Support comes from our sponsor, E Y.A. for more than twenty nine years, EIA and its affiliated companies have been developing new modern homes that offer life within walking distance across the Washington metro region. More at EIA dot com slash p. R, x. The moth is brought to you by Progressive, one of the country's leading providers of auto insurance, with Progressive's name, your price tool, you say what kind of coverage you're looking for and how much you want to pay, and progressive will help you find options that fit within your budget.
Use the name your price tool and start an online quote today at progressive dotcom pricing coverage match limited by state law. And keep listening at the end of the show today for a special bonus story made possible by progressive Hamos community. Some of them off slam stories are so good we have to hear them again. Join us for Play It Again Slam on Wednesday, March 31st, our special showcase featuring beloved storylines picked from our story slam series. Stories that split guts, broke hearts and took up residency in the backwaters of our minds.
Buy tickets at the Moth played again slam. From Paris, this is the Moth Radio Hour. I'm Jennifer Hickson, senior producer at The Moth, and I'll be your host this time.
The Moth is unscripted, true tales told by regular folks and raconteur's alike who bring stories from their lives to the stage. This hour, we have three stories for you.
We'll hear about a clinical psychologist with car trouble and inmates desperate desire for a simple transistor radio and an undertaker with a problematic client.
This first story is from way back in the Moth's history, the name of the show was Savage Mood Stories of Melancholy. To be honest, I was a bit afraid that a show about depression would be depressing. But the night started with this story from Martha Manning, and the audience was immediately sucked into her world because we're not often privy to what's going on inside the head of the therapist, here's psychologist Martha Manning live at the mark. I'm going to talk about two breakdowns tonight, thankfully, neither are my own, although I could serenade you for the entire evening with those stories.
My stories are about a breakdown as a therapist, me and a breakdown of a car mind.
For a long time, I was the epitome of the perfect therapist.
I had a high rise, expensive office. The Kleenex matched the carpet.
It resembled in no way my own home, which was decorated in one accident perpetrated upon another and another. But I loved my office. It made me feel closer to being a real therapist.
And for the most part, my therapy, my therapy patients helped in that regard, in that they seemed to respond to what I did for them and with them and get better.
That was until Annie Annie was the first person who was referred to me by an oncologist. After that, I got a number of referrals because it appears that depression and cancer are very much hinged, both in terms of dealing with the day to day as well as the inevitabilities that are shoved in your face. Annie and I work together for a year and a half, and she was a real street fighter when it came to cancer, which was marching relentlessly through her body.
But the things we worked on were fairly mundane many times her recalcitrant 12 year old son.
And the fact that he didn't get along with his new stepfather, those kinds of things.
Unfortunately, her breast cancer metastasized again and it metastasized to her brain. And at this point, it was decided that there be no more treatment.
And he came in to my office to tell me that. And with that knowledge, the first thing she did was reach down into her bed and pull out a new pack of cigarets.
She and I were going to light up the world. Unfortunately, I didn't smoke and had absolutely no intention of starting. And we were in a medical building that would go absolutely nuts if there was any smoke detected. So I'm thinking, what would a real therapist do?
And I didn't know, so I said, let's go outside, so Annie and I went outside and we leaned against a green dodge in the parking lot and our faces were tilted up into the sort of the new spring sun. And Annie is puffing away and says to me casually, What is it you believe?
And I'm stunned.
I don't know what I believe. I believe data.
And I said, well, you know, it's not so important what I believe, Annie.
It's it's what you believe that's important bullshit, Martha.
That's bullshit. I want to know what you believe. And I said about what? And she said about dying, about where we go after we die, about prayer or about God answering our prayers. Well, you know, I mean, Jesus, I had 16 years of Catholic school, but I didn't have a single answer for any of those questions. And so I started again and talked about how there was data about the healing power of prayer. And she had just about had it with me and actually came over and bumped me in the leg and said, cut it out.
