Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Thank Heaven for 7-11

     Oh sweet slumber, where would I be without you? You rescue me from the coils of this harsh reality. Oh vibrant dreamland, thank you for my inspiration and... *ring ring, ring ring*... *rolls over, yawns in confusion, scrambles for the phone*...
                            "Hey Caitlin, are you up for doing a shooting?"

     Getting used to this whole on call thing is interesting. I have to say, it is a confusing way to wake up. I almost forgot what my job was or why my phone would be ringing at 4:30 in the morning. It is nice to be up so early though, the walk to my car is the best. Nothing like the brisk morning air and the sound of birds chattering away to replace coffee. I had forgotten to grab my energy on the way out, however my destination was a 7-11. Hmmm... would it be rude to buy an energy drink or coffee before cleaning up after a shooting there? Yeah, maybe I'll pass on that and run on fumes for the time being.
     Driving to the site I tried to block out any personal connection I might have to this particular case. A clerk had been shot in a robbery and amazingly he survived and actually called 911 himself. A little over a year ago I had a run in with an armed robber while working at Doctor John's. Gratefully there were no injuries and that robber has been prosecuted. After my experience with that my blood runs cold when I think about how lucky I am that the person attempting to rob me was so spun out she has no idea what she was doing. The man this morning was not so lucky, but he has his life. Unfortunetly the robber is still on the loose.
     I arrived before my boss did and sat awkwerdly in my car watching the 3 news teams scurry around to find good shots, fiddle with camera equipment, and touch up hair and make up. It was amusing, I tried to imagine what they were doing with so little information. Once my boss arrived I hopped out of my car, ducked under the caution tape (I love doing that, lol) and met up with him at the back entrance to the 7-11. Of course we were intercepted by a news crew member asking us about the case. "We don't know anything, we just clean." usually keeps them away. We're SO boring.
      The employees were calm, maybe this isn't "their first rodeo" as my coworkers say. The shooting occured in the small back room behind the counter, because of this shortly after we began cleaning the store reopened for the morning rush. This room barely fit my boss and I and was filled with screens to the survellience cameras and various DVDs all over the floor.  This is my second shooting. The last one was a shot gun, lots of arterial spray, holes in the ceiling, and teeth. (As a side note, I learned today that my boss was able to see a contact lens in perfect condition stuck to the wall from the shot gun suicide job about a month ago, the kid literally blew his contacts right off of his eyeballs. After years of experience with this job it's amazing how much you start to notice detail in everything.) This morning it was obvious the gun was a 9mm of some sort, the blood pooled on the floor and didn't spray all over the room, it was pretty concentrated. That makes for an easier clean. Before knowing much about what happened we could figure out that the man who was shot was the one to make the call to 911. The phone looked as though who ever used it was spitting out blood, the mouth piece and handle were covered much more than the rest of the phone. At first glance we knew the rolly chair couldn't be saved. With cloth material sometimes we just have to throw it away. The room looked like it may have never been cleaned so it was hard to tell what was blood or marinara sauce sometimes. haha. We just clean up anything that could look like blood because the employees are not going to know the difference and will probably freak out at any red spots in that room. It makes me want to freak them out and pretend to lick what I know isn't blood and reassure them there is no bio hazard there. Since the store reopened my boss and I had to keep it low key and sort of pretend we were not there for any special reason. It took us about 3 hours to clean up all together. The morning clerk was a young girl who seemed really anxious as I heard customers ask her about the shooting. That makes for a loooong day I tell you what. Other than her the managers seemed more worried about the money and getting the finger print chalk cleaned up around the front counter. At first I was bothered by the attitude of the people in charge but then again, it is their job and I have no idea what the entire situation is or who any of the people are. There was an old police business card with a case number written on it in that back room. That's what made us think maybe this wasn't the first time or there have been attempts without injury in the past.
In conclusion, it was great to spend the time with the boss and learn more about him and the business. I was also happy at how I handled a case that hit so close to home, the drive over was a little nerving. We only found a couple of teeth so it is a good sign that the clerk shot is going to recover. I have been curious what a clean up in a public setting would be like as far as dealing with people in shock or grieving. It makes sense that it went the way it did. Cold as it was, it makes sense to keep a business running without creating panic.,0,812303.story

*My boss gave me an update on the shotgun suicide case if anyone out there is curious. For a recap about a month ago a 15 year old shot himself and survived. ( ) Yesterday boss man got the information that the kid went home Friday but no longer has the ability to communicate. :( He has lost his jaw, tongue, nose and eye sight. But doctors are going to attempt to reconstruct his tongue, nose, and jaw so one day this kid can talk again. That sounds amazing and I wonder if it is an experimental procedure or if it has been done before more than a few times. I don't know if he is deaf or not, but there is a good chance of that. It is a tragic example where you can't help but wonder if surviving was the best thing. My heart goes out to him and his family.

