I’ve done something that I’ve never done before.
No, not skydiving.
No, not bungee jumping.
No, not running with the bulls.
The launch date for the iPhone 5 at your local Apple store was much of a stampede!!!
Flaming Bag of Poo braved the masses, and got in line super early on the very first day that the new iPhone 5 was released.
It’s not for first-user bragging rights.
I’ve resisted the brainwashing from Apple for years, but my HTC Droid Eris smartphone has been close to brain dead for months now.
Both the “2” and “3” keys stopped working, so I could only dial new numbers through Google’s browser. And several times per day, when the phone would freeze up, I had to remove the battery to reset.
I circled the probable mid-September release date in my calendar as though it were my senior prom. But being an Apple newbie, I wasn’t experienced enough to know that I would need a mobile app in hopes of increasing my chances in the pre-order process before the first batch sold out. Several people in line reported three–week delayed pre-order delivery times, but they didn’t want to wait that long. Those were perhaps the only negative Apple comments anyone dared to express in line.
I couldn’t take my malfunctioning Droid any longer. And I wasn’t taking any chances on an iPhone 5 sell-out. If I had to, I would sleep outside the night before.
Here is a secret tip for the iPhone 6 release date: avoid non-private property like the streets of New York City and San Francisco where wealthy individuals hire the unemployed and bloggers to camp out in line days in advance for them. Instead, choose indoor/outdoor shopping malls where Mall Cops will prevent customers from sleeping overnight in line. Other local shopping malls would allow customers to begin getting in line at 4:00am or 5:00am.
So, I scouted my local Apple store options. In Glendale, the Apple Store at the Americana at Brand would allow customers to camp out starting at 11:00pm the night before. My familiar Apple Store at The Grove would permit customers to start getting in line at 4:00am; parking at the Grove can be awfully expensive for possibly 8 hours. That’s the problem with many shopping malls that utilize parking garages.
I came to the conclusion that the Apple Store Manhattan Village would be my best option. Like Mark Wahlberg’s heist in “The Italian Job”, I sized up my target.
At 11:00pm the night before, I drove past the mall and spoke to the Mall Cops preventing any overnight parking on their lots; eager customers would not be permitted to line up behind the metal fencing outside the mall any earlier than 6:00am. Manhattan Village could work heavily in my favor, since I live only 5-10 minutes away.
I went home and fell asleep watching ESPN Sportscenter with my alarm clock set for 5:00am.
5:00am – My alarm goes off. I hit the snooze button. In my daze, I rationalize that nobody can get into the mall parking lot yet.
5:30am – I roll out of bed. I figure that I’ll get there “early” and bend the rules a little.
5:45am – The parking lot is already half-full. Apparently, Apple loyalists are bigger rule-benders than me. The customer waiting already winds around the northwest corner of the mall–just past the Macy’s entrance on the north side of the mall.
I’ve never waited in any line this long for anything before. Not for concert tickets. Not for the DMV. Not even for the men’s bathroom at Dodger Stadium.
6:00am – An Apple employee organizing the line says that he arrived before 4:00am to find dozens of customers already in line illegally. But apparently, the Manhattan Beach Police dispersed the line around 4:30am by threatening to issue citations since this was considered private property. One veteran Apple loyalist behind me tells us that we’re lucky.
This Veteran Apple Loyalist had been at this same store for iPhone 3 and iPhone 4S, and claims this same line was twice as long two hours earlier during those release dates, and he didn’t leave with an activated iPhone until 6:00pm and 1:00pm respectively. He’s already predicting we’ll be out by 11:00am because Apple should be more efficient about phone activations.
My orderly line neighbors spent much of the next hour enthusiastically bonding over insight on previous release dates, the maddening pre-order process, and the fallacy of Verizon’s “unlimited” data plans. Typical Apple Loyalist chatter. These people are way too giddy this early in the morning. I pretend to sleep in my folding chair. I feel inferior because this will be my first iPhone.
Apple crowds are notoriously happy crowds. If the SoHo Apple Store served alcohol, it would be my favorite singles bar in New York City. Beautiful demographic, cool tunes, close to public transportation.
Better yet, I wish there were a special express line for people switching from an Android phone to an iPhone. There could be a special line that gives Droid users a front-of-the-line pass toward the front where we are greeted with champagne, Victoria Secret models, and unlimited bacon.