I want to know. I need to know. And then I realized what she was asking me. And so I struggled and I struggled out loud. And my final answer was a mess. And it was that I didn't know. Sometimes I thought I knew and other times I was sure I didn't. And right now I had no idea where I was. And for some reason that sorry ass answer was satisfactory to her and she let me back in. She lit up another cigaret and she said, You're going to be with me, right?
What? You're going to be with me? What do you mean? Till the end? I'm thinking, what? And she goes, The end, Martha. The end. You're going to be with me again. There's part of me that's thinking, what would a real therapist say? I had never been taught any of this stuff.
And I said, Yeah, Annie, I'm going to be with you till the end, having no idea what that meant. At the same time, my car was stalling out.
It particularly hated bumps in McDonald's in the Safeway parking lot and would stall out, leaving lines of people royally pissed off at me. That's McDonald's and me stranded with groceries at Safeway. And I finally brought the car to the person I should have brought it to at the beginning. And this was the person whose name was Chuck, but he worked at a place called Malcom's Malcom's Automotive. And over the years, I had so associated Chuck with Malcom's that I always called him Malcolm.
Chuck always had a perfectly pressed gray denim uniform with the most remarkably clean fingernails and a deeply resonant, calming voice that would have qualified him to be an FM deejay late at night, comforting people in their insomnia.
I would always say, How are you doing, Malcolm? And and I go, Oh, God, I'm sorry. I guess a lot of people do that to which he would always go. Well, actually, no.
But I described the problem to Malcolm and he was very satisfied and confident that he could fix it. Malcolm had always fixed it and he conveyed his confidence this time. So I rented a car and went back to work and he was sliding down a hill faster than any of us had anticipated. She was in tremendous pain and was vomiting a great deal. She entered hospice to have better pain control. Hospice is one of the few places in life that says we can't fix it and we're not going to try.
She went in and started having people call me immediately and I began to understand what it meant to be with her until the end. And that night after work, I would take my rental car. And drive to hospice and I would sit with her always wondering, what would a real therapist do? She got worse and worse so that she was blind and she was in a great deal of pain. And I would struggle to know even what what what therapeutic thing could I possibly do with her.
And when I ran out of stories to tell her, I resorted and you'll see how pathetic this is. In the several seconds I. I resorted to singing in her ear because we had over time for meditations of pain control, used things, and we had used in the beginning. Steve, one would roll with it, baby. In the beginning, that song is a vibrant, rocking rebellion about taking charge and moving on. But at the end it's very different and I would lean over and whisper into her ear.
Then you'll see love can be so nice. It's just to step up to parent dies. You just roll with it, baby. And she would squeeze my hand and I would know that she heard me. The next day, Malcolm called and said things aren't going well. I can't get the cast off. I'm saying, did you take it to Safeway? Did you go to McDonald's? He made me very anxious in his impotence. He said he said, we've done all those things, but I'll call you tomorrow.
So the next morning I get a call from Malcolm. He says, I'm sorry. We've done everything we can, everything, and we can't find the problem. And if we can't find it, we can't fix it. It's as simple as that. And I was furious, I said, what do you mean you can't find it, you can't fix it, Mechanics' can always do more fast, talk me, cheat me, deceive me.
But don't say there's nothing more you can do, Malcolm. I mean, Chuck. And he said, I'm really sorry.
And I believe he was, but it didn't help. That evening I went to visit Arnie at the hospice and she was in terrible shape. And I knew about her breathing that she was not long for the world. But in a moment of lucidity, she held my hand and she said, I want you to know something. I want you to know the best thing you ever said to me. And I'm thinking, well, thank God. Finally, we're going to hear a therapeutic intervention somewhere that was, you know, and she said, remember when the cancer came back the third time, remember what you said?
And I said, no, I don't. And she said, you got really choked up. And you said, this really sucks.
And I'm waiting to hear the therapeutic intervention, and then I realized that was it. All of it, 15 years of training and experience in psychotherapy and this really sucks had the most impact on this dying woman. And just as I was despairing, she was great effort, leaned her head over to look at me and she said, and it really does, you know, it really sucks.
