Why I’m Not Waiting In Line For The iPad 2 [Opinion]

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Just a few minutes ago, after a nine day wait, the iPad 2 went up for order… and even if you dropped you order within seconds of them becoming available, Apple’s estimated shipping delay was between 3-5 business days. Worse, free shipping is your only option with the iPad 2: there’s no way to overnight it.

For a guy like me, the fact that the iPad 2 won’t be shipping out for almost another week was a problem. I have an obvious professional interest in having an iPad 2 as quickly as possible. Yet as I considered my options, I ended up hitting the order button anyway, because I just don’t think I can be part of the Apple Store launch day spectacle this time.

Apple is excellent at making people buying their latest gadget feel as if they are part of a major cultural event… and let’s face it, that is a fairly excellent way of describing the impact of the original iPhone or iPad.

Yet, for the iPad 2, the launch day spectacle associated with the first iPad or iPhone seems so unseemly. The original iPad will be remembered as an important milestone in not just the history but the culture of personal computing. Being part of that launch event was to be a part of something bigger than one’s self. The iPad was a revolution, and its appropriate for a crowd caught up in the madness of a revolution to be ebullient, and it was okay for me to congratulate myself on my forward-thinkingness.

But the iPad 2? It’s a very typical (albeit gorgeous) second-revision update for Apple: a spec bump and a sveltening. It’s not a revolution or even a revelation, it’s a refinement. That I want one is without dispute, but the idea of congratulating myself for buying one spurs me into a jag of neurotic self-loathing. I don’t want to cheer or high-five anyone for buying a new, iteratively advanced iPad a year after the first one, because this time, I’m not helping welcome in the post-PC era, I’m just a willing party in the most irresponsible kind of consumerism: trading in one slab of aluminum, silicon and glass that I never really needed for a slightly better version than I need even less.

Of course, I will buy an iPad 2 anyway. I’ll justify it to myself professionally, but I know the purchase is really the fulfillment of a baser lust. I already feel slightly sordid about it, and that’s without lining up hours ahead of time in front of my local Apple Store, becoming part of a cheering biomass of sweaty flesh. The very idea of running the gantleope of high-fiving Geniuses — each proffering a palm that is as chapped and vessel-burst after a thousand slaps as that of a paraplegic prostitute sitting in the back row of a Times Square movie theater — is enough to make me feel queasy. Bad enough that I’m so quick to trade-in my iPad at all without coat it with the globulous and opalescent glaze of misguided self-congratulation.

That said, this own essay is its own form of self-congratulation: a token nod to lofty principles of responsible, eco-friendly consumerism that I not only can’t really practice as a tech journalist, but probably wouldn’t bother with even if I was just a civilian. This little tuft pulled out of my navel after a spot of pre-dawn ompahloskepsis wouldn’t have even been written if Apple had offered overnight shipping on the iPad 2. How principled can I possibly be?

Not very, so I offer these thoughts only because I had them. I’m not really sure what’s going to happen when 5pm comes around. I still don’t think I can stomach an Apple Store today, but maybe I’ll end up sauntering by an AT&T store later this afternoon after all. Purely by coincidence, I assure you.