Her fortress of shit makes sense
November 26, 2014 4:57 PM   Subscribe

The Secret Life of a Crime Scene Cleaner (via)

If the places we inhabit are like lungs, rhythmically drawing us in and breathing us out, Sandra Pankhurst’s job as founder of Specializing Trauma Cleaning (STC) Services Pty Ltd. leads her somewhere in between — homes with the lights still on where death, sickness and madness have abruptly abbreviated lives.
posted by maggieb (30 comments total) 73 users marked this as a favorite
 
For the squeamish; it isn't really that graphic. And the lady profiled is delightful. A good read.

(though I did find myself breathing through my mouth!)
posted by emjaybee at 5:50 PM on November 26, 2014


I liked it. This is what Sunshine Cleaning might have been like, if it hadn't felt the need to invent some soap opera.
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 6:13 PM on November 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


This woman sounds amazing. A real treat to read, thanks.
posted by Hactar at 6:18 PM on November 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


Great subject, well-written story. Thanks for posting.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 6:20 PM on November 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


Life can break you like a wave on a prow. It seems to have broken Glenda. But that is not how Sandra is going out.

You go girl.
posted by localroger at 6:26 PM on November 26, 2014


Fantastic piece. And yes, I found myself breathing through my mouth at one point.
posted by ottereroticist at 6:33 PM on November 26, 2014


Nice read! Crime scene cleanup is beyond profitable, once you have the proper permits for hazardous and bio-medical waste disposal.
posted by Renoroc at 6:40 PM on November 26, 2014


I like longreads.com.

Renoroc most crime scene cleanup is not "beyond" profitable for the employees. Most crime scene cleanup happens in crime scenes where they are not identified as crime scenes and done by companies with "Maid" in the name.
posted by vapidave at 7:16 PM on November 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


I watched this movie. It was ok.
posted by clvrmnky at 7:54 PM on November 26, 2014


I watched this movie. It was ok.

Because you could see EVERYTHING.
posted by localroger at 8:00 PM on November 26, 2014


If you like this sort of thing - check out Charlie Huston's gritty crime novel The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death. It takes you waist deep into the muck and squalor of crime scene clean up.
posted by hoodrich at 8:33 PM on November 26, 2014 [3 favorites]


Interesting article, thanks for posting it.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:16 PM on November 26, 2014


What a great article about an amazing person.

This, though... this is where I lost it, and where it became "This is my life" and not "This is what I do": “Well,” he said, “I fell in love with Sandra.” And that was that.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:28 PM on November 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


This lady is really amazing to read about.
posted by oceanjesse at 10:07 PM on November 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


Loved, loved this story. Teared up near the end when the author discusses why Sandra doesn't suit up.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 10:10 PM on November 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


The [sic]s were a bit odd, though that may be the house style rather than the author, for what were obviously quotations. As written here, Sandra would be a perfect basis for a cable TV miniseries with a mature rating, every episode cutting back to a different moment in her past and back forward to a crime scene or a hoarder.
posted by Dip Flash at 10:49 PM on November 26, 2014 [8 favorites]


Re-reading. Prepared to bet that the "cobbler stick" is a copper stick. In other words, what you stir the clothes with in a copper, which is how you would have washed your clothes if you were too poor for a washing machine. Think broom handle.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:35 AM on November 27, 2014


This is a great story about an amazing woman. Thank you for sharing.
posted by a halcyon day at 12:37 AM on November 27, 2014


I watched this movie. It was ok.

Are you referring to the Samuel L. Jackson film Cleaner? It was pretty entertaining, a nice little whodunit.
posted by hippybear at 12:54 AM on November 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


"Prepared to bet that the "cobbler stick" is a copper stick. "
Or a stick used to stun the Cobbler ( a much maligned fish, found in Western Australia, with a toxic spine) ?
I'm spinning a tenuous thread here :)
posted by small house at 1:15 AM on November 27, 2014


There's a similar, but a lot more graphic and disturbing, chapter on this in the pretty great collection of contemporary oral histories, Gig: Americans Talk About Their Jobs. That one's really not for the fainthearted.
posted by Sonny Jim at 4:03 AM on November 27, 2014


My mother died under circumstances that required a scene cleaner. They are great people and worth every penny (especially when insurance pays most of it.)
posted by gingerest at 4:10 AM on November 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


I reckon copper stick too.

What a strong and brave person to profile. "I ask her how she maintains that level of compassion. 'Everyone deserves it — because I deserve it as well,' she says."
posted by harriet vane at 4:46 AM on November 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


"I ask her how she maintains that level of compassion. 'Everyone deserves it — because I deserve it as well,' she says."

That sentence jumped out at me as well. As succinct a formulation of the categorical imperative as I have seen.
posted by TedW at 5:28 AM on November 27, 2014 [15 favorites]


Gig: Americans Talk About Their Jobs

Thanks, Sonny Jim - I first heard of this profession when browsing in what seemed to be a kind of updated "Working" (by Studs Terkel) in a bookstore, but I could not remember the name of the book.
posted by thelonius at 5:44 AM on November 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


"I ask her how she maintains that level of compassion. 'Everyone deserves it — because I deserve it as well,' she says."

That comes up in the segment "You're Soaking In It" from Errol Morris's interview series First Person: "After her stepson's tragic shotgun suicide, Joan Dougherty was left with an unnerving and disgusting mess. There was no one to turn to, no one to help, so Dougherty broke out mops, buckets, and scouring pads and got to work. Intent on helping others who find themselves in the same situation, Dougherty started her own business cleaning up after violent crimes and grisly decompositions. A true entrepreneur, Joan now hopes to effectively market her services, build her company's profile and attract clients. She started her career comforting herself in her grief, but has become a 'designated mourner,' the woman who cares when no one else is willing or able to give a damn."

Incidentally, a slightly more recent interview with her mentions that the estimate that women run 25 percent of the companies in the US "bio-recovery" industry.
posted by Doktor Zed at 6:05 AM on November 27, 2014 [6 favorites]


The film this made me think of was Curdled.
posted by localroger at 6:51 AM on November 27, 2014


Gig: Americans Talk About Their Jobs

(At least) one of the authors is a Mefite, the one who introduced me to this site (and who I ran across on the L train yesterday, coincidentally, after not seeing them for years.)
posted by Obscure Reference at 7:28 AM on November 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


If your German language skills aren't too rusty you might appreciate Der Tatorreiniger, a black comedy about crime scene cleaning.

(Apparently MhZ Network owns the US rights and intends to broadcast the show with subtitles).
posted by pipstar at 7:33 AM on November 27, 2014


If your German language skills aren't too rusty you might appreciate Der Tatorreiniger, a black comedy about crime scene cleaning.

Thanks for the recommendation. Just about done watching the first (and only?) two seasons.
posted by Betty Tyranny at 10:56 AM on November 28, 2014


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