Confessions of a Flyerer (or How I Learnt to Stop Worrying and Hate My Life)

Exeposé 560 (this was the second of my cantankerous trilogy of ill-advised editorials, and subsequently meant that I was never again able to ignore a campus-based pamphleteer. It also is the origin of the phrase “Shampus Shinema”, which ultimately became a rallying cry for the mafiosi-like organisation which eventually developed)

I’d like to talk/vent, if I may, about another role I occupy in a Student’s Guild-affiliated body besides that of editor of Exeposé. So as to avoid nepotism I shan’t give its full name, so let’s call it ‘Shampus Shinema’ for the time being.

As President of said Shinema I have a personal responsibility to oversee its publicity campaign, meaning a lot of face-to-face flyering work, distributing programmes and leaflets en mass whilst loitering suspiciously on the corner of Natwest. Perhaps you’ve seen me there, garbed in a tattered suit, muttering frantically to myself and doing my best attempt at puppy dog eyes so as to coerce you to take just one measly programme. If you did so then may I thank you hugely, however my experience on the streets (as it were) over the 20 hours of brute labour I managed to clock in last week made me realise just how vast and widespread the ambivalence – often verging on hostility – towards flyerers is on campus from students.

There are a number of common reactions to leafletters such as myself, each infuriating in a number of ways; the most common is probably the simple tactic of blanking the offending individual. Quickly pacing past, especially after having made eye contact with the person in question 20ft earlier, certainly makes for an awkward drive-by display of abject apathy for both parties and, in all seriousness, is something of a downer for unpaid student volunteers.

Indeed, this goes double for another surprisingly common reaction in confrontation – directly challenging the individual distributing said leaflets in a war of words. Certainly, being constantly badgered or berated by some besuited loon waving a wad of programmes with what appears to be a stuffed fox on them may grate somewhat, but surely there’s no real antagonism there? It might be worth remembering that these individuals more often than not do not personally gain from the work they are doing; in reality they are usually promoting a club, society or event which strives only to enrich Exeter’s cultural fabric. Sure, we all know about nights out at Arena and Timepiece, but I would guess far fewer of the lay student audience know what the latest EUTCo performance is or what’s on at Debating Society that week (let alone the latest screening at the Shinema). Thus, if said flyerer occasionally mentions to you as you walk past “membership now only £10” then they are not doing it in an attempt to challenge you to some strange verbal duel or call your manhood into question; rather they are simply trying to inform you that there is a special offer available to students. The bastards.

Nonetheless, there are at least those who opt to acknowledge your existence, yet nevertheless reject your cause. Fair play, this is at least honest, polite and communicative but the stinger is that such individuals then occasionally express some form of condescendingly vocal pity. A slight tipping of the head to one side, a half-smile and a raising of the voice as they amble away are the usual companions to such a turn-down, possibly the most emasculating reaction in the wacky world of leafletting. Actually, scratch that – what really gets you in the Beecham’s pills is when someone approaches you, looks at the programme and then gives it back, accompanied by the aforementioned faux-politeness. At the risk of sounding paranoid, I swear that most times that happens the individuals walking off then emit a loud, barely-concealed titter, reminder the flyerer that they’ve hit rock-bottom (it’s worst when that person lived with you in first year and has to see what you’ve become).

But such responses, though infuriating, are only natural; campus is a place where students generally want to do two things; work or relax. Unfortunately for myself and my fellow leafletters, our dark work does not necessarily comply with these criteria, and so rejection and annoyance are commonplace. Still, I would ask that next time you’re strolling past Devonshire House and you see a sinister-looking bloke in a coat advertising for some film about nymphomaniac Korean vampires (or whatever) please put yourselves in his pitiful shoes, as unless you’ve experienced it first-hand flyering can be an exceptionally demoralising and disgruntling exercise in futility.

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