"What do you mean, you're not classified?" the bulbous-nosed uniformed official said to me, his voice rising to a disbelieving squeak at the end of his question. I almost laughed at his obvious revulsion at the thought, but managed to restrain myself. I felt that if I had to be classified I'd rather it wasn't as a trouble-maker.
"I am not classified, sorted, pigeon-holed, labelled, tagged, categorised or otherwise allied or affiliated to any group, organisation or team of any description" I told him, speaking slowly and precisely, as though I was addressing a child or someone with hearing difficulties.
"Impossible!" he yelped.
"Impossible? What's impossible?" I asked, my eyebrows rising in surprise at his ludicrous comment.
"You, sir", he said in a tone of voice that was a pale imitation of the tone I had spoken in, "cannot have got this far in life without having been classified at some point. Now, let's have no more of this foolishness and tell me your classification."
I sighed, much in the way one sighs at a child who has again done the very thing for which one has repeatedly berated him.
"Well, I have." I told him bluntly.
He peered at me over the rim of his half-moon spectacles and cast his eyes down at the very long form on his desk. He then looked back at me, the expression on his face suggesting that he wished I had gone to any other window but his. He opened his mouth to speak by only a dry click emerged. He closed his mouth, swallowed hard, and tried again.
"You're not a communist?"
"A union member?"
"A writer? A soldier? Ex-convict? Builder? Engineer? Baker? Charity worker? Pornographer? Doctor? Teacher? Brewer?"
"No, no, and no again!"
He glared at me, his hackles rising as he consulted his list again.
"Student? Seventh Day Adventist? Sportsman (indoor)? Sportsman (outdoor)? Atheist? Burglar? Musician?”
“NO! NO! NO!”
He was becoming desperate, his forehead dotted with small beads of perspiration. His spectacles had begun to slip down his nose, only the bulbous end preventing them from slipping off his face completely. His nose was bright red and, with a stubby, tobacco-stained finger, he pushed his spectacles back into place, high on the bridge of the shiny proboscis.
“Scuba diver? Candlestick maker? Anthropologist? Sewerage Worker? Brass rubber? Campanologist? Mercenary? Devil worshiper? Steeplejack?”
There were irritated mutterings from the queue of people behind me as the increasingly desperate official reeled off increasingly bizarre options to me, to each of which I answered ’no’.
“Look, sir, help me out here,” the official said in exasperation. “I need a classification for my paperwork. It’s more than my job’s worth to not do my paperwork properly.” he finished.
“Yeah, c’mon yer awkward git!” an aggressive voice behind me moaned.
I ignored it. In truth, I was becoming a little peeved myself.
“Look, Mr. ...?”
“Brown, sir. Algernon Brown.”
“Very good, Mr. Brown. As I said at the outset, I am not classified. I am a person; an individual, a single, free-thinking and intelligent human being and not some sort of object or commodity to be listed or put into a box for the sake of neatness and conformity. Do you understand?”
The light of relief was palpable and a huge grin spread across his remarkably ugly features.
“Got you now, sir” he said, his voice light and cheerful now. “Ha, ha, should have guessed right away”. He chuckled to himself in deprecating delight. “Why, sir, you’re a comedian, aren’t you?!” he finished, looking back down at his list and making a small, neat tick in the appropriate box.
“Now, what can I do for you?”