Podcast 022: Death is Taboo?

In This Episode: A wonderful, uplifting story …about death. Would U.S. paramedics been praised for such an action, or reprimanded? Patreon really screws up, and then walks back their announcement with apologies. And another segment of No Longer Weird.

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Randy: Welcome to Uncommon Sense, the Podcast companion to the ThisIsTrue.com newsletter with the mission to promote more thinking in the world. I’m Randy Cassingham.

Kit: And I’m Kit Cassingham.

Randy: This week we’re discussing a story from issue 1226 of the newsletter, which will be included on the Show Page at thisistrue.com/podcast22 — and it’s a truly wonderful story to help remind you that This is True isn’t always about stupid people doing stupid things, it’s really about thinking. I’m going to read the story verbatim. It’s called Final Wish:

Paramedics in Hervey Bay, Qld., Australia were taking a terminally ill woman to a hospital when she sighed she wished she could “just be at the beach,” rather than go to the palliative care unit. “Above and beyond, the crew took a small diversion to the awesome beach at Hervey Bay to give the patient this opportunity,” says ambulance officer-in-charge Helen Donaldson. “Tears were shed and the patient felt very happy.”

My tagline on the story is: “Life’s a beach, then you die.”

Kit: I love that story!

Randy: I got a lot of comments on this story. They loved the story, they loved the tagline.

Kit: I remember you were concerned it might be a little edgy. It’s a statement I make. I don’t use the “beach” so much, but I use it and I loved that my common thread fit your story so beautifully. And I’m saying that as a medic, a deputy coroner, and…

Randy: …a woman….

Kit: A woman, but someone whose mother died just over a year ago, and whose father is probably not far off from that. And I wish everyone had that kind of last wish.

Randy: Yeah. I think it’s a wonderful story, and the reason we know about this event Queensland’s Ambulance Service posted about it on Facebook. I’m afraid that in the U.S., medics could be disciplined for doing something like this. But Down Under, the crew was praised. The service concluded their post, “Great work Hervey Bay team Danielle & Graeme. The Service is very proud of you.” And as a volunteer medic in a rural area in the U.S., I’m proud of them too. And wonderfully, they posted a photo of Graeme with the patient. They took the gurney out of the ambulance and rolled the patient out on a bluff overlooking the ocean so the patient could not only see the water one last time, but feel the breeze and taste the salt air.

Kit: And it’s a beautiful picture.

Randy: I think it’s great. He’s just standing there, waiting with her, watching over her to make sure she’s OK, but just giving her that last moment. And I think it’s just incredible.

Kit: And in the picture, it actually— even though he’s with her, he clearly is giving her the space she needs.

Randy: Yeah, he’s back just a little bit.

Kit: She can clearly enjoy and absorb that.

Randy: Yeah.

Kit: So not only here in the States do I think would the crew be reprimanded for diverting her, from point A to point B, to throw in a point C there, but to post it on Facebook would also get them into trouble in many services.

Randy: Yeah, you can’t actually see the patient — it’s a very nicely done picture. It shows him standing there with the gurney, but pretty clearly there’s somebody on it, and they went off the footpath to go onto the dirt where they could to get to the edge so she could really see. This isn’t just a drive-by “hey look out the window when we go by here and look at the beach, ha-ha it’s too bad you can’t see it really.” No. They stopped, they took her out—

Kit: She can see it, feel it, smell it, hear it. And she’s getting the birds and the breeze and the waves. She’s got it all.

Randy: Yeah, what a nice little gesture to take away, what, 10 minutes out of their day? They did it for her.

Kit: Yeah.

Randy: Now, the same time I published that amazing story, which is getting a lot of comments from readers as I said, and so far everyone loves it, I also published a blog post last week and some more information in the Premium newsletter about the boneheaded thing Patreon did on Friday.

Kit: Do you want to explain what Patreon is before you go into this?

Randy: Yeah, for those who don’t know what Patreon is, it’s sort-of a “crowd-funding” site for ongoing creative endeavors. It was founded by a musician, Jack Conte, who with his wife Nataly Dawn makes fun music videos under the brand Pomplamoose.

Kit: Those guys!

Randy: Yeah — I’ve talked about Pomplamoose before, not in the Podcast but in This is True. They found their videos were hugely popular: they got hundreds of thousands, and sometimes millions of views, yet they were basically starving on the meager ad revenue they got from Youtube. So Patreon lets fans, or “Patrons,” show their support with their wallets, which allows creators like them — and me — to continue creating. I put True on the platform last year, which has been great — readers, and more recently podcast listeners, have been very generous there.

