WESTLAND, Mass. Emil Scalzo is supposed to be somewhere else right now, and his frustration shows in the exasperated look on his face. “I don’t know why it is,” he says almost bitterly to this reporter. “Every year I tell people to get it together, and every year I’m rounding them up at the last minute.”
Scalzo is executive director of the Self-Pity Foundation, an organization that assists those with little confidence and less self-esteem to snap out of their funks, pull themselves up by their bootstraps and stop feeling sorry for themselves. “We can only do so much,” he says as he rings the doorbell at the home of Tom Vernish, a mid-level bureaucrat at a state agency who read an article in this morning’s Boston Globe about private sector salaries and has been lying on a couch muttering to himself ever since.
Self-pity is not currently listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a fact that Scalzo says is the result of animus and not an oversight. “It’s easy for a high-priced shrink looking at his watch while a SPP (self-pitying person) pours his or her heart out to say ‘You’re fine, get your derriere out of your chair-iere,’” he says with barely-restrained anger. “Me–I need these people to get over themselves and march if we’re going to make budget this year.”
After several minutes of knocking by Scalzo, at first quietly but harder as time passed with no response, Vernish appears at the door, unshaven, eyes unfocused, his face red from crying which he tries to conceal by snuffling up a last drop of mucus before asking quizzically “What do you want?”
“You know darn well what I’m here for,” Scalzo says. “I can’t have you moping today, you’re supposed to carry the banner that says ‘Please Feel Sorry for Me–I Can’t Do it All by Myself.’”
Vernish has nothing to say for himself, and so looks down at his feet while he tries to come up with an excuse. “I . . . don’t think it’s fair.”
“What’s not fair?” Scalzo snaps.
“How, uh, I don’t make as much money as . . . some people.”
Scalzo shakes his head back and forth in dismay, upset at Vernish’s backsliding. “I thought we had you in a good place, Tom,” he says, turning sympathetic. “What did we teach you in the Step 1 class?”
Vernish is silent for a moment, then begins a rote recitation, as if he’s running through multiplication tables. “Nobody told me to goof off in grade school. Or high school.”
Scalzo is pleased to hear his charge has absorbed at least some of the lessons he tries to impart to victims of SPS (self-pity syndrome) but he’s not satisfied, and presses on. “And what else?” he asks.
Vernish is again fascinated with his shoes, but in few seconds begins haltingly. “So . . . it’s okay if somebody else has, like, more stuff than I do.”
“That’s the ticket!” Scalzo says with quiet pride at a job well-done, at least in part. “Now let’s get going–we only have the parade route reserved from noon ’til two.”
Vernish turns around to get the “sandwich sign” he is supposed to carry and is about to join Scalzo when he is overcome by second thoughts.
“C’mon, lets go!” Scalzo says. “What’s the matter?”
“I was just thinking,” Vernish muses. “I manned the bake sale table for two hours at the Winter Carnival last January.”
“So?” Scalzo asks.
“Haven’t I already done enough?”