Originally posted on http://www.pem.cam.ac.uk/kit-smarts-blog/the-p-stands-for-post/ on July 11th 2016
Kit Smart takes a behind the scenes look at the PKP Post Desk
To ensure its successful running, the Pembroke-Kings Programme relies on a dedicated team of staff and assistants who devote hours to ensuring that the courses run smoothly and that the students get the most out of their time in Cambridge. Amongst all the flashy event planning and room booking tasks, there is one incredibly important job that is often overlooked; the job of PKP Postmaster General.
This year, the substantial mantle of PKP Postmaster General has fallen on the shoulders of Tom Daniels. To those who didn’t know the important task that he does, he might appear to be just another PA committed to bringing joy to students but if you look a bit closer, you can see the shadow of responsibility that he carries like a heavily-laden mailbag.
The non-metaphorical mailbag that Tom can rarely be found without was presented to him by the King’s College Porters’ Lodge in a special ceremony, the full details of which are only known by the Porters and the Postmaster himself. It is this bag which Tom then uses to carefully transport the heaps of post (also referred to as ‘mail’ for the American students in residence) that the PKP community receives every day from King’s College all the way down Trumpington St to the PKP office. A nine minute walk according to Google, Tom knows that it is rarely that simple with hoards of tourists, parties of school children, bikes, cars, and people asking him if he wants to go punting constantly threatening to delay his delivery. Added to this is his constant fear that a student might stop him in the street in their eagerness to receive their packages from home or UK sim cards. Every day, Tom not only battles these obstacles but, thus far, has successfully managed to defeat them and hold back the chaos that would engulf the PKP office if the post did not arrive.
Once the post has reached its destination, Tom meticulously adds it to his postal-tracking spreadsheet. This spreadsheet has up until most recently been a simple black and white affair, but there are some rumours about colour coding innovation coming to the Post desk shortly. Tom admitted to me that “the problem with alternate names being used to address the post is a constant trauma” in his day. Although nothing compares to days when post is left unclaimed,these, he says, are his “worst days” because he feels responsible for the poor parcels that are left abandoned and unloved.
To avoid such tragedy, Tom uses the PKP Facebook group to inform students that they have parcels waiting for them. These posts have become the highlight of many students days as he greets them with a pinch of sincerity mixed with a heavy dollop of sarcasm and irreverence. I asked Tom where his inspiration for these posts comes from:
“I find myself drawing on the Great Sarcastic. I have an uncle who is particularly scathing of me so I draw on that and I really have him to thank for inspiring me.”
I asked whether Postman Pat was another of his influences. He admitted that although he did find his inspiration helpful in the beginning, he now tries “to deviate from the giants of the postal industry” in order to find his own style.
So how exactly did Tom rise to the prestigious role of PKP Postmaster General? It turns out that his experience goes back quite a way. A source close to Tom told me of the days before PKP when he had worked in the shop adjoining a Post Office. For years Tom had worked in that shop, watching the post from afar and wanting to be a part of the magic. His dream finally came true when he was awarded the position of Post officer during the 2014 PKP. In the subsequent years, he has learnt a lot about the post and himself which has led to his promotion to Postmaster General.
As PKP Chairman, Carlos told me: “Tom’s time working on the post is vital not just to his formation as a postman but as a human being”.
But is all well at the Post desk? While I was shadowing the team, I couldn’t help but notice the rumblings of a coup from Deputy-Postman Ashley that culminated in a hiding of the highly valued mailbag. Will Tom be able to quash the rebellion or will his staff rise up? Only time will tell.