The Secret Porter

Ever wondered what really goes on in the plodge? An anonymous Cambridge porter reveals all to The Tab.

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I’ve been a porter here for 15 years. The porters are the keepers of the keys – if we didn’t keep them in order, the whole system would break down and the college would be thrown into chaos.

When I first started working here, I found the job very daunting. I’d been to a secondary modern school so the traditions were unfamiliar to me and I had to learn all the Latin words by myself.

I do like my job. Further education was out of the question for me, but I think I’m quite wise and know a lot about life, which means I’m good at helping people out.

Sometimes it seems like the students here have blinkers on because they’re so sheltered. They all study hard, and some of them play hard too.

We know that students like to have a drink. So do the adults that work here. We all enjoy a glass of wine or two, but the difference is that we know our limits.

Once when I was walking round college I found a young man handcuffed to one of our silver birch trees with absolutely nothing on. He’d taken part in one of those drinking society initiations and his friends had just run off and left him there.

He said to me: “I’m a victim!”. I just laughed and went to get the bolt cutters. I uncuffed him and told him to go and put his clothes on. As I walked away I was chuckling to myself. You have to get used to that kind of thing when you’re a porter.

The only thing I would worry about is someone going into a coma, which has happened before. But most of the time we just have fun, as a team and with the students. There are perks to the job too – I love dancing at the balls!

Sometimes we have a laugh watching students trying to squeeze their bikes through a tiny gap in the gate. A girl managed it once and we all went outside and clapped. Then we told her where the main gate was and she was a bit embarrassed.

Bike thefts are a huge problem and are really professional. The thieving rogues pull up in a van, cut the lock, throw everything in the back, and speed off.

I have run after them in the past, and they’ve got on their bike, so to speak. In my opinion, they’re pond life.

I think there is a huge difference in how students behave now compared to when I first started. It’s strange, but I think students are knuckling down more these days, getting on with the job. Maybe it’s because of the higher tuition fees they have to pay.

When I used to do night shifts, I was constantly sorting out incidents in college: parties, fights, fire alarms, you name it. People would trash other people’s kitchens and the bedders would have to clean it up. Everything would all kick off at once. It was exhausting.

I rarely have to leave the lodge during my night shifts now. The students are all nice, even if they can be a bit boisterous sometimes. Have I ever caught any students in the act when on patrol? Now that would be telling…

I always cry on graduation day. Parents come up and thank us for what we’ve done. Several students still e-mail me, some of whom were here when I first started. It’s nice when students come back with families of their own. We really appreciate that.

At the end of the day, we want a nice rapport with the students because they’re our bread and butter. Without the students, we wouldn’t have a job! We’re just here to guide you on the right path.