As a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, there are a few reliable constants. One, that rusty bike with a missing wheel still chained to a bike rack near the Subway on West Dayton St. Two, people trying to steal plastic flamingos from campus property. Three, emails from Jon Eckhardt.
Eckhardt, who is rumored to also be a professor, is known for hits such as “Important message from Professor Eckhardt,” “Important followup from Professor Eckhardt” and the highly touted “A quick followup from Professor Eckhardt.” What’s most impressive about the emails is how the word “followup” is often bravely used as if any student ever thought, “Jon Eckhardt? A survey? Not ringing a bell.”
This is so true, in fact, that the campus community was surprised to not see the allegedly real person’s name near the top of their inbox for a full 24 hours. Three days later (everyone independently decided to enjoy a break before informing the authorities), officers showed up to Eckhardt’s home to perform a wellness check.
Madison police officer Braxton Gozena provided a statement on what he found.
“I walked in and saw Mr. Eckhardt typing on his laptop. It seemed normal until I realized that it wasn’t even on. Despite this, he was clearly typing one of his emails over and over again. I couldn’t see which keys he was hitting, but he was repeatedly muttering phrases like ‘two minute mobile-friendly survey’ and ‘I hope you are able to assist us with this work by completing this survey,’” stated Gozena. “I think that if we hadn’t checked on him, he probably would’ve died of thirst.”
The officer went on to explain that Jon Eckhardt’s Macbook Pro charger had stopped working at the same time that his 2008 Ford Fiesta was being re-wrapped, rendering him unable to go purchase a new one. Compounding the issue was that Eckhardt does not own a phone, as he decided long ago that the emails would be his only connection with the outside world.
Mason Jeudke is one of over 43,000 students that called to request a wellness check.
“At first, I felt free. Soon, it felt strange waking up without his name on my lock screen. I got over that pretty quickly, but I still called because I was curious about what was going on. I’m glad he’s not locked in a dungeon or something though,” remarked Jeudke.
The student also mentioned that receiving the emails again is “like when your nose is stuffed and you realize that you didn’t appreciate breathing enough before.”
The close call is one that the UW-Madison community hopes to never repeat, as then someone might feel bad and actually take the survey.
Mackenzie is the first ever editor of The Beet and actually made of over 62% beet.