by Patrick Whittaker
On the morning of April 30th, Mr. Dwight T. Cooper of 19 Acacia Avenue unexpectedly received a large package. Why he signed for it without asking what it was or where it had come from is anyone’s guess. The most likely reason is that he had just gotten out of bed and wasn’t thinking straight.
The package was taller than Mr. Cooper and as wide as it was tall. Clearly it wasn’t going to fit through the front door, so he asked the deliverymen to put it in the garage. They both refused on the grounds that once a consignment had been signed for it was no longer their responsibility. Rather than demean himself by resorting to pleas and threats, Mr. Cooper offered them a bribe, which was accepted with ill grace.
It took two minutes, a lot of grunting and a stream of obscenities for the men to manhandle the box into the garage. As they drove off in their van, they left Mr. Cooper with the words ‘capitalist exploiter of the masses’ ringing in his ears.
Mr. Cooper did not take umbrage. Being manager of the local supermarket, he felt there might be some truth in the charge.
Dressed in slippers, blue pyjamas and a dressing gown that had found its way into his suitcase during a stay at the Manchester Hilton, Mr. Cooper stared in bemusement at the package. There was nothing written on it other than the words ‘FLAT PACK. HANDLE WITH CARE.’
At length, he opened the envelope the deliverymen had given him. Inside were three instruction sheets. One was in Japanese. The second was in German. Discarding these, he scanned the third, which was written in something vaguely resembling English.
To give a flavour of what Mr. Cooper was up against, here’s the fourth paragraph in full: The person of the place develops “A” on the smooth surface to prevent gratuitous vibration (you can use the box to which it has visited). Whole woman the union agrees on the glue as shown in fig. 2. The lowering shifts “D” in the position, flattening how in fig. 2A/2B with the openings which are in the structure of the person afterwards. Stick the union rabbit like in fig. 3A. Agree on the union and on the group of the side.
Mr. Cooper opened the box. Inside was a mish-mash of plywood panels, aluminium whatnots, screws, nuts, bolts, plastic thingamajigs, copper washers, electronic gizmos, some silvery gewgaws that had accidentally fallen in during packing and an alum key.
Despite not having ordered the package, despite not knowing what the end-result would be, despite not having the foggiest idea what he was doing, Mr. Cooper set about assembling the parts. He figured that by skipping breakfast he could have the job done within an hour, which would allow time for a quick shower before dashing off to work.
It took him nearly an hour and a half to get all the items out of the box and sorted into neat piles. Another half hour and he’d connected his first gizmo to a thingamajig using one of the gewgaws that shouldn’t have been there in the first place. By now he was sweating and slightly manic. *** Read on! ***