Illustration by Lime Barty

This Saturday Apple is opening its first retail stores. Here’s why: Apple currently has around 5% market share in personal computers. This means that out of one-hundred [sic] computer users, five of them use Macs.

—Apple PR blurb

Saturday, May 19

Hoping to make it across town for the 10 a.m. opening festivities of the second-ever Apple Store (the first-ever, in McLean, Virginia, having opened its doors three hours earlier), I fell into disagreement with four of my five alarm clocks and instead arrive at the Glendale Galleria promptly at 6 p.m. I find the fetus du jour, a bright, almost sparsely attired boutique, at the end of a lengthy umbilical cord comprising just over a hundred extremely patient consumers.

At 6:11, I make a generic inquiry of one of the husky crowd-control stylists, and he describes his life on this day thus far: People lined up at 6 a.m. Store opened at 10. Line went down the stairs, across the mall and out onto the sidewalk. First part of the day, it was about a three-hour wait to get in, then it tapered down to two. Then it got shorter and shorter until now. Folks at the end of the line right now will be in the store inside of 90 minutes. No problems to speak of. Everybody’s been orderly. Buying things. Looking around.

First in line, before dawn, was a William Crawford, who’d driven 357 miles from his home in Santa Cruz to find his place in history at the Glendale Galleria. The first purchase, a VST CD-RW drive, was not, however, purchased by William Crawford but rather by hometown favorite and Glendale Community College student Samuel Lee. But it was too late for any of that. I’d overslept, and Crawford and Lee’s agent had left voice mail saying that she was “not amused” by my tardiness, that her clients were “no longer available for interviews.”

I consider performing some journalist impersonations for random linepeople: How’s it going? How long have you been waiting? Do you own an Apple computer? Do you shop at Ralphs? Do you consider marketing to be more a form of demographic studies, or demographic studies more a form of marketing? Take care! How’s it going? How long you been waiting? Three hours? Are you out of your fuggin mind? But I decide not to after concluding that it’s really none of my business and not very polite.

Monday, May 21

“We are blown away with the numbers,” said Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

Over the weekend, Apple’s first two retail stores took in $599,000 from 7,700 people in two days. So potent are these numbers that Apple adds two Pavlovian video tours — one a QuickTime tour guided by Jobs, the other a QuickTime VR tour — to its Web site. Apple plans to open 23 more stores around the country this year. Drip, drip, drip.

Thursday, May 24

I return to the Apple Store to see if there was any reason for all the fuss on Saturday and spend 45 minutes strolling around, messing around with computers (all of them connected to the Internet, many connected to digital photographic equipment, audio players, burners), dicking around with Visors and scanners, not quite buying a copy of Douglas Adams’ Starship Titanic (a spine of third-party software runs up the store’s middle). Not one person tries to help me. Thank you, truly. I don’t want any help. I just want to dick around for 45 minutes, to touch the same floor models once touched by the likes of Crawford and Lee; to consider retiring my “old” 1998 PowerBook or taking a nap atop one of the luxurious display tables, where some wise fellow consumer would surely capture the event on one of the many demo video cameras and upload it instantly to Furniture Porn.

Way at the back, in a corner, some customers are posing technical questions at the “Genius Bar” — a dry bar tended by a team of experts who, if unable to help, will hotline your inquiry to Apple’s senior technophiles in Cupertino, who’ll solve everything while you wait or, perhaps, nap on the bar.

And now it’s closing time. On the way out, I give the store a goodbye scan. This will almost certainly be my final visit: A life worth living is one lived as far as possible from malls. At last my trance is broken by a query: “Can I help you find anything?” It’s one of the security guards, eyeing my backpack. Welcome to the mall, Apple.

LA Weekly