6:45am – The line inches up about 20 feet, so I must hastily move my folding chair. I’m wide awake now from my pretend sleep, so I decide to check my email and start this blog post. I must look like a foreigner with my ASUS laptop and Droid HTC Eris phone. People around me must quietly feel sorry for me.
A steady stream of Apple employees walk the line to pump everyone up. The employees all look happy, despite probably working throughout the night. Apple must pipe special happy gas through its air conditioning system. Perhaps that’s why Apple Loyalists are so happy to plop down thousands of dollars in equipment every visit!
Periodically, announcements are made to the Apple Loyalists in line: they don’t have in stock the 16GB black on Sprint. Ran out of stock in the 64GB black on AT&T.
There’s an orderly resignation as Apple Loyalists exit the line to find another store. In my ignorance about Apple, I don’t care about the announcements. I continue to read my two Los Angeles Times newspapers—reinforcing everyone’s impression that I’m not living in modern times. Like I’m an Amish man with newspapers who will get newsprint ink on their white iPhones.
7:05am – Surrounded by security guards as though it were the Pope-mobile, a cart reaches us in line to distribute tickets for our chosen color, size, and carrier.
I try to pick up the shorthand to everyone’s ordering so I don’t look dumb. Mission failure. I ask too many questions since I planned to purchase the phone with an old Apple credit (from returning a gift iPad…a toy that I didn’t have time to learn). I tell the cart-people that I want to buy the phone full price instead of the Verizon price. Later, I discover that I had the wrong idea about what the term ‘full price” actually means.
I get a ticket for a 16GB black Verizon phone. I feel like Charlie when he finds the Willy Wonka ticket in the chocolate bar.
8:18am – Once the store opens at 8:00am, the line moves steadily enough. I’m now sitting at the northwest corner of the mall. The Apple Loyalists are optimistic that the store won’t run out of phones before we get there. The African American woman behind me has not stopped speaking to her brother for the past hour; even when he talks, he has to talk over her. My ears are bleeding. I hope the blood won’t later stain my polished white iPhone headphones.
A new Apple cart offering coffee and water makes its way to us.
After earlier pretending to be asleep, I haven’t established enough of a buddy system with my Apple Loyalist neighbors, so I can’t trust that they will hold my place in line for a bathroom run. So I decline the bottled water. Damn my weak bladder! For the iPhone 6 release date, I may come back just to be like a seat filler at the Oscars so iPhone virgins like me can use the restrooms inside the mall. I owe them my wisdom.
8:44am – A different African American man walks past us trying to sell his ticket for a 32GB White. When he’s out of earshot, the African American woman behind me remarks, “I know this sounds racist, but his kind doesn’t look like he’s willing to give someone his ticket out of the goodness of his heart. He’s trying to make some money.”
8:51am – We are now already past the west entrance to Macy’s. This is good. The line is moving so fast that I’m the customer causing the delays once the line suddenly shifts. My laptop, my newspapers, my folding chair.
9:55am – Now at the front entrance to the mall, it almost seems real now. I can smell my new 16GB black iPhone 5. It’s like standing in a welfare line where the bread and cheese cost $199.
Earlier in the week, I made a reconnaissance mission in order to ask all the right questions ahead of time that a newbie might ask to prolong the transaction. Asking the difference between 16GB and 32GB for someone like me who doesn’t play games or watch movies. Figuring out which accessories that I’ll need to get. I did not arrive this morning to be a shopper. Nope, I’m a buyer.
10:00am – I am escorted inside by Kamuela, a very chill Apple employee. I tell him that this is my first iPhone ever. He asks me if I’m excited. I don’t do excited. But I am in a non-“Price Is Right” level of excitement.
10:35am – My iPhone is activated and ready to go!!!
An Apple Loyalist could have left the building by now. I remain longer in order to ask Kamuela to walk me through some setting and fun apps. It’ll take me longer still to sync my 600+ plus contacts off my old Droid, but I’m so satisfied by now that I don’t mind waiting. Kamuela hooks up my Droid and iPhone to a credit card-looking gadget to sync my contacts. Again, the Apple employees are crazy busy, but several passed by me and offered me friendly assistance.
As I walk out, I want to ask Siri for directions to the closest bathroom inside the mall. But I already know thanks to my re-con trip.
I don’t expect to upgrade to the iPhone 6 when it is released, so I don’t mind sharing my secret tips with you.
Of course, by next week, I could be so completely brainwashed by my iPhone 5 that I’ll feel compelled to purchase the iPhone 6 the moment it hits stores.
I understand the power of Apple. I am now one of you. Secret handshake and all.