Wednesday, July 06, 2005

There's a Scientologist born every minute

All this talk about Tom Cruise and his increasingly irritating Scientology evangelism has dredged up a forgotten (suppressed?) memory of my one personal encounter with the L. Ron Hubbard-ites.

London, June 1990: As I was walking to the Tube station after my behavioural ecology class at the Kensington campus of Kings College (U. London), they "marked" me, as scammers say. A nice lady approached me and offered a free personality test. Being even more self-obsessed at age 20 than I am now, I agreed. (Kids: this was before the Internet, when you could spend all day taking free insightful personality tests like What Rejected Crayon are You? and What's Your Alcohoroscope?)

I don't remember what questions were on the test, which was administered in a lovely air-conditioned office, but I think they gave me snacks--always a sure lure for a college student. After a short wait, the nice lady led me into a small conference room and proceeded to inform me, with a look of grave concern, that I had low self-esteem.

My reply was--and I'm paraphrasing here--"Duh!"
  • I was living 5,000 miles from anyone I'd known for more than four months
  • The guy I was dating had just left me for his vapid American ex-girlfriend
  • The guy I dated before that left me for his vapid French ex-girlfriend
  • I had four papers to write in a week-and-a-half
  • My money was long gone
  • The London sky that June looked like clam chowder without the clams for sixteen straight hours every day
  • I lived on the Northern Line
(The last one alone should have been sufficient grounds for depression. They used to call it the Underground's "Misery Line," because people often used its trains to shuffle off their mortal coil, if you know what I mean. We commuters, rather than feeling sorry for these desperate souls, would be annoyed at the delay of removing pieces of mortal coil from the track.)

Actually, the fact that I knew my blues came from temporary circumstances probably indicated that my self-esteem was just fine.

The lady tried to push her Scientology solutions on me, all of which cost money (she kept missing the fact that one reason I was "down" was lack of funds). The cheapest ransom available was a paperback copy of Dianetics. Yeah, I should have been stronger, but I felt three pounds was a small price for instant freedom. At that moment, it felt like bail money.

Once on the Tube, I skimmed the book for about thirty seconds. It was all I could to hold onto it long enough to place it safely in the trash. Leaving it on the train seemed like a randomly hostile act: what if some vulnerable Tube rider picked it up and got sucked into the cult, just because I was too lazy to clean up after myself?

I downed an extra pint of cider 'n' black in the common room that night. Nothing does wonders for your self-esteem like being taken for a sucker. Thanks, L. Ron.


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