And all I could do was look right back at her and say, yeah, it really does. I kissed her on the cheek, not knowing when I would ever see her again, and as I was leaving and closing the door to her room, there was someone down the hall leaving another room. And from a distance I could tell that it was a man. And then closer I could tell that it was a tall man in a uniform, a gray uniform.
It was Chuck. Chuck was at hospice and from the way he was leaving in that drooped shouldered, quiet way that people leave the rooms of the dying. I could tell that he was leaving someone he loved. I want to run to this man I had had such violent fantasies about all day. I wanted to run to him. I wanted to wrinkle his perfect uniform. I wanted to hug him and say, I get it, Malcolm. I mean, Chuck, I get it.
Some things just can't be fixed, can they? But I didn't. I watched him get into his pickup truck and drive away, and he died the next day and I stood by her bed as her priest said his prayers. My car got better. It never stalled again. I don't get it. I don't understand how a car gets better with nobody's help and how a person doesn't get better with everybody's. But I'm learning that there's a lot I don't understand.
That was Martha Manman. Martha is a clinical psychologist and author of many books, including Undercurrents A Life Beneath the Surface. In a moment, we'll be back with Piper Kerman, whose best selling memoir was the inspiration for the award winning series of the same name, Orange is the New Black. The Moth Radio Hour is produced by Atlantic Public Media in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and presented by the Public Radio Exchange Project's Doug.
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See if it's for you. This podcast is sponsored by Better Help and the listeners get 10 percent off their first month at better help. Dotcom mothe. That's better h e l.p. Dotcom mothe. This is the Moth Radio Hour from Pyrex. I'm Jennifer Higson. Piper Kerman grew up in a supportive family, graduated from an elite college and had a promising future until some bad decisions caught up with her and sent her to prison for 13 months. We were drawn to a story in her memoir that outlined the immense value of an ordinary transistor radio in prison.
Here's Piper Kerman live at the.
For sale at the commissary at the Federal Correctional Institution for Women in Danbury, Connecticut, you can get shampoo, deodorant, soap, toothpaste.
You can get pens and paper envelopes and stamps, your lifeline to the outside world.
You can get packets of tuna and hot sauce and candy and razors.
And if you're lucky, if you got it like that, you can get sneakers, vitamins, luxuries.
The most coveted item of all, a radio. I went to prison in 2004. I went behind a drug offense from nineteen ninety three.
When I was fresh out of Smith College, I fell into a relationship with a mysterious older woman and she was a narcotics trafficker.
And she asked me to carry a bag stuffed with money from Chicago to Brussels. And I did. The things that we do, the consequences of the things we do, they come back to us in one way or another.
And for me, more than a decade later, I found myself walking through prison gates in the biggest, most vicious looking razor wire fence I'd ever seen in my life.
And on that day, when I surrendered at that prison, I found myself stripped naked in a cold tile room, commanded to squat and cough for the first of what would be hundreds and hundreds of strip searches.
And I was transformed, head spinning quickly into prisoner number one one one eight seven.
Dash four two four.
That place and the people who ran it never let you forget that to them, you were nothing but that.
No. So I was put in the unit where I would live for the next year and I immediately saw that I was one of hundreds and hundreds of prisoners, I was surrounded by women of every size, shape, color, accent, and I knew none of them. I was desperately trying to avoid eye contact with anyone and women began to approach me and I was scared and they said things to me.
They came at me and they said things like, do you need a toothbrush, some shower, shoes, some instant coffee? This was the phenomenon known as the welcome wagon, and you need to get everything that you need from the welcome wagon because you're not going to get it from the prison.
The only things that the prison gives you during your stay are toilet paper, tampons and once a month a small ration of laundry powder.
So everything you need comes from the commissary.
Even the things on offer from the institution like green meat and government cheese and moldy pudding are ironically in small short supply.
You know, the portions that the food is lousy and the portions are too small. And so that commissary is very important.
If you have money in your commissary account, you can get a banana, some ibuprofen, even some eyeshadow in hummingbird colors.
