Wednesday, November 29, 2006

For Tod

Ah, the morgue. I worked there for a few months right after my 2nd marriage came to a crashing halt. For those of you wondering HOW I got the job, it all started with these words..." I could totally do the Quincy thing!"
Seriously, that's how it started.
My marriage was over, and I was looking for a job. I had been home with the kids since they were born, and the baby was going into kindergarten. I wanted to work, it felt like the right time. The only problem was finding a job that fit this criteria:
I needed to be home by supper time. The little one was diabetic, and the middle one had epilepsy, so paying a sitter for any more than a couple of hours was out of the question. The girls fell into the 'special needs' catagory, thus tripling the hourly wage for any sitter.
Weekends had to be optional, or a few hours spread out over the 2 days. For the same reasons as above.
I needed to earn enough to pay my way to work, and for the occasional sitter. I needed a job that would allow me take phone calls at work in case of an emergency.
So with all of this criteria in front of me, I set out to find a job.
As luck would have it, most of my family works in the medical profession. My brother in law was a morgue attendant part time, working on his off time from the fire house. My mom worked in the lab at the hospital, and was the head of her department. My sister worked in x-ray at the same hospital.
My mom hooked me up with her boss, who asked me one question before hiring me.
"Do you faint?"
I am a fainter, from way back. Blood isn't the trigger, though, it's stress or low blood sugar. Blood I don't mind.
That was that. I sat in on an autopsy to see if I could do it. I was at work within about 4 days of my 'interview.'
I don't remember much about that 1st autopsy. I only watched, afterall. I do recall that a police officer that was also observing nearly passed out. Much like the opening credits in Quincy.
I was hooked. It didn't matter that the guy training me looked like an escapee from the morgue. He was sallow and morose, with dark circles under his eyes. I called him Rick, The Creepy Morgue Guy. He LOOKED like the morgue guy. I guess that made me the morgue girl. Creepy.
Rick was a nice guy, but it felt odd having him hit on me while I sewing up a chest, or using a bone saw to extract someone's ribs.
The best part of the whole thing was the money. I won't lie. I was making $24.98 an hour....Six years ago. Weekends were mostly on call, and you got paid extra for that, plus they gave a way cool pager.
Most shifts were about 4 hours long, and the only time that they did nighttime autopsies was during an emergency....Like some sort of catastrofic event. We don't get much of those here.
My duties were all hands on. I did the cutting, the organ removal, I sewed 'em back up, I cleaned them afterwards, and I cleaned the room and utensils.
I LOVED IT.
The blood never bothered me. I had so many layers of protective gear that it was easy for me to focus on the task at hand. My brother in law helped to train me, too. I took the flack for him on the day that we rushed out to make it to my Dad's memorial service. He did a piss poor job cleaning up our 'client', and the family was quite upset. Blame it on the trainee, thank you very much. Chris might have been fired if they knew it was actually him that left poor Amy looking like that.
Yes, I remember her name. She was a nun that hung herself in a utility closet. The cops were called in on that one because of the circumstances. I'll never forget her face, or the feeling of sorrow that washed over me when the coroner ruled her death a suicide. What could have caused her to lose her faith so? I'll never know.
There was a young woman, 26, that came in one day. She looked about 40, with needle marks and years of hard living etched on her face. Her name? I know it, too. She had a little flower in the body bag with her. Her 4 year old son placed it there when they took her away. I made certain that it went back in the bag when we were done. COD? Drug over dose. She had 2 kids, and a drug habit that cost her her life. The worst part of it was seeing her common law husband on TV 3 days later, begging the viewers for help, because his wife had died of heart failure. He was parading his kids around on camera for all to see. It turned my stomache.
Then there was Jim. Jim was about 40. He had just come out to his family and discovered that he was HIV positive. He jumped to his death from a parking garage. I took extra time with him. I tried to give him the dignity and care in death that he must've felt was so lacking in his life.
Does this sound depressing? I didn't really look at it like that. I learned so much from that job. I learned about life, and death, and dignity. I liked taking care of the people that came my way. I did my utmost to treat them the same way that I would if they were a family member or a friend. I loved the people that I worked with. Even creepy Rick was ok. When he wasn't hitting on me..(Ohh, I like big girls...Oh, Bridget a wonderful woman like you deserves better...You're ex doesn't know what he's missing. If you were my girl....When all of that failed, he enlisted my mother to help him. He even tried enticing me with his swimming pool). I liked the quiet solitude of the morgue, and working alone. I would turn up the radio and dance with my mop while I cleaned. Plus, not one single client EVER complained about me. 100% client satisfaction!
I was home with my kids when I needed to be, making good money, and for the 1st time in my life, my family was proud of me. So what was the problem?
Kids. That was one problem. I thought that since there were no children admitted to the hospital, there would be no autopsies of children. Not so. Apparently, our hospital got the spill over from the other local hospital. And they ALWAYS sent the stinky ones. That was my other problem. The stinkers. Blood, I can handle. Guts, cutting, sewing, no problem. Stinkers and bugs.....That was where I drew the line. I won't go into it, but let's just say that morgue work can involve maggots.
I had one lady that had sat in the sun for so long, that she bloated beyond recognition. I don't remember her name, but refer to her simply as 'The Green Lady.' She exploded.
The other problem that I had was another apparent suicide. He came into the morgue in about 8 pieces, and his face came in an envelope. That in itself wasn't the problem. The fact that I knew the face was. It was the brother of a man that had dated my sister Posh. Someone that I knew? It was too much.
I reluctantly turned in my scrubs and quit my job. I didn't think that I would be able to perform another procedure on a friend, a family member, or someone that I had even met in passing. My short lived career was over.
It's ok. You put morgue attendant on your resume, and you get the employers attention. They know that you'll do ANYTHING for money. All's well that ends well.
And Rick? He married a woman that LOVED his swimming pool. I was NOT invited to the wedding.

