A joke from beyond the grave? This is a true story...
|For about five years, the ring tone on my cell phone was either one of two songs: Queen's 'Another One Bites the Dust,' or 'Moving on Up,' the theme song from 'The Jeffersons'. Originally I downloaded the Jeffersons' theme first, but was unhappy with it. Played by the nine tone digital keyboard of my phone, the Jeffersons' theme lost all of its gospel soul and rhythm. But then again, I'm a white-boy, so somehow I thought the lack of rhythm might be sadly appropriate… and I never deleted it from my cell phone's memory.
I later switched to Queen's 'Another One Bites the Dust,' and absolutely loved it. The ring tone consisted solely of the incredibly-catchy, unmistakable driving base beat of the chorus… bump, bump, bump, another one bites the dust. Almost every time my phone rang, some random person overheard and would wind up singing along with the base line. That's when you know you have a cell phone ring winner.
It never occurred to me that those two ring ones would be the driving force behind three of the most embarrassing moments in my life.
Embarassment numero uno happened when my sister Shannon and my father accompanied me to the funeral home to make the arrangements for the final disposition of my brother's body. The experience was already surreal, as I'm sure anyone who has ever had to be executor of their sibling's estate can tell you. The feeling of being caught in a bad Tim Burton film was exacerbated by the funeral home itself. Upon walking into the reception office, I couldn't help but notice the pen/pencil holder of the receptionist. The holder was in the stretched hexagon shape of a coffin from a 'B' horror movie, complete with a large plastic skull affixed prominently at the top of the grave, and the letters R.I.P. drawn on the open lid of the coffin, paint dripping down from each letter. I understand the need for a sense of humor when you work in a funeral home, but this doesn't exactly convey the appropriate sense of decorum.
At this point my brother's passing was still a shock to us, so we were alternating between an almost inappropriate casual giddiness and stark depression. The director of the funeral home met us in the receptionist's office and then steered us into a secluded room, where he proceeded to ask us questions about what we wanted for the funeral. What we desperately wanted was not to piss off our mother, who was in Michigan while we attended to affairs in Arizona. Mom was too distraught to be involved with any of the details, yet would inevitably be upset if any of the details weren't exactly to her liking. Not exactly a tenable situation, and very hard to convey to a funeral director. Because we were in a Catch-22, some of the debate about details, while not exactly heated, was understandably emotionally straining.
The director of the funeral home asked us all if we wanted something to drink, in order to give us a little break from the seemingly unending decisions to be made in setting up a funeral. He left the room, and re-entered with a bottle of water for each of us. I was pretty surprised to notice that the funeral home had its own brand of bottled watered, complete with a label advertising their services. You definitely don't want to leave the funeral home with the water unfinished, because then you'd have to throw it out. Nobody wants to carry around a public advertisement that they had just left a funeral home. Moreover, I can't say I want to imbibe anything prepared by an institution that can benefit financially from my demise.
I placed my unopened bottle to the side, and we again starting delving into the minutia of a funeral. A few seconds later I first noticed my cell-phone vibrating; it always vibrates once prior to ringing. I started mentally singing the base ine ahead of time, when I suddenly realized the import of Queen's 'Another One Bites the Dust'. For those unfamiliar, the song's energetic base eat contrasts greatly with the rather macabre lyrics:
Bump, Bump, Bump…
Another one bites the dust.
And another one's gone,
Another one's dead,
Another one bites the dust!
O Crap! Could there be anything more inappropriate under the circumstances? I desperately reached into my pocket to try to shut the bloody thing off, but it was too late. Perhaps I would get lucky and nobody there would recognize the tune…
Although my Dad and the funeral director didn't know the tune, my sister immediately caught it and put two and two together. She burst out laughing, and couldn't stop giggling for the rest of the interview. Every time she giggled, I couldn't restrain myself from laughing. I had to leave the room every two minutes until we finally left the building. I have to wonder what the funeral director and my father, who were completely unaware of the song, thought of Shannon and me laughing our way through the proceedings. I promised myself I would change the ring tone immediately.
The next three weeks were so busy, of course I completely forgot.
Fast forward three weeks later to my brother's funeral. We were in a church, and my niece Amber was doing a reading for the occasion. I was starting to tear up, while half of my family was already flat-out bawling. Yet again, I felt my cell phone vibrating. Being a complete idiot, of course I had forgotten to turn the damned thing off prior to walking in the church. Yet again, I almost tore my pocket at the seams trying to get to the cell phone in time.
I console myself with the fact that my deceased brother would have found the irony of the situation endlessly amusing.
I walked out of the church, and promptly deleted my Queen cell phone ring.
One would think that I would have learned my lesson from my first two mortifying experiences. In my defense, nearly eight months passed between my brother's funeral at the church, and our placing the urn with his ashes in the cemetery. The cemetery was building a new mausoleum for urns, and my brother's urn was to be the mausoleum's first eternal occupant. As with all construction, the mausoleum was finished well past the expected completion date. My third embarrassing moment took place at the cemetery.
The date was December 28th, and all of my family that could reasonably make the trip was at the cemetery for the final laying to rest of my brother. My uncle, who is a priest, was saying a few prayers for the departed. My niece Ashlea, knowing I was still hurting from the whole ordeal, was hugging me tightly. One more time, I felt the familiar warning vibration of my cell-phone.
Oh well, I thought to myself. At least I changed the song from that bloody Queen tune.
My cell-phone burst into vibrant music. It took me a few seconds to realize what the new song default was. In retrospect, the very gospel influenced melody of the Jefferson's theme, replete with the lyrics 'We're Moving on Up', wasn't a great deal more appropriate for the occasion.
Needless to say, I immediately deleted the Jefferson's theme. I now have a new cell phone, and categorically refuse to download a ring tone. Moreover, I NEVER forget to turn my cellular phone off.