A Bit of iPhone Love

The web is a really bizarre place sometimes. But this story proves that real life can always be more bizarre…

In case you have been living under a rock lately, Apple is about to release a fairly major product called the iPhone. It’s a mobile phone of course, but it also does email, voicemail, web browsing as well as being a pretty darn amazing video iPod as well. Although many other phones from companies like Nokia and Sony Ericsson offer similar features, the iPhone seems to have a much greater emphasis on design and usability, as only Apple seems to be able to do.

Obviously the tech world thinks the iPhone will be a big deal because since the announcement of the device back at MacWorld last year, Apple’s share price has gone through the roof, rising from about $70 per share to the $125 price it is sitting on at the moment. Whatever Apple is doing with the iPhone, it seems to be attracting the right kind of attention. There is a ridiculous amount of commentary on the iPhone, both in the regular press and also in the blogosphere, with many blog posts, news articles, and even podcasts devoted solely to it.

And it is a pretty impressive looking device to be sure. If you are the type who is into techno-toys, the iPhone is the type of device that will most likely be giving you a woody about now. The iPhone is officially released at 6:00pm EST on Friday 29th june. It’s sleek and sexy and I certainly wouldn’t mind one myself.

But it seems there is this guy called Greg Packer who would also really like one. I mean, he would REALLY like one. In fact, he would like one so much that he has decided to camp out in front of Apple’s flagship New York City store five days in advance. That’s a pretty dedicated approach to getting an iPhone. He is currently first in line, and attracting quite a bit of attention for doing so, but not all of it is good attention.

Packer is parked out in front of the beautiful glass cube that sits atop Apple’s Fifth Avenue store in NYC. Because he is intent on staying in line for the next 100+ hours, he is asking passers-by for donations of food and money to tide him over. He is apparently using the toilet facilities inside the Apple Store, which is open 24/7. (I can’t help wondering, if the store is open 24/7, why doesn’t he just stay inside the store?) While he waits outside the store, collecting donations, he is also taking phone calls from interested journalists and blogging about his situation, and of course he is also asking for donations via PayPal on his blog as well.

At first, this might seem fairly harmless, albeit a little nutso. But after reading through the 160+ comments left on his latest blog post, there is a whole other perspective to this story. Take a look at some examples of the comments left for Mr Packer and you’ll see what I mean…

I really don’t know where to start with you, you ignorant moron. I’ve no problem at all with you sleeping in a queue to get an iPhone (I’d like one myself). But asking people for food donations on the street, and ASKING FOR MONEY ON PAYPAL!!!!!!! So you’ve got a house and $500 to spare, and yet you’re sleeping on the street and asking for food and money. Moron. Moron. er, Moron!

There are hundreds of thousands living on the streets of the world, and many more millions living in poverty. None of them do this by choice. Yet you think that we should help you to survive your week at the front of a queue which basically screams ‘me, me, me! I’m a greedy consumer moron, and I want your attention’. You got it. Hope it shames you.

…and this one…

People are watching family members dying from starvation and you’re trying to raise money to eat shitty chips and sit on your ass for a piece of plastic? I think a re-evaluation of priorities is in order.

…or this one…

Dude – asking for donations while you sit in line to pay $600 for a telephone (albeit a very cool telephone) is offensive. If people are stupid enough to pay you… to sit in line… for four days … to buy aphone… for yourself… wait I take it back – you’re a genius and it’s never wrong to separate a fool from his money. Godspeed, brave iphone-waiting-in-line-genius-guy!

…and just for a bit of balance, there’s this one…

Well this blog says more about the people who are posting than Greg.

For the haters and abusive posters – The guy wants to spend HIS time queuing. Leaping in with abuse says much more about you than it does about him. Not everyone in the world thinks like you. Thank God.

For the moral majority – if you really cared about the homeless, the starving or the 50% of the world who don’t have access to a phone you would be out there doing something about it and not posting on here. You are just as selfish as Greg but at least he’s being honest.

For the jealous posters – YOU are the ones who need to think about getting a life. Owning things cannot make you cool, or buy you genuine friends. If you need gadgets to fulfill your life or give you some sense of identity then you REALLY are missing the point.

Greg, have a nice time in the line, if this is how you wanna spend your days good on ya, interesting people make the world more interesting.

And then the story takes an interesting twist. It appears that Greg Packer is pretty good at waiting in lines and getting media attention. One of the commenters on his blog points to an article in Wikipedia about him, which reads, in part…

Greg Packer (born December 18, 1963), an American highway maintenance worker from Huntington, New York, has been quoted in more than 100 articles and television broadcasts as a member of the public (that is, a person on the street rather than a newsmaker or expert).

Packer’s status as a frequent interviewee came about due to his hobby of attending public appearances of celebrities and other media events and being first in line on such occasions. He has consequently had the opportunity to meet people ranging from Mariah Carey to Garth Brooks to Dennis Rodman to Ringo Starr, and at least three presidents of the United States: Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush.

According to a 2002 article about Packer, “He was first in the line to see ground zero when the viewing platform opened at the World Trade Center site December 30, 2001. He was the first in line in 1997 to sign the condolence book at the British consulate when Princess Diana died. He slept outside in the snow in Washington in January 2001 to be the first in line to greet President George W. Bush after his inauguration.”

Now, while the Wikipeida article could always be fabricated I suppose, the article history seems to extend back at least a year or so, so it doesn’t appear to be made up in the last few days. At least on the outside, it does seem that Greg Packer is a professional Line Sitter and Public Media Person.

So yeah… I’m not sure what I find most bizarre in this whole thing. The fact that a huge media ecosystem has sprung up surrounding a new cell phone release. Or that someone is willing to spend 5 days of their life sitting in a line waiting to get one. Or that this person does this sort of thing all the time to get attention. Or the fact that so many people go to so much effort commenting on his blog with such indignation at what he is doing.

Or even that I just spent an hour reading and writing about the whole thing. What on earth did we do to amuse ourselves before the Internet came along?

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CC BY-SA 4.0 A Bit of iPhone Love by Chris Betcher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

That's all well and good, but what do YOU think?