From left: Brian Ceballo, Joseph Cruz, Jon Murphy, and Justin Lockhart. Image by the author
It's been almost a year since I talked to the occupiers, urban campers, and pro line-sitters outside Apple's Fifth Avenue flagship store in Manhattan. T'was the night before the iPhone 5 was available for purchase. The phone was in such high demand that the NYPD said it helped drive up NYC's theft rate.
So last night after dinner, I decided to stop by the newest incarnation of iPhone obsession and see with own eyes what I'd deduced from a couple of headlines: the iPhone 5S line has already begun, despite Apple not even having made its announcement yet. From the looks of the invite to the unveiling in San Francisco on Sept. 10 (and another event the following day in Beijing, where iPhones are all the rage), the company will not only be announcing a next generation iPhone, the 5S, but also the lower-priced 5C model, in a variety of cheaper-looking colors. Remember Gameboy Pocket?
When I arrived in front of the Louvre-like Apple store at 58th street last night, two young, clean-cut-boys-fresh-out-of-college in baby blue hoodies were seated upon a granite ledge. A granite ledge, which at this point, knows the feeling of Apple-fan boy ass just a bit too intimately.
"Thanks for joining us," Justin Lockhart, a twenty-something from Cincinnati, said. "We enjoy the company." He and his friend Jon Murphy are pretty sure that once Apple announces its new phones on Tuesday at 1 pm, that a likely release date would be the 17th or the 20th. But they also acknowledged they were taking a big risk: the release date could be even later, completely foiling their plans to queue.
By the time I'd approached them, they'd already been sitting there for 48 hours. Armed with private jet vouchers scored from an associate at their Apple reselling company, SellYourMac.com, the pair had arrived in style at Morristown, NJ airport Friday night, wearing their company's Tarheel-colored t-shirts, and set up shop behind a couple of other early birds.
Across the street from their campsite, in front of the Plaza Hotel, sat Augustus Saint-Gaudens' famed golden statue of William Tecumseh Sherman atop his horse, with Victory astride, one hand pointing the way forward. To the south is the Pulitzer Fountain of Abundance, which is topped with a bronze statue of the Roman goddess of abundance Pomona, whose name comes from the Latin for fruit.
What I expected to be a full-blown urban campsite with shades of Occupy was actually nothing much. "Where are your sleeping bags?" I asked. Justin gestured at a policeman pacing the perimeter and explained that earlier on Sunday, he'd ordered them to put all of their stuff away: Wrap-around tarp, backpacks, solar-panels, sleeping bags, food, and sundry other survival things. The would-be campers stashed their stuff at their friend's place on 42nd that they're also using for pit stops and showers.
"It took us about an hour to get here from the airport," said Justin, "and when we finally settled in—right down where you see those orange and white signs down there—they turned on jackhammers and fuckin' went at it for three hours." As the two described their first night, another pair of young men showed up with arms full of camping equipment and some good news.
"You guys can go get your stuff back, we're all clear," one of them said. Veteran iPhone line-sitters, Brian Cabello and Joseph Cruz were actually first in this pre-announced-iPhone line. But the four are now operating as a team. Jon and Justin still sit at ranks 3rd and 4th, but Sell Your Mac has bought out Brian (1st) and Joseph (2nd), and will now pay for their iPhones.
MOTHERBOARD: How many phones are you guys going to get?
Justin: We're going to get two of each model.
Jon: Depending on if they have the 5C and the 5S, then we'll get four. Two of each.
And you're going to get the premium (128GB)?
Justin: Yeah, we're getting the biggest.
What are the color options?
I know on the 5S—it's the plain, white and black, and then they're offering a champagne gold.
And then for the 5Cs?
I think there's red and blue, I think that there's a pink, I'm not sure.
I thought there was a green one.
Yeah, possibly green, depends on where you look (laughs), I guess we'll see Tuesday.
You've just been right here the whole time?
It's beautiful, it's a great spot to actually be camped out, it's in the safest spot—you have security everywhere. And plus, it's fun. People are so polite, people come and check in on us. One of the pedicab guys bought a cold Coke from a vendor and gave it to me. He didn't have to do that.
"Once you get used to the traffic noise, it's actually pretty easy."
What's your sleep routine like?
It's very similar to being at home. Once you get used to the traffic noise, it's actually pretty easy. I wish we still would have had our spread because it was impressive. We had two chairs with a tarp wrapped under, around, and over for when it rained. We would fold it up during the day and say hi to people.
But you're going to get it back?
Yes. Now, after figuring some stuff out we can have all of our stuff back.
Have you guys been doing any online dating while you've been sitting here?
Justin: I have a girlfriend back home.
Jon: (no answer)
Joseph: Do you do that?
You meet any cool girls on there?
Yeah. You have a Tinder?
Justin: Oh yeah, everybody has a Tinder.
You should try it now that you're in New York just sitting here. There are probably a quarter million single women within your age group.
Joseph: I'm going to try that, to meet one girl.
Justin: On Tinder?
Yea, you could take a girl to coffee in The Plaza over there while your buddies watch your spot.
Joseph: Yeah, that sounds cool.
Justin Lockhart, right
Are you guys going to do any drugs or anything?
Justin: Nah, probably not while we're out here.
If you plan on being here until the 20th, I imagine it's already going to be trippy enough.
Justin: The first night I'd gotten here, I'd already been out with my girlfriend the night before, and then I'd had two-and-a-half hours of sleep, and then didn't sleep for like 28 hours: So I was just like, losing my mind.
Joseph: Yeah, that was horrible, that night. Out of nowhere it just came out (makes jackhammer sound effects).
Are there any parades that are going to come down Fifth while you're here?
Justin: We've not looked that up at all. But there was a little event happening over there yesterday, they had a little music and whatnot.
Joseph: Usually when we're here, you always see ABC, Channel 1, all of that. We're going to be celebrities for the next twelve days. Cameras in our faces asking us questions and shit.
Joseph: Yeah, I love that shit.
Mhm. Well, I'll be sure to head back and see how you guys are doing in a few days.
Brian: Cool, we're going on a trip now.
You're gonna trip?
Joseph: Yeah, we're going on the trip of sleep.