My little world of solitude has shifted, the days of loneliness and introspection altered. We hired a new girl!
New people come and go, but much is different in this case. The new girl is cheery, sarcastic and just the right amount of nerdy and it seems we have a lot in common. The fact that we like funny shit and science and have similar degrees and we also have lame uncool soft spots for Disney films isn't that mind blowing, but to have someone else the same age as me trying to forge a career in the funeral industry is pretty unexpected.
At first I felt like a first born child when a new baby is born. Most of the staff I work with have children the same age as me so I do sometimes seek advice from them as I would a parent or older sibling. Similarly, we have a family atmosphere in our funeral home so it's easy to see where the lines were blurry for me. I was the little girl in the hood that baked the cakes and messed around with practical jokes and I didn't want that role taken off of me. I was nice, but I felt uneasy.
Today they let me bring the new girl into the mortuary and for eight hours I proceeded with my usual practise to see how she fared. All the suturing, urine and nakedness she could handle. Not only was she fine with it all, but she explained how she felt about it all in a way that I too felt.
"It is what it is, nothing more exciting and nothing less" she said. A very Dalai Lama-ish response.
With compassion but without sissy drama she helped me wash and dress the people and she watched diligently as I prepared and set the facial features. At the end of the day I offered a debrief but she really didn't need it. It was really weird actually talking to someone all day, and explaining why I do the little tricks that I do but have never actually verbalised.
Getting home and reflecting on the day, I've decided I like having a new friend at work. She won't be in the mortuary most of the time, but having someone just like me around might come in handy on days where I need to share the smell, or scoff a heap of junk food because I've been staring at someones gunshot wound for too long. So to you new girl, let's be friends!
Is this weird? This is weird. One shirt to rule them all.
The tag pictured above was on a shirt that I had to dress a dead person in....I think that the dude was trying to get my attention from the other side. Ooooooooooooooooooooooo! The O is missing, but no big deal. (I wasn't made in China though...but imagine if I was!)
This whole coincidence has made me feel more connected to the poor guy. Death brought us together. It seems that anything around me can inspire introspection these days! Blimey. A random train of thought, but I wonder if his death brought him closer to the people around him? Who was by his side? I mean, I was there after, but who was there during?
Who's going to be around me when I go?
I think I like that I don't know yet. I mean, I can vaguely speculate, but with no certainty can I even consider that anyone in my life now will be there in the end. I like the mystery, and it quite fondly causes me to reminisce about the time before I knew that Santa and the Easter bunny was all a lie, a horible filthy lie. The period of blissful naivity before the truth hit, before I knew that the world was littered with rapists and famine and foul tasting wheatgrass shots.
I'm 25 years old. I think this age traditionally calls for the beginnings of maturity. The playing field of lovers uniting. Damn whiney babies, predictable nuptuals and the like. I was thinking about marriage today, and I just don't know how I feel about the whole package deal. I love that you could have a companion that knows you better than you know yourself, because I'm always forgetting shit. I like that you can probably get away with looking feral and they can't easily leave you...sure, they might cheat, but cheating could bring all the needed spice back into a marriage right?
The whole til death do us part thing, that's probably the strangest thing that marriage has got going for it. You're saying when you make those vows "If I'm around, I'll be holding back your hair (if you have any) when you cough up your lungs...and when you slip away my hand will be in yours."
I want that. I don't want to go alone. I don't care if I choose someone to wade through the sewers of life with me in 2, 5,10,20 or 60 years time, but yes, I want someone there. Maybe thats all I can concretely say I would want out of a committed marriage. So to my future husband/wife/ turkey basting partner....hello out there! I wonder if I know you yet?
In the last six months I've become increasingly unconcerned with my outward appearance. You can probably tell this by the fact that I've above posted a particularly feral photo of myself with no makeup and crazy unbrushed, unwashed hair that I just took of myself about a minute ago....the black hair is indeed me in this very hour.
It may seem that I'm all hooked up on how I look because I have had a gazillion hair colour changes, but I've had people asking me why I change it so much as if I am going through some sort of existential crisis. Their very interest in something I deem so completely unsignificant spurs me on. In fact, they just tutt-tutt at me now, shaking their heads as they mutter something about recklessness and complete ruin. I follow with saying that I'll shave it off if I want and many gasp. Seriously, it's hair. Just outgrowths of keratin containing junk that grows from many many many follicles in the dermis and we have heaps and heaps and heaps of the stuff all over our bodies.