So here’s what Patreon announced last Friday: they said they’re not just changing how they charge the pledges made, raising costs dramatically, but to keep from upsetting the creators (and this is my take on this), they decided to stick Patrons with the new charges. That is, they blithely figured that Patrons wouldn’t mind if Patreon charged their cards for more than what they had pledged! Well of course Patrons will mind! Come on! And it’s significant: if they, say, had made $1 pledges to ten different creators, the old deal was pretty clear: their cards would be charged $10. Makes sense, right?

Kit: Right.

Randy: Yet under the new plan, their cards would be charged that $10 plus $3.80 in processing fees, an increase of nearly 40 percent. And worse, that wouldn’t be done in one charge, as before: it would be ten charges of $1.38. Here’s how they got there: the fee is 2.9 percent of each pledge, plus 35 cents. So even a $5 pledge would cost an extra 50 cents, or a 10 percent increase. The way I figure it, any charge that’s more than what anyone agreed to pay is a breach of faith.

Kit: Isn’t that against credit card rules, too?

Randy: That’s another good question. And I don’t really know — I don’t know the details of those contracts and stuff as much as some other people might. But it sure seems like, that any Patron would have a valid reason to say, “No, that’s not what I agreed to; charge that back.”

Kit: That kind of reminds me of the phase that hotels I know, adding an “energy surcharge” to your hotel room.

Randy: Right.

Kit: Most of the time they’d tell you, but sometimes they wouldn’t, and thought “oh, you don’t mind this extra $2, or $5, upcharge.”

Randy: And most people just swallowed it and paid it. Not us!

Kit: No I didn’t. I did not.

Randy: No, when they said “Hey there’s this $3 fee,” we’d say “No, you did not tell me about that. You quoted the price as X: we’re paying X plus tax, that’s it.”

Kit: And I could go on about that, but I don’t want to sidetrack. It is a breach of contract, and it’s a surprise that you have to be willing to stand up for your rights and speak out, and too many people don’t have the time, the interest, and that’s if they notice it at the moment.

Randy: Right. And they did announce it, so they didn’t just pull it on people, but still: I don’t think it’s right. So, was I right? Do Patrons care? You bet: they’ve been canceling their accounts in droves — including, I saw when I logged in to check, lots of This is True supporters. Then emails started rolling in: True Patrons asking what I intended to do. I quickly whipped up a blog post on Friday outlining my thoughts on Patreon’s boneheaded plan, and promised to create a way for True’s supporters to automatically send support every month, without service charges, and without Patreon’s 5 percent service fee that they were still going to charge me right off the top — me and every other creator on the platform. Plus, I could make it more flexible: if it feels crazy to send $2/month every month, I’d set it up to allow the charges to be bundled and charged quarterly, semi-annually, or annually instead — or really, in addition to monthly. So you get to choose.

Kit: Well that sounds pretty cool.

Randy: The problem was, as I made that blog post on Friday night, saying I was going to do this, I started thinking about the business trip we were taking Sunday through Wednesday evening: it was like, “When am I going to DO that?” So I decided to spend the next 24 hours dropping everything, including some sleep, and implementing my solution. I got it done by Saturday night, and sent a note through Patreon to tell the Patrons about it. If you want to see the new support page, go to Go.thisistrue.com/support, because the bottom line is, even though Patreon has walked back this change — they announced Wednesday this week that they’re not gonna do that, they’re really sorry! Please don’t leave us! — I’m afraid it’s going to be too late for a lot of creators. I’m going to still leave my solution in place so True’s supporters can decide for themselves which platform they prefer.

Kit: Ah, so you’ve got both platforms. OK.

Randy: Yes. One of the things I really appreciated was the dozens of comments on my blog post, which you can see at Go.thisistrue.com/patreon, and I’ll link to that from the Show Page. There’s some really thoughtful comments that show the depth of thinking… that Patreon itself didn’t bother with!

Kit: So were they greedy? I wonder what was behind that change. I mean really behind, not what they said.

Randy: Well, they’ve had some kind of mixed messages, and part of it is that the creators say that, well, if somebody pledges on, say, December 10th, that they’re going to support you, and then they get access to your creations, and then on January 1st, when they’re finally charged, and their card doesn’t go through, then they’ve gotten free access. But they already set something up about a year ago, that if somebody pledges on December 10th, the creator can say, “Charge them right now for December.” And I did that a year ago, when they first announced it. But that also has a little problem because then they’re going to be charged on January 1st again, so they only get a partial month. I take care of that by setting their expiration date for their Premium, or whatever they’re pledging for, that their expiration date is the 10th of whatever month it is they quit so they really do get it in the end, and it’s OK. But I can understand that people might, say, pledge on December 30th, and then get charged on the 30th and then again on the 1st and then say “Hey, I only got two days?!” No, they’re going to get their whole month, but then they’re perpetually a month ahead. So Patreon is trying to do it so that if you pledge on the 10th, it’ll charge every 10th of the month.

