When I worked at Apple all new Mac Genius made the trip to Cupertino California to be trained by those who had been behind the bar before us. Customer service was part of our initial “Core Training.” At Apple Headquarters we were taught and tested on Macintosh hardware and software. Shown how to use the tools of our trade, and given the chance to gain the wisdom that comes from difficult diagnosis.
As Apple fans, each of us were eager to experience the training. Excited to go inside 1 Infinite Loop for the first time. Visit The Company Store, eat at Caffe Macs, and meet the man who was at center of our common obsession, Steve Jobs.
Upon arrival we were all given an orientation detailing the training process, instructing us where and where not to go, and at the end, one final warning. “Do not approach our celebrity CEO.”
We had all heard stories of people taking an elevator ride with Steve and being fired before they reached their floor. I have a strict policy towards celebrities, treat them like anyone else. If Steve and I crossed paths I was planning to smile and keep on walking. I was certainly not going to get into any elevators with him.
As the days rolled on, each of us spent as much free time as we could touring the Apple Campus. We walked the paths between buildings, explored the corridors where our badges let us go, and ate at Caffe Macs every day for lunch. We rarely met anyone we recognized, and our group of eight was the only people we knew.
Then one day at Caffe Macs the inevitable happened, Steve Jobs showed up at lunch. He sat down at one of the outside tables. Chatted with some senior Apple people, and looked completely at ease in his natural environment. While I gathered my lunch I kept a watchful eye in his direction. Making sure our paths did not cross. As I got into line to pay for my meal, I thought I was in the clear, but there he was standing one person behind me. I was lucky. With my transaction over I was free to walk away. David, the middle man, was not so lucky. Flustered by the surprise of finding Steve Jobs standing over his shoulder he panicked, and walked out of line. I can’t say I would have done any differently had I been in his shoes.
During the course of my life I only saw Steve speak a couple of times, and that near miss in Caffe Macs is the closest I ever got to meeting him. Now, one year after his death, I carry but a single regret. I never found a way to say thank you that would not inconvenience the man who did so much to change my life. Steve Jobs taught me the value of never settling for less than perfect. A goal I still strive for today.
I miss you Steve.