Yesterday we asked readers about their run-ins with Steve Jobs, and they delivered. The Apple CEO is quietly ubiquitous, seen from Palo Alto to SoHo, from Whole Foods to Gotham catwalks, a shaggy-dressing crazy driver who's kind to strangers.
We asked how Jobs behaves in the wild for two reasons: One, we thought his outdoor café meeting with the powerful CEO of Google was probably staged for publicity, and wondered how common it was for him to be so conspicuously out in public. Two, we were curious if the most famous CEO in the world is able to connect with ordinary people — i.e., his ideal customers — while under constant threat of becoming a public spectacle.
It would seem, based on the emails and comments we've received, that Jobs is able to mingle freely in public, albeit with an eye on the exits in case things get awkward or dangerous. Like our colleague Brian Lam over at Gizmodo, we're coming around to the idea that the Jobs-Schmidt coffee might not have been staged. Jobs and Schmidt are regulars at the café where they were spotted, according to a source Lam quoted last night.
Our readers, meanwhile, tell us Jobs is regularly out and about in Silicon Valley and New York. He's not afraid to cut in line, dine alone, or speed around corners in the Apple parking lot. He does his own dishes. And sometimes security guards make him show his ID, just like anyone else.
We're keeping the identities of our tipsters confidential; if you see your email below and want to claim credit, just shoot us an email.
And now, for our catalog of Encounters of the Turtleneck Kind:
Insane driver, part 1:
I used to work for apple for about 5 years
Quite often I would have to go to Cupertino for work stuff.
One time I was pulling out of the IL 1 parking lot ( 1 infinite loop) and this silver mercedes near swiped me as he pulled in.
I slammed on my breaks and was like who the f*#k was that?
The car next to me stops, rolls down his window, and says "Oops my bad, you okay?" (it was Steve Jobs)
I sat there with my mouth open as he rolled his window back up and pulled in the handicap spot.
The guy next to me goes "damn i wish he would've clocked us, imagine the settlement!"
dude drives like a maniac
Insane driver, part 2:
I was working as a bagger at the Palo Alto Whole Foods in the summer of '97 [he probably means '98, when the iMac debuted in August]. I was shagging carts one afternoon when I saw this silver Mercedes parked in a handicapped spot. Steve Jobs was inside screaming at his car phone. This was right before the first iMac was unveiled and I'm pretty sure I could make out, "Not. Fucking.Blue. Enough!!!"
Update: The commenter clarifies that while Jobs was yelling, he was joking/speculating about what Jobs actualy said. Thus the "Not Fucking Blue Enough" quote above should be discounted.
Insane driver, part 3:
From steve.krupf's comment:
A couple years ago, I had a networking-type breakfast with a friend of a friend who worked for Apple, in the main cafeteria on the company's campus in Cupertino. After I'd finished my tasty chorizo omelet (Apple has an amazing omelet bar), my guy on the inside walked me back to my car.
We started saying our goodbyes, and I wasn't really paying attention to where I was standing. Suddenly a silver Mercedes roadster-type car with no license plates came screaming around a bend and swerved ever so slightly to avoid me.
And my Apple guy said: "Do you know who that was who almost ran you over?"
It was an honor to have impeded your trip to your parking spot, Mr. Jobs.
Steve's turn to do dishes
this is interesting timing for your article because this happened the other week. I live in Palo Alto and am a grad student at Stanford.
We were in Jobs' neighborhood two weekends ago having dinner with some friends of my parents, and we decided to take a walk in order to look at Steve Jobs' and Steve Young's houses, which are right next to each other. We headed over, and all of a sudden were alongside Jobs house. It's a really unusual and interesting house, but very understated and relatively small. You can just freely walk on the sidewalk right next to it.
Well, we were walking along, and I heard dishes clattering, coming from his house, and I look over and there he was in his kitchen window, black turtleneck and all, washing dishes. He just looked up at us, maybe 15 feet away. Nothing in between us but a window, no tall fence (a short, decorative, waist-high one). And we just walked on and proceeded to admire the apple orchard he has in his front yard, and even walked up his driveway a little to see his tulip garden (we were with a kindly old lady, so we didn't look too menacing).
His neighbor, who we were walking with, told us that his security lives in the house next door, and he is under constant surveillance, but I still couldn't help but be shocked at how simple and unassuming his house was, and the fact that we saw him washing his dishes. If he doesn't need security gates, I don't know who does. My guess is that his coffee date with Eric Schmidt was very heavily guarded, its just you don't see his security. As for whether it was staged or not, I don't know. People seem to see him around Palo Alto a lot, so it seems like he is just living his normal life here, and that probably includes having coffee with other high-powered tech folks.