So pros and cons, but to have this 35-cent charge on every charge, and if you’re supporting 10 or 20 things, that’s 10 or 20 35-cents that you only paid one of those before. So it’s really kind of screwing the Patron. Does that really help the creators? Yes, if the Patrons don’t all quit because they say “I don’t want to pay all these service charges!”

Kit: Which do get annoying.

Randy: …which of course they’re doing. So the last thing is, the regular subscription option that most subscribers use is still there, still being used, and nothing must change if you don’t want. This is for those who want to pay extra to support This is True, and by the way get various “rewards” in return. This extra support is not only keeping True going, but keeping price increases down too for those who can’t afford it. So thank you so much for your ongoing support.

Kit: That’s very nice!

Randy: Meanwhile, yes, I have another story theme that’s No Longer Weird. This week, it’s families who — we’re book-ending this episode, you’ll see why in just a second! —

Kit: Oh yeah? OK….

Randy: This week it’s families who look into a loved one’s casket at a funeral to find …someone else in there.

Kit: Ohhh!

Randy: The most recent example I’ve seen was in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where a family was quite sure the guy in the casket was not Benjamin Brown Jr., because the guy in the casket had legs. Benjamin Brown Jr. had lost his to diabetes. His nephew said, once they discovered they had the wrong guy in there, “They had to take the clothes off the other guy and put them on my uncle.” Which, you know, the guy’s dead, and so it’s not really creepy, but it sure sounds creepy anyway.

Kit: Well, given how our culture doesn’t really like to touch the dead… I mean, I’m surprised they looked further than the face, frankly.

Randy: Well, that’s probably what clued them in, like “That doesn’t look like Uncle Benny!” And sure enough, they took a closer look and it wasn’t.

Kit: That’s better than having a tattoo.

Randy: Yeah…. Sadly, I’ve seen stories like this many, many times, and unless there’s something really, REALLY bizarre about them, they just aren’t weird enough for This is True.

Kit: Astounding.

Randy: But you know what really gets me? It makes me wonder how often this happens to families who don’t choose to look in the casket or, worse, who get remains back in a cremation urn, and don’t know for sure if those ashes are grandma, or some stranger. I sure hope that they’re the right remains most of the time.

Kit: Well, there’s actually kind of a scuttlebutt about that. I know of a mortuary that had a basement filled with ashes.

Randy: And sometimes bodies — I see that story a lot too, and that’s “no longer weird” either.

Kit: Well, yeah. And the original mortician had left, and somebody else bought the business, and went downstairs to go …oh!

Randy: Look what’s stacked up like cordwood!

Kit: I wonder who these people are?

Randy: Yeah. And sometimes they’re not marked, and it’s a real horror trying to figure out who these people are so they can get properly buried or properly cremated, or whatever that the families already paid for. And now the new owner is stuck with fixing this problem.

Kit: And how do you— well, don’t bother, and just throw me in the yard!

Randy: Yeah… that would be nice.

Kit: I suppose.

Well that’s it for this week. If you have a story to tell about a public safety crew going out of their way to make a difference for you or a family member, you can comment on this episode on the Show Page, at thisistrue.com/podcast22.

You can help spread the word about Uncommon Sense by Tweeting a link to that page, or posting it to your Facebook. Or your blog. Or anywhere else that somebody might see it.

Thanks for listening. I’m Randy Cassingham.

Kit: And I’m Kit Cassingham.

Randy: And we’ll talk at you later.

[Easter Egg]

Originally posted 15 December 2017

4 thoughts on “Podcast 022: Death is Taboo?

  1. A wonderful story from MY part of the world. These Ambulance officers (we call them Ambo’s) made a difference in what is remaining of this woman life. They are local heroes for doing it as well. So they should be!

    Glad to hear they’re being well recognized locally. -rc

  2. As a Renaissance Festival vendor, I let my customers know my prices do not include tax. I use Square for my credit card processing and it automatically adds the sales tax based upon the rate I have programmed for that specific venue. It does allow me to tell the customers how much it will be after tax before I run the transaction. I’ve yet to have anyone complain, but I try to be open about it.

    However, I stayed at a hotel in Louisiana that charged me a $50 “cleaning deposit” in case I smoked in my non-smoking room. It was not posted on their website and not posted at check-in. It was simply a surprise fee. I didn’t smoke in my room (I don’t smoke at all), but they still kept my deposit claiming I had smoked in the room.

    If that happened to me, I’d fight it with the credit card company: it’s an undisclosed fee, and ludicrous to charge it to a non-smoker. -rc

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