BY BOB VICKREY
My next-door neighbor Scott is simply a force of nature.
He uses his relentless and tireless energy by helping people who are in trouble. I’m only a spectator who sits back in amazement as I observe his daily rescues of those who are in need.
Scott has worked at the drug-and-alcohol rehab unit of a Los Angeles hospital for many years and is in charge of several Westside support group meetings where he has built numerous friendships—and as many admirers.
He will be the first to tell you the reason he’s on this mission is that he was offered a second chance after his brush with the law twenty years ago. An observant Los Angeles judge sensed the good qualities Scott possessed, and ultimately gave him that second chance to turn his life around. The committed life my friend has led since that misstep has made the judge’s decision appear to have been a wise one indeed.
Scott was born in Houston, Texas, and raised in Stamford, Connecticut, as the oldest of five children. His father Eugene had a successful newspaper career as an editor and publisher, which eventually led to a 30-year job in advertising management at the New York Times. Scott’s mother Kathleen had an impressive academic career that included college degrees from St. Mary’s College, NYU and an internship in the field of nutrition at Yale University. She managed dietary programs at several renowned hospitals and care centers during her career.
Soon after I met Scott, I couldn’t help but notice that his cell phone never stops ringing. He will often be on one call advising a friend about how to make it through the night and remain sober, and then receive another call from someone who is going through an awful divorce. His advice to that friend: “Listen to me now; don’t keep trashing your ex in front of the kids because it’s going to come back and haunt you. They love their mother, and you’re endangering your future relationship with them.”
Scott has a flexible work schedule but seems to be on call 24 hours a day. He’s either at the hospital or on the road offering support where it is needed. And when he’s at home, it doesn’t mean the phone stops ringing. He sleeps when he has a rare window of downtime. In fact, some friends worry about his daily pace and how it affects his health. One friend observed, “Scott takes care of everybody but himself.”
He recently lost a friend to an overdose whom he’d rescued from numerous drinking binges in recent years, and although his friend’s death wasn’t a complete surprise—given the young man’s self-destructive habits, Scott was visibly upset that he had not been available to him at the very end. That was because Scott was in Connecticut attending his mother’s funeral.
In coming weeks, Scott will preside at his friend’s memorial service in Los Angeles. He told me, “What makes this one even more tragic is that my pal was one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet.”
This was the same friend that he had driven to rehab facilities in Phoenix several times because his pal was too drunk to be allowed on an airplane. Each time he drove him to the facility in Phoenix, Scott would turn right around and make the long trip back to LA. When I asked him how many people he had placed in rehab, he laughed, and said he had lost count. “Probably more than a thousand—if I count the multiple admissions by the same person.”
When I learned of Scott’s benevolent lifestyle after meeting him a few years ago, little did I know that I would also become a candidate to accept his kindness and generosity. Recently I gave up driving because of advanced glaucoma and the loss of peripheral vision, so Scott now finds time in his busy schedule to drive me to doctors’ appointments. In fact, I hardly ever need to ask him. After we return from an appointment, he’ll often ask, “Where are we going next?” I frequently text him with very little notice, and he appears magically in my driveway with the car engine running.
Several of his friends have told me that he paid their rent when they had no money and found an available car so they could get to work. On occasion, he has offered friends his couch to sleep on when they were completely down and out.
A few weeks ago, we were coming back from a doctor’s appointment, when Scott’s cell phone rang using his car’s speaker system. He looked over at me smiling, and said, “It’s my mom in Stamford.”
I heard her say, “Hi honey, I’m not feeling very well today and haven’t gotten much help from the staff.” Scott asked if she had eaten anything for lunch. She replied that she wasn’t hungry and that she needed her medication. He told her he would call the front desk and take care of the matter. “You need to try eating something; I’ll have them send up some lunch.”
His mother responded sincerely, “I’m so worried about everything right now.” Scott told her firmly, “Kathleen, listen to me; you don’t need to worry! That’s MY job to worry for you.” I’m almost sure that I heard a faint chuckle from her on the other end of the line.
That particular conversation has stuck with me as the ultimate testimonial about Scott. Instead of calling downstairs to the front desk of her own facility for the services she needed, she chose to hear the reassuring voice of her eldest son on the opposite coast, some 3,000 miles away.
As you can tell by these stories, his mom is only one of many people who have reached out to hear Scott’s supportive voice in recent times. The caller always knows that he will also provide that extra service of doing your worrying for you. Where else are you going to receive that perk?
For goodness sake, would someone please hand this man his cape!
Bob Vickrey is a writer whose columns have appeared in several Southwestern newspapers including the Houston Chronicle. He is a member of the Board of Contributors for the Waco Tribune-Herald, and was cited by the California Newspaper Publishing Association for column writing awards in 2016 and 2017. He lives in Pacific Palisades, California.