Misshapes, mistakes, misfits. Raised on a diet of broken biscuits. Oh, we don’t look the same as you. We don’t do the things you do, but we live around here too. Misshapes, mistakes, misfits. We’d like to go to town but we can’t risk it. Anyway, that’s enough Pulp, I want to talk about misshapes (mistakes, misfits – yeah, done that).

Every week thousands of misshapes are delivered to the unit where I work. These are broken and damaged shapes. Crippled squares, chipped triangles and lame ovoids that nobody wants – except somebody does want them. You see, in amongst sorting and dispatching normal shapes, we’re also expected to sort and dispatch these ruined objects. Trouble is, nobody likes doing them.

For starters, they’re often yellowed and brittle with age, like bones from an old leper cemetery. And after doing a tray, your desk is covered with dust that no matter how much you blow and rub and scrub, you can’t get rid of. Then there’s the smell. Misshapes have a terrible mildewed stench. After an hour doing them it’s like you’ve been pick-pocketing sodden tramps all day.

Worse, it’s hard to tell what some misshapes are. Smashed and worn by age, they could be anything. Calcified jellybabies with spondylitis. Elderly sharks teeth. Broken bollards. Castle turrets. Frozen spaghetti. Kites in a stiff breeze. Splintered whale tusks. Stalagmites. Stalactites. Three-dimensional doilies. Poor man’s chalk. Factory returned chess pieces. Snowmen in distress. Popes in a sack race. Plectrums in a tumble drier. Polar bears kickboxing. Warped snooker cues. Astronauts and Klansmen on a trampoline. Imperial Stormtroopers fighting Buddhist monks on… you get the picture.
So what do you do with these sad abominations? Which tray to put them in? You end up agonising. Or not. I just shove them in the ‘Various’ slot. But with some people, it’s a quest to find what they once were. They stare and stare at them, trying to see back in time to when they were a glistening new baby shape straight out of the shape womb. Which means that not only are misshapes smelly and messy but they take a disproportionately long time to sort.
Unfortunately, we’re contractually bound to sort and despatch them. And wherever they go they become even more broken and end up, in six to eight weeks, back on our desks. A pile of misshapes, mistakes, misfits. Raised on a diet of broken biscuits. Oh, we don’t look the same as you…



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