This interest got me wondering why people are so attached to the hair on their heads. Perhaps its indicative of health, and maybe it's so hard wired in our systems that no hair = sick, and that is why people flip out if you chop it all off. It's probably heavily schematically linked with feminity too, and people might assume that I am a hard core dyke if I decide that a 'Natalie Portman in V for Vendetta' hair-do is a look I might want to try out.
This isn't really why I started this post though. I went to work this week with hair freshly dyed black, and the strange thing is that after all the hysteria over the last six months of changes no one mentioned ANYTHING. De nada. Niente. (I have no idea if these foreign words actually do mean nothing....)
Not one "oh, you look different for some reason" or "Sarah, the black is better/worse/any different to the gingerness on your head you had yesterday."
I work with a lot of people. A large percentage can't talk because they're dead, but they didn't know me before meeting them that day anyway so they don't count. But maybe, say, over 10 people didn't even look twice. I'm not a sensitive lady so I really don't care, but I do find it a very strange social behaviour. A strange behaviour indeed. The saga continues, but the black is probably here to stay. Once you go black....
The last time I was on call was the intensely sleep-deprived, mocha fuelled inspiration for Post One! Hoorah for blog times!........ (I just got a prank call. Spooky.)
I had a moment last night.
I was passenger in our transfer van at about 11PM, and I had been working non stop since 7.30Am. All I had eaten was a piece of peanut butter toast (may I just say that Black and Gold brand peanut butter is INCREDIBLE...don't let the hideously underwhelming exterior fool you into thinking it's substandard!). We had just taken a sweet little lady into our care and was on our way back to ops, me with her dentures in my lap, floating in a tupperware container filled with syrup of days old water/saliva juice, and I found myself acutely aware of an odd aural-emotional experience. I just made that up. Aural-Emotional. Yeah, I'm awesome.
The noise the teeth were making sloshing in that little bucket, combined with the drawling American accent of the Christian radio announcer who was delivering insane and totally fucking ludicrous teachings about the twilight series that my partner, the driver, was listening to... These sounds intermingling with the steady hum of the engine, the sporadic passing of traffic and the blow of the air conditioning inside the vehicle. Sure, I was tired and hungry and I still am, but I enjoyed the introspection in that moment.
I then thought of what my friends would be doing and how much I wanted to be out to play, but then thought of the dead lady I just helped and the one still alive that I had left behind weeping at the loss of her best friend of over 60 years. I had given her a hug, a flower and my number, and said goodbye. I then thought about what she would be doing in the next half hour. I had made the bed that the lady had died in, but there was still the former occupants body imprint in the mattress and the pillow was still warm. Would the friend notice the absence in the room, and would she have an introspective moment of her own?
Anyway, this partner of mine for the weekend, let's call him 'Kell'. Kell is quite typically what you'd imagine a funeral director to be like. He's over 55, his grey hair dyed jet black as to preserve his dignity. Very respectful, polite and empathetic, although mostly silent and ominous. When he walks, he moves with a hunched back and a slow, long gait. He is always lovely to talk to, that is, when he can hear you and when you in turn can hear him back. Kell is what Jerry Seinfeld would denounce a low talker. The lowest of low talkers. It drives me insane.
Kell: mmmfff broba smhenha brennha
Sarah: What's that Kell? I didn't quite catch that. Again.
Kell: after 3 minutes of pondering. Mmmmdhufb hishfsud. And then I said.... msuhfus ashufldf.
Sarah: oh. yeah. awesome.
What is really annoying is that I'm on call from Friday 4PM, all the way through until Sunday 4PM. Sometimes I'm out for a couple of hours across the whole weekend, others I'm out non-stop. The district I cover roughly encompasses from Caboolture to the border of Tanah Merah/ far south south side and out to Wynum and Wellington Point. Long drives to Redcliffe, then to Sunnybank, then back to Sandgate and beyond...this amount of low talking conversation can and does send me a little loopy.
Enough said. I need a nanna nap and long for a cuddle.
We order our mortuary supplies from a company called Hickeys. Not only does the name of the company make me giggle and think about high school, but I imagine a shed full of Americans in the deep south chewing tobacco and wearing plaid...and they have names like Darlene and Ol' Bill. Why would a bunch of hicks sell embalming chemicals?
The company seems effective enough, but one thing that is outstanding is the new catalogue they just sent me. The pictures say it all. I had to share this.
And that top picture, I'm pretty sure they hired Neve Campbell. Sexy eyes and a facial mask is incredibly alluring.
I'm pretty chuffed with myself today. I've actually turned what is essentially a horrible, dank, stinky room into a ridiculously colourful and cute mortuary wonderland. Uh huh!
