Saturday, June 30, 2007

Curiosity Killed the Cat but Satisfaction Brought him Back 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comOne of the records management clerks, a man named Jeff, had the most extravagantly decorated cubicle I had ever seen. It was something to behold, every surface covered with University of Alabama football crap: ceramic elephants, banners, posters, buttons, ribbons and other things I can only categorize as ‘flair.’ It looked like the lair of a hoarder with fanatical school spirit. Upon learning that Jeff had never attended University of Alabama or college, most people would find this school spirit rather strange. Actually, this wasn’t too odd in Alabama, which lacks a professional football team so college football is elevated to fill what is obviously a gaping hole in people’s lives. Usually the first question out of people you meet in Alabama besides “Where do you worship” is “Auburn or Alabama?” The big Auburn/Alabama game was the highlight of the social season for many people, and attaining the annual “braggin’ rights” if one’s team won could make or break one’s year.

I’ve always thought it was intrusive and controlling for a company to set rules on how many pictures and plants and decorations their employees could have but after taking a look at his cube I could see the point of such regulations. Jeff was a heavy smoker but even I with the sensitive nose had no idea that he smoked because he was so circumspect and fastidious. I don’t know if he scrubbed his hands after each cigarette or wore gloves, but I worked with him 8 months before I discovered he was a smoker, and only then because I saw him myself taking a drag in the outside smoker’s area.

I never met his wife but he had some pictures of her amidst all of the University of Alabama crap. She looked like a bantam version of Joy from My Name is Earl. She was a hot little number but dumb, mean and utterly, helplessly dependent upon her husband. She refused to work and exerted considerable financial pressure on him. The field of Library Science, even in the more remunerative corporate sector, traditionally pays just enough to keep a spinster from starving, and records management doesn’t pay much better, so this was a constant source of strain in their marriage. There was a picture of her as a toddler being dandled on her daddy’s knee, dressed in (what else) a University of Alabama cheerleading outfit. There was something creepy infantilizing about the picture, as if she had gone from one daddy to the next.

She used to call her husband all day, sometimes more than twice an hour. She called for any random reason: because she thought she smelled gas, because there was a strange man at the door, because she was bored and lonely, because she heard a strange nose. It was evident that these calls made him miserable. I could hear him talking to her with strained patience, pleading with her to let him get some work done. One time at a sales meeting she kept him on the hotel line for three hours while he calmed her down and ran up a $400 phone bill, for which our manager refused, rightly, to pay.

I left for a new job, but I kept up with the old records manager. She told me that Jeff had back surgery, which I had always heard can be accompanied by depression. As soon as he was ambulatory he drove across the state line and checked himself into a motel room in Mississippi, where he blew himself off the earth with a shotgun.

His wife wore an all white denim outfit to the funeral, an unusual choice for the widow, and put on quite histrionic performance.

What I will never forget about this story is that Jeff sent a time delayed email to one of his coworkers, a woman for whom I suspect he had always had an unrequited love. She didn’t receive the email until after the funeral. She read it, but would never say what was in the email. My question to you is would you have read it? I don’t know if I could have, but I’m a very curious person, and may not have been able to help myself, no matter how horrible the contents may have been.

I would feel obligated to read the email, as it conveys the final sentiments of a dying man; how do you ignore that?
It isn't just the sentiments of a dying man - it's the sentiments of a terribly depressed man who ended his own life tragically and in an incredibly violent, messy way.

What if it said something horrible, or guilt inducing. You have to assume he was not in his right mind when he wrote it. What would be the point in having that rattle around your head?
Right off, I'd say no. But I honestly don't know.

Foxy, sorry to go O/T -- a fun thing one of my favorite bloggers tagged me for is a blog meme thing -- eight pointless things. Normally, I don't participate in this kind of thing, and don't think it fits your blog, but to play along I had to leave a comment. My apologies; please feel free to participate or not, as you see fit. Here's the skinny: http://neonjungle.blogspot.com/2007/07/eight-pointless-things-about-me.html#comments
How could you NOT read the email? Weird morality issues aside (perhaps I have no morality, because I don't see the problem here) - the guy is DEAD. It's not like you will have to suffer from guilt in preventing his death... he's already gone.

And, by your own admission - "you have to assume he was not in his right mind when he wrote it." So, the insane ramblings of a dead man... maybe it would have some lovely William Blake insanities, or some Bret Easton Ellis lists, but still... he killed himself. The recipient of the email did not kill him. It was HIS choice, so... read away.
I think I would ask either my most trusted friend or a complete stranger to read it first and tell me if it contained anything potentially traumatic. Sort of a violation of privacy, but I think it'd be forgivable in the circumstances.

After all, if he truly did care for this woman, he wouldn't want her to be hurt (if he was in his right mind - in the depths of depression he might lash out, which I can relate to, but when the smoke cleared, so to say, he'd feel awful for upsetting her), and if he *didn't* truly care for her, then she should be spared having to carry around any guilt or remorse.

Truth be told, I'd ask someone else to read it first, but even if they told me, "Oh honey, you don't want to see this," I'd probably have to read it anyway. I cannot abide loose threads.
I would totally read it. No doubt about it. I am too curious that way.

This whole story is one of those "you can't make this shit up" stories.
I listen to crazy living people every day. I couldn't discriminate against the dead. Reading the letter would illuminate his state of mind before the suicide. It's like his last wish, and I wouldn't deny anyone their last wish be it pre or post mortem. I couldn't.
Oh Woeful, your romantic optimism is showing. The odds of that email having any deep and meaningful final message are very, very low. Most suicide notes are petty and deliberately hurtful. This suicidal person was suffering and felt misunderstood. Why would he send a comforting or enlightening message to those left behind? I would not read the message, but I would always wonder if the message contained the location of cash or some other valuables. Ha.
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