Less than two hours before the store opens. The sun’s up. There’s a breeze. The day is cool, calm, tranquil, deceptively so. The line’s grown louder, longer. It’s jittery now, tapping and fidgeting and talk-talk-talking. There’s a buzz to it, a chatter. It’s fused into an organism, a single mass entity. There’s a solidarity amongst those who’ve been at it all night, the determined, bleary eyed few, focused on a single goal. Something spiritual, a deep connection.

It’s a fragile bond, though. Starbucks just opened. People are waking up, rising in anticipation, crossing their arms, tapping their feet. They’re breaking out of the line to make coffee runs, fueling up; the whole thing threatens to break apart at any moment. Electrical outlets near the scene are dead. A man behind me’s asking for power. “Please! My laptop!” Feed my child! Obsession’s kicking in. I hear someone’s going to get his iPhone serial number tattooed on his back. A gaunt fellow in a beret claims he’s going to mod his into a light saber. A girl down the line in a flowy, flower-patterned dress — she’s maybe 12 — is preaching the Gospel of Steve Jobs. “He is the Creator! And the 3G is the Second Coming!”

There’s a news crew here. People in the front of the line, just ahead of where I’m, are selling their seats. Details of the deals are still murky, but the number going around is $100. Half the price of a new phone. People are groggy, but anxious. Alert. The mental fog of the morning is lifting. The crowd slept restlessly, uncomfortably. Someone brought a bed, but most people passed out in chairs, sleeping bags, on the ground. Trashed pizza boxes litter the sidewalk. Apple staffers are walking the line, handing out cards, making announcements. “Have your state issued ID ready!” They’re giving out water bottles. It’s like a miniature tent city. We’re all self-selected consumer-obsessed refugees. What a mess. Just over an hour left. Everyone’s counting down. Ready for this to finally happen. Tired of waiting. It’s Worth It, though. This is Important, Meaningful. The line now wraps around the courtyard, a hundred people maybe. They’re all here to partake in the iPhone sacrament. “Bless us with your 3G speeds!” There’s never any debate over whether or not this spirit’s moving; all you need to do is check your signal strength.