I have had a great time on telephone campaign so far, and have enjoyed loads of brilliant conversations. In calling alumni on a lovely Sunday afternoon, however, and, in addition, on Boat Race day, the telephone campaign turns swiftly into its hideous twin – the voicemail campaign.
We start work at 2.45, and after spending most of the night before in the library, I am not quite as long out of bed as I should be. Stocking up on coffee and biscuits, I sit down to begin the calling.
“Welcome to the BT voice messaging service!”
“This is the Tesco Mobile voicemail for. . . “
I sit up straight in excitement.
“and thank you for calling. We are not here at the moment. Please leave a message. . .”
Oh well. By 4pm I’ve developed a ranking system for them. Giffgaff is my least favourite, the man seeming far too happy to announce that nobody is answering. Attracted at this point by sheer honesty, the woman who announces that “We cannot take your call at the moment, and you cannot leave a message” is the winner. No excuses for her. No false sympathy. Straight to the point. My woman.
Voicemail. Voicemail. Voicemail.
I begin to think longingly of Saturday, and the great chats I’d had. The man who’d brought an inflatable kayak to reunion so he could paddle down the Cam. The American lad who had very kindly endured my excited monologue about my brother’s PhD year in Virginia Tech. The amusingly nostalgic stories about Magdalene in the 80s – a place of thirds and drinking, boys going on hunting weekends, and hanging their catch out of their windows.
Eventually, we take a break to watch the Boat Race. Our lovely Dutch supervisor’s touching faith that it means a lot to us has me taking an interest I’ve never felt for an event I’ve never watched. And it’s incredible! We watch the women’s in the calling room, huddled around Kevin’s laptop and passing around the Heroes. It’s clear from the start that we’re going to win, and sure enough, we do! The emotion in the rowers’ faces is amazing to see, and we go back to calling feeling greatly uplifted.
Voicemail. Voicemail. Voicemail.
We go to our college bar with pizza to watch the men’s. Unfortunately, we lose this one, but it’s hugely exciting. I look at their biceps enviously, and regret selling my soul to the ADC instead of taking up rowing. “I wish I was that hench.” I think, as I finish my sixth slice of pizza.
We return to calling, and I realise one massive advantage of unanswered calls is that I can hear a lot of Kate and Petros, the callers on either side of me. I’ve gotten very lucky in my seat, as they are both unfailingly cheerful and amusing. Definitely one of the upsides of the campaign is getting to know people you would not normally see, including PhD students such as Petros. His good cheer extended even through my spilling coffee all over his clean white jumper on Saturday – the staunch Magdalene spirit in action! Whether they are as lucky to be sitting beside me is another question. I have inherited from my father a complete lack of telephone voice – it takes active effort not to bellow down the line as though it is only my lungs bridging the distance between Cambridge and London, the Dumfries, America, or wherever our alumni have ended up. Thankfully, though, the voicemail has me quiet today.
I make yet another cup of coffee, and yet another phone call – it’s answered! A combination of caffeine and lack of chat has me slightly hyper, and I chat away nineteen to the dozen to a lovely Scottish man. He tells me about his career, and what he’s been up to since Magdalene, and very kindly donates. This cheers me up massively, and when we finish calling for the day, I can at least feel that I’ve done something useful, in addition to eating all the Alumni & Development Office’s biscuits.