The Church of Scientology on Guadalupe: An Exercise in Improv

Today a friend and I found ourselves walking on Guadalupe, looking for entertainment. When we neared the Church of Scientology, we decided we’d go in in pursuit of this entertainment. My friend made jokes as we entered, but my idea of the entertainment I hoped to find here required me to present a certain level of sincerity. It wasn’t my goal to mock these people for their beliefs. I certainly did not want to offend them. So I kept a rather serious demeanor about me. I filled out the “Personality Test”, answering the questions in a way I thought would make me seem fairly vulnerable to anyone’s efforts to try to sway my perspective of the world. When we had finished, a man took my friend aside to review his results. I wandered around the lobby slouching with a frown on my face. Then another man came to collect me. I sat slouched, near him on a couch and made little eye contact as he reviewed my results. The man told me I had mental health issues and was not a good communicator. He asked what I was doing with my life. I told him I lived at the shelter and was looking for work. He asked how long I’d been living in the shelter and I said “A few months. Well…” then with some surprise in my voice “April! So… a year”. He asked what it was in my past that caused me to be in such a bad place now. I drew from personal experience, blaming my dad’s apparent disappointment in me. I began to tear up. I told him that I was living with my girlfriend before. He asked what I did for work before that and I again drew from personal experience, “I was selling insurance for little while”. He said, “Oh yeah, I did that for a while”. “I worked at Burger King before that”. “Did you graduate high school?”, he asked. “No. Well, I got my GED”, I said. He asked me to review personal history for a happy experience, I pulled from generic memories of childhood – Christmas. “And what colors do you see?” “Red and orange.” I covered my mouth with my left hand. He asked me to review this experience further. I talked about my family and gave a reluctant smile. The man then used this smile to try to sell me a book. He said there was a book on the shelf in the lobby that could change my life and help me to feel happy, as I had felt for that second moments before. I had done well. The man believed I was vulnerable and depressed. He said, “I’m not allowed to just give books away, but, if you can come up with $25 to buy the book…” He also recommended I watch a video there in the lobby. I told him I didn’t want to keep my friend, but that I could ask. As I approached my friend, he was already heading for the door. I followed him out the door without saying a word, as I thought the character I’d been playing this whole time would’ve. Moments later, my friend and I were laughing, reviewing our experience. It felt good to laugh. It felt good to be me again.

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