The Scientology Encounter
Hello to everyone. I just wanted to touch base. I understand that the word is out among some of you that I went to have my lungs removed today and have them replaced with the lungs of a Gibbons monkey.
That rumor is, for the most part, false. (Monkeys were involved, but I’m not sure that’s any of your business.)
But I did have a nifty little surgical procedure this morning of amazing inconsequence. In fact, they shouldn’t even call it surgery… an irritating way to spend your morning, maybe, but not surgery. Every once in a while some doctor wants to stick a tube in you to prove that you can take it. It gives them a sense of purpose. And if we don’t keep them happy… well, they could do unspeakable things to you while they have you under anesthesia.
I just want to let everyone know that I am just peachy. Stoned, but peachy. Stoned peachy. And at any rate, at home resting, enjoying my post-operative chemically induced sense of serenity. Mike Platt is everywhere, and all is right with the world.
But, since I am here and feeling in that “Pink-Floyd-Lyrics-Could-Bring-World-Peace-If-People-Would-Only-Listen” mood, I will give you an update on my wacky day for you to read as you have time, inclination or lack of any worthwhile personal ambitions.
First bit of advice: If a nurse is standing over you, plunging a large needle into your vein and stops for a moment to say, “Are you feeling okay? You look a little pale.” You should bag the initial inclination to be tough and say “I’m grand.” It was at about that point that I passed out cold. Not just a little faint. It was the kind of thing where I regained consciousness in a pool of sweat with about four stressed-out nurses plus the doctor peering down at me bug-eyed and frantic like blue-masked aliens.
They have pointy tools, like sticks or some kind of archaic weapons, and seem willing to poke me with them. Disoriented and thinking I had surely been drugged and dumped in a field in Harrison, Arkansas, I panicked and, as I tend to do when I panic, passed out again.
I came to again with a woman saying “Christopher, Christopher.” The voice said, “Christopher, can you focus on me?”
And after a moment… yes, “You’re the needle lady.”
“That’s right, baby, but you can call me Loretta. I feel like a junkie if you call me Needle Lady.”
Second bit of advice: When the doctor tells you that you have been heavily drugged and you should not operate machinery and should go straight home, under the care of a sober individual, and WHATEVER ELSE YOU DO, don’t sign any legal documents or make any major decisions, take that gem of advice.
The metro being as convenient as it is, I figured I could avoid having someone else miss work to drive me around while I could still avoid using heavy machinery myself. The weird thing is, on my way to the metro, I ended up in Dupont Circle.
So I’m walking down the sidewalk and, with what distracted focus I had, noticed that some earnest College Republican-looking fellow was handing out literature on the street corner. He had all the markings of someone who is distributing campaign literature or small pamphlets blasting Catholics (often the same).A white shirt, slightly ruffled and rolled up at the sleeves. A narrow black tie. Dark slacks. Disheveled hair. Acne. I remember thinking, “I know a few Republicans. Maybe I know this dude. “Well, turns out he was a Mormon. Or, not exactly a Mormon, but a proselyte of some sort.
So, I’m walking by, trying not, in my drug-addled state, to stare, but he steps in front of me and says, “Would you like a free personality test?”
Well, by George, who wouldn’t?
“Oh yes. Of course.” (My doctor would not have been pleased at this point.)
“Follow me would you?”
“I’ve got nothing better to do.”
It’s at this point that I focus on a black button pinned to his shirt. This button may be why I thought he was political, except that it said, “Psychiatry kills.” From the distant recesses of my once-sober mind, I think, Oh my God. This could get truly weird.
So he escorts me across the street to the great red hall of the Church of Scientology. Home of L Ron Hubbard (or LRH, as my young acquaintance liked to say), John Travolta and Tom Cruise. On the street corner of the building, a clown, or perhaps a clown dressed up as a chicken, is also passing out literature, and I have a vague notion of making a break from the Republican-Mormon-Scientologist and engaging the chicken-clown in some kind of conversation. But, as often happens, I can think of no good start-up conversation for either chickens or clowns, and my opportunity passes.
In the dark-paneled vaults of the Scientology abode, my escort hands me over to another pimply faced tie-wearing young man. Several of these fellows walk blissfully about the compound. I am sure there is a room with pods producing these creatures. I am getting nervous.
I am placed at a cubicle in the basement. There are no chains. Just a questionnaire. I am asked if I like people, if I like dogs, if I like yogurt. I am asked if I think the world is a good place, if it’s okay to squish a cockroach but not to shoot a deer. I am asked, basically, if I like myself. The answer, of course, is a resounding, YES! In fact, I write, I like me more than anyone else I know.
The stern young analyst was not amused. After running my answers through a computer, he informed me that I am a sick, twisted and bitter man. That I am easily intimidated, afraid to voice my opinions, overly critical, cold-hearted and wont to abuse vegetables. I am, in short, the kind of freaky and socially dwarfed individual that people refer to as “disgruntled.”
I am discouraged by this news. Just 15 minutes earlier, I was a pretty happy individual. He senses my moment of weakness and begins to explain how Scientology can help me.
He rambles, he digresses, he opens up to me to about what a sick warped and grotesque loser he used to be before he found Scientology. He spoke of creepy evenings alone with his pets, of games he used to play by himself with his socks,
of staying up late into the night to watch whimsical programs on public access TV.
I am beginning to fidget. It is unclear if it was the fight-or-flight syndrome kicking in again or merely a third wave of post-operation chemically altered consciousness, but as he continued with his gleeful stories of pathetic isolation, I began to have an out-of-body experience. My eyes began dilating. The muscles in my face began to twitch and I could feel the good doctor’s drugs begin to do their work again, and, out of nowhere, from the deep recesses of my lungs, emerged an awful, gradual and unearthly gurgling sound, a slow pained groan of the soul.
The fellow paused in his anecdotal string of self-mutilation to look up at me, and in that brief shining moment of silence I let out an admittedly overly zealous shriek: “Do you have ANY idea how STONED I am?!!!”
The young intern is clearly unnerved.
“I spent the ENTIRE morning with a large NEEDLE connected to a large PUMP stuck in my arm, gorging on CRACK, or some other really mind-altering DRUGS. I am probably the most groovin’ buck you’re gonna run into today. You people CAN’T bring me down. I’m ON to you.”
He set his pencil on his clipboard and edged back in his chair. He is looking intently at my pinwheeling pupils. His hand is near the security alarm button under the table.
“On to us, sir?”
“Like stink on stank, brother. Like Milli on Vanilli” I replied.
The analyst eased his chair back further and made a furtive glace to fellow tie-adorned pod creatures. Two came up and said, “Perhaps we should try this again some other time, Mr. Battle… when you’re feeling… better.”
With remarkable swiftness, the pod security team shuffles me some literature and sends me on my way. Outside, momentarily blinded by the burst of sunlight, I ran smack into that clown trying to pass itself off as a chicken. He thrust pamphlets at me too but I backed away, circling him a few times, ready for the debate.
But I’m on to him. I was so ahead of his game.
- Chris Battle
May 7, 1998