The air was just a little chilly, and the sun had yet to peek over the horizon when I pulled into the parking lot of the Arden Fair mall at 6 a.m. on Friday.
The reason? The new iPhone 5 was set to go on sale later that morning. That, in turn, meant that people were already queuing up outside of the Apple Store on the mall’s second floor, ready to jump at the chance to be one of the first to hold the tech company’s sixth-generation mobile phone.
People often ask why I line-sit. It isn’t because of some desperate need to have the new product on the first day it comes out—it’s because of the people I meet while standing in line. Chances are that everyone else in that line is a lot like me. We share a bond over our love of all things Apple. There is a type of community that exists among early adopters that make sitting in line for hours worth the effort.
On this day, the line began at the entrance of the Apple Store, wrapped around past Macy’s and all the way to Gap Kids on the other side. The wait started early with a group of dedicated fans that camped out in their cars at midnight before being let into the mall at 4 a.m.
David, the first person in line, waited patiently to be let inside the store. Now, with less than two hours to go, he seemed neither tired nor restless. He’d arrived early, he explained, to make sure he had a chance to buy the new device.
“This is the first time I’ve stood in line for a phone,” he said. “I didn’t know it was such a big deal.”
Elsewhere down the line, I spotted someone checking email on a MacBook Pro while another line-sitter chatted with a friend via FaceTime on his iPad.
The whole event had a bit of a party atmosphere with Apple employees handing out bottled water and snacks to their would-be customers. (Ultimately, nearly 100 Apple employees also turned out to serve the estimated 400 people who showed up to buy the new iPhone on its first day.) Nearby, Peet’s Coffee & Tea employees set up a table and gave away free cups of joe.
Around 7 a.m., I met a woman named Barbara who arrived with a travel mug of tea and comfortably settled into her place in line. This wasn’t her first line-sitting experience, she said, explaining she’s a longtime Apple loyalist who purchased one of the first Macintosh desktop computers nearly 30 years ago. She’s been an early adopter of Apple’s devices ever since, she said.
When I asked Barbara why she shows up hours before the doors open to be one of the first, her answer seemed to sum up the prevailing mood among the Apple faithful:
“It makes you a part of the community of Apple crazies,” she said. “It’s just fun.”