With all of the emails I receive about funeral insurance quotes, I shouldn’t have been surprised by this. But I was. Call me naïve. After all, if we’re too lazy to get out of our cars for coffee or fast food or banking — things we want, presumably, and about which we feel neither obligation nor unpleasantness bordering on morbidity — why wouldn’t we be too lazy to get out of our cars at a funeral home?

Thoughtful? Caring? Respectful? Nah. And let’s not even talk about human connections. But let’s do examine this phenomenon:

A funeral home here has just added an unusual new convenience for mourners — a drive-thru viewing window … that displays a body set up in a special area inside the building with a raised and tilted platform for the casket. Curtains over the window automatically open when a car pulls up, and mourners get three minutes to view a body as music plays.

I assume the person on display won’t care one way or the other. And I’ll even grant that creating something on the order of a mini carnival ride for the dearly departed might actually be a nice idea in some weird way. But what about the folks who are still with us. Can they ride on the tilted platform so the people driving through can wave to them? Do they ride on the casket? Can they hear the music? To whom, precisely, do we pay our respects if the dead are, indeed, dead?

If there were no living beings present to whom we might express our sympathies and condolences — with whom we might grieve, reminisce, and otherwise commune — would any of us ever go to view the dearly departed? Is my judgment completely skewed because I grew up on Irish wakes?

I don’t know the answers to those questions. But drive-through wakes, mechanical displays, and tilting caskets seem like things straight out of The Munsters. And this story is a fitting reminder to marketers everywhere that not every promotional idea is a good one.

As William Faulkner put it, “You have to be ready to kill your darlings.” But you don’t have to put them on display in a drive-through.

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— “Viewing (museum display)” by Robert Lawton – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons