Today is Mom’s birthday. Her 92nd.
I called to get her some flowers – yellow roses, of course. Her favorite. But when I nearly became homicidal trying to get some, well, I decided she’d understand it if she didn’t get any. I knew she wouldn’t complain, though.
You see, Mom passed away 14 years ago. So her birthday is always a bittersweet day for me. On this day, I want to celebrate her life and I want to let her know that I’m thinking about her. It’s always a day that finds me with a bit of a sad smile on my face.
Not this year.
This year I called to get some flowers put onto her grave and ended up wanting to kill. Kill and not bury.
I’m sure you’re wondering by now what the hell I am talking about. Patience is a virtue, you know. I don’t have it, so you need to.
I know I am not supposed to speak ill of the dead, but well, I’m gonna. My parents had terrible taste. Tacky taste. And the cemetery they chose to, umm, inhabit, well, please don’t think that I picked the god-awful place.
Now, you ask, what could possibly be so terrible about a cemetery? Aren’t they all alike? I used to think so. And maybe they are. But this one is in Florida. So maybe this one is special.
They don’t allow fresh flowers on the grave sites. They don’t allow live plants at the grave sites. They don’t allow silk flowers at the grave sites. And I think that folks are buried under Astroturf.
They only allow plastic flowers. Plastic flowers that they alone sell. So while I want to put flowers on my parents far away graves, well, I’m kind of limited.
But it’s Mom’s birthday, I thought. I have to call them. I have to get her some tacky flowers. Mom, after all, had a bowl of plastic/wax fruit on the kitchen table for 25 years. She lived for this sort of stuff. Ooh, sorry. Bad word choice.
Ok, so I called up the Cemetery folks to ask what choices I had in tacky plastic flowers. The surprisingly perky young woman on the other end had to ask someone else, so she put me on hold. And that’s when my blood began to boil.
There was no sound track of classical music playing on the line. There was no gospel music. There were no Big Band Era swing tunes playing. Most of the cemetery’s residents would have preferred any of those. Nope, while I was on hold there was no Frank, no Bing, no Nat.
There was an advertisement for the cemetery’s crematorium.
Needless to say, I did not want to put an urn on my mother’s grave for her birthday. That would be too tacky even for Mom. I let the perky young woman know, as politely as I could through my teeth, that their recording was insensitive and vile.
“Oh?” she said. “I’ve never heard it.” She then informed me that I had a choice between plastic roses and plastic peonies and plastic poinsettias. Lovely. Actually, Mom would have been happy.
“In what colors?” I stupidly asked.
“Let me put you on hold, while I find out,” she said.
“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO,” I screamed. But too late. I screamed it to the voice that told me the different types of wood caskets available. The voice that told me that I could have brass, silver or pewter handles. The voice that told me the colors of satin liners available. You could spend an eternity choosing. Oh, sorry. My bad.
Perky came back on the line to tell me that I could have red or pink roses, but she had forgotten the colors of the other flowers. She wanted to put me on hold again.
“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO,” I said, far more quickly.
“Do the folks who run this place think,” I said in as polite a manner as I could muster, “that caskets and cremation services are impulse purchases? That by putting that recording on while I am on hold I will suddenly get inspired to buy a walnut casket with pink satin lining and brass handles?”
Now, I realized that it is not Perky’s fault that ghouls own Memorial Funeral Park. Maybe she was just a temp. But I was not yet ready to give up trying to educate her on just how inappropriate the recording was.
“You know,” I continued, “my Mom and Dad have been gone for a while now, so the pain is not fresh. But if I had just lost either of them, I’m pretty sure a robo-sales talk would not make me choose your facility.”
“I think you need to take that up with the manager,” she said putting me on hold again. I learned about the different size and location of burial plots.
I was going to wait for the manager, but he took so long in coming to the phone that the recording came around to the crematorium and urns again. I had to hang up.
So this year Mom is going to get a visit from me in person. And I’m bringing a shovel .
19 responses to “Happy Birthday, Mom!”
Yes this is funny. Even after you’re dead they want every penny they can get. Anything from flowers to urns. SMH
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Everybody has their hand in your pocket …
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FUNNY! I LOVED the punch line! Thank you, Elyse!
Thanks Russ. I actually contacted them by letter and vented. Then I called at another time I needed to get “flowers” and did not get the robo-sales pitch. Thankfully!
Just discovered your blog and love your style etc. GREAT work!
I’m so glad you liked it. Actually, it didn’t fit into the story, but I DID get the manager. I told him in no uncertain terms that the recording was horrible and that it should be removed that day, that minute. He commented that no one had complained but me. Well, I said, “do you get a lot of people hanging up?” “Oh, yeah, we do.” “Gee, I wonder why.”
I have been afraid to call back. This incident took place LAST year, and I spent Mom’s birthday recalling and re-fuming about it!
I’ve got news for you, Elyse. That manager was never going to talk to you. You would have died on “hold” and then they would have had another customer. If you’re not going to buy, they’re not interested. Thanks for a ‘tears streaming down my cheeks’ funny piece!
You have to follow the money. I’m not surprised by the flower situation at your parents’ cemetary. The folks in charge can just keep recycling the same few plastic bouquets. Anyway, based on this one post I think I’m going to enjoy catching up on my reading! You’ve got a new follower!
What a nice comment — thanks for joining. But the pressure may kill me, and I’ll wish I had paid closer attention to the recording!
I will take your advice and Nancy’s. In fact, I did just that THIS year. This incident while completely real, actually happened LAST year. I did however, hang around and let the manager hear my point of view. And I sent a letter. I have been afraid to order anything for their graves for a year now. And a year later I still wanted to dig up both my parents and find a less tacky place for them. The “art” department at Walmart?!?
And you’re right about the industry. I guess it should come as no surprise. After all, who would go into it other than those who want to feed on the remains like a bunch of turkey vultures. Yuck.
Thanks for reading!
Elyse: I am sooooooo with you on the disdain of Florida. I actually have to take a business trip there soon and I’m dreading it (I’ll make sure not to die there). I’ve got to tell you that the funeral industry is a racket across the board. It seems as if it always has been, unfortunately. I can remember as a child insurance men canvasing the inner city to sell insurance policies to people who barely could eat so that their loved ones could be buried in style. Buried in style? My neighbors left this earth better than they ever lived. I agree with “notquitold’s” comment: each year send yourself some lovely, fresh yellow roses and post a blog in homage to your mother. Cheers!
Sorry for your loss — probably the worst thing about aging is that there are so many folks who aren’t still doing it with me.
I was hoping that Florida was the only place that could be that tacky. I figured as long as I stay out of Florida, as long as I’m NOT CAUGHT DEAD THERE, well, I’m OK. You have spoiled my whole impression of California!
BUT, the funeral industry is vile in every state. Right up there with the insurance industry — I was simply surprised at the lack of even the PRETENSE of sensitivity. A recording??????? About the crematorium? Of casket choices? Oy vey.
Nice blog. I’m on the West Coast, so no Florida! But we just cremated my mother-in-law, and it was a similar scam–with urns instead of flowers. Is there a discreet way to just vanish when we get old?
It sounds like the trailer park of cemeteries. I feel the same way when I look up an obituary on-line and I get an ad – for just about ANYTHING. I don’t blame you for wanting to dig up your loved ones. They might be happier in your backyard. But hat is probably against the law, so send some yellow roses to yourself, and enjoy them for your mom’s sake.
Great minds … yes, I have the roses. And yes, the place is the burial equivalent of a trailer park. But the fact that anyone would think such a recording would be effective marketing is what gets me. I think my blood pressure has gone back to normal by now. I hope so, because there is still an extra plot next to my Mom and I don’t want to end up there myself!
Thanks for your comment!
The folks running that cemetery really know how to squeeze out every marketing opportunity. Absolutely tacky of them.
There isn’t anything about that place that is NOT tacky! My parents should have waited and let us choose.
The whole story fits in completely with my impression of Florida. Anyone who isn’t in a wheelchair is scamming those who are. I wouldn’t be caught dead in Florida. Oops. There I go again!
Oh, I had SUCH a hard time reading this I was laughing so much. I truly am sorry for you, it is insensitive, and the whole ‘no flowers other than the crap we sell’ seems like the worst kind of scam. Do you think because a lot of older people retire in Florida, that they get their…ugh… business by default and then scram and rip off the suffering families in the years to come and the dead people knew nothing about these wretched rules? Maybe you could do a highway sign or take out an ad in AARP magazine letting the elderly know to consider the ‘rules’ for the family that are left behind? Seems someone needs to take matters into their own hands here!