This is the twelfth installment of the account of a journey into and out of scientology — written by one of our long-term readers. I hope you enjoy her insights, humor and style.
Lili also provided a glossary of terms.
Through the Bubble – Lili’s Adventures in Scientologyland
This is my quirky recollection of events. Others may remember things differently. Lingo is italicized on the first mention, capitalized after that. I’ve compressed complexities in the cult to simplify your reading pleasure.
My First Inflatable Sex Doll and Flat Bottles of Pepsi
One of the upsides of owning a housecleaning business was meeting interesting people and finding unexpected stories. One of our swankier cleaning jobs was in a narrow, three-story Miramar Beach house. It was so close to the sand that the bottom floor flooded every twenty years or so. For whatever reason, these beach homes were much desired by my younger female staffers. If you got assigned one, you’d go to work sick, to make sure no one snaked that house from your rotation. Older staffers complained about hauling the vacuum up three flights of stairs and sand everywhere.
I’m guessing the singleton twenty-somethings thought some handsome bachelor would stop by while they were cleaning his house. While collecting his forgotten tennis racket, he’d fall in love with them, marry them, and then as the new wife, they could hire us to clean the place.
One day, I popped by for an inspection, and the giggling staffer brought me to the second-floor main bedroom. Like Vanna turning a letter, she revealed her find. Under the bed was an anatomically correct female sex doll. We chortled and snorted like five-year-olds. Every time I saw a payment check from the man who owned or rented the beach house, I’d wonder if his girlfriend or girlfriends knew about his backup plan.
Josh and I discovered that owning our own house cleaning business came with perks. People asked you to haul away perfectly good stuff that we’d keep or share with our staff. And some of the homeowners were fascinating types like Hollywood producers we’d never heard of, retired runway models, or novelists, that we had heard of. Yay, free books. Not so yay, no time to read.
There were architecturally exciting houses and amusing clients. One of my favorite jobs was with the reclusive Mr. Night Owl. He lived in an Italian-style, all-stone mansion with thirty-foot ceilings. Perhaps when they started building it, they planned a second story. It was always cold, and the staffer would go over wearing her camp layers, even in the summer. The fireplaces were big enough to fit an office desk in. Those bad boys would burn through a cord of oak wood in a couple of days.
Mr. Night Owl wouldn’t show his face until at least two in the afternoon. His indignant (and only) complaint came the time that the cleaner went around his six-bedroom palace and chucked all the bottles of open and flat Pepsi, with various levels of dark liquid remaining inside. The antiques looked much better without those stupid plastic bottles on top of them. It turned out he was addicted to caffeine. He wanted to shamble out of whatever room he was in, in his spotty, too-tight robe, and take a slug of energized sugar water. He wanted to do this without having to A: finish the bottle. B: put the bottle back in the fridge. Or C: walk into another room to find his source of sugary delight. Whatever. After that, we polished the priceless antique collection, dusted the lovely sculptures, and wiped down his nasty, dusty, liter bottles of Pepsi.
The extravagant homes on either side of Mr. Night Owl’s rock manse, nestled in glory on their multi-acre lots. Their hundred-thousand-dollar landscapes looked to be barbered with tiny-scissor precision. Soaring trees and multi-height exotic flowering rarities provided a vision that only too much money and disrespect for water bills can provide. I wanted to clean those houses, but hiss, live-ins. Mr. Night Owl’s landscape design was what a realtor would kindly term ‘natural.’ Scrubby bushes, spindly trees, and dead weeds were his outdoor décor of choice. He said he was only there temporarily and planned to move as soon as his other home was finished. One year bled into two, and I wondered if his temporary campout with his rugs and fancy antiques was a more permanent deal.
He called one night and said, “I just moved. Do the post-move-clean-out right away and bill my bookkeeper. Oh, and haul away the stuff I didn’t take.” I had a key, so I drove over at 6am the following day. He’d left behind a lot. A complete set of weights with stand-up bars and workout stations. How was I going to haul that away? The fridge, and Mr. Night Owl was definitely a fancy-prepared-foods man, was stuffed. Here and there, by a fireplace screen or on a bathroom shelf, little treasures looked forlorn in their abandonment. One bedroom, he’d always said don’t clean in there, was full of random crap you store. I guess his B-list possessions were too good to chuck but not good enough to use.
