March 13, 1999 - Kady
Wow, my first-ever conventional picket, and fittingly, it took place on native
soil. Ironically, I feel much more 'at home' (in the Addams family sense of
the word) at Big Blue in LA, since I've pounded the pavement thither far more
than up here in the Great White North. (I don't think the Ottawa org
counts, for reasons explored in past threads discussing the grave condition
of the most downstat org on the planet.) All told, the TO org was past due for
a visit from this Ottawa suppressive - and the Old Man's B-Day provided the
perfect opportunity to get to know my fellow Canadian critics.
The day started early - far too early for my tastes; in fact, far too early
for anyone's tastes, except a masochist or a jogger, if that's not redundant.
I awoke at the crack of 6am to the blare of my alarm clock, and somehow
managed to get showered, dressed and out the door by 6:30, just in time to
catch the 7am bus to TO. Alas, despite my prayers to Xenu, I didn't get a
window seat and was thus unable to sleep for the duration of the trip down, so
instead I read a trashy mystery novel and drank copious amounts of Diet Coke
in preparation for an afternoon of entheta exercise.
The bus pulled into Toronto just after noon, and I hopped in a cab and headed
straight for the org. Located just south of Yonge and Bloor in a patch of
Toronto downtown hovering somewhere between chic and seedy, I found the
building with little trouble, thanks to the fact that from about two blocks
away, I spotted a cluster of bright yellow picket signs. "Unless the CBC
strikers have taken to the streets," I thought, "that's got to be the place."
And, dear reader, it was.
I was immediately welcomed by picket captain Wulfen, who handed me a list of
rules for the picket, an ARSCC badge and a stack of flyers while
simultaneously introducing me to the other picketers, including Artemis,
GypsyBlue, Deep Wog, Gregg Haglund et al. I was also introduced to the officer
on duty, whose name I unfortunately don't recall, but is mentioned in other
Toronto picketing reports. He was friendly enough, and took down my name and
pertinent details, and gave me an abridged version of the speech he had given
to other picketers earlier in the day: basically, be good, don't harass
people, and have fun.
Leaving the cocktail party socializing till we broke for lunch, I immediately
began circulating the block with my fistful of flyers. My orbit consisted of
the two blocks immediately surrounding the org itself. I alternated sides,
which seemed to be the best way to spread entheta to those pedestrians who
didn't seem to want to 'run the gauntlet' of pro- and anti-scn demonstrators
who were clustered immediately outside the org.
The first difference I noted between flyering in TO versus LA - the freedom,
baby! One becomes accustomed, when on theta turf around Big Blue and the LRH
Life Exhibit, to being constantly followed by camera-wielding security
mousketeers, not to mention videographers, gawkers and the occasional handler.
In TO, there wasn't a uniformed staffer in sight - no Sea Org uniforms,
nobody handcuffed to briefcases, and no bike cops. Instead, it was a rather
bedraggled group of middle-aged staffers, some male, some female, who hung
around the entrance of the org. Some were carrying cameras, and there was the
obligatory photographing of me, as a newly arrived SP - but not, as is the
American custom - the paparazzi approach of following one around, clicking
I started my rotation, armed with Wulf's flyer on LRH the Conman, with the
reverse side dealing with the human cost of Scientology. I had good luck
giving out flyers - better luck, it seemed, than even some of the veteran
picketers. Despite the scurrilous allegation that this was because I used my
girlish charm to beseech passersby into taking a copy, I figure this was
probably because I was hitting up areas not in the immediate vicinity of the
org. Due to the presence of some scn staffers handing out their *own* flyers -
advertisements for free stress and personality tests, I believe - some people
at first assumed I was handing out pro-scn flyers. When I would explain that
I was *protesting* scn, a surprising number changed their mind, turned around
and accepted one after all. This must have been somewhat daunting to the
pro-scn flyer-handers-out, but hey - that's not my fault.
My other advantage over the scn staffers was my mobility. One pair of staffers
stood on the other side of the street, huddled against the wall smoking
cigarette after cigarette, nattering to each other about SPs and halfheartedly
proferring pamphlets to passersby who ventured within arms length. That's no
way to hand out flyers, dammit! You gotta at least smile. Try it and see.
(Actually, later in the day, they did experiment with mobile flyer-ers, but
they seemed to get winded after a few rotations around the block. Wimps. )
The same two women - accompanied by a youngish guy carrying a spiffy digital
camera - made an attempt to 'handle' me partway through the morning - the only
genuine effort at communication from scns that I got all day. One asked me why
I was there, with 'these people', and I explained my concerns were with the
behaviour of the church, but not their beliefs. I stresesd that I thought she
had the right to believe whatever she wanted, and in response, she asked me if
I had ever studied scientology. I told her that I'd read several LRH books,
and reeled off several titles, including Dianetics and Intro to Ethics. She
asked me if I had ever 'applied the datums' to my life, which sparked a
fascinating discussion on misogyny in Dianetics, at which point the young man
took over after the woman looked increasingly out of her depth. He told me
that it didn't matter whether I believed that every woman attempted to abort
her child, "it's the truth." I asked him how he knew it was true, and he
switched subjects deftly, asking me if I would withhold the use of a cure for
AIDS just because the scientist who discovered it was a wife beater. "What
matters is whether it works. " I told him that this was a false analogy, and
that a more accurate one would be whether I would be suspicious of a cure for
AIDS discovered by an admitted homophobic. "It's a question of what his agenda
and biases might be," I explained.
