Steve Jobs Humanized By His Palo Alto Neighbor

Wait, he’s not a soul-crushing monster dead-set on world dominance?

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When Steve Jobs retired as CEO of Apple, the media treated the event like a funeral instead of a retirement party. Most of the articles surrounding his resignation read like eulogies. This may have something to do with the ever-present rumors about Jobs’s failing health (or possibly my inability to think of the frail-looking Jobs and not relate the two). However, most importantly, nearly everyone praised him as one of the most influential CEOs of all-time.

What Jobs has accomplished over the course of the past decade is nothing short of culture-defining. It’s very rare in our day and age to be able to point at one person and say “he changed the way we live.” Steve Jobs is one of these select few luminaries.

However he’s also developed a reputation for being, to put it politely, a curmudgeon. But since we’re all anonymous friends here, I’ll be a bit more blunt: a lot of people think Steve Jobs is an asshole.

There are countless “Steve Jobs stories” from over the years detailing his penchant for being a control freak and an unapologetic dick. But his genius and business savvy more than made up for these flaws.

The truth is Jobs’s personal life is rather a mystery. His true personality and behavior have always been considered hearsay, simply unsubstantiated rumors or lies. This is how Jobs likes it, he enjoys a life of privacy. However since our society is simply made up of nosy neighbors who need to know the dirt, these rumors sometimes become truth.

But thanks to Jobs’s actual neighbor, Lisen Stromberg, we get a extremely rare glimpse into the everyday life of the man who made the laptop and cell phone “sexy.”

“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…

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.”

Stromberg’s article in the local Palo Alto Patch went on to describe Jobs at his son’s High School graduation with tears in eyes, swelling in pride. The article of course has now gone viral because of our cultural need to know more about people like Jobs. All in all it was a nice window peaking into Jobs’s life away from his empire.

He swims. He dressed up as Frankenstein for Halloween. He remembers neighbors names. He attends street BBQs. And most importantly he sheds tears.

Now it may not seem like much, but this little blog post is a treasure trove. Steve Jobs is a normal human being, who loves his family and says hello to his neighbors. He just happens to be an utter genius in his down time.