1:41 a.m. The first batch of people who plan to buy the iPhone for themselves arrives. They tote lounge chairs, snacks, and soda. The iWait team, though, already has the first 30 spots.

2:23 a.m. All the front-runners are asleep, including Rambo, a copper-haired and sunburned Iraq War vet who wears fatigues and clings to a canteen. He's wrapped up in a camouflage sleeping bag.

4:06 a.m. Shorty sidles over to me, winks, and says a guaranteed buyer will pay $100 for my phone. A pale, pig-nosed, freckled little Brazilian dude eyes us nervously from outside the cage. Shorty says Freckle-Face wants to buy ten phones.

The iWait team, herded into the iCorral to try to snag a new iPhone or an iPad.
Camille Lamb
The iWait team, herded into the iCorral to try to snag a new iPhone or an iPad.

4:40 a.m. Four overweight Apple employees with awful beards stand like human blueberries outside the fencing. They wear douchey earpieces and feign authority.

6:37 a.m. About 200 people are waiting, most hoping to snag an unlocked iPhone 5. One young couple in the middle of the line want a new iPad 4, which they say has a crisper display and a better chip than its predecessors.

6:53 a.m. Justin, the young blond guy who was scarfing down the hoagie, gets talkative. He recently rolled into town after a stint at a Key West marina and has spent the past three nights in front of this store without getting anything. He's been sleeping in a garage and showering with someone's hose.

6:58 a.m. A cheery Blueberry emerges to inform us: "We have a lot of iPad Minis and very few iPhone 5s." Faces — even the drunk ones — in the front row suddenly look very grave. As she hands out tickets to buy the phones, the news spreads quickly: There are only 12 iPhones for sale, limit two per person. Of the dozens of people camped out for 12 hours or more hoping to grab a phone, only six will get them. I think about giving up my spot — third in line! — but my buyer is already at my elbow, shoving a wad of cash into my palm: $1,400. With the news of the tiny iPhone supply, much of the line disappears in a matter of seconds.

8 a.m. The doors open. A mob of 40 ridiculous, clapping, cheering Blueberries rolls out onto the sidewalk. I try to dodge the pesky WSVN camera as I'm escorted into the store. Before I know it, I have two phones, which I trade to my little pig-nosed buyer inside his big white SUV for $100. Some of my compatriots do better, making $150 per phone. But most of them walk away empty-handed. Desperate would-be buyers shout, "Did you already sell your phones? I would have given you more money!"

As I make my way toward a hot shower, I think about Justin the garage dweller and Albert, the kid struggling to get clean. I run back and catch the pair on their way to a convenience store, where they plan to shave. I tell them what I know about recovery resources in Miami Beach and ask them to split the hundred bucks, adding that I hope they do something positive with it.

They initially refuse but then take the money, saying they'll follow up on my tips. They continue their walk eastward on Lincoln Road.

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My Voice Nation Help

Very interesting observation.