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).
12:10 a.m. Drivers continue to be confused by the line -- a BMW just drove past, the owner holding what looked like a BlackBerry out of the window, shouting, "I've already got one, suckers!" Who would have thought that a simple line would cause such a row? Looks like a dance party is breaking out. Someone's carrying a portal iPod speaker device showering the crowd with Kanye West.
Robin Williams just came out of the Apple Store with an Apple Bag slung over his shoulder and two attractive women at his side. I doubt that even his star power could have finagled an iPhone early. Apple Store employees just brought everyone free Smart Water -- we'd rather get free iPods.
Drunken hecklers have been passing by from time to time, attempting to make us feel like hopeless gadget-crazy nerds. We find strength in numbers and take solace in knowing that tomorrow, only we, the chosen few, will be able to truly say, "I have an iPhone." Looks like another TV crew is rolling by. More interviews, more photographs. more note taking. I wonder if I'll get any sleep.
The sky is beginning to show some life, and activity around the cube is increasing. Sets for CBS' "This Morning" are being assembled, and the Apple Store crew is hard at work cleaning and prepping for the big day. No iPhone display setups as yet. I should note that despite a night of heavy use, the bathrooms in the store continue to be quite pleasant (though paper towels are scarce). Most people are sleeping, huddled under umbrellas as a gentle rain falls. Pablo, 28, from Brooklyn and I bond over the cult of Mac, deciding that many of the line-sitters around us are posers, people who only care about making money off of the iPhone and don't realize the true power of such a device. Greg Packer (in first position in the line) is busy checking e-mail down in the Apple store. He seems to spend little time actually sitting in his seat, choosing instead to leverage his celebrity for line autonomy.
After three unsuccessful Starbucks attempts, a few of us succeeded in finding one that actually opens at 5:30 in the morning. We secured the necessary fuel to sustain our moods through the morning. Ali Velshi from CNN just stopped by to talk, looking dapper and refreshed, unlike many of my fellow fanatics. The media frenzy is a little over the top, and I expect it will only get worse as the day progresses.
Seemore the Safety Seal came by to say hello -- not really sure why he's here, but he's handing out hats and we're all suckers for free stuff. The line now extends all the way down the block, likely totaling around 180 people. The new estimate that we are hearing is that there are only 300 iPhones available, but it's really just speculation. Friends have also confirmed that AT&T's Edge network -- the data network that the iPhone will be using -- has seen a fairly significant speed increase in the last 24 hours. This is welcome news, since one of the biggest complaints early users have had is network sluggishness.