iBook Insanity

[Note: Con­sid­er this a rolling post, as news items will keep com­ing all day, I’m sure. Par­tic­u­lar­ly as the media out­side of Rich­mond gets a hold of this.]

Huddled Masses

The iBook hun­gry masses.

We went down to the RIR at about 6:30 this morn­ing to get in line for one of those $50 iBooks. We weren’t real­ly even sure we were going to go until late last night, but we decid­ed it would be fun to take the morn­ing off togeth­er and hang out. I now wish I’d just gone run­ning and come to work like any oth­er Tues­day. The thing that describes the whole scene down there was chaos; chaos with peri­ods of calm caused by being baked in the hot Rich­mond sun.

My Story

[How things hap­pened (or did­n’t hap­pen) from my point of view.]

We left the house around dawn and head­ed to get some break­fast, stop­ping by the ATM on the way. We drove down Labur­num, Angela com­ment­ing that all the oth­er cars on the street might be head­ed to where we were going. I did­n’t think much about it then, but it turns out she was right. We came to a dead stop about a mile from the RIR. I noticed peo­ple park­ing at one of the apart­ment com­plex­es near­by and walk­ing the rest of the way. It looked like some sort of huge sport­ing event was about to go on, which pret­ty sums up what hap­pened right there.

We agreed I’d drop Angela off and then go park the vehi­cle, as peo­ple were already park­ing near­ly a mile away and walk­ing. We final­ly got through the inter­sec­tion at Labur­num and Mead­ow­bridge, which had three traf­fic cops. She walked up to the front gate (still locked at this point) and I drove on. As I was still look­ing for a spot, she called me to tell me they had unlocked the gates and peo­ple were just rush­ing in on foot and in cars. That’s nev­er a good mix. Angela said she was­n’t plan­ning on dash­ing off like a fool, and I told her that sound­ed smart. I could hear loads of shout­ing over the phone, so I told her I’d get there as soon as I could.

By the time I got up to the gate, it had cooled off some­what. Angela had got­ten in before the tram­pling, and I got there short­ly after it had hap­pened. The line was ridicu­lous already, and peo­ple were still lin­ing up. I found Angela, who had secured a rea­son­ably good spot. Of course, the line was more of a long, nar­row mob; about 8–10 peo­ple wide. It was pret­ty obvi­ous that there were sev­er­al thou­sand peo­ple there already. Short­ly after 8:00 (over an hour after the pan­ic at the gates) fire, res­cue, and some more police start­ed show­ing up. They began by just shout­ing into a bull­horn at the front of the line. We could­n’t real­ly hear them, and I’m pret­ty sure the peo­ple about 2,000 back in the line were com­plete­ly obliv­i­ous. Next, the police start­ed dri­ving a cruis­er along side the line telling peo­ple to back-up. Back up? Where? I’m crowd­ed like this was the pit at a 80’s met­al con­cert. We could­n’t go anywhere.

Even­tu­al­ly, about 6 or so offi­cers on foot began walk­ing along the line, mov­ing them back­ward one small seg­ment at a time. We even­tu­al­ly walked about a quar­ter mile back­wards before the police seemed sat­is­fied the line was thin enough. What we did­n’t know was that they had sim­ply changed tac­tics. They had erect­ed a sort three-part sys­tem to get the crowd into two lines. First, they sim­ply bar­ri­cad­ed off the line. They would let through a siz­able sec­tion of peo­ple at one time through this bar­ri­cade, only to be stopped at anoth­er in what was sort of a make-shift cor­ral. Then, they had put-togeth­er a Z‑type maze (like at a theme park, but one that you’d find in hell) to fun­nel the peo­ple to the doors. Now, all of this is going on in the hot Rich­mond sun on the tar­mac at the race­way park­ing lot. “Hot and humid” real­ly does­n’t do it jus­tice. Some of the race­way staff (well, we guessed they were staff) start­ed sell­ing Pep­si prod­ucts and bot­tled water for $2 each. That kind of added to the Dis­ney World feel­ing, what with the lines and heat.

I began walk­ing around as Angela kept her spot in line (we were only plan­ning on get­ting one any­way, since she was the Hen­ri­co res­i­dent). I spoke to the fel­low from NBC12, who thought they had at that point sold around 500 or so lap­tops. I tried to report some of this back to Angela (and all the oth­ers who looked so pathet­i­cal­ly anx­ious when I returned to my spot). Sun­burnt, exhaust­ed, and angry, we decid­ed to call it quits. In the four hours we spent, we could have com­bined bought a far nicer iBook off of eBay from the com­fort of our home. Les­son learned.

On our way out, we noticed what looked like about 1/2 of the Hen­ri­co police depart­ment lined up where the lucky few iBook pur­chasers where leav­ing the build­ing. This includ­ed the SWAT team. Hours too late, and then in overkill force, they had final­ly arrived to make sure a scene that had already got­ten way out of con­trol did­n’t do it again.


I imag­ine some­one’s going to pay hell for this mess. The coun­ty board thought they must have had a sure fire win in their pock­ets when they decid­ed to lim­it this to res­i­dents only. We’ll see how they feel when what hap­pened hits the news. The coun­ty real­ly bum­bled this one up and is very lucky no one was seri­ous­ly injured today.

