Here in front of New York's flagship Apple store on Fifth Avenue, where the excitement over the iPhone is palpable (or nauseating, depending on who you are), hype meets hysteria. I've been standing in line since Thursday afternoon -- number 51 in the queue -- ready and eager to claim my "Jesus Phone" when the gadget officially goes on sale at 6 p.m. today.
I'm surrounded by a diverse group of people. Geeks, freaks and contrary to popular opinion, even some chics.
Thirteen-year-old Heinz from Union City, N.J., has been on lines like this three times in his life, once for the Xbox360, once for the PS3, and now the iPhone. His dad's footing the bill, and he seems as excited as I am. One of his brothers is waiting with him and plans on selling his spot to the highest bidder in the morning. Word around the "campsite" is that prices for spots are going from $150 to $400, though I have yet to see a transaction completed.
Janie, 47, from Queens, lined up behind me and didn't bring a chair, but she wasn't alone. Several other line-sitters neglected to consider their seating options, but problem-solving skills became evident when they discovered tightly wrapped piles of cardboard set on the sidewalk at a nearby restaurant, converting them into suitable seating. For the most part, people are being kind to each other, sharing drinks, newspapers, holding places while others use the facilities in the Apple Store.
David, second in line, has taken the initiative of developing a list of people so that the line doesn't grow exponentially tomorrow when the true rush begins. The media coverage has been beyond intense. At least 15 camera crews -- from as far as Germany, Japan, Sweden and South Korea -- are here, and I've witnessed nearly 30 interviews.
Cars continue to pass by on 58th Street, slowing and staring, trying to figure out what the fuss is all about. Some drivers shake their heads in disbelief. Several people have come by and shouted "It's just a phone!" in confused exasperation. We remain unfazed and resolute.
Mike, No. 46 in line, has grown tired of people asking, "What's this for?" and has started to come up with creative responses like "A get rich quick seminar!" "The New Harry Potter Doll!" or "Hot Dogs!" Daniel, No. 8 in line, runs a blog and has been cruising the line, telling everyone that he's arranged for various sponsors to bring us goodies in the morning -- wireless Bluetooth picture frames and "iPhone starter kits" were mentioned as possibilities. I'll believe it when I see it.
Discussion topics seem to center around how many iPhones will be available. At an apparent two-phone-per-person limit, we're hoping that they have at least 200 phones waiting for us. A few people have tents set up, though I seriously doubt if any of them will actually get any sleep. Footballs are being thrown, foot races are being run for "valuable" giveaways, and parents and friends are driving by to drop off bags filled with nutritious McDonald's delights (my friends are lame, so I survive on pretzels from the corner vendor who must be making a fortune).