Apparently, there is quite a fuss over all things morbid. I guess I should have seen it coming. Vampires and the walking dead displayed on television for our viewing pleasure. We have become sympathetic to a serial killer who works in a morgue. The networks are full of programs about crime scene investigators and medical examiners. Unfortunately I just don’t see the glamour.
I met a lovely woman today who dropped by my office to deliver her résumé. Our conversation provoked me to think about this topic of medical examiner popularity. Apparently, she moved back to Utah from Las Vegas where she worked as an autopsy assistant to the coroner. We discussed the job description and the office culture in both places. She mentioned that her office in Las Vegas was visited by the talented actor, Mr. Ted Danson. (By the way, you can see him every Wednesday night in the popular drama, CSI:Crime Scene Investigation.) She learned recently that a reality television show might showcase the Clark County Coroner’s office. “Bummer,” she said. “I could have been on television if I’d stayed in Las Vegas.” She flipped her hair back, over her shoulder, and smiled.
As for me and my crew, please leave us in peace. We are neatly tucked away in a corner of the city where even frequent visitors have difficultly finding their way back. I’m not against dramatization of such an interesting and often taboo line of work as examining the dead, but I do believe in privacy, respect, and confidentiality.
I do not view programs that glamorize or dramatize my line of work for the simple fact that I don’t have much time for television watching. The other point is that I see the real thing everyday. I would rather view a television program full of mind-numbing humor than to re-live work on my time off. That’s not to say that I disrespect those of you who enjoy watching NCIS, for example, and find it intriguing. Discovering a cause of death by putting together several pieces of information that yourself must gather can be both psychologically and intellectually rewarding.
It’s psychologically rewarding to feel like you’ve in some small way helped somebody who can’t help himself. It’s intellectually rewarding because, face it, whose ego isn’t a bit lifted after finishing, let’s say, a 1000 piece puzzle of Niagara Falls. Finding clues and piecing together the puzzle can be fun. I think that’s why Scooby Doo is still so popular.
What I’m really trying to say is to please have fun watching the television programs that glamorize coroner’s and medical examiner’s offices. However, understand that in the real world we have budget constraints that prevent us from purchasing fancy gadgets or posh, state-of-the-art exam rooms. By the way, we flood our exam rooms with light. We might miss something if we used merely a single spot lamp or a flashlight to examine a body. Also, our salaries don’t allow for designer apparel, and such clothing would be inappropriate for what we do everyday. Above all else, remember, you cannot smell through the television screen. The most heinous part of the job is the smell associated with the gore.
I ask you then, is the morgue glamorous? Answer: It depends on who you are and where you are viewing it from. For me, it is not. For you, it might as well be. As for the woman I met today, apparently the morgue still holds an elevated spot in her heart. I’m envious.