And these tiny comforts, they make you feel human there and they also make you feel just a little bit more in control of your prison life, which is why commissary is one of the first privileges you might lose if you're punished there.
So I was very fortunate, unlike most of the women that I was doing time with, I could count on folks from the outside world to put money into my commissary account.
So in theory, I would want for nothing. But there was one thing that I wanted from that commissary very, very badly and I couldn't get it.
And that was a radio, just a cheap little transistor radio about the size of a deck of cards with a headset and would have cost about six dollars out here on the street and in prison.
It costs forty two dollars and 90 cents and at 14 cents an hour, that represents about 300 hours of prison labor.
So those radios are very, very dear. And despite that, once a woman has her basics taken care of, her hygiene is, you know, her stamps. That radio is going to be one of the first things that she gets if she can scrape together the resources.
And here's why. Prison, especially in this country, is crowded.
And because of that, it's noisy. Imagine the sound of hundreds and hundreds of people bouncing off of cinder block walls and metal all day every day.
And prison is lonely.
The last thing my lawyer said to me before I was about to go in was, Piper, don't make any friends. And something you hear again and again when you're locked up is you walk in here alone and you walk out alone.
And prison is stultifying, intimate, meaning that all of your moments of every day, your most private moments are lived, stacked on top of one another in a place where no one wants to be.
This is not the kind of intimacy that one craves.
So that radio was like the silver bullet that could at least alleviate those conditions a little bit. Just a little bit. But I couldn't get one, and that's because every week when I went to the commissary on Tuesdays, the prison guard who ran the place, he was the one who would throw every grocery item at you after he scanned it.
I would say no radios, Curfman. No radios, Curfman, they were out of stock, out of stock of the radios. Now, folks, one of those radios, for practical reasons, you had to have the radio in order to watch television.
So if you'd gone into any of the many, many TV rooms in the prison, you would have been surprised by the silence.
And what you would have seen was, you know, dozens of women sitting their headphones on turned to the same frequency so they could hear the program.
But I didn't want the radio to watch the Today Show or Fear Factor.
I wanted it so that I could go to the movies on Saturday night in the federal prison system. Every weekend they screen a movie and the movies reliably fall into three categories.
You've got low comedy, high melodrama and anything with an animal protagonist.
When they screened Hidalgo, the horse dies at the end and I found myself surrounded by sobbing convicts. Movie Night was the collective social event.
Everybody, you know, folks would go to the same screenings and sit in the same seats with their friends. And even the biggest loner in the prison would make the scene.
And after weeks and then months of trying to follow my lawyer's advice and keeping to myself all meek and mild, I wanted to make the scene, too. I wanted in on the action. And that radio was the golden ticket to movie night because otherwise you were just reading lips.
But every week, no radios. GERMANN I wanted that radio for another reason too. I needed it to escape. Since I had arrived in February, I had been fleeing out of the unit building where I lived down to a little gravel track that we were allowed to use.
I would go out there in the freezing cold and crunch round and that ice and snow to get away from that noise, to get away from the gossip and the fights and the human stew that I was a part of in that prison.
And I wanted that radio to get even further away.
I wanted to hear music, I wanted to hear the news, I wanted to hear voices that had nothing to do with that awful place.
I wanted to remember that the outside world existed.
And still, every week, no radios, kerman the ice and snow down on that track turned into mud and then dried up in the spring sunshine and still week after week, they're out of radios.
I was getting desperate. So one day I was down in the dorms doing work as an electrician. That was my job.
Well, actually, I was hanging up illegal hooks.
One of the rules of the prison is that you can have no personal items anywhere in your living quarters except in your locker or hung up.
And those hooks were in very, very short supply.
But as an electrician, I had access to tools and I could fashion a makeshift hook and I could install in someone's area and the word spread like wildfire that upon request I would do just that, hang up those hooks.
And all of a sudden women I didn't know, some women I didn't like were coming to me and asking me to hook them up.
And I never said no, I always did it.
