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I went to investigate, thinking 'What more can I possibly do to direct people to use my doorbell?'
This building is large and only the bell is properly audible throughout.
Outside there was a car and an older gentleman walking back toward it apparently disappointed
and discouraged by my slow response time. To add a little cheer to the situation and possibly to
explain my retarded action I began in jest, "So is that what passes for a proper door-knocking
He made no reply but turned back with a much puzzled and very worried look so I quickly added
a friendlier remark, "So how can I help you?"
He came up quite close in an almost intimidating way before speaking in a hoarse whisper, "Isn't
this where the viewing is? Winthrop? Seven to Nine at Ettinger's?"
I had to laugh. "No, this hasn't been a Funeral Home for ten years!"
He was dumbstruck.
"This always was the funeral home... so where's the viewing?"
"I dunno", I said. "Which funeral home did you say?"
So we came inside and I got out the phone book and found the name Ettinger's in a nearby town.
They had been the last owners of this place.
I put the phone book down and went to get a freshly charged phone in the back room, coming
back to find him reading the directory. I asked him to read out the number to me and I dialed it,
waiting until it rang, then handed him the handset and left him to it.
He was barely audibly mumbling but I did catch him say "No I don't want Ettinger's Hardware Store,
I want the funeral home."
He had obviously misread the number below the one we wanted.
Anyway, we tried again and he got through and confirmed that the Winthrop remains were there
and on view from 7 to 9. So I wished him safe travel into town. But by then I had rationalised that
if this was truly the first funeral he'd bothered about for ten years it must be someone close to him
who was laid out.
So I gave him 'Godspeed' with genuine sympathy and sincerity. We exchanged a few comments on
the weather and driving conditions and off he went. It was then I noticed I had not yet brought in my
trash cans from the curb. And it was starting to snow. So I put my boots on.
And walked on down the hall.
End of story.