Today, walking through campus, I was spruiked at virgorously by a bottle-blonde Englishgirl - or someone putting on an accent for the express purpose of improving their spruiking (no one spruiks like the English). She offered me a free subscription to The Daily Telegraph. Free. Pay nothing. Ever. Really?
"But I am a staff member - not a student."
"It doesn't matter. It's for everyone."
"But the form asks me when I graduate."
"Anything. Fill out the form to the best of your ability."
I filled out my form (to the best of my ability) and was, for my efforts, given a small plastic card which I'm entitled to flash at the newsagent on campus who then responds by giving me my paper. It works - but it has created another dilemma.
How do I actually get the paper from the newsagent back to my office? What if someone else in my department actually saw me with a copy of The Tele in my hand? It would be like being caught walking through campus with a copy of The New Testament or Dianetics. How could I explain it to them?
"Dr Flemo, what are you doing with that? You read The Telegraph?"
"It was free."
"Free? I wouldn't read it if they paid me."
"Actually, they paid me."
Perhaps the colleague would even be wearing one of those shirts that say "Is that the truth - or did you read it in The Telegraph?" Fortunately, however, it is Wednesday and I buy The Australian on the first Wednesday of every month to get a copy of The Australian Review of Books. I figured that I could fold up hide my copy of The Tele inside my copy of The Australian. Perhaps that was Murdoch's plan all along - targeting academics from the Humanities and Social Sciences with free subscriptions to The Tele in order that they then have to fork out the cash for his other publications to cover up their supposedly "free" paper. Cunning. But then how do I cover up my purchase of The Australian?
One solution I've contemplated is to bring a marker pen to the newsagent and - before leaving the shop - draw one big quotation mark on the first page of the paper and then another large quotation mark on the last page, to signal that I'm reading it ironically. Not reading, but "reading."
That's it. I'll give that a go.