And one of my coworkers in the electric shop got frustrated with me one day she said, Pyper, You don't have to do this. Why do you bother?
And I said, No one is looking out for us in this shithole. We have to look out for each other.
So on this particular day, I was in Bedau, my own dorm, hanging up hooks, screwing them into the wall, and I spotted Lionel.
Now, Lionel, unlike me, was doing serious time, a long sentence.
And she was the acknowledged consiglieri of the warehouse and the commissary, which was a plumb prison job.
She was a formidable figure, but she was my neighbor. She was not my friend, but she lived about three feet away from me and she would say good morning to me. And, you know, we found ourselves brushing our teeth side by side before lights out. She gave me a smile every now and then.
So I got up my courage and I approached her.
And I said, Lionel, I'm really sorry to bother you, but I've got a question, and I explained my radio problem and Lionel just looked at me, I said, Lionel, I am going crazy without music.
The CEO won't tell me when that shipment is coming in. Do you know? She just stared at me, not smiling. She said, Kerman, you know, you're not supposed to ask warehouse folks about the inventory. It's against the rules. Said, No, Lionel, I didn't know that. I didn't mean to put you on the spot. I'm sorry.
I could have kicked myself, I felt like a jackass, so I had broken a cardinal rule. Another thing you hear again and again when you're locked up is don't ask questions in prison.
This in response to essentially any question.
So now, not only did I not have a radio, I had committed a huge prison faux pas. So I was dejected, to say the least.
And the next week I almost didn't even put the radio on my commissary list. Why bother? Some women who had shopped before me were complaining they were still out and I just dragged my tail into that commissary building.
And so when a shiny, bright new radio came hurtling into my grocery pile, I just stared at it until the CEO began to scream.
What's wrong with you, Kerman? I guess it's true what they say about blonds, huh? Keep moving, Carmen. Move, move, move.
I began to shove my purchases, including that precious radio into my laundry bag as quickly as I could, and as I did that, I looked past the CEO back into the commissary and I could see Lyonel back there working and she would not meet my eye.
I turned around and I walked out of that commissary and I was elated and not because of what I had in that bag.
The idea that Lionel, a prisoner, one of us, could make something happen just like that was thrilling to me.
The fact that she had the power to get that radio was was stunning to me and the fact that she had chosen to give it to me was absolutely astounding.
I knew in that moment that I had her regard.
She saw me for who I was and not just the number that we were supposed to be in that place.
And it made my heart sing. That was Piper Kerman. Her memoir, Orange is the New Black My Year in a Women's Prison, was the inspiration for the long-running, critically acclaimed and award winning series of the same name. My favorite characters, Tasty and Crazy Eyes. We asked Piper how she felt her story fit into the theme of the evening, which was currency.
It was a story about how a person builds social currency in a place where they really know no one and where they really have to earn their keep. And the reason that I was so excited to tell this story is because I'm always hopeful that folks will think about who's in prison in this country and what happens to them and why they're there in the first place, in a little bit of more of a complex way and perhaps a little bit more of a complete way.
It adds a layer of nuance that folks don't necessarily expect when they think about crime and punishment and really basic ways to see a picture of Piper Kerman and her husband in the visitors room of the Danbury Federal Correctional Institution.
Please visit our Web site, The Moth, Doug.
In a moment, our final story from an undertaker who makes a wrong turn while driving a hearse.
The Moth Radio Hour is produced by Atlantic Public Media in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and presented by the Public Radio Exchange Project's Doug.
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In 2009, I was looking for an undertaker.
We were working on a show called Stiff's Stories of the nearly and Dearly Departed.
Four stories were cast, most of them pretty serious. I needed a story on the fun side.
I asked around to see if anyone knew of any funny undertakers, and the problem was pretty obvious.
My calls to funeral homes asking for hilarious undertakers were not well received. Eventually, I put in a cold call to a school of mortuary science and asked, Hey, have any of your students been particularly funny? By the way, undertakers returned to school regularly to learn new techniques. This is the sort of stuff you learn when you work at the morgue. Anyway, I got a no. It led me straight to Chris Tomlin, who's been in the business for more than two decades now.
