JAIMIE VERNON – CEMETERY COP: CHAPTER ONE

Jaimie Vernon_Viletones For a year now folks on Facebook have been asking me to write a book about my work in a number of cemeteries. The process has begun. Here for your reading pleasure is CHAPTER ONE….

 Through social conditioning we grow up to view cemeteries superstitiously via religion or through urban legends concocted and repeated in the medium of television and movies. We have learned to believe that the souls of the dead and/or the zombie apocalypse will rise from every graveyard. It’s this pathological fear of the dead, dark places and ghosts that landed me the job I ended up doing for an entire year.
Rail Yard I had just been fired from my full-time job as an auto-inspector at one of the largest rail yards in Canada. That was my job description but during the majority of 2014 management had changed at the facility where I was inspecting and shuttling Chrysler automobiles and found myself doing other jobs more than my own. They had systematically fired a dozen workers in as many months and everyone left was stuck covering the work that remained including driving private vehicles given to us for shipping by their owners [which was very cool sometimes].
To that end we were exhausted. 12-14 hour shifts with no days off for weeks at a time. There were so many human rights violations it was maddening. But everyone was afraid of losing their jobs. We were still in post-2008 recession recovery. Besides, the overtime pay was outrageous. No one wanted to lose that. So we endured near death experiences. I had mine in August of 2014.
If you’ve ever been a parent and sleep deprived because your kid hasn’t slept in 3 years, that was me. I’d done 17 days straight without time off. I was seeing double. I was losing track of time. Huge chunks of time. No one who is sleep deprived should be driving automobiles for a living. Even if it’s in a secured facility and away from the general public.
Dodge Charger1 I was moving a 2015 Honda Odyssey mini-van from a holding area parking lot over to a staging area where a waiting transport truck would take it and several other vehicles to its final destination at some area car dealership. It never made it there. I pulled into the common area in the yard where a dozen other drivers were doing the same. I blanked out as I pulled into a traffic and drove directly into an approaching GMC pick-up truck. It wasn’t very fast as I had already stopped to make the turn. But the truck was doing the requisite 20km/h and I was a brick wall. The front end of both vehicles were destroyed.

I suffered a concussion as the airbag hit me in the chest – not in the face because we never applied seatbelts during the 90 second shuttle runs. It was impractical. My head took the brunt of it on the windshield. The top of my head was bleeding. The horn on the mini-van was stuck open. The entire yard heard what was going on.
DeLorean The new supervisor ran out and helped disconnect the horn. Then yelled at me. He wanted to know if I wanted to go to the hospital. I was angry. Angry that I had now destroyed my driving record and angry that it was because of this irresponsible slave driver.  I was instead taken home until I’d recovered from my head injury. I was watched intently by my wife over the next three days. On the fourth day they called me in to discuss my future. I was fired when I walked through the door.
Steering Wheel Oldsmobile I should have fought them. I should have taken them to court for every violation I’d documented after they’d brought in this new supervisor. Instead, I thanked them. Thanked them for letting me out of the nightmare I’d been enduring for two years. I hadn’t had a good night’s sleep in that long. I’d lost 35 pounds from walking 12,000 to 15,000 steps a day. I was malnourished and was suffering serious halucinations on a daily basis. They did me a favour. I was free.

And now I was unemployed. The government frowns on people being fired even with an explanation. I couldn’t collect unemployment benefits. I needed to get back to work pronto.
It would mean getting out of dungeries, overalls and work boots and putting on a shirt, pants and a decent pair of shoes. I didn’t own a decent pair of shoes. I went shopping at a local mall. It turned out to be a fateful event because I ran into another employee who’d been fired from the rail yard the Christmas before. She was now running a security team at this large urban mall.

 

Kevin James stars as "Paul Blart" in Columbia Pictures' comedy PAUL BLART: MALL COP.

Before the rail job I’d actually done my security training and had my license. I wasn’t able to get hired at that time because I had no experience. The people that trained me failed to mention that. It’s an old scam. Schools of security people paying up to $400 a pop to get licensed with zero prospect of employment. The company ran their own security company as a sideline – the schooling and scamming of hopeful guards was where the big money was. I never got to use my license. I was handed the rail gig in 2013 by a friend and at that point I’d been unemployed for 3 years so I jumped on it without hesitation. How hard could inspecting cars be? Famous last words. But I digress.

