Day 1: Monday
Following the dash from Windsor to Heathrow, lunch in the same restaurant as a drunk Russian traveller who had been at the bar for 6 hours, and a frenzy of passport-flashing opportunities, we finally boarded our Virgin Atlantic flight. So far, so good. We now hear the message over the intercom that we may face a slight delay as the captain isn’t sure how much fuel we’ve got on board. Not many service stations on the way so we defer to the airline’s superior technical knowledge and thorough safety programme.
“The computer isn’t indicating how much fuel we have on board so we’re going to have to use a dip stick”. Right, so we might get the windscreen washed by a man with a dog on a piece of string while we’re at it. Confidence levels dropping.
Another hour later and we still don’t know if we’ll have to start throwing luggage out over the Atlantic to keep the needle out of the red.
Now two hours on the tarmac and the tannoy crackles into life again “we’ve decided the best option to get the computer working is to switch it on and off again”. We are all ready to help out with a swift kick if it will get us a step closer to take off.
Hour three and the message we’ve all been waiting for “Well folks, the correct amount of fuel seems to be in now, we should be ready for take off soon. We’re just waiting for a missing part and we’ll be on our way” – perhaps not quite the message we’d hoped for. Missing part?!? What, a wing? Too much information.
Our 7:15pm arrival time at a very wet JFK has now crept to 10:30pm. By midnight, we’ve secured our yellow cab ride to the hotel and we’re now safely tucked up in The Hudson. Would love to get some sleep now but first must save the contents of my suitcase as my shampoo has exploded in transit so all clothes are very clean but somewhat slimey...
30 March 2010
Day 2: Tuesday
After the first night at The Hudson, I’m worried that we will start to adopt Gollum-like features as the whole hotel seems to have invested in a job-lot of 10W bulbs and every corridor, guest room and reception area basks in a perpetual twilight. It’s a bit like living on the set of Blade Runner, but you’re able to charge breakfast to your room.
Despite the sensory depravation, it’s all very tasteful (thanks to interiors by Philippe Starck) and the reason we chose the Hudson as our base was to avoid the drudgery of corporate hotel chains and inspire some lateral thinking, rather than induce a coma.
A swift cab ride to our first meeting with Guinness World Records took us along the route we had originally planned to walk – had it not been for the torrential rain that continued for the whole day. Just like being back in Blighty!
Two hours of presenting later and we’re on to downtown Manhattan, via a steakhouse just off Times Square. Although I’ve opted for something fairly conventional, Jim seems to have ordered a camel’s penis stuffed with mushrooms. Each to their own.
To round off the day’s events, we attended a lecture/Q&A session with legendary Esquire Design Director George Lois + Wired magazine’s Scott Dadich. Having been entertained with stories of creative and editorial battles and taken my chance to pose a suitably iPad-related question, we opt to walk back the 30 blocks to our hotel, in the rain.
Now back at the Hudson, drenched and exhausted, with a body-clock that seems to be set to Nairobi rather than New York, we’re straight into a battle with the App Store for approval on our first iPad App. And so continues the adventure...
31 March 2010
Day 3: Wednesday
...Well, the adventure does indeed continue. I had hoped to get a little more sleep last night but between our first iPad App being approved by Apple (more on that tomorrow) and the continuous hum of the air conditioning unit directly outside my window, I didn’t get my full 8 hours.
Those who know me will realise that I never get 8 hours anyway but it wasn’t the hum of the air con that caused a problem (it’s actually more like traveling on board a car ferry), the unit finally packed up and the silence that followed was short lived as the maintenance men started work with a lump hammer at 2am...
To be honest, they didn’t take too long and I soon drifted off to sleep, only to be woken by the flurry of emails as Apple approved our App. We now have one final hurdle with a quick re-submission and await the green light.
The rain finally stopped today so we felt better about trekking around Manhattan from one meeting to the next without the aid of a yellow cab. En route to our first meeting we stopped at a crossing with our path blocked by a river of bright green liquid seeping up through the road. The Police and Fire Services were trying to keep everyone away but, in true tourist style, we took some photos for the blog (left). I couldn’t help but think of Ghost Busters, thanks to the setting and Jim’s uncanny resemblance to Dan Acroyd.
Our main meeting of the day was a video conference with the UK – a weird experience looking back at The Old Smoke from The Big Apple
A long walk to West 14th Street took us through changing neighbourhoods to the first Apple Store on our list. At one stage we wandered past a giant inflatable rat holding the message “Asbestos Kills”. Only in America folks.
To round the day off, we added to our tally of Apple Stores with a visit to the iconic glass cube on 5th Avenue. This is the site of the culmination of our efforts and where we’ll be waiting patiently for our reserved iPads on Friday night/Saturday morning (depending on the queuing frenzy!)
Returning to the hotel we find that our App has been completely approved so will be ready for iPad launch day. Full details tomorrow...
