Today was my first time ever lining up for the iPhone, as I had courageously decided to brave the bitter morning cold for the sake of reviewing tech. As the big day grew nearer I found myself in a sea of questions: What time should I get there? Where should I line up? Should I go to the Apple Store or elsewhere?
I realised that many other people may be asking themselves the same questions.
Many more would likely be asking the better question: “Why on Earth would you line up hours in advance for an iPhone?”
To better enlighten our readers on this subject I decided to keep a short journal of my time in The Line and the various psychological stages I would subsequently undergo. The following is the transcribed and somewhat paraphrased (for the sake of decency) scribblings taken from my journal on the morning of the 21st of September 2012.
Unfortunately for this story, but fortunately for me, I ended up planning things out pretty well. I only spent a little over 3 hours getting the iPhone 5 but, seeing as I already had all of these lovely notes, I thought there’s no real harm in telling my short tale anyway.
To set the scene I went for a newer Apple store in my home suburb. I decided on this for two reasons:
- It’s decently far out from the city centre and therefore less likely to have soul-destroying lines
- My parents still live there so I could stay in their spare room and not suffer through the pains of early morning public transport.
5:30am Wake up in the spare room of my parents’ house. It is dark outside and I am cold. I question my resolution, myself and my place in the universe. The bed looks enticingly warm.
5:45am Get on the bus. Apparently buses out in the suburbs don’t have ticket machines. In a tired haze I fumble for some money before the bus driver takes my 10-use ticket and colours in a square on the front. This is the first time that I have ever noticed the 10 numbered boxes on the front of Sydney bus tickets. Somewhat embarrassed, I take my seat.
5:50am I begin to wake up a little and start feeling OK. The other people on the bus do not seem to share my newfound energy. I do not blame them.
6am I exit the bus and watch the sun rise over my old stomping ground. I can’t remember the last time I was here at this hour.
6:02am I am happy to find the shopping centre open and that I will be queuing indoors.
6:03am I join The Line and take my place amongst other iPhone 5 hopefuls. The general mood seems to be sedate, but not disgruntled. The Line doesn’t seem too long.
6:11am The Line has not grown considerably. I begin to question my early arrival. The guy standing in front of me has been talking to two Apple employees for a couple of minutes. After a short time they leave and so does he, in opposite directions. I am puzzled but choose not to question moving up one place in The Line. He was weak and I am better for it. I sit down on the ground and start to read my book.
6:13am Why is everyone standing? Not a single person within 5 metres of me has chosen to sit down. Where do they think The Line is going to go?
6:15am We are being moved backwards to clear space for customer traffic.
6:20am We are being moved again, back to our original location but in smaller numbers.
6:22am How is this line still moving forwards? Where is everyone going?
6:23am And again
6:26am Still moving forward steadily in tiny increments. It has become apparent that people are just bunching up. Still, I don’t wish to leave a large gap in front of me, so I comply with the wishes of The Line.
6:33am I have a conversation with a friendly security guard. He is amazed that I have been in line since 6am. I get the feeling he hasn’t spoken to the people down front. The Line has bunched up enough for me to enter the roped-off section. A feeling of undeserved accomplishment washes over me.
6:34am A bearded Apple employee is travelling down The Line asking and answering questions. He looks tired, but is still well on top of his game. I don’t hear him fail to answer a single question.
6:35am The nameless, bearded man informs us that at 7am we will be receiving snacks and coffee. Things are shaping up. We are also informed that we will require photo ID to receive a Nano SIM. The bearded man tells us that the people just a few metres ahead got here at midnight. I feel as if this is a scheduling win for me.
6:40am Fish vendors and butchers are preparing their shops for the day. Their laughter fills the otherwise quiet halls. The Line is twice as long now as when I arrived, not accounting for the fact that it has bunched up considerably in that time. I definitely made the right choice arriving when I did.
6:44am The Apple folk are handing out cards depending on what colour and storage-size models we want. The efficiency of this system is impressive.
6:50am The Line has stopped shuffling inexorably forwards. I begin reading again, but have insufficient room to sit. My mood is affected disproportionately to how little an inconvenience this is.
7:04am Apple employees are walking around making idle chit-chat with the members of The Line. This is actually a pleasant diversion. The mood of The Line seems generally happy. A smiling young Apple employee tells us that the first guy got here as she was leaving last night. We are then informed that coffee is coming soon. I am happy.
7:12am Still no coffee. The blinds covering the store are being removed to reveal a group of Apple employees dashing about madly while the others wordlessly play with demo models of the iPhone 5. I spot the guy who bailed from in front of me, he is inside and wearing an Apple Genius shirt. I am not sure whether to pity or envy his escape from The Line in to what is sure to be a taxing day of customer service.
7:19am Mini muffins arrive; blueberry and banana. I correctly choose the banana option. Still no coffee.
7:22am An Apple employee brings me coffee. He is my new favourite person.
7:32am My regular morning alarm goes off and interrupts my reading, reminding me of my current situation. My coffee is empty.
7:39am The regular daytime lighting of the shopping centre turns on and I am granted another mini muffin. Not long now.
7:47am The Apple employees are inside laughing and cheering loudly. This is reminiscent of how many actors warm up before a play. I wonder if people unfamiliar with the technique find it disturbing. Probably.
7:57am The doors have opened. It begins. I am given a hot chocolate.
8:10am After over 2 hours in The Line I am informed that this is where I should start queuing. I am not sure if this is a good or bad omen.
8:20am I realise that there is a corner to The Line and that I am still, despite my proximity, about 30 minutes away from entering the store. I curse the name of Apple.
8:59am I reach the front of The Line and talk to a smiley-faced employee. She asks my name and jokes that I have not been waiting in line very long. I choose to not remind her that I have been waiting in line 3 hours for a phone. Smiley-face introduces me to another employee. He takes me inside and sells me a phone.
Time unspecified: My salesperson seems new to this. He is unfamiliar with many aspects of the point of sale, but very familiar with the product. He is still competent despite his lack of experience. I decide to forgive him.
9:13am I am free with an iPhone 5 in-hand. Time to start work for the day. I head to the station and catch a train in to the city and stuff the new silicon avatar in to my backpack with the full knowledge that I will not get to keep it. Why did I do this again?
If you’re after a moral to this story there’s really only one I can think of: anyone planning to line up for an iPhone should do it outside of a major metropolitan area. A 40 minute train ride can save you literally hours of time in The Line.