Sunday, January 15, 2012

Getting Out From Under

After washing my hands (yes, were are still at the apartment with the guy with a discolored grapefruit sized ball sack) my Sergeant explained to me the rest of the process for dealing with the recently deceased.

The deceased's family had arrived (they were waiting in the living room) and I was to bring one into the deceased's bedroom to remove his ring (because we knew where his hands had been, but they didn't need to know).  After the family left, and if they didn't leave fairly promptly I was to encourage them to do so, I was to await the "Meat Wagon".  The guy from the Medical Examiner's Office that takes away the recently deceased.  That wait could be hours, as in a city of over 8 million people, folks are constantly dying and the "Meat Wagons" rolls 24/7.

The Sergeant mentioned on his way out that one of the CPOP Cops (a Police Officer that walks a Community Beat) was going to drop off the "Toe Tag".  That's the piece of paper you see in movies and the occasional cop show, tied to some dead guy in the morgue's big toe.  The body can't be moved without a "Toes Tag", and after filling it and having the guy from the "Meat Wagon" sign it, I was to tear off the end and return it to the desk officer at the station house upon my return.  Oh, and he'd also be bringing me a door seal, which I would attach to the door frame and door after the body was removed from the bedroom.

I was beginning to learn that dead folks were a heck of a lot of work.

The family ushered  themselves out fairly quickly.  They were pleasant and apologetic, which made me feel guilty, as it wasn't really anyones fault that the guy had died.  I told them the EMTs had unclothed him in an attempt to save him, but he was already gone.  The sheet was to ensure his modesty.  They didn't need the image of his self gratification as their last sight of him.  Come to think of it, neither did I, but at least he wasn't a relative of mine.

I settled in on the couch, watching TV.  As South Bronx apartments went, it was fairly clean and wasn't totally roach infested.  Not to say there weren't roaches, but unlike the worst offending apartments, whatever roaches there were avoided light and open spaces.

About an hour or so the cop came with the "Toe Tag" and the door seal arrived.  He had about 10 years on and genuinely enjoyed his job.  He also had no problem giving a rookie free advice, and I am ever glad that he did.

"Just to let you know, he's gonna ask you to take the bottom.  Don't!"  he told me.

I made a face, not quite sure what he was referring to.

"When the ghoul from the M.E.'s Office gets here, he's going to tell you he needs help carrying the body out.  Don't  worry, he'll body bag it on his own, but he'll ask for help carrying.  He'll suggest you take the bottom, as it's lighter.  Don't do it."

"But if it's lighter, he's doing me a favor..." I let myself trail off, as I observed a head shaking no.

"If you take the bottom, he's going to let the body slip and the shit's gonna take you down a flight of stairs and he'll just laugh his ass off as you try and crawl out from under."

I thought this was probably bullshit just to get the rookie paranoid.  But then maybe not.  I figured I'd await the M.E.'s Office and decide then.

The "Meat Wagon" actually came about 15 minutes after the other cop left.  I guess not too many folks were dying in The Bronx that day.

The ghoul (and he was a ghoul if you ask me) was about 5' 5" and all neck.  Seriously, he reminded me of a wide fire plug.  All business as he came in, I showed him the bedroom and he quickly went to bagging the deceased.  It seems like he was done in less then 2 minutes.  It really was that fast.

He wheeled him out of the bedroom on one of those collapsible gurneys you see on ambulances.  I sealed the door with the seal and gave the ghoul the "Toe Tag", which he stuck into a pocket on the body bag and gave me my receipt.  Then the moment came.

"Listen, I can't use the gurney to take this guy down the stairs, so we are going to have to carry him.  You can take the bottom, it's lighter."

Holy shit!  The CPOP guy was right!  This fucker wanted to see me go backwards down a flight of stairs with "Mr I Jerked Myself to Death" on top of me!  Wasn't going to happen.

"It's okay, I've been sitting around for hours, I'm pretty rested.  I'll take the top."

"You sure?  The top can get kind of tricky.  The bottoms better."  If he was a cat, he'd have had that "I just ate the canary" kinda sheepish look.

"I've got the top.  Just don't go too fast, I wouldn't want to drop him."


  1. These stories are great. I love getting this window into what your job has been like.

  2. Thanks Viz. These aren't the stories I would tell during the holidays at the dinner table (family usually wanted action stuff), but I've noticed there are very few books / movies / TV shows that show "The Job" for what it really is.

    That being said, if you can find The Job on DVD, get it. Dennis Leary as a NYC Police Detective, as close to real police work and stupidity as I've seen on TV. Funny as hell, and the stories ring very true.

  3. I love it! I'm glad you didn't end up tumbling down the stairs with a corpse on top of you. :)

  4. Ha ha!

    PS: My word verification was "carne" as in "meat." Too funny!

  5. These are great stories.... The "why don't you take the bottom" ploy must be common because I've heard the stories out West here from some friends.

    And if I haven't said it before, thank you for your service.

  6. I just watched the first episode of The Job. Damn funny. Dennis Leary is great.

  7. @viz - the Job is an amazingly accurate depiction of my job. Under all the humor, that is ;)

    @boric - you're very welcome. I need to get another piece or two out this weekend. I've been writing way too much on Tenkar's Tavern and not giving this the time it deserves.