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Writer, Messenger, and Professional Weirdo
Usually when our customers forward their lines it’s because they leave the office and go home for the night. But one or two of our customers actually do things the old fashioned way and by old fashioned I mean they really do still live in the funeral home. So when they forward their lines at night it’s because they want to sleep. But there are a couple who, when the phone rings, will hear it, let it ring to us and then call us five minutes later to find out what the call was.
You can set your watch by it. I usually take my time, even waiting up to a minute after finishing the call, to let the director on those specific accounts call us. Most of the time they do. At three in the morning we really only take one type of call and while it saves them from paying for us to call them about it, all I can picture every single time they call in, is this:
I’ve been re-reading The Hobbit. I don’t know why. Papa Tolkien and I have never actually gotten along, prose wise. I love the stories, but my armor class is useless against Giant Walls of Text and I usually end up KOed by the first page and then I miss out on the loot while the rest of the party dances on the corpses of the R-O-U-S and since this is my game we’re talking about, they probably also burned down an orphanage without me. The bastards.
No, it …it really is like that.
The Hobbit is easy though. I can handle The Hobbit. And if I keep telling myself that, it might actually turn out to be true.
/salute Hobbit! I enjoyed your latest cinematic endeavor and look forward to listening to the geek chorus whine about your movie continuity all over again a year from now. And by geek chorus, I mean my husband.
I sincerely hope that, however you celebrate it, the holiday season was a good one for you. It was a good one for me! Mostly. I worked all of it. But then I’m easy to please and the post-holiday breakdown didn’t happen until the morning of the 26th when EVERYBODY DECIDED THAT SIX AM WAS THE PERFECT TIME TO ASSUME OFFICES ARE OPEN.
People. If the sun hasn’t come up yet and nobody is dead: go back to sleep.
Sometime in the last couple months (probably November) I took a call and ever since taking that call it’s been preying on my mind, like a brain worm. Since I’ve been scatterbrained and other things have been popping up hither and yon, I haven’t gotten a chance to write about it, but here – let me paraphrase it for you:
Me: Good Morning. This is [FUNERAL CHAPEL HOME PLACE], my name is [REDACTED because Olivia is a pen name yo] how can I help you?
Caller: Hello? Can I speak to [DIRECTOR]?
((It’s about 2am, so you know. Eyebrows.))
Me: I’m sorry, s/he is not in at the moment, may I take a message or did you need to speak to someone right away? I have [REDACTED – who was not the director she asked for] on call for emergencies.
Caller: Oh. Oh dear. No, s/he just told me to call when my family member, [REDACTED], passed away. I just wanted to give a head’s up.
((I actually do not roll my eyes at this point, because grieving family members get breaks. They just do. I hate it when they call in death calls because they never have any of the info and I feel awful asking them dozens of personal questions, but they’re upset and doing what they were told, so it’s a get out of jail free card.))
Me: Oh! Alright, well, I can certainly reach someone for you–
Caller: Oh no, please don’t bother them. We’re not ready or anything, this is just a head’s up for …well, for whoever.
Me: ((Patience padawan…)) Alright, well, what usually happens is when the facility is ready they go ahead and give us a call. We have a removal person that we can contact at that point who will come out and pick them up. If you like, I can take what information you have and get a hold of them for you?
Caller: Is that the director?
Me: No, in this case it’s a separate in-house removal person that we contact for death calls. I can certainly reach a director if you need to speak to them though. May I have your name please?
Caller: I don’t want to give that out just yet. The facility can call when they’re ready? We’re just getting ready to go up there now, so they should be ready when we get there. So …this is just a head’s up, I guess. No need to bother anyone.
((At this point, in case it’s not obvious, we’re speaking at cross purposes. I really can’t help her, and it’s sort of drilled into us that we’re to take messages all the time, hence all the “no seriously do you want me to reach someone?” questions. See, head’s up calls are messages, that will be cleared, provided I have the info.))
Me: If I take a message now I will have to page someone, so if you want to hold off and just want to have the facility call–
Caller: Wait, so you’re just an answering machine?
((Congrats random answering service drone, you’ve been upgraded to a T-1000 answering MACHINE!))
Me: I’m with their after hours service, yes.
Caller: Oh! Oh, how awful.
I wish I could make this one up, but that last line is a direct quote. And yes, if you’re reading it in a certain upper crust, prim and proper accent, you’re reading it correctly. In fact, it’s the only quote I really remember because it bothered me that much. The rest is paraphrased but essentially breaks down to someone not understanding that she actually was jumping the gun. Badly. After that, she muttered some more things and hung up on me. About an hour later we did get the call from the facility, so no business lost, I guess?
