Scientology cult makes an impression
04 Jan 2002
Mike Krotz <M_K@fornikulture.com>
Today I had some visitors from Sweden who asked me to give them a tour of Clearwater. They were a brother and sister, and for their privacy I will not reveal their names. The sister has lived in the US for about 8 years, and the brother was here vacationing.
It was a clear and sunny but cold day, about as cold as it gets here, and windy. We met at a coffee shop and talked at length for the first time earlier today. It was a very interesting conversation, as while they were fairly well versed in the general background of $cientology, neither of them recognized the name Lisa McPherson. The concept of the "LMT" was totally foreign to them. I described a few experiences I have had over the past year or so, and gave them an overview of some of the things I have experienced. I tried not to dwell on any particular subject, and we discussed many things relating to cults and extreme religious groups in both of our countries.
We then drove into Clearwater, first going past the Hacienda residential complex. I pointed out the cameras on the buildings, and we noted that as we slowed in the street to look at one of them, the camera was rotating to focus on us. To a foreign visitor, the globes housing the cameras were hard to distinguish from outdoor lighting, and it took a moment to point them out. The motion detectors near the fences were a little more obvious, and I continue to be amused that they mostly point inward. Much as I and others remarked previously, the camera at this location that is suspended over a public sidewalk drew the comment "can they really do that?"
Next, we drove into downtown and parked on a side street. We proceeded to do a walking tour of downtown. The first thing the visitors remarked on were the Flag buses. The brother asked whether anyone could ride the buses, as one would a city bus, and I explained that they were private, for $cientologists only. We later saw regular city buses, which except for stripes, look very similar.
We walked past the bank building and toward the Ft. Harrison and the new SuperPower building. I tried to let the visitors take in the surroundings, and they asked me about the logos and uniform type clothing worn by the pedestrians in the area. I noticed the odd looks we were getting but at this point the visitors had not yet picked up on that. We walked entirely around the SP building and back to the area between it and the Ft. Harrison, where we paused and took some photos.
It was then that I think we drew the attention of the security staff, and I recognized one of them watching us from the front of the FH.
We walked beside the FH, then past City Hall and toward the Osceola and Sandcastle. But a detour into the One Stop Shoppe was necessary, as I had to pay my power bill, and they have recently become a pay station for our local electric utility. We went in, and I was directed to a counter in the back of the store, where they rent mail drop boxes and sell money orders as well. A very friendly lady took my payment and cheerfully asked me how my holidays were and whether I wanted to buy any money orders or anything else... we had a very pleasant conversation, and I proceeded to blame our sudden cold weather on my visitor from Sweden. He apologized for leaving the door open when he came over, letting the cold in...
It was obvious by the uniform clothing that most of the customers in the store were $cientologists, and we got some odd looks, but I imagine we were just taken as tourists... which in fact we were, at least 2/3 of us...
We walked from there to the side of Coachman Park, and some photos with the "OT" on the Sandcastle visible in the background were taken. Around the Sandcastle I first noticed the security guy on the phone in the parking lot, watching us, and pointed him out. A few minutes later, the sister pointed out a guy lurking in the (still standing) winter wonderland display, watching us. I didn't see him right away, but walked a few steps back and caught him peeking from behind part of the display. I waved, and he hastily ducked for cover.
The rest of our tour was uneventful, we paused for photos near the front of the bank building, then left downtown. However, the combination of the odd tension and looks we got while downtown, and the lurking staffer watching us from the holiday display really made an impression on these visitors. I honestly tried to be a very factual tour guide, correcting misimpressions and pointing out important but often overlooked items, such as the tiny camera on the wall of the FH near the intersection of Osceola and Pierce.
Fortunately, it only requires a walk around downtown Clearwater for a person to get a true impression of the cult. It was very educational for me to take in a foreign visitor's perspective on this city, as much as it was for them to be given this tour. I thank the friendly workers at the One Stop Shoppe for dispelling my impressions of their establishment, and I commend the OSA security staff for their vigilence, and crafty use of holdiday displays for cover while spying on us.
MK -- "Did you ever read poor old George Orwell's uh... 1984? Yes, yes, that's wonderful. That would be, could be, the palest imagined shadow of what a world would be like under the rule of the secret use of Scientology with no remedy in existence." -L. Ron Hubbard PDC Lecture #20
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