MAYNARD, Mass. In a darkened room, Rose Alba Mercurio sits in a comfortable chair and repeats the words she hears on a self-hypnosis tape especially prepared for her by a local support group. “I don’t need another . . . I don’t need another,” she says in a trance-like monotone for twenty minutes, then opens her eyes.
“I think it’s working,” she says after she recovers her waking consciousness. “I haven’t been on eBay for two weeks.”
“You can get this monkey off your back!”
Mercurio suffers from Hummel Addiction, a debilitating compulsion that in the past caused her to fill her small one-bedroom apartment with over 2,500 of the ceramic figurines, which eventually spilled over into a rented storage space on the edge of town. “I was out of control,” she says tearfully, as she peeks out her venetian blinds for neighborhood “pushers” who prey on Hummel collectors. “They know I’m weak, and they come by around the first of the month when I get my Social Security check.”
Face it–they outnumber you.
Rose Alba was able to get her habit under control for the first time with the help of a new drug cocktail that Hummel clinics say shows promise. “You mix crack cocaine, methadone, bicarbonate of soda and Serutan,” the laxative whose name, read backwards, spells “natures,” according to Dr. Philip Heisel of the University of Massachusetts-Seekonk. “It packs a powerful punch, but that’s what it takes to shake these people out of their legarthy, or lethargy, however you spell it.”
Hummel figurines have been characterized as “kitsch,” a German word that is used to refer to tasteless, sentimental art, but that has not served as a deterrent. “The moralistic approach never works,” says Sergeant Perry Hampden of the Detroit, Michigan, Drug, Vice and Tchotchke Squad. “When I catch somebody holding up a liquor store to feed his Hummel habit, he’ll just get defensive if I criticize his taste and switch to more potent stuff, like Ladro.”
Cute widdle wambykin!
For recovering addicts such as Rose Alba, the ability to face the world freed from her prior compulsion is a gift that is given to her anew each morning. “I feel great,” she says, her face transformed by a smile. “I think I’ll go to a tag sale today.”