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Saturday, November 10, 2012, 04:11 pm PT (07:11 pm ET)

Steve Jobs described as 'real person' in recount of chance meeting

A query posed on popular question-and-answer website Quora revealed an interesting tale of one man's brush with the late Steve Jobs, offering a rare glimpse into the secretive tech mogul's routine private life.

Steve Jobs


First spotted by Business Insider, the story comes from Tim Smith, Principal at Applied Design Group, who responded to the active Quora question: "What are the best stories about people randomly meeting Steve Jobs?"

Smith wrote that he would pass by Jobs' house in Palo Alto when visiting his girlfriend, whose father lived nearby, and would from time to time see the tech mogul working late into the night on his Mac.

One afternoon, his old Sunbeam Alpine, a British sports car not known for its reliability, broke down directly across from Jobs' driveway.

"Their cars weren’t there, which was a relief to me, because I was sure they would consider me some weird stalker," Smith wrote. "So I got out, popped the hood and tried to quick-fix the electrical to at least move further away – and call AAA."

The problem turned out to be more complicated than a quick fix, and while Smith was tinkering with the electrical system, the Jobs family pulled up into the drive. Trying his best to go unnoticed, difficult since the Sunbeam was the only car on the street, Smith decided to pack it in and call AAA from his girlfriend's home.

As he started toward the house, he heard, “British or Italian?” It was Laurene Powell Jobs, Steve Jobs' wife.

“British,” Smith replied, “and acting like it.”

Powell Jobs asked if Smith wanted a beer, which he tried to decline, but was brought one anyway. She then called a family friend, who happened to know about Sunbeams, to come over and see if they could help.

Laurene Powell Jobs

Laurene Powell Jobs attending the 2012 State of the Union address as an honored guest. | Source: WhiteHouse.gov


"By this point I am fully resigned to whatever story is going to play out," Smith said. "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 friend turned up wearing tuxedo with wife in tow, who was likewise "dressed to the nines." At this point Jobs himself came out to lend a hand and tried to crank the car as his friend worked under the hood. The Sunbeam was dead.

Declaring it a "piece of [expletive]" or some variation on the phrase, Jobs returned to his house. Smith was invited in to call AAA by Powell Jobs, so he followed her, "stepping over the dirty laundry you find in everyone's real house."

Steve Jobs tribute outside home

Flowers and Apples left outside Steve Jobs' home in Palo Alto after his death. Credit: Peter DaSilva/The New York Times


"You don’t often get close to people like the Jobs, much less in a ridiculous situation like this, where you realize that they are just really good people," he wrote. "They’re normal, funny, charitable, real people."

A week later, Smith returned the favor by dropping off a six-pack of beer, leaving it at the Jobs' door.

He said meeting Jobs and his family in that odd situation was one of his fondest memories.

"I saw [Jobs] in his most personal element – family and friends – around a broken down car in Palo Alto one night, just by chance. I was lucky – and I was delighted," Smith wrote.