Late one evening I was walking along my street when I came across a fixture that was new to me. It looked like a phone booth but I couldn’t see a phone or a phonebook when I peeked inside. Curious, I hesitantly stepped off the sidewalk and into the enclosure.
As soon as the door closed behind me the lights inside came on (bright white tube lights), and a voice greeted me: “Welcome to suicide booth.” The voice was coming from an intercom on the ceiling, and directly in front of me was a keypad, I presumed to interact with whomever was on the other end. Initially I was too shocked to do or say anything and just stood still and looked around. A short rope was hanging loosely from the ceiling, already tied into a knot. A four-legged red stool was directly underneath, next to where I stood. I could tell the stool protruded from the floor of the booth and could probably retract into the ground.
Other than that there were a few books on a shelf on the wall opposite the keypad. Some of the books present there:
• Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People
• Norman Vincent Peale’s The Art of Positive Thinking
• Bhagavad Gita
• Several Chicken Soup for the Soul volumes
• Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha
I was familiar with all but the Chicken Soup for the Soul books so didn’t bother perusing through any of them. I noticed a big green button next to the keypad, with “Press here to start” taped underneath. After looking around some more (to make sure my eyes hadn’t missed anything), I pressed the button.
“Hello, and welcome to suicide booth,” the voice repeated. This time, however, it was a live person and not just a recording.
I was silent, not sure what to say exactly. I managed to respond with “Thanks. What is this place?”
“It’s just what it says, a suicide booth. A safe place you can come to end your life.”
“But why would I come here to kill myself?”
“Perhaps you’re not aware, Sir, but suicide was rendered a criminal offence starting January 1.”
I burst out laughing. “This is like the war on drugs or the battle against people speeding on highways. Haven’t you people learned that outlawing something doesn’t make it stop?”
“Sir, we are well aware of that, but that doesn’t mean we should stop fighting. People still speed, people still do drugs, and people still commit suicide. The government just wants to provide those people with a safe place to do it so they don’t hurt any innocent bystanders in the process.”
“That’s very progressive and insightful of our government. So how does this whole thing work?”
At this point an LCD screen that was off lighted up and presented a menu with three options: Hang and check out, Prepare affairs, Seek help.
The voice on the intercom ventured to explain:
“The first option allows you to put your affairs in order – taxes, property and asset entitlements, estate matters, and do the deed. Option B is only if you want to set your affairs in order and return at a later time to die by hanging. Finally, option C is lets you speak to someone about what you’re about to do, get some advice and insight from a professional, for a fee of course.”
“How much does this whole deal cost?”
The screen changed to present a cost chart for the three options offered. The prices weren’t extravagant, and she told me if I started an application I could save it midway and return to finish it, in case I didn’t have all the information I need for the paperwork on me at the time.
“What if I just want to kill myself? If I’m so distressed I don’t think I would worry about who my estate is going to. Hell, I wouldn’t care if I hurt someone else in the process or not. Have you thought about that?”
“We have, Sir. For such emergency cases, you climb up on the stool, tie the rope around your neck, and press the red button next the rope on the ceiling. The lights in the booth go dark and in 5-seconds the stool pulls out from under you, ending your life. If next of kin are located your body is given to their charge, otherwise the state uses it for medical research. We have a staff of volunteers to look after the business affairs of those who choose to go that way.”
I was impressed. It seemed we were getting a government finally accepting the problems we have and giving people a safe means of dealing with them. First the supervised drug-use clinics out west, and now assisted suicide. Because face it, criminal offence or not, people were still going to commit suicide. At least this way they wouldn’t hurt or even kill some of those who weren’t interested in dying just yet.
As I was thinking the voice spoke again: “Sir, with all due respect, this is a pilot program and as such there aren’t many of us suicide supervisors to help customers. If you’ve decided which option to go with, please select it on the screen in front of you.”
I was caught off guard. I hadn’t come in here to kill myself! I didn’t know what the place was and just wanted to find out. “What if I change my mind and want to leave?” I asked.
“You can do that, Sir, but this visit used both the State’s time and resources, and for that you will be billed $50.” Please sign on the screen in front of you that you are choosing to leave without having any services rendered.”
Fifty dollars, I thought, for what? To talk to some crazy woman who talked like killing yourself was as normal as taking a shit in the morning? I turned around and walked out, knowing full well they’d probably find me through one of several methods and send me that bill of $50.
[I am in no way condoning suicide. This is just a work of fiction that came to me and I felt I should write it down.]