The World of Hearses Just Had One of the Strangest Weeks Ever

Four incidents in one week highlight just how hard it is to maintain the air of dignity we insist on from our corpse-mobiles.

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May 18 2015, 5:00pm

Photo via US Navy/Wikimedia Commons

Hearse drivers are heroes. Carting fresh corpses from morgue-to-mortuary-to-funeral-to-graveyard, along imperfect roads, in imperfect motor vehicles driven by imperfect human beings is logistically tricky, yet somehow these operations are almost always executed with precision.

Sadly, with well over 100,000 people dying every single day, there are bound to be a few hiccups, and the past week has been exceptionally troubling for the hearse driving profession and its patrons. Four recent incidents highlight just how hard it is to maintain the air of dignity we insist on from our corpse-mobiles.

People Got Mad Because a Veteran's Hearse Driver Stopped at Dunkin' Donuts

When Rob Carpenter popped into his local Dunkin' Donuts in New Port Richey, Florida, he spotted a hearse in the parking lot. The hearse drivers, he noticed, were inside the D&D getting coffee while the curtains on the hearse were open, revealing a flag draped over the casket, indicating the deceased was a veteran. Also, the hearse was double parked.

While there's not a law on the books that says you're not allowed to stop at Dunkin' Donuts if you're driving a hearse with a flag-draped casket in the back, it is generally frowned upon. The president of the funeral home said that if a stop must be made while transporting the body of a service member one person should stay in the car with the casket. Rob Carpenter put his video of the hearse online, and the drivers wound up getting fired.

Viewed another way, the drivers were at work, and they were buying coffee to go. People need coffee! But yeah, they still probably deserved to be fired.

People in Wales Followed the Wrong Hearse for Nine Miles

Wales Online reported last week that a hearse containing the body of Mair Howard, a 71-year-old Welsh woman, went into a roundabout with another hearse, resulting in a bit of a mixup. Members of the procession got confused and followed the wrong hearse for nine miles.

Howard's mourners believed they were on their way to Freystrop Cemetery, but instead found themselves en route to "Parc Gwyn Crematorium in Narberth." Eventually they got a confused text from others in their procession who were grieving in the right place, and that's when—if it hadn't been a funeral for their loved one—they all would have had a good laugh.

The minister said the event was "straight out of Only Fools and Horses," a British sitcom in which I understand someone showed up at the wrong funeral, which must have been funny because it wasn't true.

A Hearse in Germany Went Off the Road

Translation: "Corpse Bites the Dust!"

On Thursday, the German tabloid Bild got their hands on a photo of a hearse somewhere near Stuttgart that had somehow lost control and got reefed on a traffic island. That's pretty much the whole story (link is in German).

However, did you know that the German word for hearse is "leichenwagen"? If you've ever noticed the way German nouns click together like legos, you probably already guessed that means "corpse car."

A Body Rolled Out of a Hearse in New Zealand

On Tuesday in Papatoetoe, New Zealand, some kind of latch or mechanism on a hearse catastrophically failed in the middle of a busy intersection, and a gurney containing a dead body wrapped in a sheet rolled out onto the asphalt. "I was just parked there and all of a sudden I saw the funeral car's boot open and something slipping out, and it was a body," an anonymous onlooker told the New Zealand Herald .

Heavy rains quickly turned the sheet sopping wet. A helpful teenager leapt into action, and helped the frazzled driver load the cargo back into the hearse. Then, according to the Herald, the corpse was "inspected immediately and was unharmed." At first blush,"unharmed" seems like the wrong word for someone who is dead, but then again, "undamaged" feels even worse.

So yes, the dead body was unharmed. Sure.

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