Manhattan iPhone Watch: T minus 3.5 days

Meet the two guys who have showed up nearly four days in advance to be the first to get Apple's hot new handset.

Caroline McCarthy Former Staff writer, CNET News
Caroline McCarthy, a CNET News staff writer, is a downtown Manhattanite happily addicted to social-media tools and restaurant blogs. Her pre-CNET resume includes interning at an IT security firm and brewing cappuccinos.
Caroline McCarthy
3 min read
Greg Packer (left), and David Clayman, New York City's first iPhone 'waiters' Caroline McCarthy/CNET Networks

NEW YORK--They're heeeeeee-ere.

Actually, I owe you all an apology. When I first showed up at the Fifth Avenue Apple Store earlier this afternoon, I didn't spot anyone waiting in line yet. That's because I didn't spot the one person in line, who'd gotten there at 5 a.m. EDT. Security personnel for the building, however, have mandated that Camp iPhone be located off to the side of the building, out of sight of people who are approaching the Apple Store from 59th Street (the nearest subway stop). The Craigslist crowd was assuming that people would have to line up on Wednesday at the earliest. So I figured that it was no surprise that no one was there yet.

But then, around 10 p.m., I checked my Twitter feed and noticed that there were several posts announcing that people had already started to wait in line. So I sprinted to the subway and hopped off at 59th Street...

The two guys in line (there are actually three, but Packer's friend was offsite at the time) couldn't have been more different. Packer, a retired highway maintenance worker from Huntington, N.Y., is the sort of person you'd expect to find waiting in a line for the latest gadgets. He's after the iPhone partially because he's an Apple fan, and partially because it's the hottest item on the market and he wants one. But he's no eBay opportunist, he assured me--he actually wants to keep it. He's also a seasoned "waiter," having stood in line for the PlayStation 3 last November at the Roosevelt Field mall on Long Island. He chose Manhattan, this time, because he "learned from PlayStation about how security will not let you line up at a mall for hours on hours." He's also started a blog to document the week.

The early stages of Camp iPhone. Caroline McCarthy/CNET Networks

Clayman, on the other hand, looks exactly like the sort of person you'd expect to see waiting for an Apple product. A recent University of Chicago graduate, he's slight and soft-spoken and wears the black-frame glasses found on many a Genius Bar employee. But the funny thing is, Clayman doesn't actually want the iPhone. He's blogging the experience, hoping to learn a bit about New York before he starts a full-time job. "My parents thought I was nuts when I told them," he related to me, adding that he's planning to buy the iPhone and then sell it and donate the proceeds to the Taproot Foundation.

That seems very Apple of him. Bono would approve, I'm sure.

For food, there's a hot dog stand as well as a ubiquitous Mr. Softee truck on the corner. The 24-hour Apple store has bathrooms (Packer informed me that its downtown sibling in SoHo does not), not to mention computers with e-mail access. There's also a Starbucks several blocks away. Both Packer and Clayman said that they're accepting donations while waiting in line--Packer to pay for food (um, if you're short on cash, is the $600 iPhone really a good idea?), and Clayman to add to his Taproot Foundation donation.

Near a 5th Avenue hot dog stand, metal barricades are on hand for when more people start showing up. Caroline McCarthy/CNET Networks

The early iPhone queuers, as well as the others who will inevitably be joining them over the next few days, will have to deal with some blistering heat--highs in the mid-90s Tuesday--as well as some thunderstorms that are predicted for Tuesday and Wednesday. Especially considering that they're right near metal barricades, that could get dangerous. But when I asked them how they plan to deal with potential weather hazards, they both said, "We'll deal with it."