Josh drove over and emptied the groaning fridge. Stuffed filet of sole, anyone? I called all the staff and listed available items for the taking. Like the old TV, desk, bedding, and other excellent crap Mr. Night Owl had left behind. One woman’s boyfriend borrowed a pickup truck and drove back and forth for the weights and workout stuff. The spare bedroom got picked over until just dump-run stuff was left. I was one popular boss due to Mr. Night Owl’s packing priorities and rejection of fancy furnishings and eclectic objects. Abandoning those possessions, in his middle of the night, rush-move deal, just added to the cachet of each adopted item.
While all the poking about for new-to-you possessions was going on during the day, I had my gloves on and had called every casual worker in my rolodex, to put together a four-person clean-team to get this stone mansion spic and span.
In the middle of the afternoon, the electricity cut off. I called the number for Mr. Night Owl’s bookkeeper and told him of my problem. He sounded like a man who didn’t want to deal with it, but finally agreed to make some calls. Two black Mercedes Benz sedans screeched into the cobblestone courtyard within half an hour. Four three-piece-suited gents piled out like alien hunters in Men in Black. Evidently, the house was in some protracted probate situation. Mr. Night Owl’s recent residency was a big surprise to the executors.
At first, the suits demanded we vacate the premises immediately or face law enforcement and a lawsuit. They stood stiff and stony-faced while I turned and ran inside to round up vacuums and cleaning tools. When I came to the doorway with a bucket in one hand and vacuum in the other, one of the suits held up his hand. He, the cooler head, realized that the place would need the clean-up. He gave me his card and said if Mr. Night Owl didn’t pay his bill, the estate would take care of it. They got the electricity turned back on and we went back to work.
I never heard from Mr. Night Owl again. But that heady, frantic, hit the jackpot of free stuff day, at the impractical Italian stone manse in Montecito, remains a glowing memory.
Let’s Rope Us in Some Raw Meat
When I first got into Scientology, before it got all mock-cherchy, (misspelling on purpose,) my favorite times were when they’d have these speakers come up from Los Angeles for Events. Going to the Event counted as a scheduled Course time toward your fifteen-hour-a-week minimum. Yay. All the students were down for that. The lobby would be absolutely mobbed. The coffee machine would be ground zero, in constant use, or perking up for the next onslaught. This was in the bad old days of indoor smoking, and the haze was like those pictures of green-visored bulldogs playing poker, with the layers of smoke over their heads.
Luckily heat rises. But it stunk if you had to be on Course in the upstairs course room Saturday morning, and some dipshit forgot to dog that bad-boy-door shut Friday night. It could take an hour for the previous night’s efforts to hurry Cancer along to clear out. No matter how whack their Course or work schedule was, any student would show up for that Friday Event.
You got Up-Stat points for bringing in someone “new,” or as staff snarkily referred to prospects, Raw Meat. Being Up-Stat was most desirable. Scientology had a major hard-on for Statistics, don’t get me started. Getting Up-Stat points could be like a get-out-of-jail-free card. By that, I mean you might dodge a trip to Ethics. If someone wrote a Knowledge Report on you for some dumb fucking infraction because you flunked them on a Drill they stank at, you might just dodge that bullet. I mean the Ethics, write-up-your-transgressions, and Take-Responsibility-and-do-Amends bullet. You’d do this by pointing out to the Ethics Officer how hard you worked to get, insert-name-of-most-recently-shanghaied-into-the-building Raw Meat.
If your Raw Meat prospect paid for the Communication Course, you could set a trash basket on fire in the Course Room, or say something inappropriate to the Executive Director’s fourteen-year-old daughter. If you brought paying Raw Meat in the door, the Executive Director’s comment to said fourteen-year-old daughter, would be, “Get your shit together. Where’s your God damn Confront already?”
Anyway, the speaker at these monthly Events was usually half an hour late. This led to the start of new relationships, the latest gossip making it around the room twice, and various job offers for any newbie not yet employed in a Scientologist’s business. The speaker was always light on L. Ron Hubbard quotes and heavy on the funny jokes and touching true-life examples. They’d inspire most attendees by the end of the evening with the almost too-good-to-be-true aspirational inspiration. This was some excellent bullshit.
