Paper chase


They rank amongst Belfield’s unsung everyday heroes, but leaflet distribution on campus is no easy job. Matt Gregg grabs an armful of brochures and takes to the concourse

Fliers: they’re everywhere you turn, particularly in the last month with the addition of Lisbon entreaties to the wide variety already doled out across UCD. The campus is inundated by them.

Sometimes you just want to get across campus without being assaulted on all sides by shiny bits of paper. Sometimes you just don’t want to hear about Crunch Fitness’s latest special offer, or be peddled the latest society gimmick. It’s been a tough day, you’re badly hanging, and that lecturer just doesn’t understand that they’re only allowed take up an hour of your time. Sometimes you just want to go home.

Flyers 2But have you ever stopped to consider what it’s like for the other side? Leaflets don’t exactly hand themselves out, do they? That’s how I found myself sitting outside the Crunch Fitness office at 9am on my single day off of the week, longing for the warm embrace of my duvet. After being handed enough fliers to wallpaper a lecture theatre, and given a brief rundown of what they expected me to do, I was led to my point of distribution for the day.

A wave of relief washed over me when we stopped just outside the James Joyce Library, sheltered from the worst of the elements by a jungle of concrete pillars. Even so, the cold wind sweeping through left me thankful that I had wrapped up warm. Scarf season is certainly upon us.

But with over a hundred leaflets to get rid of before my shift was up, I could ill afford to wallow in self pity for too much longer. So with my iPod for company and advice ringing in my ears, I tentatively began to approach total strangers in the hope that they would have some interest in what I had to offer.

Not many takers. The few who did take the flier would rarely keep it beyond the bin mere metres away from me. Worst of all, with about half an hour gone, one of my new colleagues, Jarik, reminded me we weren’t allowed listen to music.

By ten o’clock my mouth was dry from repeating to a multitude of uninterested passers-by, “Can I interest you in joining Crunch Fitness? Our special offer ends next Thursday!” When Jarik wandered down from his position outside the Ag Block and suggested we go inside for some tea, I jumped at the chance.

With a degree in Business & Advertising from a university in Krakow, Jarik admits he never thought he’d find himself out on the Belfield campus distributing fliers. In fact, until the recession hit, he was working for an advertising company in Poland. I had thought he seemed a bit over-qualified for the job.

As we chatted, a cyclist grabbed a leaflet out of Jarik’s hand as he rode by. I was amazed; Jarik, however, was unfazed. He explained that this happened more often than one might suspect and that, as long as he didn’t hold on too tight, it was an easy enough operation. With this our break was up and he headed back to his position.

“No, thanks.” It was obvious that very few people had any interest in this latest offer, but that didn’t really bother me. In boredom, watching the lengths people would go to avoid me became a perverse form of entertainment. If I appeared from behind a pillar, they hid behind the next. The human shield approach was very amusing: to complete this manoeuvre, the person on the periphery nearest me would merge to the middle of the group. Without doubt, though, my favourite was ‘the sidestep’ – off the concourse and out into the teeming rain, simply to avoid my outstretched arm.

What bothered me most, though, was when people would turn and deliberately look through me blankly, as if I wasn’t there at all, before moving on without so much as a nod. This job is no fun: some friendly rejection really can go a long way. Next time you see someone desperately hoping you might take a flyer from them, I beg you: consider their mental wellbeing. Take the flyer from them; there are always enough bins in UCD for you to dispose of it out of eyeshot.