If you've ever wondered what undertakers are really thinking.
Here's Chris Tomlin live at the. Thank you. Thank you. I've been a funeral director now for 20 years here locally in New York, I worked in Brooklyn and Queens, are currently in Long Island. And I've always worked at the busiest funeral homes, kind of like death was following me around. And when you work at the busiest funeral home, what that really means is that you're better than everyone else at getting rid of people. So I don't have any misconceptions.
I had a happy childhood. I wasn't just playing with dead animals or anything like that. To the contrary, actually, I wanted to be a doctor. And one day I was sitting in Queensborough Community College and realized that wasn't my fastest route to learn how to save a life. And I thought what I was going to do. Now, my only obstacle getting into medical school at the time was going to be time and money and funeral directing. School was two years and 10 grand and I was out.
So I looked into the curriculum and see what I wanted to take. And all classes like Anatomy said doctors take anatomy, chemistry, pathology, physiology. I said, I'm working on building something up here. We took classes like Embalming for Dummies and Psych, and in the class that I learned the least amount in, I didn't realize I was going to use the most. Because when you're with people at the worst time in their life, you really become their therapist.
And my sight class was only about six months of vocabulary, words, stuff down your throat that you had to regurgitate back down on a piece of paper. But one statement that stayed with me is that funerals are going to bring out the best and also the worst in people. And it was early on when I became a funeral director and after only going to school for two years, you're 21 years old.
And I didn't know what at the time, but I didn't know. And I'm going to try to get people to a bad day. I couldn't get myself through a good day.
So one of my first arrangements, I'm sitting with somebody and Nana died and Nana was old when I was born.
She was almost 100 years old. She was 98. And I'm sitting with these people anyway, affectionately talking about this lady. And I left an impression on me because usually when they're old, they just looked at the sky and the people as fast as they can. And it was December when she died because they were talking how in a few weeks we can have Christmas at night in his house anymore. And who's going to call us at night to say goodnight?
And our birthdays weren't going to be the same. A little while into the arrangement, I realized that I didn't know what to do. So I started to cry with the family.
I think I babbled something like she was so young.
And by the time we got done with the arrangement, they were patting me on the back saying, you'll be all right, don't worry with it.
But at the end, they were nice people because I did something, maybe my sincerity that made them feel better. And they said, thank you. Well, a year goes by and I'm trying to fumble through my industry here. And I come across Antonet and Antonet was the girl who worked at the deli down the block from the funeral home and three or four days a week, we would eat lunches by going down to the deli and getting our sandwiches.
And Antonet was not only the sandwich girl, she was a divorcée in the neighborhood and the local barfly. If she wasn't at the deli, you could find her at any pub by eight o'clock at night. And this is the truth because her mother was so involved in the neighborhood, we would see her pass by the funeral home either to go to church or ask if we saw her. So one Sunday morning, the phone rings at the chapel. And I know it was a Sunday because I said, what?
What is she doing up so early? Saturday night's a big night out. So she said her mom died and she wanted to come over and make the funeral arrangements. So professionalism kicks in. I said, Anthony, come right over. We're going to get you through this. We make the arrangements. They were very religious people. Her mom was very involved in the neighborhood and in the church and every parish that she could go to an open door.
So we set up a traditional two day week, followed by the mass at the church down the block, which was the biggest in the neighborhood. And then we were going to Mount St. Mary's Cemetery over in Queens. So anybody who has a drunk in their family knows that a week is the license for public consumption and nobody's allowed to say anything.
And Antonet did not disappoint. For two days, she was stumbling around in the funeral home.
She was laughing with everybody that came to the door that she didn't see for a while. And she was crying at the most inappropriate times, like, where's the bathroom?
So this was our entertainment.
And I'm figuring the morning of the funeral that she was going to be out on the binge the night before we were going to get started late. But to my surprise, she actually got there early. So we go off to church and we it was a nice sendoff for a woman who was a little bit elderly because the church was packed. It was the kind of you had a bus in three communities full of people in order to get this church full.
