Thursday, April 7, 2011

Cars in a row

Usually the not so interesting part of my job as a hearse driver is standing in the weather, good or bad, directing people where to park. Sorting them out for if they are driving in procession to the cemetery or if they are just there for the service. One of the hardest things to do is get the lines of cars started. We are dealing with parking lots that have your typical yellow lines painted on the pavement in a grid fashion for your everyday parking situations. To simplify the procession, and keep cars close together so as to eliminate confusion on the roads, we line up the cars as they arrive. It will take several lines usually. We'll start by putting immediate family behind the hearse. The next row will have other family and the next will be friends. Now, I feel that friends should probably go before family as those are the people that we've chosen to have in our lives rather than the ones that we are stuck with. But that's another story. My biggest problem for the most part is when car #2 shows up after car #3, #4, and #5. My feelings are that if you want to be one of the first cars then you better get there first. People tend to think that they have reserved parking or something and show up late. They forget about the logistics of the situation or don't understand that we are lining up.

Other times we'll have people that insist on parking close to the door because they have a handicap permit. Well, we kind of reserve the spot by the door for the guest of honor. You can't get much more handicapped than dead. So you'll have to park where I direct you to.  Often when we are getting started, we'll have people that think they are parking out of the way and it ends up that they are right smack in the middle of where you need to put a line of 10 cars. And they are facing  sideways of the line. I try to understand that they don't see in their heads what it will look like when I have 200 people here and there's no room for anymore cars. But all I ask is that they listen to what I tell them. If I tell them to park behind the silver Saturn, then don't park behind the red Cadillac! Is that too much?

So the other day, I had a full parking lot. It was about 3 minutes before the service was to start and two cars pulled into the lot. I had them both circle around so they were coming up to the back of the lines at a better angle. I directed the older lady to park behind a minivan. When I was confident that she understood where to go, I turned to help the younger lady. As I was directing her to her space, I heard a crunch behind me! I turned slowly to see that the older lady had hit the back of the minivan. I quickly inspected the situation as she backed up some. I informed her not to worry. That no damage had been done to either vehicle. She said to me, "Oh! Thank God!" I then told her she was fine where she was and started to walk away. That's when I heard a second crunch. My eyes closed as I turned to look again. I didn't want to see what I knew I was going to see. When I opened my eyes, sure enough, she had hit the minivan again. This time, she left some damage. She then left the two cars "kissing", put hers in park and got out to go inside for the service. As the younger lady got out of her car, she asked me, "Did she just hit that van twice?" What could I say but, "She didn't do it right the first time".  In the end, after the service, they knew each other and apologies were said and no one was upset. I was just nervous every time I had to slow the procession down that she would run into the van again. I'll never know what she was thinking.

Everyone thinks that part of the job is the worst. A lot of standing in whatever weather we may be having, trying to look good and cope with scorching heat, freezing rain or anything else. But I find it very entertaining. I feel that when people arrive for the service, I am the first person that they see. I set the stage for the rest of the day. I could be solemn or I could smile and say good morning. They are dealing with the death of someone that they loved. I feel that they deserve a smile, no matter the weather. I do my best to have straight easy to follow lines of cars. But, it is what it is. And if grandma runs her car into yours, sorry about that. I just want everyone to get to the cemetery all right and be able to say good bye and have good memories of that day, not bad ones. 

And that is a little peek into the life of  a hearse driver. Just remember.... If I don't see you in the near future, I'll see you in the far pasture.


sophie...^5 said...

Very enlightening Stew...if only everyone who has attended your funerals could read your posts I think they would be totally surprised at the logistics and kindness you afford them....Cheers as always....PS you are right the last pic in my post should include me so photoshop here I come or maybe not...I think Jim needs some alone time with Sophie. Ron

Jim said...

Speaking of Photo-shop!!! Don't believe a word he says, Stew! lol
I liked this post. The next funeral I attend I keep this in mind. Difficult I bet when there are lots of mourners walking around in a daze. I commend you and the good job you do.

That corgi :) said...

I had to laugh when she hit the mini van again!! Poor lady; makes you wonder how she handles driving most of the time! Honestly, I've been to one funeral in my life and I wasn't old enough to drive so I wasn't aware if there were lines where people should park, but it sounds like a great idea to have it organized like that!! I like your attitude that you help set the tone of the day; that makes you compassionate along with just "getting the job done".


Ivo Beutler said...

Your job isn't the worst, man! You must be really tough and strong to take on such a task! You're probably a good driver, too. Hmm, focus is what you really need when driving. You have to clear your mind if you want to do your job well! How long have you been driving, btw?

Stew said...

I've been driving professionally since 1994. But, I've always been a good driver. I started with my families limousine service and have developed this business to what it is.

I wouldn't say that I'm strong. Maybe just confident. If there is any doubt in my voice, the people will do whatever they want. If I say where to go with confidence, they get it right.