I've been thinking a lot about the children we get in from time to time, and it always makes me a little gloomy. Babies and Kids shouldn't die. I figure that the least I can do is make the place they come to nice so that if their little casper spirit is floating around they aren't so totally freaked out. Besides, I have to spend 8 hours a day there too...
I've made a paper crane for each of the babies and kids we've had come through over the past year and a bit...their name and funeral date is written inside in pencil and it hangs as a little reminder or legacy I guess. Not in a creepy way.... Maybe in my mind it's just a gift from me to them.
Sad face. (But the cranes look so rad, and when you blow them with a hair dryer they fly!)
P.S. This stupid blogger won't let me put spaces in between my paragraphs. It's driving me NUTS. Sorry. I like my spaces.
So, I don't know why it didn't strike me as odd earlier but it appears that my mortuary is in fact a strange bug cemetery. For the past 18 months or so I have found an average of 3-5 dead bugs each morning, all curled up on the spare table I have in the corner of the room. Sometimes there's one, and then a couple of hours later I'll see another one thats gone belly up on the floor...
I can't think of any reasoning for this mass bug death. For one, what the hell type of bug are they? As a kid I remember them in Western Australia, and have a vague memory of calling them slaters (this could just be rubbish from the mush in my brain and perhaps pulled from the dude from saved by the bell???).
Secondly, I NEVER see them alive. Ever. Could it be that the chemicals I use attract them and then KILL THEM! I'm going to keep a record and write about them again in a month.
I didn't write much last week as both my computer and Brisbane's elder folk were dying. Over Thursday and Friday I prepared about 32 people...imagine if they turned into zombies! A zombie herd, out to get me because I stitched their mouths too tight and filled their bums with cotton! If I was undead I'd be pretty pissed!
Anyway, as for the computer, it's not even mine. I am 25 years of age with a university degree and a full time job and I can't even afford my own computer. It's a pitiful situation. This laptop apparently used to be shiny and rad but now it takes about 45 minutes to power up and double that time to load a web page. I am a dedicated ebayer and social networking stalker so this pains me. Alack, the day that I do buy a computer will be a glorious one indeed!
Cutting to the chase of this post, I had a dead person in the mortuary today that was the absolute doppelganger of Bill Murray. Wait, does a doppelganger have to be a celebrity? If this is true, then it was Bill Murray's reverse doppelganger. Freakishly so. It was amazing. As a fan of Bill's I was both super happy and super sad that this man was dead. I mean, I was happy that I got to see the likeness, but obviously sad that he was dead. It also reminded me that Bill Murray will one day die too....unless he turns into a zombie re: Zombieland.
Something else really cool happened today. Another deceased man came into the mortuary with a joker card in his hand. I mean, did he die with it in his clutches, or did someone with a wry sense of humour pop it in before he was carted away? And why?!?! I was super intruiged and, as always, bereft of any facts....
Imagine a reality TV show in which contestants from around the world battle out to find the best in the business, the mortuary business. I think I'm onto something. If only ethics didn't have to pop its righteous ass up and ruin the dream. If only death wasn't taboo....
I'm thinking it could be competition style, kind of like a gymnastics championships where there are five events and you could have winners in each category and an Overall Champion Mortician. A Corpse Preparing Pentathlon.
Something like 'speed mouth suturing' could start the episode off. It's a light-hearted and necessary activity, requiring skill and precision and is weird enough to turn heads without being too problem-solvy. Lucky contestants with cadavers that have well fitting dentures would fly through. Maybe people could score extra points if they use a thin wire and have a 'dimple-free' and super strong internal hold. Nice!
The next event could be 'contemporary senior styling' or 'best in blo-wave ' which I imagine would capture the hearts of all of the viewers that appreciate shows like next top model, that trinny and susannah crap and all of those disposable and interchangable lifestyle fashion/beauty shows. Maybe a twenty minute timer could run in the background... imagine how cool it would be to see contestants rushing around trying to dress and 'make-up' a dead person, each with their individual charms and flaws. Multiple bustling mortuary tables in the room with panning camera shots overhead. What would the set look like?!? I enjoy this train of thought....
Another event, although grizzly, could involve different trauma situations. Road accidents requiring head reconstructions, bone breaks and skin abrasion cosmetizing. Maybe plane crashes, bridge jumpers, train collisions...the list is horrifyingly endless but a list in which I add to each and every day. The success in this challenge lies in ingenuity and problem solving. No skull? Try styrofoam and modelling wax...10 points! Shattered limb...a broomstick, sponge and bed sheets!
I love this idea too much. Really, this is as weird as I will ever get. I promise. I'm a little apologetic if I've lost you but there is nothing weird or absurd about dead bodies, there is only a loss that is indeed very sad...and an empty shell of a former self that is to be respected. But it would be paying the ultimate respect if these bodies were willingly donated! To my TV making friends out there (who unfortunately aren't morticians too), if anybody wants to use my body on a reality TV show after I die please do, and go to town with my blo-wave!