Lot’s of media cov­er­age using the word “riot.” I saw noth­ing that resem­bled a riot this morn­ing. The surge of peo­ple that result­ed in some folks get­ting tram­pled was in the first few moments of the gates being opened. While hor­ri­ble, that was the real­ly bad behav­ior of the day. After­wards it was rel­a­tive­ly calm, although tem­pers were cer­tain­ly flar­ing at times. Lot’s of shout­ing at the police for not know­ing what was going on (hell, no one knew what was going on) and for not let­ting peo­ple move ahead when they thought they should.

I Survived The Henrico

Be the first to sport this flashy item.

There is also a sto­ry about some­one get­ting beat­en with a fold­ing chair. I nev­er saw or heard any­thing about this. If it was a beat­ing like the descrip­tion I read online, then the per­son would have been tak­en away in hand­cuffs. The peo­ple were get­ting the police to even pre­vent line-jumpers, who believes they’d just let a beat­ing go on? I imag­ine this was some guy whack­ing a line-jumper with his can­vas sports-chair , but not some sort of wrestling cage-match move. I doubt any­one was hurt, oth­er than their pride. Most­ly just some­one brag­ging about cool they were in line and not let­ting any­one get in front of them.


The good Apple-lovin’ peo­ple over at The Unof­fi­cial Apple Weblog linked to my site after e‑mailing them about them may­hem. They’ve done a real­ly good job of report­ing on the sto­ry since day one and keep­ing every­one informed of the local devel­op­ments. Thanks TUAW!

NBC 12 has some video of the event, and you can see the guy (Aaron Gilchrist) I talked to around 10:30 this morning.

2:30 — It’s already made it’s way to the L.A. Times and fur­ther, via the A.P., with a crowd esti­mate of 5,500 now.

You have to watch the Rich­mond Times Dis­patch slideshow of the gates open­ing. You can just see the momen­tum build­ing to the cli­max of peo­ple just get­ting mowed down. Thank God Angela was no where near all this, although we both wish we weren’t even there at all today. Cred­it goes to Times Dis­patch pho­tog­ra­ph­er Dean Hoffmey­er for these excel­lent photos.

Wired News has the A.P. sto­ry as well, now.

Engad­get has a post about the sto­ry, as well as some of the most offen­sive com­ments I’ve ever read there. I guess it was becuase I was there, but these guys (the read­ers, not Engad­get staff) make me sick blam­ing this on the fact that they think it was most­ly African-Amer­i­cans to blame for the inci­dent. Of course, the posters who were there only drove by. The crowd was a rel­a­tive­ly good cross-sec­tion of Hen­ri­co Coun­ty, minus the well-to-do West-Enders (who prob­a­bly don’t send their kids to pub­lic school, any­way): blacks, whites, Indi­ans, asians, col­lege stu­dents, retired peo­ple, and so on. Is that a suprise, that the peo­ple com­ing to buy lap­tops from the coun­ty would reflect the coun­ty make-up? Fur­ther, these folks were there for the lap­tops to keep, not for try­ing to make a fast buck.

This sto­ry is on Won­kette. Why is Won­kette even talk­ing about this? Oh, appar­ent­ly some­one wet them­selves in line. All I had to put up with was peo­ple smok­ing around me. How bad is your day when the best part is no one pissed near you?

Some oth­er pho­tos on Flickr.

And we have at least one on eBay already! Per­haps I’ll just buy this one…

Wow, the sto­ry has now even land­ed in the online comics sec­tion.

Categorized as Geek, Life

By Jason Coleman

Structural engineer and technical content manager Bentley Systems by day. Geeky father and husband all the rest of time.


  1. Wow, Jason. Why would you do that to your, what sounds like, won­der­ful wife? I bet she slaves dur­ing the week at her job. You pig-men are all the same. 

    Love, :)
    Non-Jason Fan 

  2. Well, she is in fact a won­der­ful wife. She’s in the run­ning for the wife-of-the-year award, 2005 (it’s a nation-wide con­test, by the way).

    Let’s just say that it seemed like a good idea to me, and she was agree­able at the time. Fur­ther, when she decid­ed it was time to go, I did­n’t object at all. We both knew that was a good idea.

    For what it’s worth, I have thanked her sev­er­al times for going with me and apol­o­gized for how mis­er­able we were. We pig-men are pret­ty good at that, I guess.

  3. I saw the pho­tos in the paper. Wow, I know that I‑books have a good rep­u­ta­tion, but heh these are 4 year old jobs. What must the peo­ple in the front of the line run­ning through the gate think now? 

    Just two ques­tions: How is it that Angela is a Hen­ri­co res­i­dent and you are not? And I am still con­fused because don’t both of you live togeth­er in the Rich­mond city limits?

    Glad you two made it out unscathed.

  4. Travis: Well, Angela did live in Hen­ri­co for a few years, so she had prop­er Hen­ri­co ID (vot­er reg­is­tra­tion) which does not expire. I sup­pose there could be some great debate about jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for fraud, but since we did­n’t do any­thing oth­er shade some pave­ment for about 4 hours, I don’t real­ly think it’s worth get­ting into.

    As far as liv­ing inside the City of Rich­mond, yes, we live about 4 1/2 blocks from the coun­ty line. We cer­tain­ly weren’t alone in our wrong-doing, since a cou­ple of peo­ple who post­ed to my Flickr account are studnets, from Ten­nessee and Blacks­burg. Fun­ny, huh?

  5. It is tru­ely a small world. My inter­est in the loca­tion you pay tax­es to is I assure you pure­ly academic. 

    Next time put a “Media” badge on and you could have full access to front of the line. Hah. Hah.

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