Old Settlers Time
The smell of anything you want fried on a stick and cotton candy hangs heavily in the air, causing mouths to water regardless of the hiked up prices. It is that time of year again. It is that week were the carnival companies come and turn our downtown, as small as it is, into a barricaded off playground of children's imagination. Citizens and corporations alike come from every side of town and set up their tents in a shameless attempt at pushing their wares on the unsuspecting public at marked up prices. Everyone comes with paintings, crafts, candles, toys, sand, food, and even somewhat drug like substances. You can stop in to the O2 tent and for a few minutes you can get a free oxygen high.
There is one tent that stands out from the others. It is placed somewhat on the outskirts of the carnival, it stands twice as large as the other tents and distractingly shines in it's bright yellow color. Underneath the shadow of this tent stands tables piled full of various books all by one author L Ron Hubbard. It is the Scientologists tent. I read some of the posters briefly as I wait. One poster outlines the several points of the organization's mission, End war, End sickness, End drugs, End poverty, etc... Other posters outline different techniques that they teach to combat addictions, depression, and even muscle pain they cure by using touch therapy. There are two men sitting in chairs giving demonstrations to passers by. There is a woman who I recognize from my church sitting in a chair in front of another man. I cannot recall her name, I am bad with names. She is holding onto two slender silver cylanders, they look like those can and string telephones that we would use as a kid. But instead of the wire just going from one can directly to another, the wires go into the back of an odd looking blue device that has several knobs and switches and a little meter. I listen in.
"How are things at work" says the man.
"Things are going well." the woman says.
The meter confirms this as the needle remains still.
"How about your family?"
The needle wiggles a bit and drifts upward. The woman's eyes stay fixed to the meter, she refuses to say.
"Hmm, is it your husband." the needle stops.
"Perhaps a child." the needle begins to move upward again.
"Do you have a son or daughter that you are worried about?" The needle shoots up.
"It looks like you have some stress."
The woman throws the cans down out of her hands and looks hurt. "That's not fair." she says. "Everyone who has kids worries for their kids. Do you have any kids?"
The man doesn't answer the question. "Scientology could really help you." he says. With a huff the lady gets up and begins to move away.
"How about you sir, would you like an audit?" the second man says as he turns to me.
I look at him squarely in the eye, he looks unkempt. his beard has grown long and his hair is uncombed. I shrug, "Why not."
I take a seat and the man hands me the cans. I grip them loosely.
"What is your name?"
"Stephen?" I respond.
"Well Stephen, it is nice to meet you, this device, to put it simply, is a stress meter. I will ask you some questions about your life and try to find areas of your life which cause you stress so that you can focus your efforts on those areas of your life. let me calibrate the machine to you." The man turns a knob slightly and the needle on the meter swings up to a halfway point. I relax.
"How is life going for you Stephen?"
I think for a moment and calmly reply, "Things are going well enough." I watch as the needle begins to drop slowly.
"How are things going in your family."
I concentrate on the family and try to find any thing that would be a cause for stress, I find none.
"My family is doing well." The needle drops nearly to the bottom of the scale.
The man adjusts the knob to bring the needle back to the middle.
"How about work? Are your coworkers nice?"
"Work is going well, I am saving up enough money, that is a good thing." the needle continues to fall.
A discouraging look begins to creep across the man's face.
"What kind of things do you do for a hobby?"
I shrug as several things cross my mind, "I like to build things with legos. I like to write. I play video games." the needle drops down further almost touching the bottom of the meter a second time.
The man adjusts the knob again bringing the needle to the beginning. "Hmm" he says as he looks at the machine. "Do you hang out with anyone? Are your friends doing well?"
I began to rack my brain now, searching for anything, even something unrelated to the question that might trigger stress. The best I can come up with was a recent argument which I had with an online hotshot. Even as I thought about that argument though, the needle was unwavering in its determination to reach the bottom of the meter. I looked at the man again. "My friends are all doing well."
The man adjusted the knob a fourth time to bring the needle up to the middle, "What are your plans for the future?"
"I am saving up money right now so that I can go on a mission in a couple more months."
"A Mission? What for?"
"To preach the Gospel."
"What church do you belong to?"
"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints."
The man looks back at the machine, the needle rested firmly on the bottom of the meter. Confusion crossed his face. "Umm. well... It was nice meeting you Mr. Stephen. I don't know what to say, I have never seen anyone with as little stress as you. I really wish I could live as free of stress. Scientology realy does help out a lot of people though. I can give you a free book that you can read to learn more about it." He holds out a thin looking book.
"Thank you" I say kindly. I stand up and begin to walk away.
My friend Peter leans over and chuckles, "Dude, as soon as you mentioned your mission the needle just dropped, it didn't drift down slowly. it was like it was pulled to the bottom."
I shake my head, I flip through the pages of the book. There is nothing of interest to me. I dump the book in a near by trashcan. The thought runs through my head. If I have just accomplished what they are working towards, then why not ask me how I do live a life so free of stress. It boggles my mind that someone could just pass up an opportunity like that. We pass by the tent later to find the man huttled down behind the books, hiding the cigarette that he was lighting up. We both shake our heads and begin to roam elsewhere among the countless paintings and toys and trinkets. It is Old Settlers Time again.