Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Cause of death: poor grammar

So last night's cocktail hour conversation was on the morbid side.  I don't remember how we got to this point in the first place, but we were talking about causes of death when someone said "what if you die in some really gruesome accident, or murder, or something and they don't know exactly which injury killed you?"

I can answer that because in one of my former lives when I worked at the Bank of Baltimore, I handled credit accounts that belonged to dead people. That is, people who'd been alive once and had a credit account and then died; it's not like we were establishing lines of credit in Green Mount Cemetery.  As part of the job I needed to review death certificates.  It was really pretty interesting; people who work in  credit and collections always refer to deadbeat customers.  In my case they really were deadbeats.

The strange part is that no matter what happens to you, almost every death certificate lists cause of death as "heart failure." Then, it'll give the "secondary" cause, which usually is what happened to you that made your heart stop.  As far as the coroner is concerned, you died because your heart stopped.  The fact that your heart stopped because you got hit by the Crescent Limited is apparently of minor significance.  I suppose this is a bit of a kindness in some cases, if your death is either unbearably tragic or really stupid. I had one case where a college kid blew his brains out; at least his family was spared seeing that every time they had to show the certificate since it still said "Heart failure."  And if I died because I did something really idiotic, I'd rather not have my last public record say "Got drunk and tried to surf on subway rails."

Actually, I have already planned my demise.  It's been done before, but it's just so apt.  Years ago some dude died in his seat in the balcony at the Byrd.  He sat there for about three shows before someone figured out that either he wasn't doing too well or he really liked that movie.  This sounds like a fine plan to me.

So, if I am found dead anyplace but a movie theatre balcony, know that I was probably murdered.  And since the primary cause of death will invariably be "Heart Failure,"  I expect the secondary cause will be "conversation with person who believes 'alot' is a word."

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Thanks! Now, go get a drink, sit down and enjoy the show.