There are inherent difficulties to it, of course, but it’s quite possible to live full-time in front of an Apple Store. We spoke to the brave souls already lined up in front of the company’s flagship location on Fifth Avenue to see what it takes to camp out on a New York City sidewalk for a couple weeks ahead of a product launch.
The line is now home to some six or seven people. Married couple Jason and Moon Ray hold the first spot, and they told us that Apple has been a most accommodating host. As the Fifth Avenue store is a 24-hour location, they are welcome to use its public bathrooms whenever they like. “The store is sweet to us,” said Moon.
As for hygiene, the line-sitters’ shower use is split between a YMCA on 63rd Street and the facilities at a nearby gym. (The gym also has laundry machines.)
The Moons brought a tent, thinking it might pass muster as an appropriate place to sleep at night. But the authorities running the plaza decided it did not. While the Fifth Avenue Apple Store operates below the ground, funky New York City real estate arrangements are such that nearby General Motors decides what’s allowed on the plaza above it. The Moons are now sleeping on an inflatable mattress, and others in the line are soon to follow their lead -- everyone else was previously sleeping upright in camping chairs.
Everyone in line naturally had an armful of electronics. These customers-to-be are passing the time by reading, tweeting, browsing the internet, and generally going about their digital lives thanks to the free Wi-Fi in the area.
But gadgets need to be charged. This is not such a problem for Jonah Wong and Edward Campos, whose line-waiting experiences are sponsored by Ravpower, a company that makes portable batteries. Others can go inside the store, where it’s no problem to unplug display models of phones and tablets so that the line-sitters (and any customer) can charge their own. Above ground, there’s a major change from previous Fifth Avenue Apple launches in that the plaza’s electric outlets, usually concealed by small locking doors, are for whatever reason open and available. All electricity needs are well-met.
Everyone we asked agreed that the most difficult part of their undertaking (which I’ve previously described as a “stationary pilgrimage”) is getting a sound night’s sleep. Because they’re pretty much sleeping under city lights, there are few things they can do to mitigate their exposure to standard urban annoyances. They are regularly woken up in the middle of the night by police and emergency sirens. There was an incident in which a man started shouting obscenities at those in line (police handled it quickly). Then, every single morning, a GM maintenance employee signals the start of their day by power-washing the plaza at 5:30 a.m.
Despite all the middle-of-the-night hubbub, everyone feels quite safe. There is 24-hour plaza security staff on hand, and Mrs. Ray told us that the overnight guards are “particularly sweet.” The line-sitters' greatest resource is likely the other line-sitters themselves. They are all quite friendly with each other, happy to hold each other's spots as someone runs whatever errands need doing.
Apple’s product announcement is Sept. 9, to be followed by the official release some time after that. If Apple stays true to previous form, it will officially launch its (still unannounced) products ten days later on September 19.
This means the line-sitters could have two full weeks to go before they see the fruits of their unmoving labor. At least they've got company.