Sunday, October 22, 2006

Raul and Dave: Cleaning Up

Notes from the floor of the Annual National Funeral Directors Convention, Part 2

File this in your alternate universe folder. Two of the most animated and engaging people I met at the convention were cleaners. Come on, you saw “La Femme Nikita”. You know: Cleaner? The cleaners in the movies have a violent streak and know the many uses of lye and acid. Real cleaners are more peaceful and law-abiding sorts, which in a way makes what they do all the creepier.

Dave operates Radical Restorations, Inc. and Raul is a manager at Assured Decontamination Services. They are both big strong men with shaved heads, attractive smiles, and palpable confidence. They both can climb into an OSHA approved plastic suit faster than I can put on a pair of panty hose. And they both have an intimate knowledge of what it takes to clean up the human brain when it violently leaves its safe nest of skull. They are cleaners.

Got it now?

When the worst things imaginable happen in your home, office, or building, these are the men you call. This is a part of death that funeral directors, cops, fire fighters, and some ministers know too much about. It’s the part of death which makes most people avoid the aforementioned professionals at cocktail parties for fear of overhearing details. It’s the mess the human body can make when it dies. And it is what Dave and Raul call a job.

I am a different kind of cleaner. I clean up what happens to those who survive the worst thing imaginable. Dave and Raul think my job is just as hard. That's a point to debate, but we had immediate rapport as the people who clean what others think is uncleanable. Raul is even a double cleaner, if there can be such a thing. His other job is as firefighter.

As you hopefully can imagine, I found it comforting to talk with people who had similar experiences to mine. Dave, Raul, and I shared stories of…

OK, maybe I shouldn’t go into detail here. Let me just say, we talked. We shared stories. We laughed. We said, “Yuk.” We got serious and kind of sad. We exchanged numbers and promised to keep in touch. All in all, we had normal interactions that people have at a convention. When it comes to work, we just have a different idea of normal.

So here's to Dave and Raul. And here’s to hoping that their normal NEVER becomes yours.

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