Students loudly bantering at Manning last week were shocked to hear that one student, Michael Billings (BIGS II), “actually enjoys” being harassed by campaigners during elections. Michael, whose severe body odour and outward displays of prejudice make him unpopular around campus, enjoys the “forced contact” that allows him to stock up on social interaction.
“Think of it as social photosynthesis,” he said. “I absorb as much as I can during the elections, and, like a bear, store the energy to stave off loneliness during the social winter.” Michael also added that he enjoys tutorial icebreaker exercises and when lecturers ask you to discuss with the person beside you.
The week before the election goes into full swing is Michael’s busiest period. “A lot of planning goes into this,” he said while gesturing to a wall of campus maps with routes drawn on. “I generally walk Manning to Fisher, Fisher to JFR, and JFR to Redfern station. I put new clothes on at Redfern and do the circuit in reverse. It’s a great way to meet people.”
But has the strategy resulted in any lasting relationships? NLS member and experienced campaigner Sarah Riggs, recalled Michael as “open to conversation and sort of familiar looking” but had some misgivings about the way he burst into tears on reaching the no-campaigners-past-this-point sign. “He took me by the arm and told me he loved me,” Helen recalled, “which was incredibly difficult to segue into a question about whether he had already voted.”
Michael, however, would not be dismayed, calling election time the happiest time of the year. “A lot of people only vote for the free drink voucher,” he said while looking into the middle-distance, eyes watering, “but for someone like me, that free beer tastes only of bitterness, longing, and regret.”