It may surprise you that at one point I wanted to go to medical school. So, I have seen an autopsy and witnessed one too many episodes of "Strange Tales of the Er" before I realized med school was not my calling. I also have a morbid fascination with the legend that the University of Chicago has a formaldehyde swimming pool full of donated bodies. Seriously? Tell me.
Autopsies don't bother me (unless it's children). That's science.
Funerals bother me. They are unnatural. Creepy, even. Why do you want to see someone like that? In a box. Dressed up. It makes me anxious and uncomfortable. I understand the need for closure and mourning, but it's not my deal. Even when I know the deceased, I like to keep my distance.
It didn't help that my cousin told me our grandfather was going to wake up as a zombie and eat my brains at his funeral. He died when I was 5. I'm sure that had something to do with it.
I was walking to work in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago one warm spring morning when I encountered a terrible sight. On Southport Ave. there is a funeral home. One of those old-school, probably had half the mafia's services, funeral homes. On this unlucky morning, as I was walking towards Fullerton Ave. there was a hearse parked outside the funeral home. I was across the street, happily listening to my iPod.
Upon walking closer, I realized there was a gurney next to the hearse with a black body bag on it. With a body in it.
Author's Note: I will NOT google images for you. I am worried what I will find. I tried to type the words "Funeral Home" and couldn't do it. Use your imagination.
I did the mature thing.
I shrieked, "Oh my god! No!" While bringing my right hand up to my open mouth. My left hand clutched my coffee. For some reason, much like watching a train wreck, I stopped walking and stared. I stood there on the sidewalk in my adorable new sundress, the one I convinced myself I could wear to work if I wore a cardigan over it.
Much like people watching a train wreck, I should have kept moving. What happened next was worse.
Two funeral workers came out of the funeral home (meaning they left the body unattended) and started to move the gurney. Since the gurney was parallel to the hearse, the first order of business was to swing it around, making it perpendicular to the hearse, so it could fit through the front doors. Sounds simple enough.
The sidewalk was cracked and uneven. And there was a small set of stairs leading to the front doors. The workers neglected to realize this.
While the workers were moving the gurney (and me still staring at them like a suburban neighborhood watch) two of the wheels became caught on the sidewalk cracks.
The gurney's wheels locked. The gurney went boom. And so did the full black body bag. Flying through the air, hitting the ground hard.
Once again, I did the mature thing: I would not act like a little girl in public again.
"OH JESUS FUCK! NO!" One hand covering my open mouth was not enough, so I brought my left hand up, spilling my coffee all over my cardigan and dress. I felt the hot coffee spill down my bare legs and realized I was no longer alone on the sidewalk, standing there with other horrified commuters. This had become a thing.
|Like this, but worse, and horrified.|
The workers scrambled to straighten the gurney and then pick up the body bag, rolling it over in the process. Eventually, it was put back on the gurney (I assume face down) and quickly wheeled into the funeral home, front doors slammed shut.
I could not shake that image for the rest of the day. I also couldn't shake the smell of coffee no matter how many times I rinsed my cardigan and dress in the sink and dried my legs with paper towels. Do you know how much it sucks to SMELL like coffee when you didn't drink any yet? Terrible tease.
Once I told my boss what happened, as she wanted to know why I was drenched in coffee and looked so freaked out, she started laughing uncontrollably and told me I made her morning. I thought it was an odd response. But, she bought me Starbucks so all was well in the world again. Win, win.
The moral of the story: Do not stand outside funeral homes. You are asking for it.
Also, if you work in the funeral business: Does this stuff happen often? Maybe you shouldn't answer that.
Copyright © 2012 Lady J
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