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Midnight serenity for New York's 'iPhone hippies'

A pack of activists is still the entirety of the line for the iPhone 3G at New York's Fifth Avenue store, waiting for the device to go on sale while supporting sustainable agriculture in the first place.

Things are still quiet outside the Apple Store. Caroline McCarthy/CNET

NEW YORK--Some time shortly before midnight, I stopped by the Fifth Avenue Apple flagship store here to get an update on the folks who were waiting in line for the iPhone 3G. It hits stores Friday.

It's very quiet here. There is no one new who has lined up for the phone; the line still consists exclusively of the sustainable-agriculture activists from Waiting for Apples. (I guess eager fanboys got our memo that as a trend, gadget-queueing has reached the tipping point.) Regardless of what you think of their mission, these happy hippies are extremely pleasant to talk to and say that they have been thoroughly enjoying their stay--despite constant press coverage, not all of it good.

"I was a little worried after I read some of the comments on Engadget about us," one of the Waiting for Apples volunteers, Heyward Gignilliat, who teaches English as a second language at Boston's Northeastern University, told me. Nothing against Engadget--it's just that blog commenters can be awfully nasty. "But overall, it's been pretty positive." Poll

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The Apple Store, open 24-7, offers bathrooms and free Wi-Fi that extends into the plaza around it. Days can be blisteringly hot, but nights are tolerably breezy and the thunderstorms dotting weather forecasts have stayed away. The serene glass-box design of the subterranean Apple Store and the adjacent decorative fountain make for a nice setting. It's bound to be a mess when the line gets longer, but for now, things are chill.

They've had a few temporary guests, Gignilliat told me. A young man from Venezuela showed up with his mother as part of a sightseeing trip in New York prior to heading to the Berklee College of Music in Boston. He'd planned to be the first in line at the New York store, but his plans were foiled by the presence of Waiting for Apples, who hope to snag a Guinness World Record for their week-long wait. He consequently decided to head to Boston early, Gignilliat explained, and try to be the first in line at an Apple Store up there.

Another noted visitor was New York Times tech pundit David Pogue, who'd also planned to be the first in line and appeared to be surprised by the presence of a line already (though who knows if that was a planned gag for the camera crew he had in tow).

And another speculator was milling around the line around midnight, checking out the scene and saying he was planning to join the line, but his willpower seemed questionable.

But for now, the line is quiet, with only a handful of people holding down the fort. They should enjoy it for now--come Wednesday or Thursday, things are going to get a lot more hectic at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and East 58th Street.