If you think I’m taking the comment the wrong way, let me assure you, from tone and context (let’s not get into the things she muttered after the awful comment), she was just mortified that she had to talk to a service. I don’t know why. I don’t pretend to understand, but when she found out I was a lowly worker drone, she just couldn’t take it.
Look, up until that point, the caller was extremely nice, if a bit scatterbrained, and also gets the “grieving family get out of jail free” card. But two things here:
1. No, what I do is not awful. What I do makes sure you got to talk to a living, breathing human (now with action punch empathy!) at two o’clock in the morning. Not a voice mail box. Not a calling tree. Do not pass GO. Do not collect $200. Go straight to person. Sometimes people are surprised when that happens, but it’s always a pleasant surprise and you know what? I enjoy that part of my job. I’m the filter between slightly scatterbrained family members who called not really knowing what they wanted and the directors.
But you know, filters can get worn out, which is why #2 is so degrading:
2. I am not this:
And I am definitely, most assuredly, no seriously please knock it the fuck off, NOT THIS:
I am a human being. Nothing gets you put on my shitlist faster than asking if I am an answering machine. If you can’t tell the difference between a person and a machine then Skynet can’t wipe out humanity fast enough because frankly, I can’t with you anymore. I can’t even English. That’s how mad that question makes me.
Damn those birds.
So to recap: Please never assume the person you’re talking to is a cyborg, unless they introduce themselves as Siri and even then it’s probably best to err on the side of them having a fully functioning organic heart, brain, nervous system, and other assorted squishy bits. We’ll love you for it! Thanks!
1:04am: “I’m just calling to give you a heads up. The family isn’t here so the body isn’t ready yet. We’ll give you a call when they leave.”
1:08am: The director is called and the call is cleared.
1:31am: “Okay! The body is ready for pickup.”
1:33am: The director is called and the call is cleared.
1:40am: “Hi, I’m with the donor network/eye bank. We will be approaching the family regarding donation. Please hold off on removal.”
1:42am: The director is called and the call is cleared.
2:00am: “Hi, I called almost an hour ago regarding Mr. Doe. Do you have an eta? I’m sorry? Oh. Yes. Well we’re ready now.”
2:02am: The director is called and the call is cleared.
2:05am: “Hello, I’m with the donor network/eye bank. Just letting you know that the family has declined donation and the body is ready for removal now.”
2:06am: The director is called and the call is cleared.
2:45am: “Um hi, yes, um. I called regarding a Mr. John Doe about two hours ago. So it turns out the family gave us the wrong number and will be using a different funeral home. You can disregard the call. Sorry about that.”
2:46am: The director is called and has a nervous breakdown.
See you Wednesday!
In honor of Father’s Day have a short story about a divine dad’s quest to find a babysitter for his precocious offspring so he can go to the Olympic Games.
To the heroic doctors, nurses, funeral directors, plumbers, HVAC techs, and other emergency sort of workers whose lines it is my duty, honor, and privilege to answer:
Happy Memorial Day! Since I’m getting 14 hours of holiday pay while you lucky ducks get your barbeques and whatnots, have a fluffy fun lil post and remember why we get to do fun things like barbeques and picnics:
My job is full of fun. Considering how often we deal with death and those left grieving, you wouldn’t think so.
But then we get the weird callers. Of course, my first instinct upon getting a weird caller is to make them feel at home by being equally weird:
After suppressing that temporary urge, I’m able to deal with the call in a professional manner but every once in awhile I’ll get one that just makes me stop and stare at the computer for several seconds while my brain blue screens.
These are very real things that very real human beings have said to me. Nope, I am not naming the business they were calling and yes, this covers more than just the ones calling funeral homes.
But first, a PSA:
“I just killed my husband/girlfriend/dad/mom/poodle you need to come pick him/her/it up.” – is a running “joke” among funeral home prank callers. I’ve gotten several variations on this over the past couple years. It wasn’t funny the first time. It will never be funny.
If you’ve ever been tempted: Don’t.
And now, onto the actual really strange stuff (hopefully funny or at least groan-worthy)! Wording has been slightly changed to protect the not-so-innocent.
“I am a certified, licensed prophet. That’s prophet with a ‘ph’.” – funeral home
“My toilet has gremlins.” – plumbing company (no, they were not joking)
“Are you a person?” – every account ever
“My dog is having the butt problem again. …They’ll know what I mean.” – veterinarian
“Do you sell formaldehyde? I want to preserve this animal embryo I found when I went hunting.” – funeral home
“Do I have to be dead before you’ll cremate me?” – funeral home
“So I used to be a stripper.” – funeral home (an elderly woman told my male co-worker this …at 2am)
“NO WAR IN DETROIT!” – funeral home that is no where near Detroit…
At least no one can say my life isn’t interesting.
Author, ranter, dad
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