His room looked exactly as I expected — white walls and simple furniture, clean lines, neat, bright and airy. Like Scandinavia, but smaller.
Why he asked for me, I had no idea. I was just a skullhead. A man whose face unexpectedly fell off at a wedding, making me a freak of nature and sought-after motivational speaker, although I had plenty of money and rarely felt motivated to do more than watch The Price Is Right.
But there I was, standing beside Steve Jobs’ hospital bed, fighting an urge to chew my fingernails or pick at the lint on my suit coat.
He was asleep, breathing shallowly. Face pale and drawn, a white iPhone 5 clutched in one hand. Was it set to Do Not Disturb, I wondered? Can a powerful man like Steve Jobs refuse to take calls, or is he obligated to serve the audience he’s created, even on his deathbed? Fame has its benefits, but I was starting to learn that it can also come at a great price. Everybody wants a little piece of you, and once they take it, there’s nothing left.
He stirred, opened his eyes, and screamed, his face contorted with terror, his arms flailing wildly in front of his face.
An assistant leapt to his feet and put a hand on Steve’s shoulder. Gently pushed him back into the bed.
“It’s just him, Steve. Skullhead,” he explained.
“Oh for fuck’s sake! I thought I’d died and gone to hell,” Jobs said. “And I don’t even believe in hell. Although, if there is a hell, I guarantee you they use Microsoft Vista or Windows 8, and listen to their music on Zunes. I don’t know what Bill is doing over there, but it’s got nothing to do with good design.”
We all laughed at that, and I apologized for scaring him. Shook his hand.
“No worries, Mike. I should’ve expected you,” he said.
“Why did you want to talk to me?” I asked.
“I didn’t have an agenda, Mike. But it occurred to me that we have something in common, although for very different reasons. I’m famous, you’re famous. I thought it might be nice to talk, see if we connect, or can learn something from one another.”
“I don’t think I’ve got any ideas to offer you, sir,” I said.
“You’d be surprised. Remember the iPod Classic? The one that looked like a Blackberry with a rotary dial on its face?”
“Sure I do.”
“My housekeeper’s idea. She was sick of lugging her portable radio from room to room. Threatened to quit if I didn’t invent something smaller, and I sure as shit wasn’t cleaning toilets myself.”
“I had no idea.”
“Most people don’t. Ideas can come from anywhere. Tell me, what do you think about the iPhone, the iPad and the iPod?”
“No, what don’t you like about them? How can they be improved?”
I cleared my throat. Who was I to give Steve Jobs advice? But he looked insistent.
“I wish you had a high-capacity iPod. Sixty-four gig is a lot, but my music collection tops 165 gig. Why should I have to shuffle songs on and off it all the time? Hate that the iPad won’t play flash video. I don’t like the new interface for iTunes, either. Too complicated. And the glass face on the iPhone?”
“Yes?” he said.
“It works great. But it’s fragile. I’m afraid to drop it. They’re ridiculously expensive. I can’t just buy a new one whenever I feel like it. I’m not rich. I’m not…well, I’m not you.”
Steve turned to his assistant. “Are you getting this down? This is fucking brilliant. From the mouths of skullheads…”
“Yes sir. Using voice-to-text,” the assistant said, waving an iPhone in the air.
“Yeah, that could use a little improvement, too,” I said. “At least half of what I say looks like drunk texting. And Siri’s gotta be deaf. She never gets it right.”
Steve nodded sympathetically, and then motioned to me.
“I’ve got a tip for you, too,” he said, whispering.
I leaned in, and turned my ear toward his mouth.
“Don’t rush out to get the iPhone 8 when it goes on sale. Wait for the 9. It’s going to knock your shorts off.”
“The 9? But you just released the 5. You’ve already got the 9 ready?”
“Sure. I designed all the way through the iPhone 23. They’re all locked in a vault in my basement waiting to be released. Wish I could tell you more, but marketing won’t let me. You know how marketing people are.”
He seemed tired then. Closed his eyes. His breathing got shallow, and then stopped.
“Is that all?” I shouted, shaking the rail of his bed. “You call me out here to tell me to wait for iPhone 9 and then die?! The greatest designer on earth, and that’s all!?”
Steve opened his eyes.
“Oh, sorry. Didn’t mean to panic you. I’m not gone yet, Mike. Whenever my pain gets bad, I take a break to think about Jennifer Laurence in Silver Linings Playbook. Great performance. Edgy, sexy. She’s hot. Helps me through it.”
We laughed, and then talked for a few more hours about this and that, like old friends. Before I left, Steve decided to ignore his marketing department and show me the prototype of his most-advanced iPhones, iPads and iPods.
They don’t have cases. They don’t exist at all, not in the normal sense. They appear in the air when you snap your fingers, and float there like magic until you’re done.
I can’t wait to get one.
Welcome to the 28th and final day of Nicky and Mike’s writing competition. It’s been fun. Well, not fun, but tedious. Just kidding. I love Nicky and Mike. Or Nicky’s shoes, anyway. If you’d like to see today’s other entries, visit Nicky and Mike at We Work For Cheese.