The Registrar positioned volunteer Registrars throughout the crowd to focus on one particular Raw Meat prospect. Each prospect, had their very own super friendly, unless you looked poor, newest best friend, who advised them why they should sign up tonight, for the Communication Course. It was a machine. It worked ridiculously well.
Bottom line, these things were fun. Laughs, hook-ups, inspirational sound bites to improve your life, and new jobs to further ensnare you into the web of Scientology.
The Sea Org Invasion and Throwing Out the Baby with the Bathwater
A couple years into my tenure in the cult, a cataclysmic shake-up rattled the walls and shook the floor under our feet. We students, and maybe the staff, didn’t know what was up. We may have missed the funeral, but we all knew the fun had died. A nameless power figure in the hierarchy of Scientology focused their laser sights on us. We, of the fun-loving and little-town outposts of Scientology, had been found guilty of being a bunch of ‘pantywaist dilettantes (a favored insult of L Ron Hubbard’s.)
Our benevolent and hands-off Franchise Holder (the dude who paid the rent on the Scientology building we were in) vanished off the face of the earth as if he’d never been born. If his mother was a Scientology adherent, she’d disavow all knowledge of her son, the ex-Franchise Holder. The Scientology control feature that would cut all his Scientology connections is called Disconnection. (In the glossary.) His face would, skillfully or not, be excised from all family photos. If they missed one, some Mr. Prissy Pants would be sure to come along and write up a Knowledge Report on his mother.
Our monthly fun, lecture/shin-dig/social gatherings with aging Scientology actresses, magicians, or comedians ceased. Dress-whites-wearing Sea Organization members (Sea Org) infested our Ex-Franchise Holder’s Scientology outpost. The Sea Org was Scientology’s elite, billion-year-contract signing, uber-dedicated staff with military-style braid and fruit-salad ribbons popping off their proud chests. They were entrusted with the management of the Scientology religion. Cough.
Their quest was to crush, nay, stamp out of existence, any bright ideas the past and unmentioned Franchise Holder might have instituted. We, the remaining Scientology students and staff, quaked in our coffee cups when the purposeful steps from sturdy Sea Org shoes strode nearby.
I digress, but I didn’t think I was in a religion. Josh, who was into his five-year staff contract by this time, advised me to just agree with any new rules they instituted. Boy, that ticked me off. I had questions, damn it. But Josh was right. The new broom was busy sweeping all the spontaneity, clean out of the building.
The Sea Org visitors put big prongy-every-which-way crosses up on the walls like we were this Christian outpost of Godly goodness. I was so confused. The new line to tell prospects was “Scientology is an Applied Religious Philosophy.” Really? We’re reading the same fucking books. Now, this shit is religious?
The Sea Org staff proved their primacy in the pecking order by using their eyeballs-to-eyeballs confront skills to intimidate any passing Scientologist, or to still the mouth of anyone not talking about their L Ron Hubbard activities. First I got caught partaking in random chit-chat in the Course room. Then, gasp, giggling. I became a waving flag of unfitness and lack of commitment. Josh advised me to vow to do better and apologize. What, I can’t laugh anymore? Or what? I’m some sort of religious deviant? I was just trying to get my spiritual shit together and find a way to have fun without drugs and alcohol. The Sea Org men, with their unsmiling, dedicated glares, made it a lot harder.
During whatever change-over was going on at the Org, many staff members deserted. Many students exited. When I asked where this person or that person was, I got stiff-faced “don’t ask” looks from staff and Sea Org men. The hard-core, happy-talking, everything-is-hunky-dory remaining staff, were now walking home with twelve to thirty dollars a week. At least with the old Franchise Holder and his sketchy-as-shit “loan company,” a staff member could walk home with $150.00 to $200.00 per week.
One by one, the students were pulled off Course into “interviews” with the oldest of the Sea Org men. They were looking for malcontents. When I asked my friends what they said in their interview, their mouths were zipped tighter than an overstuffed suitcase. Change was in the air, and fear, like smoke, radiated from the walls of Scientology.