Bacteria + Stomach enzyme buildup = GROSS EXPLOSIONS OF THE THIRD KIND!
Luckily for them (and no doubt the families who wish to spend time with the deceased) I can swiftly enough do a little 'somin somin' to relieve the gas build up. I have no doubt that the poor cadavers, if self-aware, would most enjoyably like to let out all the pressure if they still had muscle control....and some do let it rip obscenely and unceremoniously if I accidently apply any pressure to the abdomen whilst dressing and washing. Aside from the mini toots here and there, I have a trusty magic wand that is very similar to the device they use for liposuction and I on frequent occasions have to make use of it.
I'm not going to say any more than that there is a release of very bad poot in the air. Its pretty much like a killer-stink bomb goes off in the room. Sometimes I run, sometimes I hide. I ALWAYS gag. Sometimes a persons waist halves, which makes me want to do it to myself if I eat too much at morning tea. Pity about the pierced organs. I wouldn't survive to enjoy my Dita-Von Teese -esque figure. Anyway, the gunk gets suctioned away and the heavily bloated stomachs disappear like they never existed. I am the bringer of an ultimate and final relief. Chemicals are inserted into the tummy (which reminds me of the ol' flat lemonade remedy of mums) and the little tiny hole is sewn up. Invisible, amazing, and horridly effective.
This is probably the worst part of my day to day work. And yesterday I did it 4 times in a row. What a great day.
Funeral arrangers please take note. When requesting that I clean shave and tidy the hair of the deceased in mortuary preps, please ensure that the individual has a face in order for me to complete this task. When one, bluntly and literally stated, 'bites the bullet,' not even my superior standards in after death care can make the hole where the corpses' face used to be appear any less hairy.
I like drawing, and even though my skills haven't developed since about 1992 I still get a kick out of bringing my cartoon imagination into the professional arena. I can't say how professional this activity actually is, but the people I bump into during the working day, both breathing and not, seem to get a kick out of seeing the current days motif on my personal preotective gowns. Motif, is that the word? Anyway, here's a couple that I think are pretty rad. Today I drew a really stupid face and it sucked. It did not deserve it's moment in the internet spotlight.
Oh, and that top picture I put in this post by accident. It's a picture I drew for a friend to demonstrate how amazing my other good friends soup making abilities are. Her soup is sublime, and I think this picture reflects this. Her soup deserves a moment of internet fame, Hoorah Miss Brown!
Dear Matt, Jorby, Jorma, Ken and Brad from The Bronx,
I shout out to you! For so far I have found that only your music, and mariachi el bronx in particular but your Bronx stuff too, can take the smells from my consciousness when times are bad. Things can get ugly in my 'office' but simply put, mariachi takes the pain away. (Seriously, smells can induce pain).
So thankyou! Mariachi is love! That shit is a weapon!
You can now refer to me as R30-267-286. Can a number be sexy? I think this one is? Is that weird?
Unfortunately I'm not a cyborg, but I am a registered australian organ donor. That number is my body number, THEY ID YOUR REMAINS! Awesomeness huh!
Anyway, from my experience in the funeral industry I've decided that when you're gone, you're gone. Not that this is an excuse to simply discard or mistreat a persons remains! I'm not all crazy and mean to my customers.. (customers??? clients???? patients????). Even though it is our vessel on Earth and we should respect it, I ultimately think that it's a waste to burn it or dump it in the ground without taking the good bits to help others if and when we can.
A few years back I was really interested in the philosophical meditations of Descartes and other classical and contemporary readings. If you don't know Descartes, borrow a book off me. We can have philosophy dates and drink mojitos and talk soul stuff. Anyway, It got me all confused on the soul and on the nature of the human mind and the more I read, the less I seemed certain of (I'm sure this is the case with most non-discreet scientific things anyway). I've never been a religious person, although I like to learn about people's beliefs and motivations towards their faith, and I think my inquisitiveness into what happens after death benefits from me coming from a place where I can examine all readings and decide differing truths for myself.
I can't remember where I was going with this. I was just excited about my body number really. And, as most philosphical things tend to do, I got off track and confused. If you want to become an organ donor or just learn a little more about it, visit www.meidcareaustralia.gov.au/organ to get your own dead digits. I am donating everything in the event of my untimely exit, but you can choose what organs you want to share if you're a little weird about having someone else wearing your eyes or if you can't stand the thought of being boned. hahahaha get it. boned.