Bernhardt column: The ultimate drive-thru window?
Iím not sure how it happened, but at some point this week, I found myself in a discussion about the emerging trends in funeral homes.
I wasnít shopping, mind you. It was one of those random conversations that came out of nowhere, as many of my conversations do these days.
We were discussing a Salisbury Post article about a proposed new funeral home, and the controversy that was creating. At some point in the dialogue, someone dropped in a factoid I wasnít aware of.
ěIíve heard the new funeral home may feature a drive-thru window,î said one participant.
ěExcuse me,î I heard myself say. ěA what?î
ěA drive-thru window. Many new funeral homes have them.î
While I have trouble wrapping my mind around that thought,Iíd like to go on record to say that such a feature would be a tremendous benefit to the handicapped and the elderly who probably couldn’t visit a funeral home otherwise.
But as long as Iím still on the record, I also believe that the main benefactors will be the pampered public in our ěgotta have it now and it has to be convenientî society who will find yet another reason not to use the two legs that God gave them ó even to say goodbye to Aunt Myrtle.
The funeral home with a drive- thru is not a new idea. Theyíve been around for at least 20 years; one of the first such establishments popping up in Chicago in 1989.
The New York Times described it as ěa drive-thru service with cameras and a sound system where visitors can pay their respects, view the remains, and even sign the register all from the comfort of their own cars.î
Visitors, cautioned to drive slowly, would pull up to a speakerphone where they would push a button and talk to an attendant who would ask them which body they would like to see. After making your request, you were told to proceed to a window where lights would come on over the appropriate loved one.
After the viewing, you could sign a register, conveniently located under the speakerphone. Then, budda-bing budda-bang, youíre on your way to the next drive-thru for some supersized fries.
A man named Lafayette Gatling started that one, saying that he used to feel uncomfortable paying his respects while wearing soiled work clothes. Plus, he added, people want to see the body, but they donít want to have to wait.
No, Mr. Gatling, we donít wait anymore. For anything. It’s part of our problem.
You also don’t have to put up with any more of that pesky human contact with grieving loved ones. No more fumbling for the right words to say. And most importantly, itís convenient.
Convenience is becoming the great quest of our society. Fifty years ago, we had stores. Now, we have convenience stores. Even 10 years ago, we were perfectly willing to wait for computer web pages to display our data. Now, the material had better show up instantly, or we’ll switch to a service that can make that happen.
Thereís nothing wrong with convenience in itself. Itís making it the be-all, end-all of our existence that has us missing a lot of what life has to offer. And that includes the warm feelings we share and receive when we take the time, soiled clothes and all, to comfort a grieving family in their time of loss.
I hope Iím around for a while longer, but when the day finally comes and I find myself doing the eternal lawn limbo, I think Iíll opt out of the drive-thru option. Heaven forbid I should die on a busy weekend and wind up the second half of a double-feature.
Kent Bernhardt lives in Salisbury.