By Diane Ako
In our early days of dating, which parallelled Claus' early days of his business, Claus would sometimes drive the hearse when he visited me. It was for convenience, because he could leave my house and go straight to drop off a casket.
I probably should clarify the caskets were always empty. At this point, he was still just Affordable Casket, meaning he only sold affordably priced caskets. He wasn't taking in bodies.
The hearse couldn't fit in my garage, so to my initial horror and embarrassment, he had to park on the street. Though I got used to it (luckily I'm a really practical Chinese broad), not all the neighbors did.
He couldn't find street parking by my house, so he would park at least a block away. In the morning, as he fetched the car, he would often overhear the homeowner nearest to the hearse complain of "that damned hearse" right in front of their house. Sure, who wants that view?
To be polite, the next time, he would then park in a different spot, a block away from the complainant. Pretty soon, we joked, he would be walking a mile back to my house, because we couldn't foresee an end to unhappy neighbors.
Most of the time, he only overheard the people complaining about his vehicle. One day, though, someone actually contacted him directly.
He was at work when he took a call from an elderly lady asking to talk to the manager. "That's me," he said.
"Kindly ask your driver to not park in front of my house anymore, please. My husband is in hospice at home, and every time he looks out the window and sees the hearse, he asks if it's waiting for him."
Claus made a concerted effort to take his personal vehicle after that.