At the Apple Store: Watching Geniuses watch the iPad Mini

While you were in the San Jose Cathedral or glued to your laptop, I wandered over to my local Apple store and basked in the Geniuses' ecstasy -- and agony -- over the iPad Mini.

Wait, that's a Surface, right? Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

The power cord to my MacBook Air had frayed like Demi and Ashton, so I thought I'd wander to my local Apple store to be happily gouged out of $79.

I timed my visit to coincide with the iPad Mini presentation from that charming cathedral in San Jose.

I expected all the Apple store employees to be huddled around a large screen, like Belarussians tuning in to Radio Free Europe.

And yet, the place was crowded. There almost seemed more Geniuses than customers. It seemed like business as usual.

As I paid for my power cord, I asked the nice Apple lady about the announcement.

"You've already been told everything, right?" I said.

"No, no,' she replied. "We've got it on the screen over there."

And, indeed, there was the presentation being beamed onto a Sony TV via Apple TV. A customer stood there, along with a couple of blue t-shirts.

I tried again with my question. "Surely you know something about what they're going to say?"

"No, no," said a blueshirt with a slightly medieval haircut -- let's call her Marian. "We know nothing. We don't know what they're going to show. We don't know how much it's going to be."

"And we only find out what we get when we come in in the morning and it's arrived," added a very nice blueshirted gentleman -- who told me that he'd got his job because he was really good with technology. I'm not sure if he was joking.

When I arrived, they were already excited about the new little iMacs. "I'm definitely buying one of those," said the nerdy blueshirt -- let's call him Bert.

Bert explained that they don't get the staff discount straight away. They have to wait weeks until the initial excitement has sunk to human levels.

The lady who had assisted me -- let's call her Marie -- wandered over and said, seriously excited: "Have they announced what processor the Mini will have?"

They hadn't. But she cared. She cared a lot.

As Apple's Phil Schiller continued to wax lyrical, blueshirts would wander over for a quick look and then disappear before it looked like they were loafing.

"Ask me a question," said Bert suddenly.

"Is your girlfriend a binge drinker?" I said. Actually, I didn't.

I asked him whether he slept in his Apple store t-shirt, like the Geniuses in the recent and somewhat lamented TV ads .

Yes, they showed it on a Sony, not a Samsung. Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

"Sure I do," he said, meaning "are you nuts?" On the other hand, Marie said that it had happened to her once or twice when she'd fallen asleep on the sofa and just staggered to bed.

"But if I knocked on your door at 4am and asked for help with my photo app?" I asked, as that was shown in the ads.

"No thanks," was Bert's reply.

Bert was glad we were chatting, though, because if I just kept talking to him and asking questions, it would look as if he he was helping a customer and he could keep staring at Schiller's sexy specs.

Marian kept coming over and wanting to know whether the price had been announced yet.

Marie kept coming back too. She explained that she wasn't much of a techie, but had got her job because she was a "people-person" -- a curious phrase, that, as if its opposite is "dog-person," 'inanimate-object-person" or "people non-person."

As Schiller showed just how wonderfully the iPad Mini fitted into the hands of every member of (presumably) the Munster family, the blueshirts were getting more and more excited.

This was another winner. This was something they themselves coveted. These people really do love the things they are selling. So many car dealers could learn from this -- well, except those who sell brands that no one with taste would ever desire.

But the price, Phil, the price.

It appeared on the screen, just as Marian wandered over yet again: $329 for the 16GB.

Her face fell like Felix Baumgartner.

Pointing her thumb toward the very clean floor, she said: "I expected lower." Bert looked slightly crestfallen too, especially when he realized the 64GB version with wi-fi and cellular would be close to $700.

Were they thinking about store targets? More likely they were simply calculating how many hours they'd have to work to afford both the two Minis.

Indeed, when the November 2 launch date came on the screen, Marian turned to me and said: "Well, at least we know when it's going to be busiest."

A higher price than they'd hoped or not, they know they're going to be putting in the hours.

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