'I Wish I Were a Large Asian Woman'

World Recruiting Championships: Scientology vs. Crunch Gym

from SF Weekly

An edited excerpt from "How Hard Can It Be To Tell a Health Club from a Religion?," the latest installement of Harmon Leon's ongoing Infiltrator column in SF Weekly:

Pop quiz hotshot: Which has more assertive membership tactics, Crunch Gym or the Church of Scientology? Hmmm, I wonder. So I put Crunch against Scientology in a head-to-head competition.

I know my life is lacking a little something right now. Sure, Crunch Gym offers the possibility of washboard abs. But the Church of Scientology offers the prospect of a clear mind of Tom-Cruise-jumping-on-Oprah's-couch proportions. Whichever can better sell me on joining has my membership.

Which will it be?

First Stop: Crunch Gym

Crunch prides itself on its diverse clientele and non-competitive environment; men and women of all shapes, sizes, and levels are encouraged to attend our classes and use our facilities. [Crunch]

On entering, I approach the person behind the reception desk, a fit guy in exercise garb. "I'm interested in talking to someone about joining," I state, giving my best I want to join look.

"That's in case you get injured," explains the front-desk guy, as I'm handed a liability form that says I'm responsible for mishaps, if such were to occur, during my club tour.

The crunch membership rep - a clean-cut guy in a blue button-down shirt who's overly friendly and incessantly smiling - appears.
We're off for our tour of the facility, passing a series of exercise machines and a juice bar situated near the entrance. He tells me about each exercise program and asks which areas I want to work on. "You can create a program with a personal trainer with what you want to accomplish," he elaborates, "and then they can set up a workout schedule based around that."

I'm brought to a special area filled with dozens of stationary bikes.

"Do you like Spinning?"

"No," I respond, and then also decline to indicate enjoyment of yoga, dance, and kickboxing classes as they are mentioned.

"I really only like jumping rope," I say, asking if their high-tech gym-of-tomorrow offers rope-jumping.

I sure hope Scientology doesn't impress, because I can easily see myself becoming a Crunch member, working out every day in really tight bike shorts, making loud grunting noises while lifting weights.

Bring On Scientology!

If a man can dream, if a man can have goals, he can be happy and he can be alive. If he has no goals he doesn't even have a future. [L. Ron Hubbard]

I approach the person behind the reception desk, a smartly dressed, smiling woman. "I'm interested in talking to someone about joining," I state, giving my best I want to join look.

"This will determine which areas you need the most help in through our classes," she says, handing me a personality test that includes questions such as, "Are you a slow eater?"

"Do you have the book Battlefield Earth?" I ask, picking up a copy of Dianetics. "I think it's by the same author."

Surprisingly (or perhaps not) they do. In fact, this is one of the few religious headquarters that also sells science-fiction books. (The Raelians might; I'm not sure.)

"Did you know that L. Ron Hubbard wrote science-fiction books to fund his research?" I'm told, as she stresses that I should read Dianetics.

"I did read it, but I liked Battlefield Earth much better," I say. "I'm mostly interested in L. Ron Hubbard's science-fiction books."

The Scientology membership rep - a clean-cut guy in a white button-down shirt who's overly friendly and incessantly smiling - appears. We're off for our tour of the facility, passing a series of well-placed plaques featuring the marvels of L. Ron Hubbard (the Jesus of Scientology) and a Scientology prayer room featuring a well-placed, enlarged bust of L. Ron Hubbard. Along the way, I'm told about each course offered.

"The personality test will help pinpoint what courses will be best for you from the graph," he explains. "Let me ask you a question. Is there one aspect of your life you would change?"

"No. I'm pretty content."

"Is there anything in your life that is causing you stress?"

"Not really. I'm pretty happy," I respond. "Yup, that's me - one happy guy! I just want an overall tuneup. Just to kind of keep in shape. Like you would do at a gym. To me, taking Scientology courses would be like doing the Abdominizer, or leg curls."

He makes a happy face.

I'm brought to a special area and then hooked up to the E Meter (a lie-detector device that Scientologists use to probe the mental states of their victims). Again I'm asked to think of one thing in my life I'd like to change. "I wish I were a large Asian woman," I reply, extending my arm up to around the area I wish my largeness would inhabit. The E Meter doesn't know what to make of this.

Forget Crunch Gym. I can easily see myself becoming a Scientology member, working at the headquarters, where my sole job would be to polish L. Ron Hubbard's head every hour on the hour.

The Crunch Crunch

After the tour of the Crunch facility, I'm made to sit really close to the Crunch membership rep on a couch in the reception area.

"This is the cool, hip gym in town," he says. "Go over to 24 Hour Nautilus. It's right down the street. It's just kind of gross, with bad fluorescent lighting. Go check it out."

And then he says, "I'll let you in on a little secret." He crosses out the $64-a-month figure printed on a sheet of paper. "Tomorrow we're having a special. If you sign up, this monthly will be 15% off." Holy fucking shit! With one stroke of the pen, he replaces the $64-a-month figure with $57.04. What fortunate timing on my part! Somehow, the $199 enrollment fee is also slashed, all the way down to $74. I'm almost hooked.

"So let's get you signed up," the smiling rep says.

"I'll have to think about it."

"How about if I call you tomorrow," he suggests.

The Scientology Squeeze

After the tour of the Scientology facility, I'm made to sit really close to the membership rep at his personal desk.

"The best way to get started is by taking the Personal Efficiency course," he explains.

"How much is it?"

"It's only $35," he says with his big and by-now-irritating smile. "That's all you have to pay."

"Great," I reply.

"And from there, it will determine what other courses you need to take."

"Oh!" [Pause] "When can I start?"

"You can start right now."

I tell him I'll come back first thing tomorrow.

"How about if you sign today; then you'll be all set for tomorrow," he suggests, asking again what I really need help with in my life.

"I'm very indecisive. [Pause] No, that's not it. [Pause] Yeah, that's it," I say decisively.

"Well, signing up for the Personal Efficiency course would be your first step into becoming less indecisive," he retorts with his fixed smile.

An identically dressed Scientology colleague jumps up. She's also smiling. "You can sign up for the Personal Efficiency course today, then come back and take it any time you like!"...

So who is the better recruiter: Crunch Gym or Scientology? Is ringer Tom Cruise waiting in the wings to seal the deal? Or Richard Simmons to deal a meal? Does the Infiltrator join one? Does he join both? Or the 24 Hour fitness down the street? And, most importantly, does he, in fact, become a large Asian woman? These tantalizing questions are answered in the conclusion of this harrowing tale of socio-religious espionage, a tale punctuated with such heartwarming moments as...

* A guy in a large bunny suit.
* Mental note to self: Invest in more elaborate disguises.
* Heavy Metal Survivor.
* I mumble something about the weather, hoping to divert the focus.
* These guys are good - darn good.
* That woman who is the voice of Bart Simpson.
* He frowns. "Your name isn't Chad Martin," he says.


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