And the old lady had this church filled with everybody that she knew. There were eight priests on the altar. You had about four all to service. Everybody wanted to pick a song that they knew was one of her favorites. And two people did a eulogy at the end of the mass. I'm standing outside by the hearse and I knew we were going to pass mom's house. And I watch Antoinette come down the stairs and she comes over to me and I could smell that.
She's been drinking a little bit. And I know it wasn't communion wine.
And she said, Chris, before we go past before we go to the cemetery, after we passed Mom's house, can we go past the house that I grew up in? I didn't think it was a problem, but I asked if she knew anybody who lived there. She told me no. So I figure we go surprized a new homeowner and stop in front with the hearse.
So I get the procession going, I have a hearse that I'm driving, the limousine is carrying the family and about 20 private cars following behind us. Now, if anybody has ever tried to lead one car to the streets of Queens, you know, it's pretty much impossible. And I have a tale of 20 cars following behind me. And I knew which car was going to be the problem because the first light we go through, the light turns green.
And I have two cars after the limousine behind me. And it was this little old man who was driving a dark little fiat with his hands above his head looking through the steering wheel.
So I go about a block further down and I pull to the side because I don't want anybody to get rear ended, only have a couple of cars with me and I stand out and waving. People pass so they don't get in my line. The light turns green and I hear this engine starting to rev. And out of the dust comes this car moving a lot slower than it sounded. But by the time it got to me, he blew right past the whole funeral procession and everybody else followed behind him, too, to it was like.
Now, I'm in trouble because I lost half the line or more. I figured he's old enough. He's been at the cemetery probably more times than me.
He's and I take my time and I get off to the guy, head over to Mount St. Mary's Cemetery, and I pull in and everybody is not just there waiting for me. They're out of their cars like they've been there a while. And this is not helping my plight here. So I bring everybody who was once in front of the procession back to the front and I get out of the car before I get to the back of the hearse. Antonette is already out of the limousine and she's stumbling towards me and she's being a little bit belligerent.
And she goes, you dumb ass. Excuse me.
She's you lost half my mother's friends and now nobody's going to be here after so many people. I went to church. I did not know anything that look, everybody's right over here. That by the by the cemetery office, she goes, Don't you tell me. Get out of my face. I go, Antonette, everybody's over here.
She goes, you idiot, fuck you.
And even though we were outside, I heard the collective gasp of everybody like, oh, and my arm was still sticking out like this. It was like I was watching the whole thing, I was talking to myself, I said, did you see that? I saw that. And I didn't want her to be intimidated. So here's where I felt safe. I brought my arm back around. I took a step back. So she doesn't feel intimidated.
And I said, Anthony, get back in the fucking limousine. I got to go plant your mother.
Forget training, I was brought up better than that. And I thought I was going to get gang tackled, but everybody else was standing there, so I figured I put my head down and I'll head off to the cemetery office. I want to let them know we're here. And either they're going to jump on your part the way. And it was like the Red Sea opened up and I just walked inside. I came back out.
I was embarrassed to come back out, if you want to know the truth. And everybody was in the closet, I guess I didn't want to be the psycho undertaker.
Now, I never cursed somebody and then prayed for them so close before in my life and I had to take them back up to the grave, I would I would pick my head up.
They would put their head down. And I said prayers.
And it was a quiet prayer because the lady that died didn't deserve what had happened. You could have heard a pin hit the grass. Now, normally when I get done, I go over to the next of kin and there's anything else you need. I didn't think that was a good idea here. So I went back to the hearse and I figured, I'm going to drive back to the funeral home to get fired. On my way back, I said, you know, I really like working here, maybe I won't say anything.
I'll catch the boys by surprise as soon as I get back to the funeral home chapel and I go to put the keys back in the drawer. There's a note there, Chris, the boss is looking for you. Now, he was all the way back to buildings that we had put together. He was so far back in the funeral home. I was walking down two long hallways. And when you think of getting fired, it was like walking the green mile.
