I am 56-years old, and began my working career as a cotton candy maker at the famous Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area amusement park, Rocky Glen, which currently closed, shall soon bear a blue & gold State of Pennsylvania historical commemorative plaque. In my later High School years, I made an effort to get ahead, and became a gasoline station attendant, and pumped gas for hippies bound for a concert in Woodstock, New York. I remember one grateful person for whom I checked engine oil and washed windows. As proof of gratitude, he gave me a joint to supplement my hourly wage. These days, as a Hazardous Materials Response Supervisor, weed is verboten. I am subject to random U.S. D.O.T. Drug & Alcohol Testing, and by a long intercontinental ballistic shot, I am engaged in a more profitable form of service work.
Typically, an emergency spill response manager must organize and implement worker Health & Safety plans, and in concert with knowledgeable personnel, develop a professional clean up plan. Usually the crisis is a diesel fuel leak from damaged tractor-trailer saddle tanks, and migration of 200-gallons of volatile or ganic liquid into off-road soils and perhaps sources of water. Sometimes the crisis is a chlorine leak in a waste-water treatment plant; som etimes a “white powder” finding at a U.S. Post Office facility, which gives a worker like myself a chill, a shot of momentary adrenaline to the head. Other occasions, perhaps less publically known are emergency responses to suicides, and the need for cleaning up the potential bio-hazardous spray of residual blood, belonging to a “client” incapable of continuing another day in life.
So it was the Friday morning of August 29, 2008, the final work day before starting the last 3-day weekend of the summer. Anticipation of laying back, spending time with my children at a local tennis court, attending Scranton’s great annual Italian Festival at Courthouse, where Democrat V.P. nominee, Senator Joe Biden, the man of working class roots is scheduled to appear and vow to blow away, with one shot, an economy owned and operated by Wall Street and Corporations. At 7:30 a.m., having entered my workplace with the usual glee of “TGIF” and a paycheck that will not bounce, I checked my e-mail messages, and learned my task for the day was to supervise and clean up the aftermath of the suicide of Mr. Joe Midas, of Grandview Estates, Sugar Loaf, Pa. My colleague, 40-Hour OSHA trained Field Technician, Rob DeLayo (nicknamed Dobbs), was appointed to join the task. =0 A By 7:45 a.m., Dobbs and I “kicked into high gear,” and loaded our company response vehicle with the usual bio-hazardous equipment, consisting of specialized “Personal Protection Equipment” (coated Tyvek suits, respirators, nitrile gloves, ), Clorox, disinfectant Lemon 64, metal scrapers, chemical absorbent pads, red Bio-Bags, boxes, etcetera. “Everything’s loaded, and ready to go, Chuck,” said composed Dobbs. We were informed Mr. Joe Midas, Sr. had taken his life at home, while seated in a wheel chair, using either a Beretta or a .357 magnum. My e-mail message instruction specified, “blood on the floor and wheelchair. Body evacuated. not too bad.”
Dobbs and I took a lazy ride down Interstate 81 South to the Nanticoke exit. On the way, we listened to news on WARM radio – speculation about the Scranton Diocese Bishop Martino’s misgivings about giving abortion-supporting politicians the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Moments later, Dobbs and I made a left into Grandview Estates, an upscale 1980s development, and sought the residence of deceased Mr. Joe Midas. Beautiful homes and properties. For many years, Joe Midas, Sr. was the successful owner of a waste hauler (roll-off container) company, and as I understood, he owned a metal scrap yard. Joe was evidently a hard worker, determined to make his way.
When Dobbs and I arrived at Midas’s home driveway, we met Jo e’s son-in-law, Mr. Bart Davidson, who had the distinction of escorting us into the death scene and observing our clean up S.O.P.s and methods. In his mid-fifties, working class attitude and attire, a grief-less Bart Davidosn longed to get the job done, and later, shoot darts at a local bar. He insightfully commented that our line of work deserved a spot on the Discovery t.v. show, “America’s Dirtiest Jobs,” and I nodded in the affirmative. In the middle of his forehead, I noticed Bart had a rather disturbing indentation, as if hammered by the blunt end of a crow bar. We shook hands and introduced ourselves. I spared Bart the question of what had happened to his head. He seemed interested in our line of work, and I accommodated him with a couple unique post-suicide clean up stories. Afterwards, he unlocked the door to enter the Midas brown-brick home; impressively landscaped, un- manicured. Inside, we smelled a distinct fresh odor, like that of a sensual expensive perfume. Unsolicited, he began to talk about the life of deceased Joe Midas, Sr. Prologue to the tale, Bart informed us, ”It’s quiet in the Cul-de-sac, nobody comes around to see what happened.”
