Shanghai’s new Apple Store on East Nanjing Road (which we’ve been prattling on about for over a week now) opened its doors to the public at 9am this morning, and we aren’t exaggerating when we say we haven’t seen Chinese people this giddy about something, ever. Since we’re rather China-centric at Shanghaiist, it’s par for the course to compare random social phenomena to some previous kindred thing from the dark murk of bygone Communist epochs, and we’ll be a running dog if the assembled crowd weren’t the happiest, most hopped-up Chinese people Shanghai’s seen since Liberation.
The crowd began lining up at the Store on the corner of Henan Middle Road and East Nanjing Road at 10pm on Thursday, and were rewarded for their patience and bitterness-munching skills with staff hand-outs of high-fives, full-on reciprocal man-on-man hugs with hoisting involved, and free gray t-shirts. People hugged like they had made it, like they won a war.
Nong Hao, Nanjing Dong Lu!
At least that was the case with some of them anyway, especially the new location’s First Ever
Browser Customer, who was held up and walked into the store on the shoulders of staff, while he recorded everything with his iPhone. There was a substantial portion of the crowd that seemed like they’d lined up only for collecting a free t-shirt and go in for a light mill about the new digs before heading home.
Meanwhile, the Smurf-colored staff were doing Mexican Waves in between chants of “APPLE APPLE APPLE” with the full roar of their throats, and “Nanjing Road, GO GO GO!” Fresh-faced teched-out girls and boys that were part of the global network of Employees With Apple Discounts peered into video cameras to say things like, “Amazing!” and “We are family!”
And while we’re at the subject of Communist murk, we’d like to reassure the government that the intensity of an Apple Frenzy isn’t a cause for alarm. Just because Chinese people get excited and worship something in a secular fashion doesn’t automatically mean they’re then going to get their jollies out by unleashing a decade of hell-on-earth class struggle. We’d hope, however fruitlessly, that Elder Comrades won’t freak out about people going crazy for things that they didn’t organize.
Later inside the store, there were Browsers feeling the full weight of their exhaustive line-waiting, and some let a few yawns out by the spiral staircase.
So why go then?
Nobody was seen buying anything at the Store during the short time we were allowed for picture-taking. Is it the magical power of freebie t-shirts emblazoned with “Hello East Nanjing Road” in Shanghainese?
If that isn’t it, then we have to guess that showing up for the opening of a new Apple Store (when other Shanghai locations with the same products have much shorter wait times) means proving the level of one’s devotion, and earning the right to say “I was there first.” The chance to record and upload footage of the hidden hyped-about place, the chance to take pictures of the store’s Apple products with one’s own Apple products.
Girls taking pictures of themselves wearing the new shirt while flashing the peace sign and puffing their cheeks out, and boys playing with shiny Macbooks drifting into an opiate-glazed quietude, the same kind that happens when someone is on the toilet playing with an app twenty minutes after they’ve finished their business. Needless to say, the day’s male-to-female amongst cue-waiters was skewed, much like certain Chinese population predictions for the future are skewed.
U ♥ Apple 2?
More than just a drawing of customers, the opening of the new Store seemed like an impromptu festival, or a convention, in which everyone is Cocoa Puff Cuckoo for the common interest, and eager to reaffirm and honor their identities as Macs, not PC’s. A meeting of like-minded congregants, all there to fulfill their end of the buzz-creation bargain.
And yet, who are we to judge? Weren’t we completely beside ourselves with excitement when we scratched the Super Famicom’s styrofoam box to pieces when the gift-wrap finally came off?
We were tapped on the shoulder somewhere next to the wall of Smart Covers and told we’d have to wrap it up by a diminutive retail rep. They shooed us out the door, our media badge was snapped off our lapel, and we walked out to once again join the human hubbub of a normal Nanjing Road day.