Standing in Line for the latest iPhone

 In Relationships, SHIFT

It was a rare sighting – the iPhone seeking geekster

It looked like a geek convention only everyone knows geeks don’t “convene,” at least not in a line. This event is just about the only time anyone could see such a sight. Some gadget enthusiasts – which is what geek rightfully means – had lined up as early as the evening before. An uneasy mood persisted that supplies of the newest iPhone would be insufficient for the crowd.

So there they were, over a thousand people wound around the top level of the mall when we joined them at 10 a.m. We were certainly inexperienced at such an endeavor, and painfully optimistic. Not having expected to be there more than a couple of hours, we came sadly ill equipped. The smart ones brought chairs. Most had books, water bottles and even backpacks. We never intended to stay as long as we did. In hindsight, all we can say is that there reaches a point at which you just stay because there has already been too much time invested to leave.

In the beginning, conversation was sparse. There was a humorous exchange when we took our place as the new “end of the line,” but the passing of that baton seemed to be the only talk going on. People who came in couples or clusters had intermittent verbal exchanges while many were plugged in or reading books. It was obvious folks were settling in for the predicted long wait.

By and large, everyone was in the zone. Ripples of information periodically ran their course down the line. As time numbed the waiters, whether from boredom or genuine interest, a trickle of conversations began across groups. Slightly larger groupings began to evolve. Our crowd swelled to eight.

The early conversations focused on the business of getting an iPhone. Various persons shared the sacrifice of missing work. As the lunch hour loomed, rising tension was eased as orders were taken and delivered by the food court and local restaurants.

By 2 o’clock, the man in front of us began to get antsy. He had a meeting in an hour and our spot in line wasn’t even in sight of the store.  We held his place as he hurried toward the front of the line. He returned pretty quickly with a man in tow who was a hundred dollars richer, having sold his spot of being eighth in line.

The ebb and flow of the onlookers fluctuated with the clock. Early morning brought mall walkers who barely broke their pace as they stared and bored teenagers oblivious to anything but seeking like-minded souls. Distracted mommies with children in tow passed us nonplussed. Later in the day swirls of families and others resorted to pointing and smirking. The after-work crowd brought a steady stream of gawkers and scoffers, rolling their eyes.

Perhaps in defense against the isolating stares of onlookers, a feeling of family developed on the line. I first noticed it as the others were very solicitous of my husband’s finding a chair. The young Russian-American husband in front of us insisted that he wanted to take Apple’s free pizza and water to my resting husband.

An easy camaraderie settled on our little group. As passersby would ogle the line, we collectively ignored them. We saved places for the occasional pit stops and made room as needed when one of us wanted to sit or lean. The group even sweetly endured when I shared my grandchildren’s pictures.

Except for the common electronics factor, our little crew would have been unlikely companions. Two of the men behind us were sporting quite elaborate tattoos. We were afforded an otherwise unlikely glimpse into their world. The unadorned sought to satisfy their curiosity.

The stories of the unfinished tattoos were fascinating. It seems the artists decorate each other until being interrupted by customers. They seemed to view their bodies as unfinished canvas, but still there were many masterpieces in evidence.

As we intermittently waited with spurts of inching forward, speculations about ETA were replaced by predictions. Those who said 6 p.m. were right. It was surreal as we were finally waved into the store amid cheers from the gatekeepers. We watched our little group disperse in various directions to complete the transactions.

As we exited with our tiny iPhone bags, I caught the eye of one of our tattooed friends who raised his bag in a silent salute. Mission completed. I was surprised by sadness as I realized it was unlikely we would ever again see our buddies of the last eight hours.

These little encounters of stranger bonding are special. What did we gain for our efforts to develop relationships? We enjoyed people who unexpectedly are more like us than not. We all stepped outside of our preconceived notions and touched each other’s lives. I would like to believe we are all a bit richer because of it. After all, we were all there to pick up a piece of equipment that would enhance our ability to communicate. It’s all about making connection, and we had.

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