COMPTON, CALIFORNIA – When it comes to viewing the bodies of the dearly departed, few American cities can hold a candle to the convenience and ease offered by Compton’s drive-thru mortuary. The general consensus of the citizens of this south central Los Angeles community is astonishment that their city is one of the few in the country to offer a drive-thru funeral parlor.
The drive-thru open casket display allows relatives and friends to view a dead loved one from the comfort of their automobile. The convenience alleviates many of the usual headaches that accompany attending a funeral, like ironing a wrinkled shirt, taking a shower and the inevitable irritation of parking. No fuss, no muss and more importantly, no more worries about the new rims on your auto getting stolen like the old days of indoor funerals. With today’s hectic schedules, the drive-thru mortuary permits people “on the go” to pay their respect without all the rescheduling funerals used to necessitate.
“The other day I was running late for an appointment with my parole officer,” exclaimed Compton resident, Sherlee Washington. “I was drivin’ and tryin’ to eat a bag full of Taco Bell and answer text messages all at the same time. Luckily Grandma was being displayed in that drive-thru so I didn’t have to waste more time parking the car when I paid my respects. If I miss another meeting with my P.O. the sh*t’s gonna hit the fan.”
The popularity of the drive-thru funeral home blossomed in the mid-eighties when gang violence escalated in south central Los Angeles. For many gang members, attending a funeral provided the perfect setting for rival gang members to gun them down. Drive-thru casket viewing became an overnight success with gangbangers because it allowed them to pay their respects to fallen comrades without fear of being slaughtered. The convenience was also embraced by the families of the dearly departed. By placing their loved ones’ bodies in a display case that enables drive-by viewing, families are spared the irritating expense of flowers and snacks.
“When my mom dies her body will be displayed in a window along side a busy thoroughfare,” added Barnett Wilson, a long time Compton resident. “You can’t beat the convenience. You save time, you save money and if you want you can cry in the comfort of your car without embarrassing yourself in front of others. That’s what I really like.”
With drive-thru funerals, family members no longer have to worry about making small talk with relatives and friends they never cared for. What used to require meaningless chit-chat with people they hadn’t seen in decades can now be avoided completely by housing the body of their loved ones in a display case beside a driveway.
“Driving by in your car enables you to really look at the dead person without concern that anyone is watching you,” said Martin Jones, a caretaker at the mortuary. “I drove by and saw a relative of one of my neighbors a few months ago, somebody I didn’t even know. I just got the urge to look one day so I drove by after I’d gone to the Burger King across the street. And that’s another nice thing, you can eat while you pay your respects. I doubt if there are many funeral homes that look kindly on eating a Double Whopper with cheese inside the parlor.”
Several Compton residents said they would like to see a fast food restaurant combined with the drive-thru funeral business. That way they could view the body of a loved one while waiting for their food order. Sam Clampton, a Compton postal worker, said that if he had his way there would be fast food and video rental at funerals.
“Hell yeah, why not make it even more convenient? Why stop half way? I like that I can look at a dead friend from my car, but there’s no reason you can’t combine it with one of those Pizza Hut/Kentucky Fried Chicken combo joints and a Blockbuster is there? That way you can order your food and decide on a movie while you look at the body.”
Retiree Dabney Johnson is working on a contraption that would allow several bodies to be shown at one time, in the same manner that a rotisserie works.
“Say there are several gang bangers ambushed at one time. With my rotisserie casket display you’d be able to pull up in your car and push a button that would automatically rotate the bodies, just like a rotisserie!”