I wrote this little anecdote shortly after Steve Jobs passed away. Despite it happening more than 7 years ago, it still is imprinted on my brain and does a great job of illustrating the person I felt he was.
I was leaving the main building on the Apple campus. Just ahead of me was Steve. This was not an uncommon sight despite being such a large company. He was often seen walking in the halls or in the courtyard in the center of all the buildings. He always seemed to have a spring in his step, like he was walking on his toes. And the glint in his eyes that you’ll see in photos. Sometimes he was seen eating lunch with Jony Ive, one of his closest friends.
On this day, though, the spring in his step was gone. I slowed down a little bit to match his pace. Although I passed by him often, I wanted to see how he was doing at close range. Many of us tried to convince ourselves that he didn’t seems so ill, that he might be turning a corner. I admit I was in that camp until that day.
Steve was heading towards a car parked next to the curb with its door open, waiting for him to arrive. He no longer drove to work himself like he used to. The car was idling. A family was standing near the Apple sign outside the building, the most popular place for tourists to take photos on their pilgrimages to Apple.
The father turned to Steve as he passed close by and asked, “Excuse me, sir, would you mind taking our photo?”
Steve paused for a moment as an iPhone was extended to him. He seemed to realize quickly that they didn’t know who he was. He grinned to himself. With a hint of enthusiasm in his voice, he took the iPhone into his hands.
He took a great deal of care composing the photo, backing up a few steps several times, tapping the iPhone screen to lock focus. His glasses were propped up on his forehead and his posture was slumped, like someone twenty years older than he was. He encouraged the family to smile by grinning widely himself. I reached for my own iPhone because I thought it would make a great photo. It probably would have, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.
Steve snapped several photos for good measure and handed back the iPhone. They politely said “Thank you, sir” as Steve stepped into his car and the door was closed behind him. He was driven away by someone else but in his own car. The family looked at the photos that Steve had taken and all agreed that they looked great. Then the iPhone was pocketed and they were on their way.
And that was the last time I saw Steve Jobs.