Undertakers have an image problem, naturally – some, not all. They are the victims of popular attitudes to death. And in all cultures those who deal with the dead are shunned to a greater or lesser extent. The last question an undertaker wants to hear on holiday is “What do you do?”
Undertakers do a job which most people reckon to be unenviable—someone’s got to do it—so they may be socially insecure. They know people giggle about them or dread them. They are a caste apart. Like priests, another caste, they like to attire themselves in archaic fancy dress.
But whereas priests are an otherworldly caste, undertakers are ineluctably an underworldly caste. So they work hard to be thought of as respectable, professional folk, pillars of the community. And yet, while we happily shake hands with a doctor, less so with a lawyer, many of us probably wonder what’s under an undertaker’s fingernails. They carry round with them a little cloud of fear—you’re bound to feel a frisson if someone points one out to you.
Most of them are never going to be asked to open the church fete, judge a beauty pageant or open an old people’s home. They like to do their bit for the community, though, and the old school sort can be relied on to sponsor bowls tournaments and charity golf days – if it gives them the chance to flog a few pre-need funeral plans to their target market.
Like policemen, they tend to join the masons and may find socialising difficult.
Some, not all.