I have a confession to make. It’s a
confession that will bring me such scorn, such contempt, such
disdain that I might as well be traipsing about town with a giant
red letter on my chest. I am a person you see every day.
You’ve learned to ignore me, you’ve learned to avoid me
or you’ve learned to just bite the bullet and deal with me. I
am someone who habitually hands out flyers on the Diag.

Elliott Mallen

Flyering is not easy to learn and is especially difficult to
master. Just finding a cheap place to get flyers is a daunting
task. While you could go to Kinko’s to crank out hundreds of
festively-colored advertisements, this can cost upwards of seven
cents a sheet. It is much cheaper to take advantage of our
University’s abundant resources and find a poorly-guarded
copy machine abandoned in some remote corner of an even more remote
department. The lack of reliability that comes with using a 20-year
old machine made by a long-dead company is more than made up for by
the non-existent costs.

Once you’ve got a giant stack of paper, stake out a spot
on the Diag. While it seems logical to stand in the center near the
M so as to reach more people, this is not the case. Seeing as
pedestrians act as if they and the flyerer are two
similarly-charged magnets, giving them less room is desirable.
There are four main choke points on each corner of the Diag where
the walkways merge into the brick-paved gathering place in front of
the Grad Library. Standing in the center can result in becoming
overwhelmed and disoriented by targets moving in all directions,
inevitably causing the flyerer to collapse into fetal position,
weeping pitifully. Covering the choke points means that
you’ll only deal with traffic coming from two directions,
giving you the ability to remain focused and relatively stationary
while pedestrians have no choice but to confront you.

Gangs of four are especially efficient, as you can put one
person at each choke point. This way, pedestrians passing through
the Diag will have to confront at least two people handing out your
flyer, doubling your chances of success. Also, exposing people to
more than one flyer distributor ensures that personal biases
won’t prevent someone from taking your flyer. Uncomfortable
with approaching an ex-significant other or that one guy from you
knew from high school who was a lot cooler than you then but is
still struggling to adapt, having fallen several rungs from the top
of the social ladder? Not a problem: your cohort down the sidewalk
will take care of it.

There are many types of people you’ll come across while
flyering. There are people who start talking louder and with
greater urgency into their cell phones as they walk by you, sending
the impression that their conversation about whether Pancheros or
Big Ten is the superior burrito place is infinitely more important
than your piece of paper. There are people with little white iPod
earphones who suddenly become so engrossed in their music that
their eyelids start to droop and they focus directly ahead, losing
so much control of their other senses in their state of indie rock
bliss that they lack the ability to notice you. There are rival
flyerers who will pretend to be extremely interested in your event
and then try to talk you into coming to theirs instead. And, if
your flyers are politically motivated, you’ll meet people who
are interested in you only because they want to prove how wrong you
are.

All of these people are easily dealt with. The cell phone and
iPod people aren’t going to listen to you: just make sure
they grab a flyer. Keep your conversations with the rival flyerers
short yet courteous. When dealing with those who disagree with your
politics, it’s helpful to have a low-power cattle prod
nearby. Littering the sidewalk with the twitching bodies of your
ideological foes will encourage potential debaters to just keep on
walking.

Flyering is an art that is not just underappreciated; it’s
not appreciated at all. It requires more tact and strategizing than
simply standing on a sidewalk and sticking pieces of paper in
people’s faces. With patience and practice, you too can get
people to not only acknowledge your existence but also
half-heartedly take interest in what you’re trying to pitch
for two-thirds of a second.

Mallen can be reached at
“mailto:emmallen@umich.edu”>emmallen@umich.edu.

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