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow! That was a fantastic read. Although it's a gory subject you make it sound so fascinating! I can see how you must be able to detach yourself from a job like that. There's not many people that get a face in an envelope...and recognise it. Maybe we should start a what's the weirdest job you've ever done tag

Thanks for sharing biddie...or should I say Bridget? ;)

Life, or Something Like It said...

Tod - I really did love my job in the morgue. I was ok with almost anything there, but I had a hard time with body parts once they became detached. I had to pick up a leg that fell off, and that was rough.
My nickname really is Biddie, that's what most of my family and close friends call me. I hate the name Bridget....., but I don't mind if you call me that. We should start a weird job tag! What was yours?

The Adult in Question said...

no comment.

Heidi the Hick said...

Oh man, BRILLIANT! Do you realize that you are able to make me laugh and cry in the same story? That's what I love about you. That and a whole lot more.

I knew this stuff and I still loved this read!

(You do know that this is a chapter in your memoirs, right? The title is 100% Customer Satisfaction!)

Life, or Something Like It said...

Heidi - I tried not to make it too graphic. I had to include Rick. My mom really did try to talk me into dating him.
I'm so glad that you liked it. The creative juices did start flowing once I had a topic and a few sentences written. I love you, too. My biggest fan. Next to Shawn.

Anonymous said...

Holy cow, what a way to figure out what life is all about. Personally I couldn't handle it. I can barely stand watching some of the autopsies on CSI. Kudos to you!

You sound like a great mom, too.

Anonymous said...

OK I consider myself tagged. Weird Job Tag coming up in the next few days. And thanks for the honour of this post too :)

Anonymous said...

[Rick was a nice guy, but it felt odd having him hit on me while I sewing up a chest, or using a bone saw to extract someone's ribs.]

I forgot to say this bit really made me laugh so hard...

Anonymous said...

I'm amazed that you were able to do the job... not YOU... just the job! I couldn't do it. No way.

Fascinating to read! I couldn't stop and I agree with Heidi... I laughed and cried in the same story. Awesome!

fancy-face said...

Ever thought about writing a book..you got the talent girl..

Anonymous said...

Aw, you know, that's great that people had their loved ones looked after by you. You seemed to really be into the job. I'm sorry that you had to quit, but completely understand - I am the queasy type, no blood, thank-you!

Heidi the Hick said...

Biddie please leave this one up for a few days.

Anonymous said...

no way could i do that job omg! i cant even walk past a cemetry with out it giving me the creeps!

she said: said...

I for one am really glad there are people who can do these jobs. Dying for the most part is really undignified - so it is nice when people allow them dignity before being put to rest. Utmost respect for you.

I never really had a problem with the blood.. my problem is the lasting mental imprint of the crappy things that happen to humans. Murder, suicide, dying and not being found very soon.

I once interviewed at a mortuary to sell caskets and urns. I was actually quite horrified at the car salesman level of turning product. You worked on an all commision basis. I dont know what I expected.. but it wasn't that.

You have a very vivid writing style. Love it.

captain corky said...

Really fascinating stuff! I can understand why you quit that job. I don't think I would have made it past kid number 1.

CindyDianne said...

Quite a woman!

whimsicalnbrainpan said...

What a story! Thanks for sharing it.

Gardenia said...

I alternately smiled and cried as I read this. It made a great story, you should submit it as a short story somewhere. Like others who commented, I admire your care for these folks and respect you gave them. I wish everyone in the medical field were like you.

Life, or Something Like It said...

Lady K- I watch the CSI autopsies, too. Some look real, some don't. Thanks for the kudos.

Tod - glad you liked it.

Marni - This was an easy one to write. I'm so happy that everyone seemed to like it.

Fancyface - I'm too lazy to write a book, but thanks for the compliment!

Ldbug - I really did love the job, and all of the great people that I worked with...

Her indoors - I didn't mind the morgue, except for the freezer, where they kept the bodies. I was always afraid that the door would shut and lock me in....

she said - My Dad used to sell tombstones (monuments), and I know how ruthless the business can be. I do have some lasting mental images. They won't go away. Sometimes, I can still smell formaldehyde.....Thanks for the compliments.

whimsical - Thanks for stopping by. I'm glad that you liked the story, it was an easy one to write.

Dollface - Thank you. Like I said, it was so easy for me to write. It was an amazing job, and it was a wonderful way for me to get back into the work force.

dilling said...

good one, biddie!

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Anonymous said...

I don't think I could do that job. Maybe for the same reasons that made you quit. I live in a small town and I couldn't imagine seeing somebody I knew in the morgue. And kids -- that would kill me.

Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

I have read this about 5 times now and I think it is so well written. Biddie, you should try to get it published.

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Heidi the Hick said...

Biddie look! You got a comment from friggin borat!!

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Anonymous said...

Oh man...
You talked about the morgue like working in a regular office! How facinating!! LOL
I don't think I will ever be able to work in a morgue, but I love reading about it and watching shows too!

Anonymous said...

[Biddie look! You got a comment from friggin borat!!]

Heidi you just made me spit my tea over my keyboard. Now the office wants to know what's up!

Life, or Something Like It said...

Yeah. What's up with Borat? Shawn and I thought that we had him driving our taxi last week, and now he's found me here?

mjd said...

This is a fascinating post. I probably could not do the job, I am a fainter too, and blood does make me faint as well as imagining about other people's pain. Strangely though, my college major was biology, and I have dissected a number of dead animals. However, the dead animals are bloodless and are not in pain.

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