Friday, April 22, 2016

Crematory Stories

The author once worked at an Oakland, California, crematory, disguised by her as Westwind.

Caitlin Doughty, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory (New York: W. W. Norton, 2014), 170-1.

People had wild theories about what we did with the bodies. Elderly women would call the crematory, their voices shaky and slightly confused.

“Westwind Cremation and Burial, this is Caitlin,” I would answer.

“Hello, dear, I’m Estelle,” said one woman. “You are going to cremate me when I die. I have the paperwork with your company and it’s all paid for. But I saw a thing on the news this morning about you all burning the bodies together dear, is that right?”

“No, ma’am, everyone is cremated on their own here,” I said firmly.

“They said you put a pile of bodies on a bonfire and there is a big pile of ashes afterwards and you just scoop from that pile,” Estelle said.

“Ma’am, I’m not sure who ‘they’ are.”

“The news people,” she said.

“Well, I promise they aren’t talking about us here at Westwind. Everyone gets their own serial number and is cremated alone,” I assured her.

She sighed. “Well, OK dear. I’ve lived so long and I’m just real afraid about dying and being left in a pile of bodies.”

Estelle wasn’t alone in her fears. One woman called to ask if bodies were kept hanging on meat hooks in the refrigerator like sides of beef. An enraged gentleman informed me we shouldn’t be charging for a sea scattering because all that meant was “dumpin’ the ashes in the toilet with a packet of salt and flushing.”

It broke my heart to hear them, even the ones who were screaming at me. Holy crap, you’ve been thinking that? I thought. You think you’re going to die and be hung on a meat hook before being thrown into a bonfire of corpses and flushed down the toilet?

Monday, April 18, 2016

Crying Children Used as Lures by Criminals

Africa Check
18 April 2016

Researched by Kate Wilkinson

South Africans need to be on high alert about two new crime trends – according to an “urgent message” shared on Facebook.

It warns: “If you find a child crying on the road showing his/her address and asking you to take him/her to that address, immediately take that child to the police station and please DO NOT take the child to the address.

“This is a new way to gang rape women and girls, rob and kill men and boys.” […]

Africa Check had no luck calling the numbers listed on the warning. The first number was permanently engaged and the second no longer exists. We also could not find the landline number listed on the police services website.

And when we tried to track down the “Lt Col. MJ Krugel” that supposedly issued the warning, we discovered that people had been trying to verify the authenticity of this message as early as 2011. […]

Oranges Spiked with Nails Used by Carjackers

Africa Check
18 January 2016

Researched by Kate Wilkinson

If potholes and rocks weren’t enough, South African motorists are now being urged to avoid driving over oranges.

Arrive Alive recently tweeted an image of oranges riddled with nails.

The road safety organisation advised motorists to “avoid driving over oranges on [a] road or motorway” as it may be a “possible tactic of criminals”. The image was shared over 2,400 times on the organisation’s Twitter and Facebook accounts. […]