Wanna play The Birthday Game? It’s not as fun as it sounds.

birthday candles close up bokeh background

Hi there, dear sweet lovely reader!

I was looking at my recent blog posts and realized it’s been a while since I wrote about my actual experiences in scientology—but that’s what you’re all saying you want to hear more about. So first of all… SORRY. I guess I was off on a “trying to figure myself out” tangent. But now, the fun continues.

Today, I’m gonna talk about my first experience with something EVERY scientology staff member knows about all too well: The Birthday Game. (Like all other scientology-related terms, that’s the last time I’ll capitalize it.)

What is the birthday game, you may ask? It’s a game every scientology organization plays each year, and it ends on March 13th, which is hubbard’s birthday. Every org would accumulate points each week based on how well they did statistically, and the organization with the highest total at the end of the year would be the big winner.

The whole purpose of the birthday game, according to hubbard, was to give him the “one gift he really wanted” for his birthday: expansion of scientology organizations. What actually occurred was something I learned a LOT about: stat-pushing, or figuring out ways to manipulate your weekly statistics so that they were up week after week, in order to “win”. Get it? Yeah, not so much about spiritual freedom for millions, more about bragging rights. Whoo hoo.

My first experience with the joy of the stat-pushy birthday game was soon after I joined staff at the mountain view mission in 1989. They were hot and heavy on the birthday game at the time, so I was indoctrinated really fast into the importance of it. They made it REALLY clear to me that we were going to win that year, and nothing was going to get in the way of that. Gulp.

I was in charge of division 6, the public division, which got new people into scientology and moved them onto “major services” (i.e. $$$$$$$$$). Basically, I had three main statistics that I needed to make sure were up every week in order to get the maximum number of birthday game points from my division: “number of new books sold to individuals”, “number of first service starts”, and “bodies in the shop”. Let me explain this a bit, as well as how I worked to “get the stats up” every week:

Number of new books sold to individuals: Pretty simple—how many books we sold to people for the first time. If this had been a normal situation, we’d have just tallied up how many people bought a book each week, be it from the door-to-door bookselling we did (yep, practically every night), the books we sold out in front of the local Tower Records (ahh, the 80s….), or the books we sold to people who came in for a free introductory service, like getting their personality test evaluated.

But of course, this wasn’t a normal situation. WE WERE GOING TO WIN THE BIRTHDAY GAME, DAMMIT!!!! We couldn’t just do our jobs like a “normal” person, we had to have those numbers up EVERY SINGLE WEEK. What did that entail? Well, let’s see…

•    I “sold” every single person in my family a dianetics book. They didn’t know this, of course. (If you’re just finding this out now, family members: Surprise!) I’d just write an invoice for a book with their name and address on it, and pay for the book myself.

Of course, their names and addresses were entered into the dreaded central files, never to see the light of day again, so they could be haunted for years to come with scientology promotional mailings. True story! My 93-year-old mother still gets mailings from scientology because of that one time I “sold” her a book in order to “get my stats up”. Sorry, mom.

•    I refused to let people leave my office after a personality test interview until they’d bought a book. I didn’t care what book, just get a book, you deluded non-scientologist!!!! I can imagine how they must have felt, with this crazy-eyed blonde sitting across from them, telling them that their ENTIRE LIFE depended on getting that book, and yes, it was fine that they had no money for groceries that week.

•    None of my staff were able to return from a night of door-to-door bookselling until they had met their quota of books sold. This sometimes took until late in the evening, and I NEVER asked how they were able to “sell” their books. Who cares? It was all about the number, baby.

Number of first service starts: Basically, any time someone signed up for a service for the first time and then “got started” on that service, they counted. I was getting up to 20 or more first service starts a week. How, you may ask? Well…

•    I’d get a person to sign up for a “life improvement course” based on what they told me they needed to handle in their life. These are courses like “how to improve relationships with others”, “how to improve your marriage”, “financial success”, and so many more. Again, easy-peasy gradient for someone who doesn’t know anything about scientology yet. Plus, these courses were fairly cheap—that’s how they getcha!