My associate at the mall had no positions open for me or I would have been hired right there. Instead, she suggested another security guard company not far from my home. How fortuitous.
I drove immediately to their office and filled out the application form. The secretary told me I’d be contacted within 24 hours if everything checked out. True enough, I was asked to come in for an interview that Friday.

I was greeted by the Human Resources officer and after looking me up and down said, “You will have to cut your hair!”
“No problem, I said.”
“I have a condominium in the city that needs a night guard. And I’m wondering if you might be right for something else I have in mind.”
“What’s that?” I said.
She responded with a question, “How do you feel about cemeteries?”
“I’m not superstitious about it if that’s what you mean. My wife and I visit cemeteries as a hobby. We took ghost tours in New Orleans on our Honeymoon. I’m good with it.”
New Orleans I didn’t have time to tell her more. I kept the answer simple, but the explanation would have meant regaling her with my entire life story relating to death. But I can talk about it here.
Looking back I’ve led a rather charmed life. Not rich and not immensely successful but given opportunities and experiences most people don’t get in ten lifetimes. Much of it was afforded me through hard work and networking and having a large family to see that I was looked after while growing up. I was the only male child on my Dad’s side of the family so I was often spoiled more times than not. I never took it for granted. My friends didn’t have the same luxury.

Dead MozelleWhat my family couldn’t do was protect me from death. It was the yang to my charmed ying. I was a pretty happy kid with a very dark cloud of sadness hiding in my psychic closet. Having escaped death at a very early age – I was born with blood clots in my head and was hospitalized for the better part of my second year on earth – I found myself very sensitive to outside stimulus especially where people were angry at me. I cried a lot as a kid and as a male child of the 1960s that was wholly unacceptable. I bottled it up.

But the sadness would be unleashed each time a family member died. It was frequent and it was devastating for a kid. These people were supposed to protect me from the Boogieman. I lost a cousin to leukemia at age 11. My Dad’s sister-in-law and my step-grandfather in succession after that; As a teenager it was my great grandmother then my grandfather on my Mom’s side then it seemed to be a litany of great aunts and great uncles followed by the biggest blow when I was 27 – my Dad’s mother.

Granny Vernon

She had been a guiding force in my life. She drove me across Canada when I was 12 and showed me there was a great big beautiful world out there ready to explore. She instilled the wanderlust in me to carry on with my own adventures like that one she took me on in 1975. And those adventures led to cemeteries.

Saint Louis No1

My wife shares an interest in history and gothic ruins. She also loves watching ghost stories on TV. Cemeteries were the easiest to investigate and we jumped at any chance to plod through them. Our honeymoon found us in New Orleans wandering through St. Louis Cemetery #1. We would go to the resting place of the Salem witches in Massachussetts and on another trip we hit three cemeteries in Los Angeles to see the Saint Louis No1_signfinal resting place of some of movie and TV’s greatest stars.

To some, it’s a ghoulish hobby. We never gave it a second thought. Cemeteries are archaeology without the digging. I’ve applied the same logic to tracking down and documenting my family’s genaeology going back 400 years to England. My most recent ancestors are buried in the cemeteries I was about to patrol full-time as a Cemetery Cop.

Send your CDs for review to this NEW address: Jaimie Vernon, 4003 Ellesmere Road, Toronto, ON M1C 1J3 CANADA

=JV=

Jaimie’s column appears every Saturday

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

dbawis-button7Jaimie “Captain CanCon” Vernon has been president of the on again/off-again Bullseye Records of Canada since 1985. He wrote and published Great White Noise magazine in the ‘90s, has been a musician for 33 years, and recently discovered he’s been happily married for 16 years. He is also the author of the recently released Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia and a collection of his most popular ‘Don’t Believe A Word I Say’ columns called ‘Life’s A Canadian…BLOG’ is now available at Amazon.com http://gwntertainment.wix.com/jaimievernon 

One Response to “JAIMIE VERNON – CEMETERY COP: CHAPTER ONE”

  1. Looking forward to this Jaimie. Great start.

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