I’d seen him before, many times before. He always boarded my 7:02 at the same stop every morning and stepped off a block from the Pleasanton General Hospital, Monday through Friday.
Like most, we nodded, he and I, but we never spoke, that is, not until the Christmas holidays last year. Perhaps it was a facade, happy faces displayed for those sharing my daily commute from the suburbs into the financial district of the city.
Then Pete, the guy in question, asked what I did for a living.
“I’m a loan officer at a downtown bank. You?”
“I’m an embalmer at Pleasant General,” he answered while a twisted smile crossed his lips.
Heads popped up, and spun around as though he’d stated that he was setting off a fire cracker. My mind galloped back some thirty years to Digger, a high school chum who part-timed at a local funeral home. He was the only one in our group who was routinely quizzed about when he last washed his hands, especially when he was sharing food.
“That’s my job description. But actually, I’m a coroner’s assistant, sewing, chopping, cutting. You might be surprised what a cadaver can tell you,” his voice droning on, explaining more details than I cared to learn about the corpse business. Nearby passengers could not have put more distance between themselves and Pete had he identified himself as an IRS employee.
My future depends on public trust. His Nightmare Job left me a marked man. The following morning I synchronized my commuting schedule with the 7:12.