It was shortly after 6 a.m. and still dark outside. Dozens of cars populated the parking lot, but I couldn’t locate any bodies. “There,” I said, when I caught the pink flash of a young woman in a velour tracksuit scurrying from one shadowed pathway to another. “Quick, let’s follow her.” David and I picked up our pace and hustled after the girl, around a corner and behind a line of trees, until she stopped at a throng of people and turned around to see who was so hot on her heels. I smiled in greeting and said, “Is this the iPad line?” The girl nodded in unison with a few other heads.
The first iPad was released two years ago. As much as I itched to run to the store and run up a credit card, I held off. A year later, when the iPad 2 came out, it was David’s reasoning that kept me at bay. “They’re going to come out with another one in less than a year, and that one will be even better,” he said. “Keep saving, and if the next one has a retina display, then you get that one.”
“Says the guy who waited in line for the first iPhone the day it was released, even though we were visiting friends in Boston,” I said.
“Yeah, but I still have the same one,” David said, holding up the antiquated device that can’t even receive photos via text.
“When are you upgrading that thing, anyway?”
“I told you, I’m waiting for the —”
“Right — the iPhone 12,” I sneered. “Seriously, Beh-Beh, I don’t think you can call yourself an early adopter anymore. Your phone’s so old it doesn’t even ring. I get holding off for a while, but there has to be a limit.”
One of the reasons David is reluctant to commit to any one version of an Apple gadget is because he knows it’s just a matter of months before an even newer, cooler version will be released. After I upgraded my four-year-old first-generation iPhone to the iPhone 4, it wasn’t long before the 4S was released and I had to live with the daily realization that my version was inferior to the shiny new Siri model. (I know, “first world problems,” but that doesn’t make it any easier.)
When I invested in a new desktop computer, I used the online store and had it shipped to my home. One of the main reasons I stopped celebrating Christmas was my distaste for crowds and retail stores. But my impatience for having the new iPad in my hands as soon as possible won out over my aversions to early hours and other people.
I’d popped out of bed 30 minutes before the alarm went off, wide awake and eager to hit the road and get my place in line. David had already mined numerous geek discussion forums for data regarding the turnout at local stores during previous product launches. Fashion Valley (the closest) was out of the equation; too many people knew about it, and the queues were Mac-rumored to be interminable. The store in Otay Ranch was fairly new, and even though it was a 20-minute drive away, we agreed it would be worth it for what was sure to be a shorter line.
We’d only been standing for ten minutes when an Apple employee showed up beside us, pushing a cart. He called out as he came down the row of people, “Water? Coffee?” I asked for coffee, with fixings.
“How cool is this? I was totally just thinking this Snapple wasn’t going to cut it — it’s too cold out,” I said to David when the man disappeared behind the next huddle. “Though I can’t help but wonder, if they’re already here, why not just start selling us iPads?”
I sipped my hot coffee and watched as the chain of fanatics trickled down the walkway behind us. Someone said the first person in line had arrived at 3 a.m. Shortly before 7 a.m., I texted my father – he’d been waiting as long as me for the new toy but was not eager enough to wake up and stand in line with me. At 7:43 a.m., I received texts from both Dad and my sister Jane, within seconds of each other. Dad’s read, “No.” Jane’s read, “Target opened in Orange County and I just picked up a new iPad! I expensed it! Pretty cool!”
I addressed Jane’s text first: “You bitch, I’m standing in line at Apple right now.” To David, I said, “Wait a minute… I think she’s —” Before I could finish, I got her next text — Jane had called and woken up Dad, who knew where I was and what I was doing, and because he was too groggy to entertain her, she had decided to mess with me. “Double bitch,” I wrote. Then, to my father, whose message implied he wasn’t yet awake, I texted: “Then how did you text?”
“In a nightmare,” he wrote back. A moment later, I received a longer message from him: “It involves one (or more) phucking psychotic daughter that I love dearly and needs to live better through pharmaceuticals.” I read it aloud to David, who rolled his eyes and raised his brows in a way that told me he sided with my dad on this one.
A few minutes before 8 a.m. (Apple opened two hours earlier than usual to accommodate the anticipated crush), one employee ran down the line of about 70 people chanting, “Are you ready?” and clapping at us in what appeared to be an attempt to create excitement. In a stage whisper intended for David and those waiting around us, I said, “We’ve been ready for weeks, now shut up and open the door, and stop clapping at us.”
David walked to the front of the line to check out the scene. “There’s this guy up there who got his iPad 3 at Walmart at midnight,” he reported once he got back.
“What? Why is he here?” As we rounded the corner, David pointed him out to me. There he was, a normal-looking dude in a Chargers jacket and matching cap, clutching his new iPad and staring at the entrance to the Apple store as people were slowly granted admittance.
“I know I made you get up at 5:30 a.m. and drive to Chula Vista to wait in line with me so I could buy something, but that dude is mental,” I said. David, ever the survivalist, refrained from commenting.