“Beyond the Gory?

When I talk to people about death investigation, I usually don’t go into a lot of detail about things I have done or seen. Their imagination seems to have given them a much more graphic impression about what my job entails. Most everyone assumes the job is stressful simply because of the routine exposure to traumatic and unnatural deaths. I used to assume the same, but I have since learned that one of the most stressful aspects of this job has nothing to do with gore.

When I first started out, one of the most appealing aspects of death investigation was the element of unpredictability. I never knew where and when the next death was going to occur or what the circumstances surrounding the death were going to be.

This aspect also leads to a great deal of variation from day to day. Some days are non-stop and seemingly never ending as I go from one death to the next. Many times I’ve gone all day without a single death being reported, and within minutes of crawling into bed I’ve been called with multiple scenes on opposite sides of the city that have kept me out the rest of the night. Most days I may not have to do anything during my shift. That sounds great—for me and for the public at large—but sitting around essentially waiting for someone to die is an awkwardness that escapes description.

Never knowing what I was in store for on any given day was once the most exciting aspect of this job, but it wasn’t long before the “honeymoon? was over. Now the most exciting aspect has become the most annoying aspect.

Years later I find myself fantasizing while I’m driving to a self-inflicted shotgun wound at three in the morning. I fantasize about what it must be like to be a normal person with a normal job. The kind of person that goes to sleep after the 11 o’clock news and—bladder notwithstanding—stays asleep until the alarm goes off in the morning. The kind of person that goes to work and comes home from work at the same time everyday. The kind of person that when they get home, they stay home. I even find myself fantasizing about what people with normal jobs fantasize about.

Blood and guts aside, death investigation was—and continues to be—the antithesis of what I consider to be a “normal? job. The kind of job where a person produces something tangible or at the very least goes to work with established tasks to accomplish. Instead I feel like an auto mechanic that was hired to respond to every car breakdown in the city wherever and whenever one occurs. Like a conventional auto mechanic, I can make diagnostic impressions, but unlike an auto mechanic, every vehicle I look at is beyond repair.

11 Responses to “”

  1. May 10, 2005 at 4:56 pm

    This blog is incredibly fascinating. I love the way you humanize seemingly far-out topics. Keep it up!

  2. 2 Di
    May 11, 2005 at 2:33 am

    I think that it is safe for me to say that unless you like the mundane, there is no way you would enjoy 9-5.

  3. May 11, 2005 at 8:47 am

    I think this post inadvertantly ties in with alot of the comments I have been reading on your blog, those in the “Wow, I couldn’t do your job.” vein.

    You clearly have a job and a role in society that needs to be performed–we can’t just leave the dead lying around. If your readers’ comments are a reflection of the populace at large it’s clear that most have no desire for such work. So, on a purely utilitarian level you do have a product at the end of the day, you have accomplished something. It may only seem that it was to keep things tidy around the city, once again allowing the rest of us to ignore death and tragedy for another day. But you have to know its more than that too.

    If it was only about the bodies, you wouldn’t take the time to humanize your stories–which is what I find in your posts and what I have found others find as well. What you have been presenting us with these past months is more than a clinical run down of the facts. You have shown us humor, comedy, suffering, and sympathy.

    That kind of breadth of experience is exactly what I find missing in my mundane 9-5 job. I pump souless papers across my desk, it’s not intriguing, it’s not worthwhile, and it’s not terribly satisfying for my heart.

    I won’t argue that you haven’t become desensitized to both the grim and the sad aspects of the job, but I will assert that you have become desesitized at a depth that most of us won’t reach in our work.

    Thanks for illuminating my understanding each week.


  4. 4 Lori
    May 11, 2005 at 1:55 pm

    The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. However, you may find it to be if you were like the rest of us
    “normal” working drones. And maybe we would feel the same way should places be switched. I doubt most of us drones could do your work though…it takes a special kind of person.

  5. 5 Brenda
    May 11, 2005 at 3:08 pm

    I work in a mortuary, and I find that the paperwork side of the job tends to keep me busy on slower days. Is there alot of paperwork involved in your job? or do you just have others to handle all of that?

    It is an odd feeling, the waiting about for death.

  6. 6 Dawn
    May 11, 2005 at 6:27 pm

    I know you don’t particularly like the hollywood versions of your career but I was interested in knowing what you thought about the HBO series Six Feet Under. Even though the storyline is based upon the life of a funeral home, there is still alot to do with the bodies themselves in preparation and dealing with restoration. From what knowledge I have they seem to keep things in a realistic perspective (dealing with rigormortis, old stinky bodies that weren’t found until weeks later, etc.). If you have watched any of the show I’d like to know your input about it. Thanks alot in advance and I’m glad you care to share your stories and experiences with inquiring minds.

  7. 7 Paolo
    May 11, 2005 at 9:29 pm

    Yet another excellent post. I, too, face the task of (but not always) getting up in the middle of the night and dealing with corpses. But it’s great that you are dedicated to your job, as most people, like you said, would’ve left it. Keep writing!

  8. May 12, 2005 at 9:02 am

    first time here.. cool blog… reminds me of Six Feet Under 🙂

  9. May 13, 2005 at 4:01 pm

    If you had a regular 9-5 job you would be like the rest of us who keep coming back to your blog for an afternoon escape from the mundane

  10. May 13, 2005 at 5:38 pm

    i stumbled on your site…love the blog and i hope you can come over to my edge of the woods and leave your mark there — as i’m in a bit of a rush and can’t properly take the time to add your blog to my bookmarks. but this is the first time i’ve stumbled upon such a funereal blog and i’m enthralled. and i appreciate the modesty with which you write.

  11. May 15, 2005 at 7:50 pm

    I’ve been enjoying your blog. I was wondering what the most calls you have had in one night? Have you ever just gone from one site to another?

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