This year, I had the privilege of attending Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco. Although I wasn’t able to get a ticket, I still went to hang out with friends, meet new people, and attend Indie Developer Lab, which was running as an alternative to WWDC.
Since I live in the Sacramento area, it was only about a two and a half hour drive from home to the parking garage near the Moscone Center. When I arrived however, all my friends I had intended on meeting up with were down in Cupertino with the Apple pilgrimage (friends in question: Adam Bell (@b3ll), Steven Troughton-Smith (@stroughtonsmith), and David Schuza (@PolishDemon)). Because I was planning on staying with someone else during my stay and didn’t have a hotel room, I initially had nothing to do until they got back. So I decided to just wait at the Moscone Center until they returned. Little did I know that I would meet a really unique guy and be the second person in line at WWDC for a short time.
When I arrived at the Moscone Center, it was somewhat crowded as expected. Everyone was getting their badges for tomorrow’s event and chatting with fellow developers along the way. As mentioned above, I didn’t have a ticket, so I didn’t need to go inside. Instead, I plopped myself at the front of the line with my fold-out chair I had brought from home for the upcoming night. I soon realized that I was second in line and sitting next to the infamous man who had been first in line for many years at WWDC.
Every year since I had been really into the Apple world and the conference, I had always heard on the news about this one guy who would be first in line every year. But I never imagined I would have the opportunity to talk with him in person. Especially without sounding like every other person who wanted to talk to him as he proudly sat in position number one.
The man was just any typical person. He had an REI fold-out chair and was sitting in it when I arrived. He also was wearing a wide-brimmed hat to protect him from the sun and a pair of sunglasses to protect his eyes. He was dressed normally like anyone else and was very poised as he said. When I first arrived, he was playing on his iPhone, which spurred me to ask him what devices he owned as one of my first questions. He said he owned a MacBook Pro, an iPhone, and an iPad. Don’t remember the exact models.
My first couple questions after that to him consisted of how he was doing and when he had arrived that day. The answer to the “How are you doing?” was the typical “I am well, how are you?” Then he told me he had been there since 11:00 AM that morning, which was about two hours before I arrived. Even though that was baffling, he said he usually starts lining up much earlier than that. We got off on a tangent about whether the conference Wi-Fi was up and then continued with a discussion about our families and personal lives. He mentioned he was from Virginia and that he enjoyed trekking here every year to be at the conference. I followed up with the question he most likely gets all the time, “So how many years have you been first in line at WWDC?” He replied with the following:
2000 to 2005, 2006 - Present. That’s 11 years!
I was in awe at the dedication he has shown over the years for this conference and Apple. But what was the most amazing thing the whole time I sat with him was that it wasn’t a one-way conversation. It was very much both ways! He drilled me with questions about myself, what I had done, and things about who I was as a person. It was truly amazing; a connection that you get with very few people.
As we sat there, people would come up and ask what we were doing. He would reply that he was waiting in line for the conference. The various responses were super hilarious. Either it was a congratulatory response or “Wow you’re so crazy.” There were even people who took our picture because they thought this was so awesome. It was quite a funny experience. But the whole time that went on, we still continued to talk, laugh, and share our stories.
TestFlight came out a little bit after I had arrived to pass out t-shirts to those who were there. Being a first time “tourist,” naturally I wanted a t-shirt. I went up to the group of boxes with t-shirts and then realized that I needed to show a badge for WWDC in order to get one. Disappointed, I headed back to my seat to continue chatting with the guy in the front of the line. He noticed that I was looking forward to getting my first t-shirt of the week and asked “Do you want a t-shirt?” I replied to him “Yes of course, but I don’t have a badge to get one.” He followed up with “Well, I don’t really like t-shirts myself, so can I grab you one?” My eyes brightened “Sure, I would love one! Thank you so much.” I made sure I kept his post guarded as he got up, walked over to the boxes, grabbed me a shirt and came back. He nicely handed it to me and sat back down to begin chatting again. I am so grateful for his kindness. I definitely owe him next year!
One part that will stick with me for the rest of my life was the responses the guy gave back to people who asked him about why he would sit so early. They all followed the same trend; it was a tradition and something he enjoyed doing. Never was it about fame, recognition, or media exposure. He was very humble about himself and always refused any media interviews or anything of that sort. Despite the laughs and pointing of fingers for his crazy “feat,” he would remain at his post, waiting for the doors to open the next morning.
About an hour after I had been sitting there, two of my other friends Chris Wade (@cmwdotme) and Will Strafach (@chronic) grabbed their badges and asked if I wanted to go eat at Mel’s Diner down the street. I decided to do that, picked up my chair, and walked away, of course after saying goodbye to the many friends I had met while I sat there. Although I had to give up my second in line position, it was well worth the hour I spend there chatting with people. And what was cool was that, when the time came for me to line up at midnight, I got to meet the actual second person in line and he happened to know people in the party I was with. Pretty cool! His name is Dimitri Bouniol (@dimitribouniol)
Unfortunately, I cannot remember every detail of this story and I so wish I did. But the one thing I want to hit home with is this.
“Never let anyone discourage you from doing what you love or ridicule you for the choice you made to pursue it.”
This man loved doing what he did. He claimed the first position every year because it was a tradition and it was a way for him to get “crazy” one time a year. It was never for selfish reasons or for fame. He was just a normal guy showing his passion for Apple and the conference by camping out prior to the actual event. With that said, if you love something so much that you want to be crazy about it, just do it! Don’t let anyone stop you. Pursue life and do the unthinkable just for the experience. You will live a much more fulfilled life when you don’t let anyone or anything stop you from pursuing your passions.
I look forward to being there next year with an actual ticket and a mind, body, and soul prepared for meeting new people and sharing stories, projects, and other fascinating information.