My neighbor, Steve Jobs, has been in the news lately. The talk of the town is the recent announcement he will be stepping aside to let other seeds grow at Apple. The business press, the general press, the blogosphere, and just about everybody else has waxed poetic about the “greatest CEO of all time” saying that this “boy wonder” has shaped the very nature of our lives with his genius.
It’s all true, but here in Palo Alto, Steve Jobs isn’t just an icon, he’s also the guy who lives down the street.
I first met Steve (does anyone call him Mr. Jobs anymore?) years ago at a backyard pool party. I was so flummoxed by the off chance I was breathing in his DNA, I could barely say a word. I am sure I made a winning first impression as I stumbled over my own name when we were introduced.
I watched as he swam in the pool with his son. He seemed like a regular guy, a good dad having fun with his kids.
The next time I met him was when our children attended school together. He sat in on back-to-school night listening to the teacher drone on about the value of education (wait, isn’t he one of those high-tech gods who didn’t even graduate from college?) while the rest of us sat around pretending having Steve Jobs in the room was totally normal.
Not long after, I saw Steve as I was running in our neighborhood. He was deep in conversation with a younger version of himself — his very own mini-me in jeans, black tee-shirt, and wire-rimmed glasses. I must have looked like an idiot as I tripped over a crack in the pavement trying to give them wide berth.
It was at Halloween not long after when I realized he actually knew my name (yes, my name!). He and his wife put on a darn scary haunted house (to be specific, a haunted garden). He was sitting on the walkway, dressed like Frankenstein. As I walked by with my son, Steve smiled and said, “Hi Lisen.” My son thought I was the coolest mom in town when he realized The Steve Jobs knew me.
Thanks for the coolness points, Steve.
From then on, when I saw him holding his executive meetings in our neighborhood, I didn’t hesitate to smile and say hi. Steve always returned the favor, proving he may be a genius, but he is also a good neighbor.
In time, things changed. The walks were less frequent, the gait slower, the smile not so ready. Earlier this year when I saw Steve and his wife walking down our street holding hands, I knew something was different. Now, so does the rest of the world.
While Newsweek and the Wall Street Journal and CNET continue to drone on about the impact of the Steve Jobs era, I won’t be pondering the MacBook Air I write on or the iPhone I talk on. I will think of the day I saw him at his son’s high school graduation. There Steve stood, tears streaming down his cheeks, his smile wide and proud, as his son received his diploma and walked on into his own bright future leaving behind a good man and a good father who can be sure of the rightness of this, perhaps his most important legacy of all.
Update: To all, thank you for your kind words and comments. You have expressed your affection and good wishes for the man and the icon, Steve Jobs, so beautifully. Our collective prayers are with him. Comments are now closed so I can focus on my own writing. With gratitude, Lisen Stromberg