Waiting for the iPhone, in the middle of the night

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Last night, after dinner and a few post-work cocktails, my twin brother, our friend Dan and I had the bright idea to head to the Apple store in New York’s Soho neighbourhood to mess with the people who planned to make Prince Street their home for a night.

And we decided to grab the camcorder for good measure. We wanted to capture the most hyped event since “Snakes on a Plane” hit movie theaters last summer: the wait for the iPhone. (Incidentally, SC’s Jim Carr wrote a story a few days back exploring the possible security ramifications of Apple’s newest product).

Our 2 a.m. arrival was stalled by the half-hour wait to charge the camcorder back at my brother’s apartment (as you see, we really weren’t prepared), then we hopped in a cab and headed south.

I’m the reporter of the group so I did the interviewing. The line was about 50 people long, most people sitting down, some tents set up, some people on their laptops, others cuddling, some scarfing down pizza, a few sleeping, all wishing time flew.

The first glance told us that this wasn’t exactly the energetic group we expected. Everyone looked kinda sullen, but then again, I have no previous wait-in-line-all-night-for-something event to compare it to.

We decided to start with the people at the very back, and once the light was on, everyone loosened up. After all, everyone wants to be famous for a minute, even if the plan was to just place this video on YouTube.

One guy - he said his name was Core (or least it was pronounced like that) - was gracious enough to invite us into his “home” for the night. He gave us the whole tour, which consisted of showing how, when he finally decied to lie down, he was going to squeeze his body into a small corner while avoiding the fire hose connection pump.

We moved on to a woman who told me her occupation was dumpster diving. For identity theft, I asked, thinking maybe I had a scoop for this morning’s website. No, she told me, for food.

Moving on…

More homeless people. It didn’t take me long to figure out that a good number of people on this line weren’t looking to be among the first to buy the sleek, feature-filled new US$500 phone. They planned to sell their spots in the queue. (I heard the going rate was a couple of hundred bucks).

Then we chatted with a group of young guys - I’d guess late teens - who were on their laptops searching YouTube for video in which they were interviewed earlier. (I guess our idea wasn’t so original). Surely this young, seemingly tech-savvy crew was waiting in line for their chance to buy the new gadget.

“We haven’t decided yet,” they told us. “We may end up selling our places in line if the price is right.”

They also told me that all the big NYC dailies and news stations had already done their rounds, and they expected them to be back today. Everyone’s getting their 15 minutes.

Our visit would not have been complete without saying hello to the brave souls at the front of the line. Turns out, they were part of nonprofit international aid organisation for children. Members planned to buy as many iPhones as they could get, auction them off on eBay for a bigger price and donate funds to the relief group.

Great cause, but I got to thinking, doesn’t anyone want to actually buy the phone for themselves, to use all those chic features we’ve been hearing so much about?

Then I remembered Core. He’s buying one for himself. The first thing he’s doing, he said, is downloading the Wu-Tang Clan album to the phone’s iTunes feature.

Oh, as for our YouTube video, about halfway through, the camcorder’s battery died. It probably will never get up on the internet.

But I’ll always have the memories of another “Only in New York” type experience.
Dan Kaplan
Read more from this blog: The SC Magazine News Team Blog

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