The Sloppy CEO: A brush with a potential tantrum
I was sent to the Apple campus to do a demo for the Final Cut group in 'the Piano Bar'. We had a Genelec surround system sent directly to our contact at Apple and I loaded this on a huge cart along with other hardware and my Warr Guitar strapped to my back. We 'booked' the room so we were sure it would be abandoned, including the allocated setup time.
So, I come crashing into this room with the cart *KERBLAM* and I see a group of five people talking quietly at a table in the back. I begin to unload and set up.
Our Apple contact says, "We should, uh, get out of here."
I shrug and follow him out. He and my co-worker leave to go do something and I'm sitting outside the piano bar making sure nobody walks off with my gear. Moments later four, ashen Apple employees scurry out of the room and head out the door followed by a scruffy unshaven fellow. He stops, surveys the area, and, like a missile locking on to a strong heat signature, zeros in and walks towards me, the person who burst in on the private meeting.
It is funny how the brain works. As this person approached me, I had time to string the following thoughts together: "This guy is coming to talk to me. Heh. He kind of looks like Steve Jobs, but Steve wouldn't wear torn jeans and have a three day beard and what are the chances that within 15 minutes I'd bump into... OMFG..."
He holds out his hand and says, "Hi, I'm Steve."
I owned a 128K Mac in 1984. Before that, a Lisa. What I do today was shaped largely by Apple, and what this person did. Heck, I started writing music by dragging notes onto a screen with a program called MusicWorks - it isn't hyperbole to say my very interest in music started with the Macintosh.
Being a fairly eloquent person, I summon up the response: "Hey."
I don't remember if I shook his hand or not.
Stopping to chat up a fellow cancer patient
I don't personally have a Steve Jobs sighting, but my friend did, probably about four years ago. She lives in downtown Palo Alto a few blocks away from University Avenue, same neighborhood as him. She was recovering from chemo (she has cancer) and was taking a walk with her husband near the house when they ran into a man who noticed her headscarf and asked her how her treatment was going. They discussed their respective cancer treatments for a while; after he'd moved on, her husband told her who she'd been talking to.
Also, it's not surprising that he got lost going to the movies. I grew up on the Peninsula, and it happens to me every time I try to go to those big AMC theaters in Mountain View or Cupertino. Imagine a huge parking lot with no obvious landmarks and all the buildings looking indistinguishable from each other. It's not like trying to find the AMC in Union Square!!!
Steve Jobs waits in line for food like a normal person
I never realized that he had a problem being in public. I was getting a smoothie at Whole Foods a few years ago in downtown Palo Alto one day and guess who was in line in front of me! After I ordered I went to sit down at the tables and there he was again, eating like a normal person. No bodyguards and no disguises. I mean, he lives in Palo Alto so why would it be weird to see him at a cafe there? First and
last time I've ever seen him (I live in San Jose now).
Steve Jobs does not wait in line for food like some peon
From nataliekei's comment:
Not sure if this qualifies, but as a former Apple employee, Jobs was knows to park in the first spot closest to the door - even though it was a handicapp spot! HR finally had to tell him that isn't OK even for him. Eventually they chalked a spot marked "Jobs" for him.
Also, in the company cafeteria, there could be a HUGE line, however he would rush in and get his food by just cutting in line. Its good to be the king!
Do You Know Who I Am?
Not 100% sure if this is what you were looking for, but in 1998, the first year Macworld moved from the two convention centers in Boston to the Javits Center in New York City, I was walking around the lobby
area trying to make my way back onto the convention floor. I was 13 at the time, playing with my 4 year old Newton 120 which my dad had given to me.
Now back in 1998 Steve Job wasn't supposed to show up for the Keynote, he was going to do it via satellite [this is true], but much to my amazement however I see 10 feet in front of me, Steve Jobs.
I'm standing there watching the CEO of Apple and his 4-5 deep entourage yelling at the security guard. As I moved closer I heard one of the entourage say "This is Steve Jobs, he is the CEO of Apple Computer" to which the guard replied "He is not the CEO of the Javits Center, he needed a badge to enter." So it seems in his last minute choice to go to Macworld, no one got Mr. Jobs an badge. Whoops.
Steve Jobs does not shake hands with stangers
I've just read this http://valleywag.gawker.com/5505515/how-steve-jobs-behaves-in-public and I can personally assure Jobs don't like to shake hands to unknown people, here is a video taken at the end of a Macworld Expo keynote: http://www.setteb.it/?p=774 follow the second link to watch. The article is in Italian, Google Translator is embedded.
