Thursday, March 3, 2011

Death in Russia

Hey guys! How you doing? I know it's been a while, but if it makes you feel better, I swear that I've been thinking about you this whole time. Hm? How about a massage? Will that do it? Okay, I'll buy you dinner when I get home, ok? Ok? Ok.

And now, onto bigger and better things.

So. Death in Russia. To be more precise, I'm about to let you in on a step-by-step comparison of death in America vs. death in Russia. Of a loved one no less. Having experienced both, I am now uniquely qualified to do so.


Step 1. Your loved one dies. Let's say at home. You call an ambulance and:
America: the ambulance arrives within the hour, determines that nothing can be done, after trying everything, and TAKES YOUR LOVED ONE AWAY giving you all the necessary info. You get in touch with a funeral home of your chosing and they assure you in a soft and comforting voice that they'll take care of everything.
Russia: ambulance arrives in two hours. Pokes your loved one a bit, announces that he's quite dead AND LEAVES.
FOUR MOTHERFUCKING HOURS LATER two very self-important morons show up to pick up the body. They also give you the necessary information. But for the past six hours, you've basically gotten some serious quality time with the corpse of the person you once knew and loved. YOU have to wrap him in two sheets of your own choosing and a towel for some reason. As the two morons carry your loved one out, don't be surprised, if he happens to be on the heavy side of life, that while banging his head against the doorframe, one of them might remark, "Damn this guy is heavy!"
End of Step 1.

Step 2.
The next day you:
America: go to the funeral parlor. Now, the funeral parlor, while a little silly looking, is soothing. It smells like flowers and there doesn't seem to be anyone there but you. The whole thing feels a bit surreal. The funeral director that you speak with uses a special "calm" voice with you. It feels like he's patronizing you a little bit. You just lost a loved one, not suddenly become super sensitive to other people's inside voice, but whatever. The funeral director asks you what you would like to do. Let's say you'd like a cremation. He fills out all the necessary paperwork right in front of you and reassures you that everything will be okay, and tells you that you'll have the ashes of your loved one in a few days, along with the Death Certificate. You pay him some money and go home to plan the goodbye evening for friends and family.
Russsia: go to the city morgue. Oh man, I don't even want to talk about it.The first thing that hits you is a smell that you can't quite figure out until someone points out that this, THIS is the smell of rotting corpses. Thanks Russia! You enter a large buidling. You go to a bunch of different offices where people tell you that you have to go to other offices. You get passed around like a dirty whore. The place is full of crying grieving people, men in white coats, and men in nurse scrubs. It literally smells like death and there are coffins everywhere. No one uses a special voice. And this is Russia. Their regular voices leave something to be desired. They tell you that they'll be performing an autopsy and that you should come back in 4 hours. Nothing can be done until then. When you come back in 4 hours, you have to wait for one more hour for the results, at which point they give them to you and promptly inform you that they are closing. This is one of only two places where you can arrange for a funeral. Great!

It's at this point that they take an interest in what you'd like to do. You tell them you want a cremation, but also a chance for people to say goodbye, like with a coffin and shit, but you'd like the coffin to be closed. Without asking what your reasons for this closed coffin business might be first, they proseed to fight you on it. They go so far as to say "Why would you want a closed coffin??? He's a pretty good looking guy!" Thanks random death nurse person! But we've got two nine-year-old children attending, so no.

You are then taken to look at the coffins. It's at this point that some other death nurse guys inform you that your loved one is too portly to fit into a double coffin and that you will need to special order one. When they find out that you'd like cremation they explain that this is not possible because your loved one is too large to fit into the oven. When you say "fine bitch, we'll go to a different crematorium", they politely explain that their crematorium is the only one in the city. Your only response is "This is bullshit! How small are you ovens anyway??? And also, could you be confusing my loved one with some other huge dead dude down there? Maybe you should go and check." There's absolutely no hope of this happening.

Amazingly, to your great surprise, one of the death nurse guys really does go down and check. And with a complete and utter absence of apology, he lets you know that yeah, they mixed your loved one with someone else's loved one. So as it turns out, your LO can actually fit into the oven. Good on you and your LO. But now, this morgue is closed and you have to go to the nearby cemetery to set up the actual funeral.

So you go and do that. I'm not going to go into detail here, but sufficed to say that you will wait in line for at least 2 more hours, you will be cold because the door is open so that some guys can carry all the headstones out of the cemetery store, and it's the middle of winter, and you will be told that you'll need to bribe the death nurses to carry the coffin for you from the morgue to the hearse-bus that you've had to hire. Score!

You make all the arrangements. What? 45 whole minutes to say goodbye to your loved one in the main hall? You don't say! Thank you evil funeral lady. And thanks also for explaining that while our loved one will be cremated in two days, there's really no way to know when they'll give us the ashes, ahead of time, and also if we don't come to pick them up on the very day that they're ready, you'll charge us 45 rubles per storage day. Super!

Step 3:
The next day:
I haven't done this in America so there's no way to contrast. There just hasn't been a third day.
Russia: You go back to the foul-smelling morgue. Dude, morgue!!!! Seriously. The reason that you go back is to give the death nurses some clothes to dress your loved on in (even though the coffin will be closed). Now here, once again they tell you that you should have an open coffin. And I quote "His face is quite blue now, but he's still a very handsome man." Fuck...
And then you bribe the death nurses to carry your loved one out to the hearse.

This is as far as I've gotten with death in Russia. Tomorrow is the actual funeral/cremation, and the goodbye gathering. If the spirit moves me, there'll be a part duex to this. But guys, for reals, try to not have anyone die on you in Russia, ever. The smell alone is enough to destroy any innocence you might have had. The whole thing will be like an assrape.

I'll miss knowing that you exist.