Friday, June 10, 2011

May 26th - June 10th

I've been trying to write an entry about work for the last couple of weeks. This uninspired amount of time is not due to lack of interesting things to write about, it is more due to the lack of energy my body is capable of having at this point. Yes, Caitlin, complain complain. But something in me needs to write about being so tired to release some of it from my mind, hopefully ending with a refreshed sense of self. At least a little bit.
I feel a sense of accomplishment being able to keep up with my coworkers. At the same time I failed to slow my life down to make up for the energy spent on my job. When I had a job I could call into or no job at all making plans wasn't stressful and going on a walk in the park didn't make me want to curl up and pass out. The company I work for is small, VERY small. Meth (heh, I almost wrote 'math') decontamination is where the money is to be able to hire enough people to manage a bio-hazard team and a meth decon team. For now the bio-hazard work is scarce while the team catches up on the decons. Once the ball gets rolling the job will be more of what I'm interested in. So hard physical labor wasn't really the plan for me. Once I pass a state certification exam to be a "decontamination specialist" my job will be to test houses and work with the health department a little. On top of bio-hazard calls. When things are more established we can start marketing for more of the interesting stuff. haha. So while my body isn't sure how to feel being so unexpectantly worn out the last month and a half I have built up my upper body strength and worked with some pretty chill people.
Meth decontamination can be just as intriguing as bio-hazard work. There is a lot more in these stories than meets the eye. Cleaning up a meth house can feel like cleaning up a suicide when you know the person lost themselves to the drug. The other week we cleaned one room of a house (the ventilation systems were separate so we didn't have to clean the whole house, it is rare to clean only one room) and the story that we had heard was tragic. When we learned about the job the boss told us that this room belonged to a young man who had gotten PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) from being involved with the war in Iraq. When returning to the U.S. he locked himself in his room and smoked meth. This all resulted in an even more tragic event when he had an episode and mistook some people for terrorists. We had to clean EVERYTHING in his room. Every drawer, box and corner had to be decontaminated. The family was home as we were cleaning, but he was not living there anymore. Without asking we don't really know much more about the person. As we dig through countless bins of nicknacks wiping them down with our cleaning solution we begin to piece together a possible idea of what the owner of this bedroom was like. Was he a kind person before the war? Was he intelligent? Was he mean or cruel? He collected rocks, had nice fish tanks, awards from the military, and a clean taste in style. When you spend 8 hours going through a strangers personal belongings you can't help but wonder what the story is. One of the saddest parts about decontaminating meth houses would have to be the traces of children's toys lying around. Barbies in the bath tub, high chairs, crayon on the wall, you can almost here the pitter patter of feet running through the halls. An empty house with nothing but left over children's toys is one of the most depressing things I have seen. It is a harsh reality that there are kids being raised by irresponsible parents. Being a photographer I wonder if these images bother me so much because I imagine them in a frame without the whole environment. Just focusing on toys in the broken bathtub of a meth house would make for some good emo artsy stuff.
Anyway, maybe I am just tired, maybe I am depressed, but hopefully I can start keeping up on my writing project more. Also, I plan to ask my boss about the possibility of taking my camera to some jobs and photograph random elements and document the career. You know, for education purposes or something. For all the people curious about what being a crime scene cleaner is like.  As long as I leave out any information about who, what, when, where and why I'm sure it would be ok. *crosses fingers* Hopefully that will be something to look forward to in the near future.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Life is a Grave

We find ourselves putting together pieces of what was learned, felt, understood, and dreamed about. Thoughts begin racing as feet continue pacing and many of us question how life is spent. Not only in ourselves, but life as a whole. The experience of life. Understanding doesn't mean anything. Connection means something, but not enough. Emotions lead us in our directions, they influence our decisions as we become a shell of who we want to be. Others cause us to feel a need to change who we are. It is inevitable that we become some of what we want to be and mostly what we want people to see that we want to be. Are we really expected to be anything at all? Our shell is who we wish we could be, our minds are who we are. Our minds are inside, hidden deep, and easily disguised. Rarely do we understand even our own self. Our senses are numb and we pull the trigger.
On a long enough time line we will all question why we are alive. Some of us are born with the instinct to question what we think we know, many of us are born to be content with where we are. Some things are out of our control, it comforts us to think we ever had control.
We will never know death until we experience it. It isn't meant to be understood or shared. Some of us die before anyone else ever notices. There is no way to see it coming. It can not be stopped. It leaves us with questions, it leaves us feeling heavy with what was and could have been. We live with regrets and leave with relief.
Many hearts are heavy with the loss of a friend. Brandon you will be missed. It still doesn't feel real and probably won't for a while. This is a time when I wish I believed in a soul, but Brandon will live on through his family, his friends. It is beyond our ability to completely understand what happened, it is a good time to think about why he is missed and not on what should have or could have been done. Brandon was full of life in so many ways, he made us smile and motivated many of us to go for our dreams. He saw a vision that most people didn't. If only he could have escaped his own demons. Rest In Peace.