Last week, I watched my son on his last day of school, a yearbook and a hug from his teacher marking the end of another eventful year, filled with letters and numbers and cup-stacking, and important life lessons, like how you shouldn't pee in the sink in the boys room. It occurred to me how, for the first 18-24 years of life for the all 'merican youth, the slow, steady crawl of the mercury up the thermometer in May signals the promise of new adventures. Camping trips and vacations, afternoons in a chilly movie theater watching square jawed heroes swashing their buckles and blowing up Death Stars, and seemingly endless reserves of sunlight shining until the evening on coffee house and bar patios, where innocent flirting holds the potential for summer romance.
Then, without warning, comes adulthood, with it's perpetual barrage of responsibilities and deadlines. Sequestered in your cubicle of despair, the unchecked case of spring fever develops into a full-blown case of summertime blues. There's an epidemic spreading throughout the city, and it seems as if everyone I know has contracted it.
Me... I'm stressed. Work's getting busy again, and I haven't had as much time for blogging - my creative release. It's nothing I can't handle, of course. But it's certainly enough that you would think it would register on any ol' standard issue, electronic stress-readout doo-hickey.
So imagine my delight - no, no - my absolute mirth, when I went to Mile High Coffee the other night, only to find those alien busting do-gooders, the Scientologists, offering a free stress test outside the front door. That's right, free - and if you know anything about the exorbitant amounts of money that people pay these cats in order to reach spiritual freedom - free is a bargain. And these friendly folks are just absolutely rabid to help. I was barely out of my car before The Auditor, a middle aged man looking more like a community college professor than a cult member, sprung from his seat and offered me the test.
So I got my coffee, sat down, took the "electrodes" in my hands, and let the healing begin! The Auditor asked me a question, something about the first thought that came into my mind. But here's the thing - sitting along side me, also holding a set of "L-Ron's Cans of Destiny", was this hot young alterna-cutie. Voyeur that I am, I cleared my mind in order to focus on her answers. Before I could even register The Auditor's question, he pointed at the quivering needle on his machine, yelping "there it is!". I tried to explain that my mind was as blank as Tom Cruise's during straight sex (and he's an OT VIII!), but he wasn't having it. The e-meter had proved it - I Am Stressed!
After asking a few more entirely generic questions (seriously, your average high schooler with a deck of Tarot cards is more perceptive than this guy), The Auditor made a clumsy segue to his sales pitch: "Have you ever seen this book before?" I told him, politely, that I've thumbed through a beaten up copy of Dianetics at Stella's Coffeehaus, and meekly offered up a review of (ahem) "interesting". After all, I was looking for an interesting antecdote for my blog... not a fight. "You know what they call a Quarter Pounder with Cheese on the Psychlo home world?"
The Auditor then helpfully offered up what he thought is the most important passage in the book. In the introduction (jeez, dude, even I made it further than that) L-Ron explains that its vital to not skip over any word you don't understand. At this point, my Spidey Sense began tingling; my entirely secular, completely reliable, internal needle was registering off the charts - The Auditor was patronizing me.
Like the follower of any guru, The Auditor knows that anyone who thinks he's full of it just isn't at his "level of consciousness". This guy has drank the Kool Aid and seen the glory of the Emporor's New Clothes. I told him that L, with his convoluted rape of the English language, was at least as much to blame for any misunderstanding of his work. The Auditor snapped back that it was important for L to create new words, so his work wouldn't be confused with psychiatry, which has been "drugging the world for the last century".
And there it was.
Look, do I think that the medical profession has a tendency to over-medicate? Sure. Do I believe that religion can be beneficial to some people? I suppose it's happened at some point in the last few thousand years. Do I think that human beings evolved from clams and are infested with alien spirits? Hell, no! - and no amount of "gnosis-it-all" attitude is going to change my mind.
Our "session" ended as amicably as it could. I think what gets on my nerves most of all is that it didn't occur to him that he was delivering his anti-drug sermon on the front steps of my crack-house (though to be fair, irony isn't any religion's strong suit). Worse than the fact that the shop owners let this guy do his thing there is the fact that my coffee wasn't very good. Mile High is the closest independent place to me, and I'd like to treat them right. They use the right beans, and the folks behind the counter are cool. But every time I go in there, either the hot coffee's cold, or the iced coffee is just plain wrong. A coffee shop is my church... where I go reflect, and to put my "stress" into context.
Hey, you can believe whatever ridiculousness you want... but bad coffee? That's just a sin.
Unlike the many other Ted Campbells on the interwebs, I'm neither a minister, nor a professional motorcyclist, nor a gay realtor from Florida.
What I AM is an ass-kickin' father, a corporate schlep, and an occasional freelance writer.
If you've found your way here, why not give my awesome "Blog of Note" blog-novel a look-see?