I’ve been to the Mission Control building here at the Strang Institute like a gajillion times, and every single time I enter I have to show my pass. Every single time. It’s not as if Ralph Peterson, the Institute security guard, doesn’t remember me. But he takes my card, puts it under the ultra violet light, holds it up overhead, turning it this way and that. Really the reason I think he does that is so it gives him time to regale me with one of his many stories of his years at the Institute. If it’s a particularly long story, he’ll radio for help to make sure I’m not some kind of spy or something. “You never know if someone’s an exact duplicate,” he says.
This evening’s story took place back in 1970, during the final months of Ellie’s training program, before she would go on a whirlwind tour to promote her mission. Many a foreign dignitary, or astronaut, or famous scientist, or Hollywood actor would come out to the Institute to meet Ellie and take a tour. It was quite the honor to be invited.
Well, it was rather well known around the Institute that a young Ralph Peterson had a little crush on Barbara Eden, an actress who played the title character on tv’s I Dream Of Jeannie, a sitcom about an astronaut who finds a genie bottle on the beach. And as luck would have it, not only was she a fan of Ellie, but she was asked to come to the Institute to meet her.
As Ralph tells the tale, he was all cool about the news of her arrival, though others claim he was a nervous wreck. But he gained some composure and when her car pulled up he introduced himself as Institute Security. Ralph claims there was a bit of a spark between the two of them. He claimed that he didn’t have any information on her visit, but if she would accompany him to dinner he’d make sure she would be able to meet Ellie.
Barbara Eden gave him a little wink and agreed to the date. When I asked Ralph if anything came of his date he explained that a gentlemen doesn’t tell. Then the door unlocked and he let me in.