Meet The People Waiting In Line For An iPhone

A small group of people began forming a line in New York City on Monday to ensure they'll be among the first to get their hands on an Apple iPhone.

June 27, 2007

6 Min Read
Network Computing logo

Perspiration glistened on Eric Mueller's forehead. His skin baked under the midday sun, as the heat index rose to 99 degrees. Mueller held the fifth spot in an iPhone line that started forming at 5 a.m. Monday outside Apple's flagship store on Fifth Avenue in New York.

With three days to go, it seemed that nothing could deter the small group of iPhone fans who waited patiently on Tuesday to spend up to $600 for an electronic device that promises to be all things to technophiles. It'll cost another $60 to $100 a month for a service plan to make it actually work.

Twenty-one-year-old David Clayman, an Ohio native who now calls Chicago home, wasn't defeated by the heat, lack of shade or nearby showers, his parents' worries, or strange interactions with random people on New York City streets at night. He had the fourth spot in line.

"I was a cross-country runner in high school," said Clayman.

Greg Packer, first in line for an iPhone outside an Apple story in Manhattan, Wednesday's New York Daily News in which he is featured.

Photo by Sacha Leccaview the image gallery

He also has a knack for making vacations -- like this one -- memorable. He's a young adventurer who, like others in line, seemed to enjoy the chance to meet all kinds of people, the novelty of being among the first in line, and the idea of actually getting one of Apple's new iPhones.Meet people, they did.

After reading on a blog that Clayman hoped to get his hands on two phones -- one for his dad, whose 50th birthday is Saturday, and another to donate to the Taproot Foundation -- Pauline Zalkin, a Taproot program and development associate, showed up to offer thanks and T-shirts. She also wondered how Clayman picked Taproot, since he wasn't in the group's national database of volunteers. Clayman said he admires the founder and thought that many people who would read about a guy in an iPhone line would likely be the kind Taproot seeks.

Taproot matches companies that deliver IT, marketing, and human resources with nonprofit organizations in need. Clayman also thought the charity gesture would make his worried philanthropic father feel a little better about a son spending a few nights on a New York City street. Clayman said he tried to soothe his mother by saying that he also might meet a nice Jewish girl, but he was a bit more reticent when asked whether that had, in fact, occurred.

It was clear, however, that Clayman and his companions did make new acquaintances and friendships as they sat it out, surrounded by concrete and glass near the Apple Store, the GM building, FAO Schwartz, the Plaza Hotel, and Central Park South.

Clayman said a man named Barry approached him at night, and they talked about several things, including the death of Barry's ex-girlfriend. Clayman said Barry walked off abruptly, but serenely, after getting a hug.During the day, rank-and-file employees and executives from the Apple Store and other nearby businesses, along with tourists, stopped to chat. Most were friendly and not particularly perplexed.Ice, Water, And Potato Chips

In a glittering black dress, Mia Bleyman emerged from the GM building, where she works for a cosmetics company, to bring the small group a bucket of ice, paper cups, water, and potato chips. She delivered donations in response to a plea for support that 43-year-old Greg Packer had written in marker on a small poster beside his lawn chair.

"I was on the Internet and saw the pictures and that they needed food and stuff," Bleyman said. "I'm going to be in line on Thursday."

Bleyman said she planned to spend Thursday night waiting in line for an iPhone, and that the 24-hour security in the area should make it pretty safe.

First in line, Packer, a retired highway maintenance worker, appreciated the gesture and exchanged information with Bleyman. He estimated that he had been interviewed by 10 to 20 journalists. It wasn't the first time. He's a veteran when it comes to queuing up, and he's been interviewed before as an early-bird for tickets to concerts, games, and parades.

Packer said he doesn't have an iPod, but he wishes he did. He doesn't have a Mac. His cell phone is Verizon and prepaid. He said he doesn't plan to sell his iPhone on eBay or any other way.

More iPhone fans join the line outside of an Apple story on Wednesday morning in Manhattan.Photo by Sacha Leccaview the image gallery

"I wanted to be amongst the first people to get an iPhone," he said. "I live out on Long Island and I don't think the malls are letting people camp out. The iPhone is supposed to put everything right at your fingertips. I wanted to see for myself. I'm trying to be a gadget person. It's the way we live, so I'm trying real hard to keep up with the times."

Just when Packer was telling a reporter that no one had offered him money for a phone or the first spot in line yet, a young man approached Packer in his lawn chair and offered a $100 profit on the phone. Packer fanned himself and declined. He encouraged the man to check back later, saying maybe someone else would do it.

"Now, if somebody wants to come and offer me $10,000, I ain't gonna say no to that," he said, laughing.

Geoff Arnold, dressed in khakis and a perfectly pressed blue button-down shirt, stood with a friend watching the people in line for a few minutes, then asked: "Hey, are you able to get wireless Internet here?"

No, but the Apple Store just a few feet away offers free Internet access and air conditioning. It also promises demos when the store opens for iPhone sales at 6 p.m. Friday, after a four-hour closure in preparation for an iPhone frenzy.Twenty-four-year-old Jessica Rodriguez, third in line, took advantage of the facilities in the Apple Store for a short bathroom break. Packer and Clayman watched her seat. Then Rodriguez held Clayman's seat as he went off looking for a cap to help beat the heat.

Mueller, who owns an iPod shuffle, communicated with friends via his Samsung cell phone. His friends delivered the latest pricing and technical information. Then Mueller got an e-mail about the hot weather from a friend who wrote: "You're going to die."

Mueller laughed but soon gave up and left the line, hoping to return later. Business beckoned at his graphic design company in the Financial District a few miles downtown. He predicted he could end up being number 1,000 by the time he got back in line.

view the image gallery:

iPhone Frenzy

Stay informed! Sign up to get expert advice and insight delivered direct to your inbox

You May Also Like

More Insights