelling out the cause of their woes.

Jorge whipped on a pair of boxing gloves before laying into the punch ball and screaming: "Money!"

Another stressed soul, 40-year-old taxi driver Felix, shouted: "The M30," the generally packed ring road which surrounds Madrid that is often a nightmare for capital commuters.

Gala, a PR worker aged 30, blasted a "lack of time" before boxing the "boss" around the ears.

Miguel Angel, who will now move in to oversee the rooms' renovation, came along to watch.

"I'm here to ensure they don't hurt themselves," he remarked.

Angel was not convinced of the merits of the exercise.

"I'm sure that it will give us extra work. It's not really the way to do things," he noted.


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