I teleported home one night
With Ron and Sid and Meg.
Ron stole Meggie's heart away
And I got Sidney's leg.
Mysterious things happen when you shift houses. The fourth dimension is widely believed to be involved – and it is said that the trucks used by packers and movers are actually disguised teleportation devices that save diesel by zipping your furniture through hyperspace rather than along the road. You’ve seen it on Star Trek – de-materialise into atoms, beam atoms to destination, and rematerialise at destination. Like re-constituting powdered milk.
Consequently, the stuff that reaches your new home isn’t exactly the same as what you’d originally sent out. And since you expect things to be a bit different in the new place, you don’t even notice the difference. But I’m a sharp guy who knows all about teleportation and hyperspace economics, so when we changed houses last month I was keeping my eyes open.
I could spot the signs right away. The dog was looking a couple of shades darker in the new house, I noticed, even though he had come with us in the car. And the scratches on the centre table were very, very similar to the ones we’d had in the old house – but not the same. Subtle, but unmistakable if you know what to look for.
My old trousers seemed to have shrunk, too. Noticeably tighter at the waist. But the most mysterious of the lot was the Elongated Sofa. In all my reading on the subject of teleportation never have I come across a single instance where the teleported object became longer than before. And yet, there it was right in front of us. The sofa that I had carefully measured earlier was now four inches longer and no longer fitted into the space we had designated for it.
In these times of limited floor areas, a recalcitrant sofa is not an easy thing to deal with: You can’t put it against the other wall because that’s where you’re hanging the TV, and the two must ideally face each other unless your family members all have eyes in the backs of their heads (ours don’t). You can’t stick the sofa in a bedroom because then where would the bed go? And you can’t keep it out in the balcony because you don’t have a balcony. And you can’t just slice off four inches from one end because that would also remove two of the legs.
So now we have no choice but to keep the sofa right in the centre of the drawing room and pretend that it’s a coffee table. And then we pretend to keep our coffee cups on it; because of course the sofa is too soft to actually keep a coffee cup on.
Deplorable though the Sofa Situation is, it is nothing compared to the consternation caused by the Missing Carton (or Unrematerialised Carton, if you want to be technically correct). It’s a well understood phenomenon now – when your glassware breaks during shifting (due to the low reconstitutibility of glass molecules in the transference beam), the broken bits cause irregular refraction because of which the molecules of the subsequent carton are scattered all over the known universe. Or something like that.
The thing is, you never get to know which carton has gone missing, or what it contained. You can only deduce its missingness by the growing list of items that you can’t find. Our Unrematerialised Carton seems to have been a particularly large one. Apparently, it contained the thriller novel I was reading the climax of, the keys of three suitcases, our antique copper vase, the kids’ roller skates, whichever shirt I want to wear today, the wife’s hairdryer, three half-pairs of socks, an old sentiment-laden fountain pen, two packs of fresh-ground coffee, a pair of gardening shears and a juicer-blender-grinder with all its accessory attachments. And there may be more that we haven’t yet found to be missing.
Still, I’m thankful that we have at least been spared the shifter’s worst nightmare – the Unexpected Materialisation. This happens when, due to freak crossovers during transference, things that don’t belong to you show up in your stuff. In a friend’s case, a hefty stack of men’s magazines mysteriously materialized at the bottom of a carton containing old woolens and he was hard put to explain their existence to his wife. Then there’s the box of duty-free cigars discovered in the bag of someone who was widely believed to have given up smoking two years ago. And the most intriguing are a bunch of old love letters found in a trunk, which defy explanation because apparently their writer doesn't exist and so the letters were never even written!
So on the whole, I’m not complaining. As I take an imaginary sip of coffee made from missing coffee powder and pretend to keep the cup on an erstwhile sofa, I say to myself – it could’ve been worse.