The man with the clean dirty job

Elmo used to like to make me tell him stories before we go to sleep. Now that he's older, we've managed to tweak the practice so that we take turns talking. This is usually a fun way to get to know his friends and his activities, straight from his own mouth.

When it was my turn I remembered, for some reason, an English class assignment I did freshman year under the late Dr. Doreen Fernandez of Ateneo. This was sometime in July of 1993. She wanted us to interview somebody, anybody, and then write about that interview.

I had a eureka moment and decided to go to the funeral parlor to interview an embalmer.

I forget his name now but I remember he was a short, dark man with curly hair. The interview was conducted right where he did his business -- tiled walls and floors and even a tiled rectangular thing in the middle of the room with a drain. There were cotton swabs lying around the place. It smelled strongly of some chemical. I guess I was not a tenth as squeamish then as I am right now. I was then 17.

The embalmer told me that he came to the big city to search for a job and this was the first opportunity that came his way. In the beginning he could not work without getting drunk first, but soon he got the hang of it until he became comfortable enough to eat lunch or dinner at his, ugh, workplace.

The man soon learned to take pride in his job because it was a clean and honest way to earn a living. It was many times better than stealing, or doing drugs. His only dilemma? He had his eye on a girl, a neighbor, but he could not tell her what his real job was because she might get turned off. "Perhaps I will just admire her from a distance," he said.

I got an A for that assignment. I think it also helped that I had a couple of pictures taken with the embalmer right inside that tiled room.

Our takeaway? It is such a shame in the old days when all you had was a lone hard copy. I would give anything to find that essay assignment and even that picture, to post in this blog or on Facebook. Some throwback that would be. Alas, I haven't the faintest idea where to look. Everything but the memory of that interview with the man with the clean dirty job has gone into oblivion.