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Ashes To Ashes, Dust To Distribution

, , , , | Working | May 12, 2022

When I turned eighteen, I got a job at a distribution center of a big German shipping company, working a few hours after school. I was assigned to various stations, depending on where they needed help at the moment.

One day, I was assigned to a station I’d never been before. After a while, I noticed a wooden pallet with about a hundred of the same packages. For the most part, we handled only single packages, so this seemed odd to me at first.

Me: “Hey, [Coworker], that pallet looks special. I haven’t seen something like that around before. What is this?”

Coworker: “Oh, those are just urns from the crematory. We ship those every couple of weeks.”

Me: “We ship urns with the ashes of dead people? Why?”

Coworker: “You see, in Germany, you’re not allowed to collect the ashes from the crematory yourself. Only the boss of a funeral home is allowed to do that. The other legal way to transport filled urns is shipping them with our company, because we used to be owned by the government.”

I was a little weirded out and decided I don’t want to be cremated in Germany, but I managed to handle those pallets without incident.

Fast forward a few years. As I’m shopping at a local supermarket, a woman approaches me.

Woman: “Sorry to bother you, but is your name [My Name], by a chance?

Me: “Yes, it is. Why?”

I do not recognise her, but I’m bad at remembering people.

She yells across the aisle:

Woman: “Hey, [Friend’s Brother], it is him. now you can say hello!” *To me* “He didn’t dare to ask you himself.” 

I recognise the man she yelled to as the little brother of a friend I’ve failed to stay in touch with over the years.

Me: “Oh, hi, [Friend’s Brother], good to see you. How are you? How is your sister?”

Blah, blah, blah. We catch up for a while. 

After a couple of minutes:

Me: “And what do you do now?”

Friend’s Brother: “Well, you met my girlfriend. I’m just finishing school, and I work a few hours at the distribution center on the side.”

Me: “Hey, I had that job. It was fun, most of the time. Do you still get those wooden pallets full of urns?”

Friend’s Brother: “Oh, yes, we do.”

Me: “Man, can you imagine how bad it would be to knock one of those over and break the urns? We used to joke about it all the time.”

He gets quiet and looks down.

Friend’s Brother: “Well… you see… I actually did that. I crashed it and it turned over. A lot of the urns broke. There was ash everywhere.”

Me: “Oh, no. Oh, s***. What did you do then?”

Friend’s Brother: “Well, we brushed the ash up and put it in a bucket. Then, we sent everything to the station for damaged packages. I never found out what they did with it.”

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