According to Bart, Joe Midas had a son, Joe, Jr. At 13-years old, Joe Jr. was apparently wild, “into guns and drugs.” One day, Joe Jr. went=2 0to work at the scrap yard with his father. He had a rifle, perhaps a .22 caliber, and occupied himself by shooting resident rats while his father operated a loader. Bart resolutely shook his head and said, “young Joe shot his father in the head,” while the latter moved scrap metal into a roll-off container. Of course, Joe Sr. survived, but doctors were unable to dislodge the bullet from his brain, and Joe Sr. spent the remainder of his life semi-paralyzed, unable to walk. Considered a juvenile, a Judge sentenced Joe Jr. to a “life knowing you shot your father in the head.” The Judge’s words fell on “deaf ears,” and things got worse for the Midas family.
Bart Davidson reminded us that last year (2007) Joe Jr. was the guy arrested in Wilkes-Barre, Pa, for piloting a 30-cubic roll-off container through city streets, and rampaging into police vehicles and property. For this joy ride, Joe Jr. resides in a Federal prison, while Dobbs and I had the business opportunity of cleaning up his father’s liquid remains in the elegant setting of the Midas home, which I will digress for a paragraph description.
We entered the house which might have impressed the late Nicole Simpson. Inside the room where Joe Sr. took his life, I noticed a 4’x4′ pool of blood on the room’s heated concrete floor (no basement).
Baseboard heaters were damaged as if having had frequently collided with an out-of-control wheel chair. Every wall had a series of light switches. The ceiling fan had translucent panels, laden with heavy dust. Two cob-webbed skylights (windows) were above Joe’s King-Size bed, with no apparent floor level crank to open the windows to fresh air. Joe Sr. had a universal weight machine, and someone constructed a “walking rail” for him, like the ones seen in physical therapy facilities. White walls were stained with nicotine smoke residual, cracks along the edges, and a big-screen television mounted in an oak cabinet on the wall. Behind Joe’s bed, Dobbs noticed a metal briefcase. Loose bullets of all sizes lay in a plastic tote container. Inside a dresser drawer, a bullet filled leather belt resembling the kind Bandeleros used to wear. East of Joe’s bed, bi-fold doors opened to an outdoor Yin&Yang-shaped swimming pool, filter operational, clear water — looked as if people recently enjoyed its pleasures.
In awe of the blood stained environment, I asked Bart if I could use the bathroom “for a piss.” He obliged and pointed the way to the bathroom which was constructed as “a replica to the ones seen in Caesar’s Palace,” replete with marble floor, a walk-in shower, seat benches in all four corners, and a floor-based Jacuz zi hot tub with a steam20jet in the center. Joe Sr. apparently shared life with a cat, full food and water bowls lay on marble tile. Even now, I am mystified by the sight of Joe’s hot tub and sink handles. They were gold, bird heads with oversize wings, facing inward. (I recalled seeing similar handles on the Ark in the film “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”)
Eventually, I got on hands and knees to collect blood off floor and dresser areas, using combinations of scrapers, sand paper, and chemical absorbent pads. Beneath the bed’s foot board, I found a small, circular religious medallion, depicting a color photo of an Angel descending into hell to confront a dragon. Dobbs suggested it might be Saint George. I gave the medallion to Bart Davidson which he appreciated, and remarked, “it’s pretty appropriate.” After Dobbs and I disinfected all surfaces and packaged the blood contaminated waste material in a Bio-Hazardous box, we prepared to leave the Midas house. Standing in the garage, we loaded our pick truck, mindful of anything we left behind. I searched the back of our response vehicle, did inventory, and except for adhesive memories, found nothing left behind. Bart shook hands and thanked us for the “good job.” I sneaked one more look at Bart’s forehead indentation, and he asked us if we were interes ted in buying the WW II era bazooka which was stored on Joe’s garage floor. I told Bart, “not offhand,” but assured him I’d get word out to close friends. Bart assured us that the bazooka comes without shells, and a “good deal could be arranged.”
At Noon, we stored the Bio-Box containing remnants of Joe Midas in a corner of the garage where no one would notice it. (His pink blanket covered the box.) A weird one-truck funeral transportation and disposal procession would transpire perhaps next week. Of course, I informed Joe to be mindful of the Labor Day shortened four day work week, and Bart insisted we get rid of the Bio-Box as soon as possible, “for fear of a loved one seeing it.” He twisted his lips and “out of the blue” let it be known that the Midas family is deliberating about either personally telling Joe Jr. about the “incident,” or have a prison counselor “pop the news.”
On the way back to our company base, Dobbs and I were sorry for the loss and enjoyed cans of Coca Cola which Bart kindly gave us as refreshment. The cans were commemorative, Ethiopia, 2008 Beijing Olympics. Dobbs crushed an empty soda can, turned into I81 North’s passing lane, and said, “I hope something good comes of all this.”
CHARLES ORLOSKI lives in Taylor, PA. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org