"This is nuts. This is nuts," said Khadir Lel-Jallad,… (Kim Hairston, Baltimore…)
It might have been Easter Saturday morning, but for the handful of people lined up outside the Best Buy store in Timonium, the anticipatory atmosphere made it feel more like Christmas Eve.
The Apple iPad was about to go on sale, and fans of the tablet computer that allows users to read books, browse the Internet and enjoy videos and games didn't want to go home empty-handed.
Confusion about when the store opened might have accounted for some of the early arrivals. Even when Matt Dawson, the store's day manager, came outside to tell the crowd that the store would open at 10 a.m., not 9 a.m., few showed signs of leaving their place in line.
Jim Salamon, 28, a logistics management analyst for Northrop Grumman Corp., left his Owings Mills home early enough to be first in line at 7 a.m.
"Obviously, I got here way too early," he said, laughing. "I actually pre-ordered it and wanted to have it in time to show my family for Easter."
Salamon said he planned to use his iPad "mostly for entertainment and not work. I'll surf the Internet and stuff like that."
Second in line was Beth Valencia, holding her 8-month-old son, Mason, tightly wrapped in a blanket to ward off the early morning chill.
Her husband, Alexi Valencia, works in information technology network security.
"I was sent here today by my husband who is an Apple junkie and is working today," said the 26-year-old who lives in Lutherville. "We basically plan to use it just for fun."
Mike Brown interrupted a run to the nearby county landfill in Cockeysville, to join the band of iPad shoppers.
"I have one on order, but I stopped by to pick up one for a friend," said Brown, a 34-year-old Parkville resident and real estate entrepreneur. "A lot of people would see a line forming and not stop, but that didn't bother me."
Jim McGill, 57, who lives in Timonium and is a health information administrator for Life Bridge Health, said he planned to use his new iPad for "both work and pleasure."
Sipping coffee, munching on bagels and light-hearted banter helped to pass the time.
Jeff Helman, 58, a software developer for Interactive Technologies, who lives in Cockeysville, had a different reason for buying an iPad.
"We need it for testing. It's part of what I do. Stay ahead of the curve and get new ideas," Helman said.
Dawson said that the iPads arrived by UPS shortly before midnight Friday and were being held in a metal cage under lock and key. He declined to reveal the number of units the store had received.
He came out shortly before the 10 a.m. opening to explain the drill to the folks in the queue.
"We have enough iPads to take care of those folks who are in line. We're going to go into the store in a line. This is not a grab and go operation," he said.
If anyone expected a Black Friday-like rush as the doors swung open at 10 a.m., they were disappointed. Four Best Buy employees were on hand to help customers select an iPad and quickly be on their way.
Buyers chose from three models ranging from $499 to $699. At the Timonium store, the most expensive version was also the most popular.
Khadir Lel-Jallad, 23, a graduate student at Towson University who manages a dermatology office, alternately cradled and hugged his new iPad with all the tenderness of a father holding a newborn baby.
He couldn't wait to high-five his friend, Greg Hargest, 44, of Carney, who came with him to the store and works for Best Buy Mobile.
For Lel-Jallad, the iPad adventure nearly ended in disaster.
"I went through a lot to get this," he said. "We were at the Apple store at Towson Town Center and there must have been 250 people there. And then I found out I was in the wrong line, so we raced up here."
By 10:30 a.m., the store was filling up with more casual Saturday shoppers.
Dawson declined to say how many iPads had been sold.
"I guess most people got them to give for Easter presents," he said. "Whatever happened to just giving and getting candy on Easter?"