Tuesday, August 12, 2008

All I Need Is Iannucci

I found the following on the website of The Guardian, a UK newspaper:

Don't call me, I'll be wrapped up
by Armando Iannucci

So there I was, walking along the road one grey summer morning, when I espied a man, somewhat cheerless of disposition, his wife and children stringing along, all carrying boxes and an enormous amount of bubble wrap. 'We've sold the car,' said the man to my curious look. 'Bloody stupid idea. We should have sold it after we carried everything to the storage place, not before. But then we needed the money to pay for the storage place.' His four children looked at the ground, defeated by the unavoidable economics.

'I take it you're going to the storage place?' I said, trying to be friendly. 'D'you need any help?'

'We'd love some,' said his wife, and I could tell from her husband's look that he had been too embarrassed to ask but was now relieved his face's sullen begs were being answered.

'OK, I'll bring the car round and we can load up.'

I came back with my seven-seater, folded the back seats down and helped them load their boxes.

'Storing your stuff while you find somewhere smaller?' I asked, at the point where I realised we hadn't said anything for 10 or so minutes together and something needed to be said.

'Sort of,' said the man. He glanced at his wife, who nodded back. He turned to me and, staring at my nose, said: 'We were going to put all our things into storage, then we looked at the great rates they were offering and decided it would be cheaper if we went into storage as well.'

'What d'you mean?' I asked, slightly trembling.

'It's fine,' said his wife. 'We're putting all our furniture into boxes and storing them in one unit, then we'll box me, Tom and the kids up and get someone,' (she looked at me) 'to put them in a unit next to it.' She handed me some of the bubble wrap.

I've never had my gob smacked before, so don't know what it feels like, but I'm pretty sure it feels like how I felt just then. 'But, you are people,' I squawked, 'You've got heads and legs and everything. You can't just wrap yourself up.'

'Think you're clever do you?' said Tom the man. 'Not so clever you haven't missed the most brilliant money-saving scheme to stare you in the face? Sod mortgages and car insurance. Sod food bills and cavity wall insulation and buying too many lemons every week. Tell electricity and petrol and lettuce to take a flying frig. Pizzas and milk and batteries and potatoes can all go have a running crap. Plasma screens with sport, and biscuits with raisins. Dreck. All of it. Toilet duck and Vimto, all we spend on plates and flannels and marzipan and hammers and shoes.

'Why should all this cruddy dust suck at my purse? For the price of 20 rolls of bubble wrap and a hundred quid a month for two storage units, me, Judy and the kids are packaged and contented until everything outside sorts itself out.'

I drove Judy, Ken and the children to a storage warehouse in the suburbs. I guessed they were having a collective nervous breakdown and thought the kindest thing to do was follow their whims to the point where they could see they had become unsustainable. If I took them to the storage place, there'd come a point where they would realise they couldn't just wrap each other up and forget about themselves.

As I drove up, I could see other families arriving, their children all carrying unfeasible amounts of bubble wrap. Some had painted their own cardboard. The place had a carnival feel to it, but a carnival at which people hurl themselves down a log-flume without sitting on a log first. Everyone was smiling, but I could see the little tremors behind their eyes. I had to stop this.

I went over to the main office. A sign said '££££s OFF FAMILIES!!!' A man was taking money. 'This is appalling,' I said. He smiled and asked me to look at how happy everyone was. 'You want to take this one positive away from them?' he said. 'They've come up with a solution and it's brought them relief. You feel qualified to tell them they're wrong?'

I looked round. A father was Sellotaping his son into an enormous Tupperware crate. Another mother had wrapped herself in newspaper and masking tape, leaving a hand free to seal up a cardboard box from the inside. I saw an older brother push a younger brother into a poster tube. A girl was wrapping her hamster up in red paper. A boy was individually wrapping his socks and Top Trumps cards. A family of 26 were rolling a dice to see who would get to go in the crate that hadn't originally been used to carry vegetables. And all of them were smiling.

That was what I remembered most; each one of them was perfectly happy to undergo total packaging. I tried pulling them out, but the nearer I got, the more their smiles made sense. I took my decision and, tearing off a corner of wrapping paper and wrote down everything you're reading now. I've found a box I like, and Tom has agreed to seal the top. If you read this, don't open me up unless you're absolutely sure things have got considerably better. Thanks.

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