At this point, I realized that I was so busy being 'handled' that I was
falling behind in my flyer distribution, so I tried to do both at once,
leading to an amusing exchange when a girl my age took the flyer, and noted
her support for my position. "I've heard all about them, and their
harassment," she said. My erstwhile handler pounced. "What kind of
harassment?" he asked. "Well," I jumped into the conversation, "there's that
camera you're holding. Why were you taking my picture?" "Yeah!" agreed the
passerby. "What are you going to do with those pictures?" He had no response,
but just stood silently, doing his best impression of a man not carrying a
camera in his hands, but it was no use. She took my flyer, wished me luck and
carried on her way, at which point the two women staffers helpfully pointed
across the street, where my fellow picketers were trying to get me to break
At this point, it was off to the famous Artful Dodger for delicious eats. I
was famished, having eaten nothing all day, and well-pleased by my grilled
chicken sandwich, which gave me strength for the afternoon's effort.
Satiated by high-carb munchies, I began my circuit with renewed energy and a
replenished stock of flyers. The afternoon crowd seemed even more eager to
take them from me, and I ran through all of Wulf's conman flyers as well as an
inch high stack of Lisa McPherson affidavit excerpts, courtesy of Mirele. I
had some interesting conversations with passersbys, including a handful of
Christians who used the conversation as a stepping stone to a conversion
attempt - sneaky little devils. It's not very productive to bite the heads off
people you want to read your flyers, so I was polite and non-commital; the
smile-and-nod school of religious discussion.
At one point, I also got into a rather surreal discussion with a gentleman who
suggested that my efforts were futile - but then, in his opinion, all effort,
at anything to 'improve' the planet, were equally futile, since in 2005, the
aliens would be taking control of the planet. "I mean, I recycle and
everything," he explained, "but there's no point. They're already here." "Ah,"
I said, in my most neutral tones. "Here, have a flyer anyway." Hey, I'm
nothing if not scrupulously non-discriminatory towards our kook minority.
But the vast majority of people who stopped to talk were in favour of what we
were doing, and a surprisingly high number were already well-informed on the
dangers of scientology. I can't even count the number of people who told me,
in confidential tones, that it's a 'cult', and a dangerous organization out to
steal one's money. One girl - bright, young and a future suppressive, I
suspect - said it sounded like a pyramid scheme - 'only instead of soap, it's
about your soul.' One fellow told me that he had been involved with scn for a
short time, in Europe, before he realized that it was a scam. "These people,
they seem so happy, but they aren't," he said. "It's all about going up - what
do they call it? going up the bridge. There's so much pressure, and they don't
even realize their behaviour is being controlled."
I gave out dozens of flyers - I think Wulfen would have a better estimate of
the total count, but it sure seemed like a lot. There were no further handling
attempts, possibly as a result of some friendly discussions between the
officer on duty and the scns, which also led to a prohibition on 'in your
I got a chance to gossip with fellow picket newcomer GypsyBlue, the girl with
the best hair in the ARSCC, as well as picketing veterans who I knew so well
from the net, yet had never met in person. I got to see Gregg doing his now
infamous suppressive schtick, which really did draw a crowd. The official CoS
videographer seemed equally mesmerized - they filmed every moment of his
performance, giving rise to a question from one fellow picketer: "Just how
much footage of the back of Gregg's head do they need?" At one point, as we
stood nearby discussing the GreggCam, the video operator turned the camera on
us. We waved. Hey, at least it'll give the viewer(s) a change of scene.
At one point, I'm told, the very reverend Al Buttnor made a cameo appearance,
stalking through the picket, looking flustered and carrying a suit bag. I
wasn't in front of the org at the time, but I'm told that he did have a sotto
voice conversation with one of the local staffers, and pointed at my bouncing
form on the other side of the street. Only Xenu knows what he said; I wonder
if he recognized me as the girl he'd invited for coffee only a month or so
earlier? Andy Hill didn't seem to know - so maybe Rev. Al didn't twig, either.
(In fairness to OSA, I'll note that two weeks ago, I cut off my trademark bob
of hair, and now have what can only be described as a 'pixie' cut. It's
possible that this transformation threw Al and the gang for a loop. If so -
the secret is out now. )
Towards the end of the afternoon, as I was passing the doughnut shop directly
across from the org, I noticed two gentlemen sitting outside, drinking coffee,
trying to get a look at the words on the flyer. I smiled at them, and they
beckoned me to come over to their table. I offered one a flyer, and explained
that it was the story of a woman who died under the care of the church, for
which it is now under indictment. "You mean you're against scientology?" He
asked. When I averred that I was, he gave me a broad smile. "I'll definitely
take one. " His companion, a younger fellow, also beamed at me, and offered
his hand and his name in introduction, and I offered him mine, plus a flyer of
his own. At this point, a third companion sat down, and, when he realized I
wasn't a scientologist, did the same thing. How upsetting this must have been
to the Dianetics flyergirl who was standing dolefully within earshot - a
suppressive being actively courted, whilst she stood, alone with her tickets.
Food for thought, perhaps.
After a few more orbits of the block, I was nabbed by my fellow picketers, who
announced that the picket was over, and the after-picket festivities were
about to begin. We repaired to a local pub, where I had a much-deserved cider,
and chatted about all things scientological and otherwise. Afterwards, I
scampered off, and made it to the bus station just in time for the 9pm bus
back to Ottawa.
Altogether, it was a most worthwhile entheta experience, and well worth the
eight hours or so of travel time it took to get there. I'll definitely try to
make it back sometime when the weather is a little bit warmer, but I want to
send a special message to OSA in LA: this doesn't mean you're off the hook.
You guys at Big Blue will always have my heart - I mean, you know what they
say - all nice girls love a man in a uniform. See you when you least expect
a two-org kinda girl.