Sydney Apple Store MADNESS!

    (Thanks to Ren and Stimpy for the name for this post).

    A homeless guy, a globe-trotting father-and-son team, a LONG-time Apple fanatic and his son — and their tent — free hamburger coupons handed out by McDonald’s, and free WiFi courtesy of Apple, Inc.. Such were the sights, sounds and experiences last night as Macgasm went “on location” to experience the extreme fandom that is the opening of a new Apple Store (or, rather, the anticipation of the opening of a new Apple Store, as it won’t open ’til later today).

    Firstly, let me admit that I got totally scooped by not only every trad-media outlet in Sydney, but, it seems, nearly everyone in the English speaking world on the fact that there were a bunch of people camped out on George Street waiting for the store to open. I was merely browsing around the intertoobs fact-finding for today’s event when I found out, quite by accident, that the first diehards (that’s our official term for attendees of this event, by the way, narrowly beating out “crazies”, “freaks” and “loonies”) had been in line since around 8am Sydney time.

    I’ll admit, I wasn’t terribly surprised. I had heard about this sort of thing before for new Apple Stores. In fact, once I heard that it was happening here in Sydney, I expected a lot more people than I actually found out there. It was more like a quaint little community gathering than the unruly mob I thought I would find.

    At first I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, other than blog fodder of course, but the mission definitely became something more than that. As I went down the line, listening to individual stories, the question kept rearing its head: “Why the hell are you here?”. I would ask “What are your expectations?” and receive an almost unanimous “I don’t really know”, or answer to that effect. When asked if they were planning a big celebratory purchase for the event, most answered a clear “No”, or couldn’t say exactly what they might buy, but said they would buy “something”. A pattern emerged: No one seemed to know what it was driving them to sit outside for, in some cases, more than 30 hours (at the time of the interviews, it was around 10pm, roughly 19 hours ’til the big opening). They just seemed drawn there, by something unnamable. They were answering the call of the Apple diehard, and they were pretty pleased to be doing it.

    Of course, this wasn’t the case with everyone. I met Gary Allen and his son Devon (I apologize humbly to Devon, or anyone else that matter for any name misspellings). Gary and Devon have been to more than 30 of these openings, around the world, and have built up somewhat of a following on their website where they add details of all the stores they visit. It was through Gary that I began to understand the sincerity of the diehard Apple Store opening fan, and the scope of these events and what they mean to the community that has sprung up around them.

    Others, including @RobTheMighty , and his gang of very merry men, dismissed the notion of attending the opening with the intention of buying something as less-than-noble. The idea of simply “being there” was enough to drive them to spend hours in the cold, and wasn’t to be corrupted with consumerist desires. Although they admitted they might purchase “SOMETHING”.

    Remember: The term is “Diehards”.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m NOT dismissing anyone who was there. I’m a disgusting, haughty, annoying Apple fan of the highest order myself. It does, however, boggle the mind that anyone would spend that much time sitting outdoors simply to be counted first among the number to enter a retail outlet.

    After we left we — that’s me and my faithful and long-suffering wife, cohort, and camera operator @goaldeebug — our heads still spinning, attended another very geeky gathering. Specifically, last night’s meeting of the Sydney Twitter Underground Brigade. We were late arriving, and were only too eager to share our experiences, which stimulated much conversation. I expressed my search for perspective and meaning in the face of people going urban camping for little more than the promise of a free t-shirt, and was met with many a reasonable theory. @lindsayevans was the one who finally set me on a path that, while perhaps not explaining the entire shared hysteria of the event, did allow me enough peace to get to sleep last night. What his devilishly simple theory boiled down to was two words: “Krispy Kreme”. Immediately I gained insight. While Apple and Krispy Kreme have almost nothing in common, and their key demographics rarely cross, their store openings have much in common. People line up to be first. They just do. Whether it’s the promise of sticky, fried goodness and espresso, or merely the idea of experiencing the retail concept that is an Apple store, people want to be there. They want to say they were there. They want people to KNOW they were there. Indeed, sharing the experience, both among themselves, and with others, is a very important part of the experience (hence the websites, the non-stop tweeting and blogging, etc).

    I still doubt that I appreciate the concept entirely, but I think I’m starting to get the idea. In any case, I really, really enjoyed my time with everyone I met last night. I admit that, as a fellow Apple weenie, I felt a certain kinship. Indeed, as many of the attendees tried to convince me to join their ranks, I was sorely tempted. There was definitely something in the air, and they all looked to be having a LOT of fun.

    I don’t know whether I’ll ever get to experience another Apple Store opening. If I do, I certainly hope the air of fun, and craziness, and devotion that we experienced last night in Sydney carries over to future openings. In the end, it made something seemingly mundane — a retail outlet opening — into something, if not epic, at least memorable, and special forever in the minds of the diehard Apple Fans who are probably still snoozing in their chairs,marshalingtheir strength for the evening’s events to come. I’d like to sincerely thank EVERYONE who gave us a few moments of their time last night. I may not understand you, but, after last night, I definitely can’t help but respect you.

    But wait, there’s more..

    Macgasm will be continuing our coverage — such as it is — of the event this afternoon. We’ll rejoin our new friends in line to check-up on how they fared during the long cold night and see how many more have joined their number since we left them. We’re also inviting you, our fair readership, the opportunity to get involved and interact with us as we’re live at the event. I’ll be tweeting LIVE on the scene, and we invite our readers to do the same, from the comfort of your own homes. Using the twitterdoodle plugin for WordPress we’ll be actively aggregating tweets with the hashtag “#sydneyapplestore” in a post on the front page of Macgasm. Submit questions, submit your experiences, heckle us, or just follow along for the fun as I experience my first Apple Store opening.