19 June 2010
The highlight for the day: the 5pm grand opening of the new Apple store in Georgetown. Since no metro runs to Georgetown, I was going to have to brave the DC public transit system and take a bus, something I've never done actually. I take the subway (aka "the metro") every where, sure, but a bus? I know they're popular, quick and ubiquitous... it's just... a bus? By the time I got off my last client call and out the door, I was running late, so I ended up taking a cab, figuring I could have my DC bus adventure some other time.
Turns out, I got the slowest cabbie in the city. I actually leaned over at one point and asked why we were going so slow. "Huh?" he replied. "We're going 10 miles an hour. Look at the speedometer..." I said, sitting back and shaking my head. Patience is a good virtue (need to cultivate that one). We finally make it to the edge of Georgetown and I decide to walk the rest of the way. As I approach Wisconsin Avenue I see a line of people standing and talking, and I sigh. Not just a line, but a long line.
That when I run into the One Cent Per Life people (aka "the Enough Project"). I thought they looked interesting and figured I'd snap a quick photo, so I asked if I could take one person's picture. "Sure," he said. "If I can tell you about our cause." I ended up chatting with a gent named John Bagwell, their Field Manager and a seemingly nice, chill guy.
This bunch is trying to convince technology companies to have better corporate citizenship by using due diligence and accepting their role in the current methods for mineral mining. Referred to as "conflict minerals," it includes tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold -- all used by tech companies in manufacturing their products. Apple included.
The group was pretty low-key for the most part, waving signs and quietly talking with people, hoping to educate those waiting in line that these companies, Apple included, can do more than it does. Here's an interesting article on the One Cent Per Life campaign, recently published (I think from a press release, but it gives you an overview).
I agree with them insofar as I think we all are responsible for understanding where the labor and materials come from that create our favorite products. While it's not Apple's responsibility to police mines in the Congo, for example, they spend a lot of money on Congolese exports. Their checkbook influences more than the public's voices... and the public's checkbook influences Apple, natch. Same kind of responsibility issue as they have with the Foxconn company in China. Foxconn manufactures the iPhone and iPad and they've had 9 (or higher?) suicides in the past few months. They are being scrutinized for the way they drive production and labor -- to the point that people are jumping off buildings. Apple isn't responsible for Foxconn, but they could ensure their vendors are ethical and compensate well, right? If you want more info on conflict minerals and the details surrounding it, visit the Enough Project's website.
After chatting with these guys for a while, I realize I'm now standing in line somewhere among the first 100 people -- there's no way I'm walking to the back of the line at this point. Then a cheer goes up, and we hear chanting and yells, people clapping and what looks like jumping and a train of Apple employees comes running down the walkway, giving high-fives, clapping, cheering and making a lot of fun noise. The crowd is already seemingly in a good mood, and the running back and forth of the Apple employees begins to put them over the edge as their mob-ish cheer gets louder.
While I'm not really the type of person to get caught up in fan behavior and mindless crowd-excitement, I now find myself giving high-fives to the employees as they run by and I'm pretty much as pumped and excited as the rest of the crowd. The line moves forward a bit, like it was tugged en masse, and I figure the doors are open as another cheer goes up from the front of the line. We start moving up and I'm snapping pictures and getting ready to film the entrance into the store. While I've never been to an Apple store opening, I could only assume it was going to be loud and crazy once the doors opened (an understatement).
And then I hit the record button on my iPhone and bang the roller coaster jumps down the tracks and zoom I'm in the store and there's people jumping up and down everywhere as employees form a long gauntlet down into the store. They're cheering and yelling, pumping hands and fists into the air and giving high fives. They're cheering into my iPhone camera lens and I'm rushing down the track under their power, just soaking up the energy all around me with what most likely was a really silly big grin on my face. And then, pant pant pant, the ride slows and I'm out of the gauntlet at the back of the store. Someone had stuffed a box in my hand (an Apple Georgetown t-shirt, it turns out) and I look down at my iPhone and realize that in the excitement, I actually never hit the record button. D'oh! I just laugh, and begin walking around the store, taking pictures and talking with employees (special shout-outs to Matt, Anthony, Shannon and Isaac!).
The energy hasn't stopped. There's a DJ bangin out the music (but not too loud, now that I think about it... it was just right). The employees are a mix of excited, overwhelmed, harried and smiling as they chat with customers, run to the back to grab new iMacs, iPads, computers and such for people with money to spend. And there was A LOT of money to spend today it seemed. I saw a lot of iMac desktop computers go out the door, and of course, a slew of iPads being heralded as they went from the back room to their excited future owners.
I look up from taking pictures and a guy motions me over to him, "Hi, I'm Bob Barnard with Fox News... " (groan, Fox?)... "Would you mind if we interviewed you?" I smile and say "Sure!" and then quickly reach up to turn my hat around, "Ha, in case my Mom watches, you know?" Bob smiles and nods at the cameraman.
When we finished talking Bob laughed and said "Wow, ha ha. You should really work for them. You do a great job of selling them." That's called "geek confirmation."
Then they asked if they could follow me around for a few minutes filming me as I took pictures. I played along, taking pics of iPods and the other people around me. And hey, I made it to the 10 o'clock news... I think I sounded pretty good.
After a while the excitement calms down a bit and I think I have enough pictures and TV interviews done for one day, so yeah, I can head home with my Apple t-shirt shwag, 40+ pictures and a really cool experience. But I never did take that bus... oh well. I'll tackle that adventure at some point in the future.
Here's a Flickr slideshow of all the pics:
Check out my iPhone 4 review -- it's awesome.