Last month, when a 48-year-old man named Neil Alan Smith died as a result of a hit-and-run accident as he was bicycling home from his job at a Crab Shack, the St. Petersburg Times announced his death. As often happens on the Internet, the news item on his death was beset by a hateful commenter, who wrote a message to the effect that "a man who is working as a dishwasher at the Crab Shack at the age of 48 is surely better off dead." This comment, which the Times deleted for being offensive and insensitive, inspired the paper to publish a long, thoughtful obituary for Mr. Smith "as a reminder that every life matters." From staff writer Andrew Meacham's piece:
"I'll probably go through another 10 people to find somebody like him," said Tyrone Dayhoff, 53, the Crab Shack's manager. He started out busing tables and was very fast, but preferred the shelter of his dishwashing station in the back of the kitchen. He could listen to sports talk radio there. Amid the steam and the withering heat of the dishwashing machine, he didn't have to make small talk. He liked to sit out back on cigarette breaks, in a plastic chair with his back to the walk-in freezer and facing a wooden fence and beyond it, the Gandy Bridge. Or he rode his bicycle to a nearby RaceTrac station to refill his giant soda cup. He restocked the shelves with the pots, pans and dishes he had washed, hosed down the rubber mats and swept and mopped the floors. Mr. Smith earned $7.25 an hour, Florida's minimum wage.>>>The full obituary.