EPISODE 24 — That Bleeping Beeping!
Here’s a story about an incident that happened when C J was working down in the heart of the big city:
C J had been working late, alone in the big service center. She was dressing and cosmetizing the bodies on the list for their respective funeral homes. The service center was the hub for preparing the bodies for sixteen nearby funeral establishments. The workload was sizeable as a result. As she was changing the dial to a different radio station, something caught her attention. A beeping sound.
A familiar sound, occasionally emitting from one of the dozen or so bodies lying on tables, awaiting dressing.
She knew instantly what that sound was—a defibrillator implant! She laughed to herself, as she recalled the first time she heard this ‘beep’ tone coming from a body. She was horrified at the time. She wondered how to make it stop…Mr. Becker told her it was some kind of an alarm or low battery warning on a pacemaker or defibrillator. She giggled when he said ‘low battery’ because it made perfect sense…the person was DEAD, for Pete’s sake. Holy smoke! Was this the reason why the person was dead? She did not ask. She felt relieved that it wasn’t her problem — that people showed up here deceased was a cardinal requirement, and that’s the bottom line. She asked Mr. B if there was a way to quiet the beeping and he explained that it would mean removing it from the body, and such a procedure required a signed authorization from the family.
She located the body making the beep sound…and it was quite loud, too. She dressed the woman as usual. She jotted down a notation on the report about it. Double-checked to be sure there was not a signed authorization attached which permitted the device’s removal—none was found. She never thought anymore of it.
The next evening, a frantic phone call from the mortuary uptown, where the body had been sent for her viewing and service. The voice on the other end was that of an angry director, whom she was well acquainted with.
“WHAT is this creepy BEEPING?” he demanded to know. “I was setting her up in the chapel and there is NOISE coming from inside this lady!”
“Yes, Jack. I am aware. Didn’t you see the paperwork? It was noted there…”
“I haven’t got time to decipher you people’s chicken scratch writing! You send someone over here IMMEDIATELY to remove the damned thing! The family will be arriving in less than an hour!” he screamed in a shrill high-pitched voice.
“Can’t do it, Jack. Unless, of course, you have a signed authorization permitting me to remove the device. Do you have it? I’ll come right now and take care of it if you do,” she offered. She knew he did not.
“Why do you need an authorization? Knock off the bullshit! Just come over here and fix it NOW!” he yelled. “Son of a bit…,”he started to swear.
“Hey, no need to get ugly with me, I don’t make the rules,” she replied. “The law clearly states a signed auth is needed; that device is considered to be a ‘body part’ and you know that requires the family’s permission…,” she stated in her calmest voice.
He was really beginning to annoy her. How in HELL did he ever pass his funeral director’s licensing exam? And who was he to scream and curse at her? Some of the directors thought they were God Almighty, at times. They talked to the embalmers as if they were personal servants. They loved to push their luck when it came to details and didn’t like being told “no” to whatever they were demanding of them. Sometimes they had to be set straight. This exchange is a perfect example of such.
“This is ridiculous! What am I supposed to do?” he asked, almost in a panic. “You can hear the thing a mile away!”
“Calm down, Jack. The family is probably aware of the beeping. Did it occur to you that they maybe wanted it like that? Actually, a better question would be: did it occur to you to ask if the person had any devices implanted, in the first place? It’s no different than if you were asking this for a body that is going to be cremated. You could have saved yourself the heart attack, and saved me the time, here. I have ten more people to finish before I move on to my embalming tonight.”
“Well, I guess I can turn up the chapel music, try to drown it out…,”he supposed aloud. “Sorry I got all over your ass about it,” he added.
“That’s cool. We’re good. Forget it. If your family wants to remove the device give me a call and I’ll come over to remove it, okay?” she offered.
“Very good. Will do,” he replied. They hung up.
“Sheesh!” she said to herself. She never got a call back. Apparently, the creepy bleeping beeping didn’t bother anyone except for the funeral director..
Just another day at the office. An unbelievably typical day.
©2013, C.S. Thompson.