Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Peer Pressure

I was discussing the previous post regarding copperhead snakes and the wild weed whacker dance with my wife last night. She jokingly said that I've killed enough of them over the last couple of years that had we saved the skins, she could have a purse by now. Then she got an odd sort of gleam in her eye, and started looking very serious, asking how difficult it would be to skin the next one. I responded that it would all depend on how the snake died. A couple of them have been disposed of with rat shot, which does a number on the skin for any sort of tanning purposes.

That started me thinking about the previous kills. This latest kill, I was all alone out back, and free to let me inner case of the willies take over when I first saw the snake. However, not the last one I killed, but the one before that, which was about this time last year, we had visitors. My in-laws were down to celebrate the birth of my youngest, Mother-, Father- and Brother-in-law. They were helping me with a little clean up from where I had put in some hardwood flooring a week or two prior to their visit. The detritus, empty flooring boxes, cut-off ends of wood strips and molding, etc., had been piled in the corner of the driveway until I could secure the use of a truck to haul it to the dump. (I gave my truck up for a nice, sensible, used, 4-door sedan with child-seat anchors, and side-impact airbags, it was a sad, sad day, and now I dream of affording a 4-door truck with the above mentioned amenities )

So we're going to load this stuff up into Brother-in-law's truck, and as the last piece of cardboard box is lifted, who should say howdy-do, but a young copperhead.(probably no more than 16 or 17 inches long) Though of course, the willies immediately grab a hold of my spine and start doing the crab dance on it, I can't get all weird in front of the In-Laws. I reach over to the truck and grab a discarded piece of two by four, and promptly crush the snakes head with the end, very nonchalantly, as if I do this every day, all the whiles my spine is doing the mamba.(hehe, get it, Mamba, poisonous snake...seriously LOLing right now) Scoop up the carcass, once it stops flopping around of course, and toss it out into the woods for whatever night-time critter gets to it first.

Thinking about that episode, as compared to the most recent episode, got me to thinking about other things, and reactions to them, based on who else is around. Both episodes ended the same way, with the snake dead and me with my spine doing the mamba(hehe). The only difference is that in one episode, without watchers, I was able to let the willies out, while in the other, I kept it all inside. That got me to thinking about other episodes where I might have reacted differently to a similar situation, based solely on who else was present at the time.

One particular comparison that sticks out in my mind occurred when I did a stint with the local county Crime Scene guys. It involved two different scenes with de-comps. (Yeah, I know, there are guys who go twenty years working crime scenes and don't see two decomps, yet I get two in five months) Anyway, at the first one, I'm with a Sergeant, so everything is very straight-laced and by the book. You just muscle down the bile in your throat, and try not to think about it as you get green around the gills. You probably end up doing not quite as good a job, because you end up rushing through your work, to try and get back out into fresh air. The first decomp had died inside a climate-controlled environment(i.e. air conditioned house) and was actually sort of dried out, almost like the beginnings of mummification, this being my first experience with decomps, I found it to be very rough, and had problems eating things like cheese or sausage afterwards. Now that I think about it, that may have been because of how it was handled.

My second decomp occurred outside, behind a small out-building. We attend the autopsy to try and get ID by various methods. Now if I thought the first one was bad, it was a breath of sweet heaven compared to this second one. It had been out in the weather and sun for somewhere between seven and ten days, and was disgustingly ripe. On this autopsy, I was with the guy who had become my partner for the time. We got on well, and tried to enjoy our work. Anyway, there I am, standing in the autopsy room holding severed digits in my hands while partner is mixing up some rubber epoxy to try and lift prints with, when the wavy feeling comes to my guts. I apparently let out some sort of sound, as partner looks back, and comments to how green I look, and maybe this will be the trip where I lose my autopsy-puking cherry. The Doc looks over and warns me about puking on his floor, or in his 'good' sink. The nurse, up to her armpits inside the chest cavity of the decomp, looks over and informs me that she won't be cleaning that mess up, so I'd better just keep it to myself. The stern look I get from the Doc and the Nurse, just set partner off, and next thing I know, we're both making fake puking noises to goad the medical professionals, and then laughing so hard, we've got tears streaming, and are about to puke for real because we can't get any air. Which of course, just makes us laugh all the harder.

Which is about the time the investigating Detective walks in, accompanied by a newly promoted Investigator. The Detective dismisses the giggling crime scene guys with a frown, and asks the Doc how things are going. I, still holding on to the severed digits, hold them up and inform the detective that the decomp "gave the Doc the Finger". Partner and I lose it at this point, holding on to the counter and gurney to remain standing, even the Nurse gave a chuckle at that well timed, and witty statement. At which point, the new Investigator, clamped his hand to his mouth, and fled the autopsy bay. This of course, sent us off into more gales of laughter, as the Detective rolled his eyes, muttered something about letting crime scene techs out of the nut-house before they were ready, and went to look for his investigator in training.

So, two different scenes(similar circumstances), and two totally different methods of dealing with it, based on who else was present. Someone who 'brooked no nonsense', and someone who was there to get the job done, and have a little fun at the same time. Gives a little food for thought on how much our daily actions are less a reflection of ourselves, and more a reflection of how we think others perceive us, or how we want them to perceive us. To be honest, I've reached a point now where I'd like to think that I don't really care what someone else thinks, as long as I know I'm getting it done. Of course, who knows for real, I guess I'll just have to look at the things I do, and see how much of my reaction is me, and how much of it is trying to project a certain image.


PS- As an aside to anyone who might take offense at laughing or practical joking going on at an autopsy, please understand that no disrespect is intended towards the deceased or surviving family members. It's a coping mechanism used by people who have to see sickening, disgusting, foul things on a regular basis. It's a way to survive without suffering a mental breakdown, or drinking yourself into oblivion.


Rev. Paul said...

Casey, it's called "black humor" and refers to joking about otherwise serious topics. It's the same things as when (as a firefighter) we used to joke about fire victims as IKKs (Instant Krispy Kritters) or kids who play with matches as IBBA: Itty-Bitty Bad Ass.

WV: frantic ... how do they know??

Sven said...

I have a long time friend (34 years) who has 20+ years in blues driving a patrol car on the Western end of "America's longest main street", Colfax Avenue.

I have ridden with him twice as part of the LPD's "community awareness" program. Strong stuff, it takes a special gift to do what y'all do.

He was involved in an shooting about nine months ago. Mobile Meth lab in a huge RV, all the perps out except one gal who locked herself in the head. "Q", my friend, was slowly de-escalating, talking her out when she freaked, jumped out swinging a 9mm pistol. He hollered twice for her to disarm. She didn't, he sent an .223 round through her shoulder.

He drove a desk for two months while I.A. investigated. Helluva thing...the lil' gal was the same age as his daughter.