Toward the end of this short clip, Jobs does indeed appear to avoid shaking hands several times. But we thought we heard him tell someone "I'm sick," with the sound turned all the way up.
Steve Jobs does shake hands with strangers, and remembers names as well as a politician
From raincoaster's comment:
He met a friend of mine at some huge geek event, and two years later bumped into him at a different event, walked right up, stretched out his hand for a shake and said, "It's Dave, right? From SFU?"
Don't make Steve Jobs shake your hand, he is sick, you insensitive clod:
From DoctorJezebel's comment:
Readers of gawker blogs: the dude had a fucking liver transplant. He is chronically immunosuppressed for life to prevent his body from rejecting the new liver. This is basically the functional equivalent of having full-blown AIDS and being susceptible to all sorts of weird, normally benign conditions. No wonder he doesn't want to shake your hand.
This is a very good point; read the rest of the thread for more good comments along these lines.
He's good with kids and apparent crazy people
From itmustbeken's comment:
Many years ago, my family were hanging out at a park near downtown Palo Alto. My kids were running around like they were insane and soon we were joined by several others.
As I am want to do, I turned into a monster and chased the kids bellowing at the top of my lungs and generally acting like the worlds largest 7 year old.
One little girl went up to her dad and said 'This is the best park ever! He's so funny!'
Her dad was Steve Jobs.
He was warm, friendly and thanked me for running his kids ragged at the park. His wife was nice too.
My brush with awesomeness.
He's good with kids, when his mind doesn't wander:
My first Steve Jobs sighting took place at Stanford Shopping Center, in Palo Alto, California, in the fall of 2002.
It was on a Saturday, in the heart of the Christmas shopping season. I was sitting with two of my teenaged cousins at one of the outdoor cafes, La Baguette, when Steve walked by with one of his children. I noticed him right away because he was wearing his black turtleneck and blue jeans, as well as his wire-rimmed eyeglasses[...]
Another thing I observed: As he strode along with his child, he seemed very focused — as if on a mission to get someplace by a certain time. And though he was holding his child's hand — which I thought was cute, on his part — he also appeared not to notice his child was walking next to him.
PS — Since then, I've seen him a number of times during visits to Apple HQ — particularly inside IL 1 and at Caffe Mac — usually alone, though once with Jonny Ive.
He takes care of his vehicle
Hello, I live in Mountain View, CA right next door to his home town of Palo Alto, and occasionally drive by his house on Waverly. One time my wife and I drove by and saw him outside either washing or waxing his SL 55—can't remember, this was a few years ago, I think even before the iPhone. He looked in our direction as we drove by, and nodded as he probably noticed that both of us were staring, but that was about it.
Cool on the catwalk
When the Apple store in SoHo NYC opened, Steve was hanging out chatting with anyone who recognized him (surprisingly few people in NYC cared about him back then). I caught him hanging out on the little bridge connecting the two sides of the upper floor. He was just soaking up the launch of his newest baby, taking a moment to enjoy what was undoubtedly a whole lot of hard work. For such a private and allegedly aloof person, he is cool as can be.
Couple of more details from the Apple store sighting we ran last time
I used to work at one of the Apple Stores here in [New York] city. He was scheduled to come in, we didn't know exactly when. He got out of a town car out front, walked in, and right up to me - shaking my hand and saying, "Hi, I'm Steve Jobs! Is XXXXX (name of the store manager) here?"
When I said he was and called him, [Jobs] said he was going to run to the bathroom first - and went to the customer's bathroom (which anyone can use - and isn't exactly the cleanest). He came out, walked right back up to me, and started talking about the store.
After about 5 min customers around us starting walking up asking to take pictures, and asking questions, when he promptly asked to be excused and left - back to the car and away.
We had all heard stories about his desire to not shake hands (he offered first), his desire to not be in public (he spent his entire time in full view in open areas of the store) and his general shitty attitude (he was super nice and cordial).
Just something I thought of when reading your article.
All that being said, the company is security crazy.
[After a follow up question:]
The dude took a pilgrimage to India and shit in a hole - he had nothing at all to say about the bathroom.
He talked about random stuff in the store, asked how we we doing, etc. He noticed a stain on a fixture and said it should be the first priority to get that fixed.
Honestly, I think he is a seriously focused and dedicated guy who is a normal nerd at heart - except he's been made into a hero by a group of people. Im not saying that the treatment he gets isn't his fault, but he struck me in person as a completely different person than what he's portrayed as.
Got a story that can top these? We'll take it!
(Top pic: Jobs at an Apple store, by JD Lewin)