Steve Jobs and the licence plate mystery

Every once in a while, a mystery comes along that seems bizarre but is just too powerful to resist. The twin mysteries of Steve Jobs and his car are just such a case. According to dozens of reports from Apple insiders over the years — reports that have surfaced in various ways on the Internet, and turned up again recently — the mercurial Apple co-founder and design visionary has a passion about two things when it comes to his car: Number one is driving without licence plates, and the other is parking in handicapped parking spots. Why does he do this? You might as well ask why there is gravity, or why the moon revolves around the sun.

According to some reports, Jobs routinely gets his licence plates stolen, and so he either a) has special dispensation from the California authorities to drive without plates; b) drives with a licence plate either on his dashboard or in his glove compartment, or c) doesn’t worry about the whole licence plate thing and just pays the tickets when they come along. According to some, the California government doesn’t go around handing out special permits, so it has to be either b) or c). There were reports that he had a special bar-code licence plate, but these have also been debunked.

And what about the handicapped thing? That is an even deeper mystery, but according to Apple sources it has become so routine that if there’s a silver Mercedes coupe in a handicapped spot, it’s just assumed that Jobs is around. There’s also a great story about former Apple exec Jean-Louis Gassee, who saw Jobs pull into a handicapped spot in his usual fashion and said “Oh, I didn’t realize those spaces were for the emotionally handicapped.” (Gasse now says that he said “morally handicapped”).


A friend who used to work at Apple says he can confirm that Jobs does drive without plates — he says the understanding was that Steve just handed the tickets to his assistant and had them taken care of as an expense — and also that he routinely parked in the handicapped spot. Why? “Because he’s Steve Jobs.” At one point, an employee at Apple who didn’t like this behaviour made up a sign that covered up the “handicapped” symbol and said “Park Different,” but it quickly disappeared.

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