Monday, November 29, 2010

Show and Tell

Before we continue, I need to tell you something about myself.  This 'something' is actually very important, affecting my outlook on life, the decisions that I make and ultimately, the content of my writing and the conversations between you and I, dear reader.

I work with dead people.  Specifically, I deal with their estates - the practical aftermath of their demise.  Unlike the Coroner or funeral directors, I am not in physical contact with the dead.  Rather, I am Death's personal assistant - organising funerals, taking calls from the police, social workers, hospitals, family members.
I am Death's cubicle monkey.

I've been doing this for three years know, and here are a few maxims I've come to know and rely upon.

1)  Some deaths suck.  Dying is good and natural and necessary.  It's what we do.  However, some of us die of a huge stroke whilst straining on the toilet.

Austin Powers: Who does Number Two work for? Who does Number Two work for?
Cowboy in the next toilet stall: Yeah, that's right! You show that turd who's boss!
Nurses come across that one pretty often. 
Some of us die from a combination of drug abuse, alcoholism and general looking-after-oneself-crappily in small apartments in the middle of winter, having fallen over the bar heater and not being found until the neighbours notice the smell. 
In general, the way in which we die can pretty much be divided into good, bad and okay-but-not-great.  Good is what we all hope for - at home, sudden, in our sleep, then BAM, gone.  Preferably when we're old, but not infirm and with our wits about us.  Oh and someone to find you sooner rather than later. 
From what I know, most of us achieve okay-but-not-great status - little heart attack one day, bigger one the next, history of Alzheimers and Type 2 diabetes, nursing home.  Perhaps a touch of pneumonia. 

2)  No estate is normal.  That's because people are not normal.  There will be fights over jewellery, resulting in one's brother punching one's sister-in-law.  Right now we're dealing with a deceased left at the Coroner for 4 weeks - she was dumped by her Greek parents in Australia as a three year old when they realised she was mentally disabled.  It's now 38 years later and my co-worker has to call Thessaloniki a few times a week to see if asshole mom and dad have made a decision about what to do with the body... yet. 

3)  It's good work.  Not easy work.  Some days you head straight to the cocktail bar across the road and stick your head into a Mai Tai, you need to.  But every day you know you helped out a little and that counts.  Maybe you've been able to move the body to a less expensive funeral director so the widow doesn't have to spend so much of her pension.  Maybe you're able to send an email to a deceased's sister in Ireland explaining that yes, her brother's ashes can be sent back to Limerick and yes, we'll send his war medals and photographs too, don't worry about it.

So, that's what I do for a living.  Some days are better than others as with any profession.  And some days start with a quarter of diazepam chugged down with a swig of absinthe, and remembering that showing up to work drunk and inebriated is a 'fireable offence'.  Also, cornering your bosses into a meeting room to scream about the chronic understaffing (whilst drunk and inebriated) is a Bad Idea. 

That's why we're having this little chat today, you and I.  Pass the whiskey, will you?

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