Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Man Up: Praying for Death

Brit writer Alan Emmins has just published Mop Men: Inside the World of Crime Scene Cleaners, profiling one of the Golden State's not-so-golden jobs.
Neal Smither is making a killing. His business card puts it plainly: "Crime Scene Cleaners: Homicides, Suicides, and Accidental Death." Whenever a hotel guest decides to check out of life, the cops finish an investigation, or an accidental but bloody death is reported, Neal and the Crime Scene Cleaners are the ones picking up the pieces and mopping up the stains.
As one might imagine, the details Emmins provides about this line of work are visceral and morbidly fascinating. His guide through this world is a coarse but practical fellow.
"Do you have much trouble with people paying?"

"Used to. When we would send the invoice in the mail, people would be like, 'How much? All he did was clean.' You know, most of the time the invoice would go to someone who didn't see the mess before we cleaned it, so they see the invoice for a couple of grand and they're like, 'Get outta here.' Now I don't give them any time to think. In the here-and-now, people will pay you a lot of money to clean up dead bodies. They don't want to touch what we touch, but you need to get that money at the time or else ... Not all of them, though."

"Have you ever had somebody try not to pay you at the end of the job?"

"Hell yeah!"

"What did you do about that?"

"I went out to my truck, unroped it, dragged that big, bloody, fluid-filled mattress back in there. I got the bedclothes ... This was in July, so it was hot. I mean we're talking strong odors ..."

"What was the guy saying? Was it a guy?"

"Yeah, it was a guy. He was like, 'You can't do that.' I said, 'Listen, you ******* dink, you knew the deal: I clean, you pay ... But generally, people are shocked when we leave. Extremely happy--extremely happy and extremely shocked and I guess dismayed that they're having to have this done to begin with. There are just so many emotions involved."

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