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My Best Buy had no iPads, no line

At 9 a.m. Saturday, the Best Buy in Marin City, Calif., had no lines and no iPads. What it did have was an unhappy manager. Later in the day, though, Apple came through.

I was first in the iPad line at the Best Buy in Marin City, Calif., on Saturday.

Oh, I wasn't looking to buy one. Only people with certain imbalances buy the first iteration of Apple products. But the Best Buy is right next to my Starbucks and I really needed coffee.

When say I was first in line, may I add that this was 8:57 a.m., and I was the line. I stood outside what seemed an utterly deserted place for a minute before the doors parted very slightly and a man in a heavy coat came out.

He was clutching some pieces of paper, which looked like they might be legal documents.

The outside of the Marin City Best Buy on Saturday morning. Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

"Do you have any iPads?" I asked innocently enough, I thought.

"No," he replied. "They might be here this morning. Or it might be this afternoon. We don't know."

He was as agitated as I was sleepy. He muttered dark suggestions that this sort of thing might have happened at Apple launches before. The words "iPod" and "iPhone" left his lips and hung in the cool air like seagulls looking for pumpkin scone crumbs.

The pre-sale ticket. Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Suddenly, another potential customer arrived. It was perfect timing because the Best Buy manager then produced his wad of papers. They were little pre-sale tickets that guarantee you'll get an iPad the minute Best Buy actually gets an iPad--or perhaps slightly after that. The ticket enjoyed the lovely Best Buy tagline: "Buyer be happy."

I asked the manager whether I could photograph one for posterity. He obliged. But he didn't exactly look happy spending a chilly morning standing outside his store in order to tell people about something the store didn't have. And how come all the residents of Marin City and the surrounding areas knew not to get up to stand in line? This was even odder than the usual Marin County experience.

I let four hours pass and visited him again. This time, he had taken his coat off. He was wearing his bright blue Best Buy polo shirt, his name, William, and a smile.

"So you were a little pissed this morning, huh?" I said to him.

"Well, yeah," he said, just slightly sheepish. "But Apple came through in the end. There was a flood in their warehouse. But the iPads finally arrived, and they're selling well."

"So why wasn't there a line outside this morning?" I asked.

"People really believed that iPads were only on preorder. They thought that if they hadn't preordered, there wouldn't be any in our store," he explained.

I soon drifted over to an iPad on display. It was pretty. I was tempted. But falling for looks has got me into trouble before.

I will wait for the second generation...because with gadgets you want lasting happiness, right?