I'm getting too old for this! I can recall times in my life where I "camped out" to be part of something important or just something cool. In college, I drove from Boston down to New York to camp out in Central Park to see Simon and Garfunkel's big reunion concert and then again for a No Nukes concert with Springsteen and the gang. That was a long time ago. I did go to CompUSA when Windows 95 came out - at midnight - for the big launch. In later years, I took my kids to the midnight launch of the Harry Potter books - but this was different.
I live in New England. It is almost December. I am 45 years old. Nevertheless, there I was on a very cold November morning, standing in the freezing cold at the closest Verizon store - in Hyannis, MA. At 7:30 AM. Now, I had done my homework the day before; I read online that supplies would be short and that this local store would have only 35 units (or so I was told.)
I was not so surprised to see the line out the door. What did surprise me was that the other folks in line said there were only 20 devices at this store. Now, understand that this is the flag ship store for all of Cape Cod, MA - 20 units? They handed out green sheets of paper with numbers on it - I got number #19. There was a whole parking lot of people walking towards the store and only one unit left - at least to take home that day.
So, I waited, happy that I was getting a Storm - but freezing. Then it dawned on me what I was doing. I was waiting outside a Verizon store for a new BlackBerry! Now, I have had some pretty negative experiences with Verizon - I actually left them years ago for T-Mobile - which has the worst coverage but the best service and prices. But this was the Storm...maybe things had changed.
There was a growing camaraderie out there in the cold. Grown men and women marveled that they were up early and out in the cold in the worst economic downturn in recent history - all ready to drop at least $250 + on a relatively untested new technology - a BlackBerry touch screen. Most people there had Treos or Motorola Q's or other "lesser" Smartphones in their hands. I must say, there was not an iPhone user in the bunch! There were a few CrackBerry users looking for the upgrade - each one rationalizing how spending this kind of dough was justified.
The doors opened and the party began. I mean it was a party...a zoo. The store was flooded with Verizon employees - each with a smile. Brian, the "data guy" was walking around showing people in line the Storm.."Wanna try it?" he said, giving everyone a chance to salivate and pass the time. We all started talking BlackBerry - people had tons of questions. New BlackBerry users wanted to know everything - seasoned BlackBerry veterans wanted to make sure they could still do all their familiar BlackBerry things.
We all signed in - very orderly and calm. The Verizon folks came with coffee and donuts and walked around. The screen told you your place in line and I watched and waited. Then it happened....the CrackBerry moment I had been waiting for.
I was "Talking Berry" with Brian and dropped a card letting him know I was in the BlackBerry biz, showing him our training stuff and he was very interested. Then I met Susan, the District Manager. We talked BlackBerry and I had a similar conversation with her. I mentioned that I write for CrackBerry.com and her face lit up. "Wait," she said...."you are writing the book with Kevin. The BlackBerry Addiction book." "Oh, my God - I know you. I can't wait for that book." Then she stared deep into my eyes for a moment - it was an "aha" moment - an epiphany of sorts..."that means...." She continued..."You.....You are...BlackBerrius Maximus." BINGO! I had hit pay dirt - she knew me, she knew us - the CrackBerry faithful. I was almost famous and it was clear the reach of CrackBerry.com was huge.
I talked with Susan for at least half an hour - we talked shop - all BlackBerry - all fun. I watched her and I watched the other Verizon employees. They had done their homework - they were answering questions well and they were having fun at this early hour getting people set up on their new BlackBerrys. Even when they ran out, they handled it great - they took names, numbers and addresses and talked about shipping them overnight, etc. There were no riots - even the people who couldn't get their Storms lingered, wished those of us who "got lucky" that day congratulations and looked at our devices.
I saw a bunch of tired, stressed out grownups acting a lot like kids getting that new Bike for the holidays. There were lots of smiles and lots of people literally running to their cars to get home and set up their new Berrys. I think there will be lots of new CrackBerry Nation members as well.
I was prepared to be disappointed, frustrated with Verizon and feeling like a jerk for standing in line in the cold - but the opposite happened. I was incredibly impressed with Susan and her crew from Verizon and it has been quite some time since I felt like I had the absolute newest and coolest device in my possession. This device is so slick, so sexy and so new and cool it might even need its own name. I'm thinking of calling mine "Angelina," but I'm not sure my wife will like that so much. What are you naming yours?
So, how do I like it? Is it everything it is hyped up to be? Like my friend Kevin, I'm not sure yet. This is a whole new BlackBerry experience. It has some "issues" but it also has potential that no device can match. I'm not sold yet - but I am planning on taking the weekend to get to know this little baby and see if we have a future together.