So Steve Jobs was a normal human being

A Quora question about random encounters with Steve Jobs reveals that both he and his wife were normal people who wanted to help someone whose car had broken down.

Real and human. James Martin/CNET

I have a suspicion that Steve Jobs is becoming more missed rather than less.

Those who revered him -- as well as those who disliked him, his brand, and even his Levi's -- realize that tech seems a little less interesting since his departure.

Though he might have appeared overbearing, arrogant, and mercurial -- as well as inspired -- in business, there was always the notion that he was in it (and in life) for something far more interesting than money.

A beautifully told story that appeared in answer to a Quora question serves as a window to that idea.

I am grateful to Business Insider for spotting the anecdote contributed by Tim Smith, principal at the Applied Design Group.

He tells how he used to date a girl whose father lived on the same street as Jobs and his family in Palo Alto, Calif.

One day, his beat-up Sunbeam Alpine broke down, right in front of Casa Jobs.

Jobs' wife, Laurene, came out to help. She offered Smith a beer. She then called a friend who was allegedly an expert at fixing beat-up old cars.

"By this point," Smith writes, "I am fully resigned to whatever story is going to play out. It was starting to dawn on me that these were not just Silicon Valley elite -- they were real people, just helping a poor guy out."

The "expert" arrived in a large black car. He was wearing a tuxedo. He was on his way to something clearly glamorous.

Jobs himself then emerged and tried to crank the car. He couldn't get it started. Neither could his friend in the tuxedo.

Did Jobs pronounce the car "a piece of s***"? It seems that he might have. And yet when Smith was ushered into the Jobs family house, he found a normal place, with laundry lying around as it would be in so many houses.

Smith is still shocked that Jobs, his wife, and their friend tried to help.

"Steve is not the maniacal business and design despot the media loves to portray -- well he is, but not always," he writes. "These were real, nice people."

Perhaps the best word here isn't "nice" but "real."

Jobs was revered not merely because of the products he brought to fruition, but because there was a certain reality to his character -- however much of a salesman he could be.

Whether he e-mailed customers late at night or brazenly changed his mind about something, he exuded the sense that he didn't want to be a cliche in a suit -- a corporate functionary sacrificing his life for the next stock award or the next exotic villa on Mustique.

He wanted to live a real, human, fundamentally interesting life. And, with all his flaws as well as virtues, so many stories show that he did.

 

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