Tuesday, Sep 18, 2007
Steve Wozniak is great. As a co-founder of Apple he has my respect, plus he's just a really nice guy. But while a founder is a founder, cuts are still cuts, and cuts are exactly what Steve and six of his friends took at 4am on June 29th, eight hours after the iPhone line started.
My fianceé, my friend and I got in line at the Valley Fair Apple Store at 8pm the day before the iPhone launch. We missed the front of the line by perhaps 10 minutes, and were 4th, 5th and 6th in line. The Apple Store staff was really excited and supportive, passing out water and detailing how, when the mall closed at 10, we'd be escorted to a line-waiting area outside where we could set up our sleeping bags. The manager also alluded to a 'special guest' who would come by early in the morning to give us moral support. Steve Jobs? John Hodgeman? She wouldn't say.
The evening wound on and many Doritos, brownie bites, and games of Hearts later we were dozing off to the beats of our soon-to-be-antequated iPods.
At 4am several of us woke to a bit of a commotion. Segways everywhere! People were handing out t-shirts and laminated badges. Each of the badges were sequentially numbered and signed at the bottom with the distinctive 'Woz' signature (ironically to ensure their validity). Strangely, our badges were numbered 11, 12, and 13. By this time there were about 30 people in line, pre-dawn, sitting on the concrete.
I asked one of the t-shirt handlers (still on his Segway) about the large gap in badge numbers and he said 'Oh, Woz and us put a lot of time helping the store organize the event, so it's okay.' Um, okay...
After eight hours in line you get a bit of camaraderie with your fellow line-waiters and we were generally reluctant to let this Apple love-in turn ugly, and have I mentioned that Steve is a nice guy? So we sat and stewed a bit, and slept and ate more Doritos and brownie bites.
At 9am they escorted us back in to the mall, and Woz took his place in a camping chair at the front of the line. That lasted all of five minutes before he moved to the plush lounger in front of the Apple Store where he proceeded to hold court for the next nine hours, granting interviews to numerous TV crews, podcasters, and gadget bloggers. After all, why stay in line if you have six friends and a numbered badge?
The irony is that Woz states in his Engadget interview that he brought numbered badges for the first 50 people to "make sure they didn't let in a bunch of their friends, cheating the folks who waited outside all night on the concrete." Of course in so doing he brought himself and six friends to the front of the line so that he could, admittedly, buy a bunch of phones for his kids, and for him to personally experiment with. Worst of all is his claim that 'the folks already in line were honored to have me there and immediately granted me the first spot in the line.'
I love you Woz, your positive attitude, and your benefit to humanity, but that is absolutely untrue. The two girls at the front of the line didn't even know who you were, and the rest of us were pretty surprised to be woken up, bumped back, and told that it was 'okay'.
So what's the big deal? We all got our iPhones, right? That's true, and I held off writing this post for two months, but I think it's important to recognize that 'being special' doesn't make you special, and if getting in with the Apple Store and helping out by making badges is enough for them to let you in front then that's all well and good (Disneyland does the same thing, letting VIPs cut to the front of lines) but it's not okay to then tell the press that we invited Woz-and-company to take our spots out of deference, because that's just not how it went down, and I want to set the record straight.
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