What do the Girl Scouts, the EPA, the Sierra Club, and Scientology have in common? It sounds like the start of a bad joke... except it really happened, and we were the butt of the joke. It started with a Saturday trip to San Francisco. We were walking back to BART from a gallery show when a cute little girl gave us this cute little flyer (pictured above) and asked us if we wanted a free CFL from, among other sources, the Sierra Club. All we had to do was pick it up inside the building behind us. "Sure," we said.
It got a little strange when she surreptiously pulled a phone out of her pocket and made a call. "I've got two!" she whispered.
It was a rainy day, and we had forgotten our umbrellas. At first, we were glad to get out of the rain.
We followed the Girl Scout into the Scientology building at the corner of Montgomery and Columbus in San Francisco, past the reception desk, where we were greeted by some very perky scientologists, to a table at the very back of the room, a good fifty feet from the front door, right next to a huge bronze bust of L. Ron Hubbard.
We were asked to write our names in a log book, "so that the company that gave us the bulbs knows we're not selling them." And here's where things start to move off course: in the same breath, we're asked by another cute little girl—who appeared to be a girl scout— if we had time for a tour... of the Scientology building. "No, thanks," we said, as we started to head for the door.
We were about halfway to the door when one of the reception desk Scientologists swooped over to ask us if we had heard about Dianetics, which was explained in the brochure he was shoving in our hands. "Yes," we say, but we just wanted a free CFL, and we're trying to catch the next BART train. "So you don't have time for a tour?" he asked. "No," we said, as we made a beeline for the door.
Back in the safety of the public street, we laughed about our brush with Scientology and made insensitive jokes that more or less directly compared Suri Cruise to the Messiah. Kind readers, please learn from our bad example, and refrain from jokes involving Scientology, Jesus, and TomKat when within one block of a Sceientology facility. The well-dressed couple in front of us turned around and gave us a cold, hard glare that could easily have turned violent. Editorial note: for anyone who might think this is some kind of media tirade against Scientology, it's not. I don't profess to know the ins and outs of your religion or doctrine or whatever it is you're calling it these days; my reaction is against borderline coercive methods involving Girl Scouts and CFLs. And if you want to talk any more about this, Tom, I'm free for lunch on Thursday.
That said, back to the bulb. Our free CFL had come in a compostable plastic bag with lots of literature. Let's do a quick inventory, shall we?
• CFL? Check—actually, better make that half a check. My partner didn't even get a CFL!
• Educational materials and commercial propaganda from corporate and utility sponsors printed on recycled paper that's nonetheless destined straight for the recycle bin? (OK, the "remember to recycle your CFL" magnet is nifty.) Check.
• Free pencils made from recycled denim and recyled US currency? Cool! Check.
• The Way to Happiness: A Common Sense Guide to Better Living? [64 pages, by L. Ron Hubbard.] Check.
• The Truth About Painkillers: Once prescribed, these drugs open the door to a tenacious addiction and a life of dependency. [22 pages, also by L. Ron Hubbard.] Check.