1 April 2010
Day 4: Thursday
Although some of the following may seem like an April Fool’s Day joke, it’s all real...
Jim and I have awarded The Hudson the title ‘Gayest Hotel in New York’. I must stress this was not our reason for booking – and we have separate rooms. Anyway, just an observation as the inhabitants of the bar were more than a little camp last night.
On the subject of the bar, we headed off early for Trump Tower this morning, nursing hangovers and in a rush as I had set my alarm for 6:30pm instead of 6:30am. Our reason for a trip to Mr. Trump’s golden emporium was to line up for our audition for the American Apprentice. The first 500 in the line up would be given a crack at an interview with NBC.
We soon realised that our last-minute dash for the line was not going to bare fruit as the ‘Trumpets’ stretched round the block and the presence of camping chairs and sleeping bags highlighted a level of commitment slightly higher than our own. Not sure I’d want to go into an interview looking and smelling like a tramp though. A shame the interviewers would not hear the answers on our application forms...
Q: What is your current living situation?
A: Standing in a queue
Q: Tell us something embarrassing about yourself
A1: I am fatter than I look
A2: I voted for Ivana Trump in Celebrity Big Brother
Q: Why do you believe you could ultimately be ‘The Apprentice”?
A: I have what it takes to not only step up, but back and shuffle sideways
We pride ourselves on being flexible so we changed plans and headed over to the 5th Avenue Apple Store to check on the iPad line. At first glance it looked as if the fanatics had already started to queue. Not so, this was an outside broadcast of some kind, we think easter-related but this is still unclear. The presence of a llama, goat and some chocolate rabbits aren’t quite on-brand for Apple but we decided to use this as valuable ‘whooping’ practice with an opportunity to join in the general crowd hysteria. See some of the video results opposite.
We managed to fit in another very hot new business meeting, then completed our Apple Store triangle today with a visit to the Broadway store – a fantastic use of space and glass with a buzz of anticipation ahead of Saturday’s iPad launch.
Back to base and time to manage the PR and promotional issues surrounding our impending iPad App launch – Guinness World Records: At Your Fingertips LITE – quite a mouthful, but worth ever syllable. Great to finally know that we’ll be queuing up for an iPad on Friday night, then downloading our App in the store.
We rounded the day off with another check on the line at the 5th Avenue store as we had seen an online report that the first iPad fan had arrived and was claiming his place at the front of the queue (NOTE: not technically a queue if there is only one person).
As we arrived, we immediately saw the huddle of television news vans and even at 11:15, the store was still open and full of customers. It took quite a search but we eventually found our intrepid queue-meister, sat in a camping chair in the far corner of the square. Jim took this opportunity to queue jump by standing closer to the door and, by default, claiming the title of ‘head of the queue / complete mental’
I’m now running on reserve (personally, not for my laptop) so I’m ready to attempt a good night’s sleep as we may be camped out in front off the Apple Store this time tomorrow, just like the nutcase already there. Now where do we get a couple of camping chairs?
2 April 2010
Day 5: Friday
First task of the day: Ensure our new Guinness World Records App is available for review on the App Store. Tick.
Second task of the day: Walk to Javitts Convention Centre for the New York International Auto Show. After purchasing tickets we decided against waiting in the enormous snaking queue inside the building. Instead, we headed back out of the door to a side entrance reserved for online booking with only two other people waiting. We’re in.
The NY Auto Show is a great example of an exhibition catering to petrol-heads by giving us cars we want to see on well designed stands whilst resisting the urge to surround vehicles with too many gimmicks. We had access to an array of automotive exotica and cars hot off the drawing board or production line.
Notable appearances were made by the vastly-improved Focus, stunning Infiniti Essence, retro-tech Mercedes SLS and new arrivals from Volvo, MINI and Kia. Good to see the nostalgic favourites – printed brochures, large V8‘s and showgirls.
Next task: Check out the 5th Avenue Apple Store again ahead of our slightly mental queuing attempt. It’s a hot day so good to see the few already queuing enjoying the sunshine – including the girl huddled in a blanket. She’s gonna be cold tonight if she hasn’t got a duvet!
Task four: Supply provisions for all-night vigil.
- MacBook Air
- MacBook Pro
- Chairs (x2 iChairs)
Most items on our survival list were pretty easy to find. New York isn’t the collapsible camping chair capitol of the world but we eventually found a couple. We had some chicken salad sandwiches made for us in a local store by a guy with a knife, some chicken and an attitude. We might as well have asked him to perform an autopsy, we’d probably have had a similar reaction.
Task five: Get in the bleedin’ queue. I’m now blogging from outside the 5th Avenue Apple Store. My cold, claw-like hands are struggling to hit the right keys so you’ll be lucky to get much more out of me tonight.
We had expected to be arriving at the store for midnight (crazy!) we threw caution to the wind, much like the rest of our trip, to turn up at 9:30pm EST. Ah, only five people in the queue then.. Jim and I are 6th and 7th, with over eleven hours left to wait. The line-up has an international mix with representatives from Russia, Germany, France (very geeky) and the UK. Jim and I are keeping the flag flying and there’s a Brummie (but he’s not as interesting as us).
