The Stress Test

Katekatharina stressed (I couldn't open my tin of tomatoes.. I'd been trying for weeks)

I was walking down Kudam, west Berlin’s main shopping street, yesterday when a man with bulging eyes stopped me in my tracks. He smiled sweetly.

“Would you like to take a stress test?” he asked.

“Yes please!” I replied.

He was delighted.

“What’s your name?”


“And where are you from, Kate?”




“Do you speak English?”

“Yes, but German too of course.”

He laughed. “Oh yes, of course!”

A moment of awkwardness passed as he peered at me.

“Let me introduce you to my colleague,” he said.

“Oh, sure.”

“Em, kkKarl,” he called nervously to his superior. “This is Kate.”

Karl, an older man with a harder face but equally penetrative eyes turned to me.

“Hello,” he said and shook my hand.


“Take a seat.”

“Thank you.”

“First of all, look at these metal rods I am holding,” said Karl.

They looked like dumbells.

“Obviously they are not going to give you an electric shock,” he said. “Look, here I am holding them and nothing is happening.”

“Yes,” I said.

He handed me the rods and I clutched them with all my might.

“I am going to ask you a question, Kate.”


“The energy from your body will flow into this machine.”


“Think of somebody in your life.”

The counter hovered around zero.

He waited.

Finally he said, “who were you thinking of?”

“My mum.”

“What kind of a relationship do you have with her?”

“It’s good.”

“Do you ever have differences of opinion?”

“Oh, sure. But nothing big”

“But there are sometimes disagreements?”


He paused a while and then said “What do you do professionally?”

“I’m an intern.”

“In what capacity?”

“I’m working as a journalist.”

His mouth flickered unpleasantly.

But he said, “I want you to think about your job.”


“Do you like it?”


“Are there ever stressful moments in your workplace?”


The scales budged a little.

“Do you see that? This is the negative energy floating from your body.”

“Ah, yes.”

He paused.

“Would you like to know how to eliminate negative energy from your life?”


“Would you like to buy a book which will change your life for the better?”

He whipped out a copy of L. Ron Hubbard’s Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health.

“No thank you. I think I’d like to find out a little more before committing to a purchase.”

He handed me a plastic booklet outlining the main tenets of the Church of Scientology. I skimmed it and thanked him without committment..

He snatched it back and flashed me a murderous glance. I continued down Kudam.

8 thoughts on “The Stress Test

    • To be honest, I can’t resist religious nuts. I’m really intrigued by how they work and I’m always polite and wonder whether they really believe I am buying what they’re saying. Often the people are harmless, but obviously in the case of scientology, there’s a terrible malevolence behind it.


  1. Was he holding the dumbells with the weighing scales attached when he directed a murderous glance at you? It would be intertesting to see his energy flow.
    Great description of a scary encounter!


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