Why Steve Jobs always ate lunch alone

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Every kid who has ever gone to high school knows the social anxiety that deciding where to sit in the school lunchroom can cause. Do you sit with the jocks? The preps? The dweebs? Or will no one let you sit at their table at all, forcing you to do the worst thing possible: Sit all by yourself, alone?

Most of us leave this problem behind us in high school, but not Steve Jobs. During his lifetime, Jobs was a visionary, a guru, a genius and a mentor to thousands of Apple employees. But in the Apple cafeteria, he was the guy that no one wanted to sit with. But it wasn’t because people thought he was a loser: They just didn’t want to get fired.

Speaking to Business Insider, David Black — a former senior consulting engineer in Java and WebObjects who worked for Apple for nearly 12 years — says that in the Apple Cafeteria, lunch was pretty much over within 15 or 20 minutes of Jobs entering the room.

“No one would fill the seats near him,” Black said. “Just because you wanted to be ready for that moment.”

It turns out that Jobs actually wasn’t that much of a lunchroom tyrant, but he did have a dark sense of humor, and often asked employees what they were working on. Sometimes, that would just stress people out, afraid that they would end up with a bull’s-eye on their chest if they answered the question wrong.

But sometimes, Jobs would actually screw with people’s minds:

In a separate instance, Jobs asked an intern what he had been working on while in the elevator. He mentioned that he was doing QA (quality assurance) for a product. Jobs then asked him, “Why are you going down? You should be going back up to work.”

“The kid completely went pale-faced,” Black said. “And Steve said ‘Hey, just kidding.’”

This does not appear to be a problem that Jobs’ successor, Tim Cook, has. In fact, individuals regularly pay upwards of $600,000 to have lunch with Cook.

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About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his girlfriend and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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