We’ll certainly have an iPad by 9am, along with hypothermia, piles and hours of news footage showing us in a holding pen like zoo animals. The iPads are expected at midnight. This will either be a Hollywood-inspired affair or a guy in a UPS van. A full report on queue mayhem tomorrow but I may manage to fire off a few additional lines tonight (if my battery holds out). [UPDATE: It was a UPS van...]
I stole some battery power from the Apple Store! Now even colder. Have been interviewed by a Japanese guy (I think he was slightly mentally disturbed rather than a reporter) and just been interviewed on camera but our answers may never see the light of day.
3 April 2010
Day 6: Saturday – Launch Day!
Now 1am. Still dark. Still cold. Jim’s happy as he still has some whisky left but looks like a tramp. Now have more barriers for the additional two people in the line...
It’s a shame my battery ran out as I would have liked to have carried on with my live reports, however my frozen fingers would probably have given out on me and you would now be staring at something quite indecipherable.
The hours between 1am and 6am were mainly punctuated by the Russians arguing amongst themselves, the crazy people looking like they were sleeping rough and hadn’t even bothered to reserve an iPad, and Jim descending further into his own incoherent drunken world. I lost track of the number of times he was asked to stop standing on the wall and expected the ‘three strikes and you’re out’ rule to be applied at any moment.
Very, very cold at this stage but still glad we had made the decision to stand/sit in a queue for 12 hours simply because we may never get the chance to be part of something like this again. To know you are not only one of the first to get your hands on the hardware, but to have also poured your life and soul into one of the best pieces of software to launch on the same day makes it all worthwhile.
We spent the final hours of darkness finding entertainment value where possible – be it laughing at drunk women trying to cross the road or mocking the dress sense and hair styles of our fellow queuers.
Daylight was a welcome relief, even if it didn’t have the decency to bring any warmth with it. By now the media frenzy was in full swing and the throng of reporters seemed fascinated by the line of iPad-hopefuls who were queuing without the common sense to have actually pre-ordered an iPad.
A heartwarming story of three generations of non-orderers (all equally inept?) all huddled under blankets and a veritable bun fight over the guy claiming to be the first in the queue (pictured on Thursday night with Jim). Call me a cynic, but as he hadn’t ordered an iPad either, surely he just likes queuing?
So this brings us to the countdown. With the square now packed with early-adopters, Apple Staff and the press, the verbal countdown from 15 begins. As we reach zero, we are unleashed and head for the fabulous glass cube that forms the store entrance. The path is lined with clapping, high-fiving Apple staff and as we descend the glass spiral staircase the whole underground store erupts in a wave of cheering and clapping. There are quite literally hundreds of blue-T-shirted Apple ambassadors to make each and every one of us feel as if we’ve just won the Superbowl – even better when you are one of the first to the bottom of the stairs.
I love it.
We are immediately shown to a desk where we are allocated our iPads. Next step – set up. This should be simple but as we are from England and the whole system should only really work for the US market until later this month, a few sneaky options are required but this is performed without fuss and all feels part of the adventure.
And finally – download the Guinness World Records App! It works and it’s stunning on the real thing. The Apple team also can’t get enough of it and they all promise to download (and give a few others a nudge).
So, there we have it. Our body clocks are messed up again as we haven’t had sleep since Friday morning. Jim looks and smells like a tramp and I feel a bit like I’ve just been to an evangelical rally.
Same time next year?
4 April 2010
Day 7: Sunday
So that’s it then. Mission accomplished. Delayed on the tarmac by a dipstick. Q&A with Lois & Daditch. App approved. Ghost Busters green slime. Inflatable asbestos rat. Hudson Gay Award. Apprentice fail. One-man queue. Whooping practice. NY Auto Show. Join the line up. App launched. iPad launched. Be one of the first in the world to purchase an iPad.
As Hannibal would say “you ain’t gettin’ me on no plane fool” or was that Mr. T? “I love it when a plan comes together”, that’s the one.
Speaking of planes, we’re on one now. No delays, apart from the traffic jam on JFK’s runway (seriously) and we’ve left the Big Apple behind until our next visit. I’m just glad we’ve got two smaller Apples with us ready to spread the iPad message back in England.
A short review? Well it’s flat, fast and sexy (a bit like a copy of Playboy in a Ferrari). I’m addicted to apps all over again (especially ours) and if anyone tells you they’re holding on and early adopters are all idiots, I’m more than happy to use an incredibly well designed and manufactured piece of hardware, with a beautiful user interface that will revolutionise the publishing industry and the way we interact with technology.
It is not a big phone – I have a small iPhone for that. It is not a laptop – I have a Macbook for that. What is it then? It’s something most people didn’t know they wanted, but will grow to realise they can’t live without.