Once I’d signed the person up and taken their money, I’d personally walk them up to the course room right away so that I could get documentation that they’d “started” the course. Did it matter if they didn’t want to start yet? Nah. Did I care if they actually DID the course? Not my job, man. I just wanted to make sure I got that “first service start” stat while they were still in my clutches.

•    If a person didn’t want to sign up for a course or some basic counseling, I’d tell them to get an “extension course” to go along with the book they just bought. The course could be done at their home, but it counted as a “first service” for my stat-pushy purposes.

A lot of people agreed to get on the extension course just to escape my office—remember, I was DETERMINED (crazy). I’m sure the vast majority of people I signed up for extension courses never did them. I wouldn’t be surprised if many of them tossed the course booklet in the trash on their way out. Just sayin’.

Bodies in the shop: Now this is where my true stat-pushing birthday game persona came to the surface. It’s not a pretty one, I’ll tell you; I look back on it now and can’t actually believe I did those things on a regular basis. But I did.

It worked like this: I had to count up how many people came in and were actually on a paid service each week. That meant going through all the course roll books, all the sign-in sheets for auditing sessions, etc. I was supposed to check this every day so that I could take whatever actions I needed to take to get more people in on service that week, usually by calling them and scheduling them to come in.

But I didn’t check every day. Why? I was either out selling books or doing door-to-door personality tests, or in my office doing interviews on new people. If I was seen walking around inside the mission too much, I’d be considered to not be doing my job.

By the time I actually got to looking at the “bodies in the shop” numbers each week, if they weren’t where they needed to be, I’d panic. I’d been told many, many times that this was the “easiest stat in the mission to handle” and that I was lazy if I wasn’t making sure it was taken care of.

The first few times my bodies in the shop stat was down, I was given an interview in the ethics office (i.e. the place where the bad people go): “What is your counter-intention to the birthday game?” “What counter-intention do you have to l. ron hubbard?” and so on.  “Counter-intention” is scientologese for something you are thinking or doing that’s against the “good” intention of someone else or the group, and it’s considered very baaaaaaaaad.

So I’d be in these interviews, and they wouldn’t let me leave until I’d come up with something I must have been feeling or doing that was “against scientology”. I’d mostly have to make it up, but at least I was out of the interview. Then I’d have to do some sort of amends to make up for the “damage” I’d caused by not getting my stats up. This really happened. A lot. Looking at it now, I can see how well I was being programmed.

So, after a few rounds of that, I wasn’t having it anymore. I just started “adding” names to the list: “I saw Joe Smith walk through the front door last week: body in the shop!” “Mary Jones came in to watch a free film: body in the shop!” “Fred Flintstone told me he’d thought about coming in: body in the shop!”

Did I get caught? Once. Did I get called a “treacherous c***” in front of the entire staff at a staff meeting by the head of the mission, a fine, spiritual man? You betcha. Did I keep doing it, but sneakier? Yep.

So now you know the “inner secrets” of how organizations stat-push their way to the top of the birthday game. Do I think I was the only one doing this? Hardly. I remember thinking, when we were accepting our trophy for winning the birthday game that year, that it was odd how we didn’t really SEEM any busier or bigger. Well, duh!

Am I happy that we did so much stat-pushing, and that it continues in scientology orgs around the world to this day? Of course not. Am I happy that scientology isn’t expanding as much as they say they are? ABSOLUTELY.

Hard to see things when you’re right in the middle of them. It’s also hard to be lying every single day on your job while telling new people that scientology is the greatest thing since sliced bread. It’s a wonder I didn’t go insane. Wait a minute… I did! I joined the sea org! As that old Celine Dion song goes, “It’s all coming back to me now…”

What’s even more amazing is that I didn’t continue doing this type of thing when I escaped scientology, since it had been so programmed into me. I don’t ever remember doing anything, on any job since I got out, where I faked things, lied, or cheated to make something appear what it wasn’t. It never even occurred to me to do that. I wonder why? I guess I didn’t feel any pressure to have to lie or cheat. Hmmm…

Quite a nasty piece of work, that scientology.

Next time: The dreaded “Thursday before 2”.

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