I go over, I knock on the door. He goes, Who is it? I go, it's Chris. He goes, come on in. Now, normally, when you opened up his office door, you were looking at his back. And when I got in the room, he was he had his elbows on his knees. He was palming his face. He had these big round glasses that were in style at the time. And he's looking over the top of them and he goes, what happened?
Said about what?
And he told me that somebody from the family called already from the cemetery. What happened? I said she was being belligerent and I don't get paid enough to relax. I'm going to let you off the hook. I guess he was afraid I was going to ask for a raise. He goes the cousin called and said everybody in the limousine couldn't come to your rescue because they needed the ride home. But they wanted to thank you for putting Antonet in her place.
Now, I feel good about myself. He said the only thing he did wrong was he tried to justify the mistake. He's in business, he said, whether the customer is right or wrong or wrong, just that you're right and walk away. The next time I said anything else, he said, yeah, don't or a deli anymore.
I said, is that it? He goes, No, there's two bodies in the prep room. Go and bomb them. Now, a lot of people might think that that was a punishment. That was actually my job. So the day goes on and a few weeks pass. And I didn't know what at the time because I was young and I was breasts and I had a short Fuze, but I learned a lesson there. And a few weeks later it hit me in the face.
I was in the embalming room. My friends and I used to alternate you directly. I'm a bomb. And I was back in the embalming room and I open up the pouch that a body came in and I was taken back because it was a face of an 18 year old boy. And when you're twenty three and you bombing somebody younger than you, it's a little surreal. So I take my gloves off, I run back up to the front, I grab my friend who made the arrangements.
I said, Stevie, what happened with this kid? Because we usually try to tip each other off. What's happening? He goes, Well, the police told his father about two thirty in the morning. The other day, he and his friend were going to a bodega on their way home and he bumped into somebody and nobody said, excuse me. Nobody said I'm sorry. And literally pushing came to shove two minutes later. The other man pulled a gun out and pulled the trigger.
I wasn't so surprised that there was a bullet hole between his eyes and this is what funeral directors come across every once in a while. I was so caught back by the look of surprise on his face because his head was towards me and his eyes were still open. And that's when it hit me when I said this kid died for nothing and I should have not, that I thought that I was going to get shot in a Catholic cemetery arguing with a drunk whose mother was dead.
But there's been plenty of times before that where I now could consider myself lucky. So folks from a young a funeral directors point of view, I say every once in a while I realize that life is fragile and sometimes, unfortunately, it's short. Don't sweat the small stuff, and every once in a while when you stop to smell the roses, pick a few for yourself to thank you for listening.
That was Chris Tomlin. He's a husband, the father of four little girls, and in his spare time, an amateur boxer.
When we asked Chris if you'd send a picture for our website, he said, sure, what do you want? Like me posing in a coffin.
We said, yeah. So we now have that picture if you want to see it. Visit our website. The Moth, Doug.
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Recently, my wife and I were taking care of my mother in law's house while she was out of town, and we arrived to discover her house was being burglarized. At that moment, rather than leave and call the police as rational people might, we confronted the burglar. Story is really driven by the mix of my tendency to overthink, overanalyze, obsess, my wife's tendency to charge right in and assess later and the person's desire to not only not run, but to come to the front door and insist we leave.
The story humorous, no one gets hurt to the rescue. In the end, all despite putting a huge job to the contrary, including his armed accomplice who just happened to be gone at the moment, the guard dog who thought the burglar was just great, and the policeman who fortunately makes the right decision between who to arrest the burglar or the.
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That's it for this episode of The Moth Radio Hour. We hope you'll join us next time. And that's the story from The Moth.
Your host this hour was Jennifer Hickson, the senior producer of The Moth. The stories in this hour were directed by Jennifer and by Joey Zanders. The rest of the mall's directorial staff includes Kathryn Burns, Sara Haberman, Sara Austin Ginés and Meg Bowles production support from Whitney Jones. Most stories are true, as remembered and affirmed by the storytellers.
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