I met Carl when I was working as a systems programmer on the “Directory and Authentication” team at The University of Iowa. It was the summer that the Iowa River overflowed its banks and we hauled computers up the hill from the Lindquist Center to higher ground. We had all relocated (permanently, as it turned out) from our old offices in that 1970s brutalist concrete bunker up to the formerly “dead mall” up the hill. My new office was a cubicle perched atop a piece of steel plate covering the old escalator shaft on the second floor of what had been JC Penneys. You could feel the steel flex when you walked on top of it.
Part of our task at this job was to do provisioning of enterprise services. Occasionally some new person who needed early access to things would get flagged and we’d create their HawkID ahead of time and pre-provision access to groups by sticking override codes in our provisioning database. Carl was such a person – a senior IT security administrator – and I was on-call that week so I got to provision his early access. The day he arrived, something told me he’d be a cool dude, and I always wanted to make good impressions on the IT security folks. I walked his username and initial password over to him directly. He was really happy with that and we became friends immediately. We were the ‘vintage 1978’ dudes.
Over the years, I took many long walks at lunch time or in the afternoon with him. We’d IM each other and if something at work was pissing us off, we’d say ‘fuck it’ and go for a walk and talk. That always helped us both. When I moved away from Iowa City we drifted apart over the years. We’d IM occasionally and he’d share his pics from his trips to Japan and Scotland. I didn’t go back to Iowa City for a long time. The last time we saw each other was probably three years ago.
This afternoon I got a text from a friend who worked with him: I should call back, urgently. I called him and he gave me the news that Carl had been found dead in a park this morning. Five minutes later another friend called to give me the same news. I felt my heart drop into my feet. I felt dizzy and disconnected from reality. I still feel that way. I will probably feel that way for days. Life is too short and too precious. That seems like a cliché, but it is not. Take the time to connect with dear people and to live each moment – we don’t have that many of either. Here’s to you, my friend. Safe travels beyond the gray curtain. *hugs*