Do you ever wish you could hear what people are thinking? Like a narrated inner-monologue in a movie. I sometimes provide them with that monologue in my own mind; it’s the only polite thing to do since they’re not articulating those thoughts themselves. I do like to observe the social graces.
Like the grumpy cashier at the convenience store: “If it wasn’t for all of these freakin’ customers I could totally get some work done… and have a smoke.”
Or the young man with the short-cropped haircut and collared shirt driving his late model car along the highway with apparent impatience, “So late… So late…. Gotta think of an excuse…. I spilled gas on my pants and the fumes made me sick… yeah…. And I had to go home and change so I wouldn’t make anyone else sick… just being thoughtful… yeah…”
Or my dog: “I hear the keys, OMG! OMG! OMG! OMG! OMG!”
I have occasion when in my day-job to talk to people who are asking for extra time off or to explain why they were absent. It’s during these conversations that I would really love to hear that inner-monologue. Recently there was a young lady, we’ll call her “Letisha Moore”, who said that her brother had passed away and took five days of bereavement leave. When she came back, she presented an obituary from a newspaper in Ohio printed off the internet. Now, I must admit, I’m generally a rather suspicious person, and when I took a peek at this obituary my Spidey-sense started tingling. The first thing I noticed was that, though her last name was the same as the name of the deceased, she was not mentioned among the surviving siblings of the deceased.
Me: “Letisha, I’m very sorry for your loss. As far as your documentation goes, is there a reason you’re not listed on this notice”
Letisha: “Yeah… um… he’s my step-brother. But that’s still covered, right?”
Me: “Yes, yes it is. Would you mind describing your relationship to him? Which of his parents married which of your parents, for instance?”
Letisha: “You mean, like, my family?”
Me: “Yes, if it would be easier you can draw a short family tree.”
Letisha: “No, that’s cool. My dad married his mom and then they had him.”
Me: “Oh, so he’s your half-brother then?”
Letisha: “Oh! Oh yeah! He’s my half-brother. I don’t even know why I said step-brother. Duh! [Pantomimes shooting herself in the head.]”
Me: “And what’s your father’s name?”
Letisha: “Robert Moore.”
Me: “Why does this notice say ‘The deceased is survived by his father, Randall Moore’?”
Letisha: “Oh! He goes by Randall now. I think that’s his middle name… I mean, it is his middle name. But I always knew him as Robert.”
Me: “Can you tell me anything else about this situation that would help me validate this for you?”
Letisha: “I don’t know why you’re hassling me! I mean, by baby brother shoots himself in the head and you’re asking me all of these questions!”
Me: “Letisha, this obituary says that he passed away ‘after a battle with cancer’.”
Letisha: “He killed himself before the cancer got him. The family just didn’t want that in the obituary.”
Me: “I’m really sorry to have to ask you for this, but I’m going to need you to provide some additional information about your attendance at the service from the funeral home. Most funeral homes have a standard form for that sort of thing that also identifies your relationship to the deceased.”
Letisha: “Look… I didn’t want to have to tell you this for your own safety, but the reason the names don’t match is because I’m in the witness protection program. We had to keep his death all secret and the whole cancer thing is a cover-up. I think the guys we’re hiding from got him.”
I’m seldom at a loss for words, but in this case I just stared at her, listening for her inner-monologue. The irony of her head-shooting motion as a counterpoint to her brief story about her brother taking his own life was not lost on me. And the worst part is, this happens all the time! It’s amazing how many people will kill off their “relatives” for a few days off. What are they thinking!?