Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Eli Ferret Barnes. Protector of Cloverdale's Network.
In the basement of Cloverdale’s Village Office is a rarely traveled hallway leading to a custodial closet and stairwell. At the end of the hallway is a black windowless metal door with a nameplate which reads “Eli Ferret Barnes. Network”.
No one sees Eli come to work and no one sees him leave. There are rumors he hasn’t left his office in twenty years. The rumors are exaggerated. He must leave the office sometimes because his utility bills are mailed to a home on Millstone Road. He is always in his office when the Lord Mayor calls. He is always at work when the village secretary stops in deliver his paycheck. The building custodian makes it a point to check on him but doesn’t stay long. Eli becomes agitated around people. The first few minutes of a conversation are clearly uncomfortable for him. He won't look you in the eye as you speak. Instead, he stares at a place on the floor. If your visit lasts over five minutes he stands and moves toward his office door giving you the signal that it is time to go. At seven minutes he opens the office door, picks up the broom he keeps next to the coat rack, and begins sweeping around your feet. It is his way of sweeping away the unwanted litter standing on his office floor. A year ago he hung a new sign on his office door. It read "Is It Necessary?"
Eli has never been a people person. Numbers are his friends. As a child, Eli would stand in front of the family wireless and spin the tuning dial to see the numbers pass in front of the station line. His interest was not the station content - it was the turning numbers . This compulsion interrupted many of the radio shows his family enjoyed. Punishments would follow and Eli would spend more time alone in his room buried in his math.
Eli Ferret Barnes grew older and drew further from people. He spoke only when it was necessary to ask a question or pass on his wishes. He functioned in society on a marginal basis. Most people acknowledged his condition and gave him great latitude. He majored in math at university and planned on working as a calculator in the Ministry of Defense. Then one day as he sat reading a magazine at the barbershop he came across an article on the world’s first computer - the Eniac. It fascinated him. He took the magazine to the chair and continued to read while his hair was trimmed. Halfway through the cut he found an address for more information. He jumped up, reached in his pocket, took out a handful of change and dropped it into the barbers hand. He walked out with half a haircut. From that day to the present computers became his constant companions. He speaks their language and they don't required social exchanges.
Eli is getting older and is having trouble seeing the keyboard. He is still a wizard with numbers but his memory is struggling to make relationships. He has provided the Shire with decades of faithful service and has decided the time has come to retire.
May 1st will be Eli’s last day of work safeguarding the village computer network and security. Eli requests no party be given in his honor. As a retirement gift Eli requests a life subscription to the online Sudoku Monthly. I can't say Eli will be missed. It is hard to miss something that was really never there but the Lord Mayor succeeded it getting a picture of Eli one of the few times he was found outside his office. This picture will be framed and hung outside his office door as a testament to his community service.