For my first year in graduate school I rented an apartment with my friend, John Miller, and Lee Hinds, someone John had met.
John was taking Mortuary Science at the University. To pay his way he was on call to two companies that supplied limousine, ambulance, and hearse services. I was also on call with these companies do do ‘death call’ work at night.
So, in the early morning hours I occasionally got a call. I jumped into a suit and tie and drove a hearse to meet a funeral director. He and I would go to a place where someone had died, usually at home, and bring the deceased to the director’s premises. Usually I’d be back at home, in bed, within two hours.
It was really routine. The most important part was to show respect for the deceased’s remains and the grieving family.
My main memory is one pickup we did, during the day, at a hospital. We went to a refrigerated room and found the remains on a gurney with an identification tag attached to a toe.
As we moved to the refrigerated room we passed some people in white coats, wearing face masks. I paid no attention to them.
As we moved out of the refrigerated room I glanced over to see what might be going on with the people in white coats.
I saw a table with a corpse lying on it, facing upward. His body had been cut open from the neck to the groin. The stomach muscle was pinned back on either side, exposing the internal organs.
The pathologist was into the corpse up to his wrists. Some of the internal organs were lying to one side.
I quickly looked away, and we returned to the ambulance.
The rest of the trip was routine, ending at a mortuary.