It’s just before 11pm on Wednesday night outside the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, about three hours after Apple has announced that Steve Jobs has died.
There are roughly 60 to 70 people milling around. Almost all of them appear to be under the age of 25.
They’re on the sidewalk in front of a tall, gray wooden construction site wall. It surrounds a big gray box that’s taking the place of Apple’s famous glass cube, usually the entrance to the store that lies below street level. The glass cube was removed this summer when the construction project began. On the stand-in cube, there’s a monochrome Apple logo and, in two shades of gray, “Apple Store, Fifth Avenue. Still open 24 hours.”
On the north wall facing 59th Street, someone has used black spray paint to write “iLove Steve.” The small letter “i” an obvious tribute to Apple’s line of wildly popular iSomethings: iPhones, iPads, iPods … all created by Steve Jobs.
Around the corner of the wall, on the side facing the Plaza Hotel, a candles and a few bunches of flowers rest on the stone steps that would usually bring visitors to the big glass cube. The flowers are still inside their plastic wrappers. They look like they’ve just been bought at one of Manhattan’s many small delis that sell inexpensive flowers 24 hours a day.
About 20 people stand in semi-circle immediately in front of the flowers. The exact number rises and falls every few minutes. All of them are taking pictures of the flowers. Many are using an iPhone, holding the slim, dark rectangles sideways in front of them so they can see the image on their screens as they press the shutter button.
A handful of photographers, appearing to be professionals, with multiple SLR cameras and big lenses, watch the people taking pictures.
A woman pushing a wheelchair carrying an older man slows down but doesn’t stop. She looks over at the people taking pictures and says, “Oh, its flowers. I think someone died.”
Another young woman comes by and asks someone with an ID badge hanging around his neck what’s happening. He tells her, “Steve Jobs has died. These people are paying their respects.”
Several feet away, a man wearing a grey hooded sweatshirt and jeans sits on the steps, looking intently at his Apple laptop. He seems oblivious to what’s going on around him.
Others stand about or sit alone on a low stone wall. Most gaze down into their glowing mobile devices.
On the sidewalk, small groups of people stand in groups, quietly talking. The word “visionary” can be heard. There are no tears. There is no music or singing.
A sidewalk cleaner is doing his rounds. He cautiously approaches the flowers, sees the people taking photos of them, and moves away to clean somewhere else.
A group of about five young people approach carrying very large flowers. They’re intercepted by a local TV news reporter who asks if they wouldn’t mind standing behind him holding the flowers while he does his live shot for the 11 o’clock news. They don’t mind.
Before he goes on the air, the reporter talks with someone back at the station: “This turned out not to be as good as we thought.”
A brightly lit pretzel stand sits on the sidewalk by the TV truck. It’s doing a fairly brisk business.
Another TV truck from a national cable network brings down its transmission mast as a technician unplugs the camera, preparing to drive away.