I’ve always loved hotel smell. This weekend, Ashley and Josh and I are on a business trip in DC.
We’re staying at the very Irish and 4 Star Jury’s hotel directly off of Dupont Circle, with the sole responsibility of interviewing eight teaching canidates for camp. So far, we’ve comported ourselves in a highly professional manner. Like this morning, when Ashley called me up from the bathroom phone. I was in the next room.
After our first three interviews–held, of course, in the professional environs of Biddy Mulligan’s Pub–we stepped outside for some fresh air. Half an hour later I found myself hooked up to a stress machine in the basement of the DC Church of Scientology in front of my co-workers with a Dianetics Auditor named Sheila pinching me on the forearm to test my ability to regulate my Reactive Mind.
This is what happens when your blog starts to take off. You gain readers. You have to keep them. You have to write something, so you deliberately do weird shit for the sake of a post. I was strapped for material. I thought I might have to talk about the woman on the rush hour F train yesterday tweazing her facial hair, or this idea I have to open a mime shop called Mime Your Own Business.
Our church guide, Sheila, lost me early-on. Really, I went into this experience with an open mind. I tried not to picture Tom Cruise. I tried not to judge the colorful Materials Board, which looked like a mounted game of Magic, or to sound disrespectful when Sheila went through a detailed derivation of the word diaper. What? Exactly.
That was only the beginning of a tour’s worth of Ron turns.
Sheila carefully explained a primary goal of Scientology: a civilization without insanity, without criminals, and without war. But it’s hard to concentrate on the particulars of utopia when someone has just done what we later christened the “happiness dance.” To do the happiness dance, you:
a)Talk about how “you can’t just go out to the store to get some happiness!”
b)Walk in slow-motion, in place. You are carrying an invisible parcel of happiness. Imagine a grade-school production of Little Red Riding Hood, in which the stage doesn’t move, but you need to indicate progression through the cardboard woods.
After the happiness dance, Sheila took us upstairs to L Ron Hubbard’s office. Every Scientology church has a replica of his original office. You know how when you go away to college, and you come home for the first time, and your mother hasn’t moved a single thing from your room right down to the one-eyed teddy bear and the Varsity tennis trophy and the closet full of pants you’ve outgrown? Well, it’s nothing like that. Because L Ron Hubbard never used this room. I started to get confused. I was finding it increasingly difficult to believe in a man with so many oil portraits of himself and a tendancy to name his humanitarian programs things like Criminon and Narcinon—especially since the Biddy Mulligan lunch menu featured beef stew over Colcannon. Colcannon? It’s cabbage and mashed potatoes, not a drug rehabiltation center.
No Scientology Tour would be complete without the E-Meter. Every New Yorker has seen one. Scientologists set up in the Times Square Station, across from the Wachovia, with paperback copies of Dianetics and stress machines. They share subway space with the guys who drum on trash cans. I’ve wanted to stop before but I’m usually running late and feel that my stress reading wouldn’t be an accurate representation of my statis stress. I mean, who’s just casually passing through Time’s Square?
The E-Meter is a cross between a tin can telephone and shitty recording equipment. You lightly hold two metalic electrodes, and when your Dianetics Auditor asks you questions–about your interpersonal relationships, your office, or even the E-Meter itself–the dial registers your fluctuating stress levels. Perhaps this might seem convincing if your Auditor weren’t toying with the meter switch every few seconds, or if the machine had been updated since the 1950’s. I felt like I’d seen the same one in Mccarthy Trial footage. Come on Apple, where’s the I-Meter?
As a poet, I feel justified in keeping my Reactive Mind. I’m rather fond of it. I like pain and the remembrance of it. I don’t want to paint over my razored memories. I like the die in Dianetics. Sheila hoped to show me otherwise through the Pinch Test.
The pinch test is nothing like the happiness dance.
The pinch test is simple. Sheila pinched me. Then she asked me to take the pain of the pinch and forget it, to dissipate hurt through self-regulation. OK, this might have worked, if she had pinched me hard enough. It was more of an arm tickle. While she kept repeating “Remember the pinch” and flicking the E-Meter dial I was thinking how little punch her pinch packed. And how I wanted a Guiness.
For more E-Meter debunking, along with some biophysics, click here. Or read Josh’s account of our Scientology fieldtrip. It features a video of Ashley recreating the Happiness Dance as I look on in utter horror!
Just your average business trip.