It doesn’t happen as often anymore (probably because in the last 2 years, the number of new people I’ve met has been greatly reduced, thanks to the pandemic keeping us pretty cloistered) but I used to get asked pretty regularly why I use Nerd Butler as a brand. As with most of the good things in my life, credit for that goes to my wife.

When we were first dating and deep in the process of learning all about each other, I tried to explain how I saw my role at my job and in life generally. I asked her an important question. “Who is the most interesting character in the world of Batman?”

Now, she is completely uninformed about comics, but she had seen most of the popular movies about the Dark Knight that had been made at the time. So after thinking for a moment she said “Well, I guess it would be Batman.” Which is the answer I get the most often when I ask that question. But to me, that is completely the wrong answer.

What makes a hero?

Let’s be honest, rich son loses his parents to violence and spends the rest of his life taking out that trauma on the criminal underclass of Gotham may be interesting but it is somewhat understandable. Any first year psychology student would be happy to explain exactly how that was the predicatable outcome. That’s sort of the point. An origin story needs to be plausible. But even before that key event, there is a character hovering in the background quietly doing their job and keeping everything running smoothly no matter the circumstances.

Alfred the butler!

And after Mr. & Mrs. Wayne are killed and Alfred is named the regent of the estate and caretaker for a young multi-millionare he remains utterly devoted to young Master Bruce and raises him. What manner of man is this? I love this guy! I am fascinated by Alfred because his whole reason for being is to make the people in his care successful no matter what they need.

When I thought about writing this blog post, I started doing some research on the history of Alfred and the best description I found comes right from the source. The DC Comics Website

As a former British intelligence officer, field medic and trained Shakespearean actor, Alfred is uniquely suited to support the lives of masked crime fighters. He’s quick with a disguise, a cover story, an alibi; and quicker still with a suture, a cast or an ice bath. He ensures that Wayne Manor—all of Wayne Manor, including the vast Batcave—is operating at peak performance while the Bat-Family patrols the city. Plus, he makes a mean cucumber sandwich, which may not be something he lists on his resume, but is certainly something everyone who sets foot on the manor’s grounds will fondly remember.

Look at that skill set! Psychologist, medic, engineer, gentleman’s gentlman. I mean, who is cooler than that? If you want a fairly exhaustive hostory of the Alfred character, you can check out Meg Downey’s loving tribute to Alfred Pennyworth on the DC website. But for me the above paragraph really captures it.

So, what? You want to be a butler?

Well, not exactly. But the idea behind Alfred’s character resonated with me. I work in the technology industry. Specifically, I have spent a couple of decades acting as tech support for generals, CEOs, engineers, receptionists, mechanics, you name it. If a job uses a computer for anything, I’ve probably spent some time interacting with the people doing that job. And you can imagine the wide range of technical knowledge that entails. But the universal constant is that they all just want to get their job done. If the computer helps them, they don’t notice it. If it gets in their way, they hate it. But no one in 20 years has said “You know what Levi? Using this computer is a true joy.” We all use computers because they are tools that help us do something else. It is the weirdo geeks like me who use them recreationally. Not to play a game or read a book, but just to see how they work.

So I came to understand that it wasn’t my job to teach people how to use the computer. It wasn’t my job to fix the computer. It was my job to keep everything running smoothly so others could accomplish their goals.

I have been lucky to work with some truly remarkable people. Some of them will leave a lasting and positive mark on the world. And each time I helped them with a technology issue the only goal was to minimize the negative impact of technology and to maximize the positive. Computers, smartphones, tables, gadets of all kinds are great. But for most people, if they don’t solve a problem then they are merely a nusiance.

Which is why everyone who uses a computer needs an Alfred Pennyworth. But since they are in short supply, I will try to substitute as a Nerd Butler. The tagline of the site is “Technology is not a Luxury” because at this point, we can’t live without computers. We can’t checkout at the grocery store or renew our driver’s license. We can’t schedule a doctors appointment or check on our kids’ grades without using a computer on some level.

And when something in one of those processes goes wrong, all you want is someone to calmly step in and get things humming along again. If they can do it in a tuxedo with a bowtie tied just so, all the better.

Conclusion

So there is the origin story of Nerd Butler. And after telling the story to my girlfriend, and making it interesting enough that she agreed to a second date, she remembered it when I was in the process of starting a computer business. While researching available domain names she found NerdButler.com and knew immediately that it was for me.

Since then, I have been doing my best to embrace the ethos of Alfred Pennyworth. A calm, dignified, and capable ally in the fight against injustice. Or at least the fight against annoying machinery that keeps us from getting things done.

Postscript

It didn’t fit anywhere in the blog post, but I wanted to toss in a few more things I learned about Alfred in my digging.

  • He first appeared in 1943 in Batman #16
  • He has been played by a myraid of actors on TV and in the movies, including William Austin, Eric Wilton, Michael Gough, Michael Caine, and Jeremy Irons.
  • Pennyworth is a series that began in 2019 detailing Alfred’s origins. It is in its third season now, so I have some catching up to do.