Well, it's confirmed. America's Chaos County is....Henrico County, Virginia.
Here's a synopsis of the ordeal:
Henrico County becomes one of the first school systems to enter into an agreement with a computer company (Apple) to provide laptops to all teachers, high school and middle school students, a few years ago. The program, albeit with many questions and complaints and critics, goes relatively well.
Earlier this year, the contract with Apple was up for renewal. Dell gave the County a better deal, and Henrico signed with Dell.
So, the question is: What to do with all these Apple I-Books?
The first announcement was that 1,000 of them would be offered for sale for $50 each at the County's surplus location, about a mile from my home. (It's where they auction off the surplus county cars and typewriters once a month or so...)
Well, word spread fast, and people from all around, including California and Japan, starting making reservations to be in Richmond on August 9th.
Now what does the county do? They didn't expect worldwide attention. (Hey guys, there's this thing called the Internet....)
So, what to do now? First of all, they know the county surplus place would be inadequate to handle potential crowds. So, the event is moved to Richmond International Raceway.
Second problem: county residents were livid that the I-Books weren't first made available to them (since they paid the taxes to provide the computers!). They made a good point. An even better point was made by my wife: "Why don't they offer them to the TEACHERS first!!??!!"
So, a special meeting of the Board of Supervisors yields a vote changing law to allow the sale to be limited to county residents only. (Hope those Japan Air tickets could be returned for a full refund!) To buy one (and you were limited to only buying one I-Book), you had to have proof of residence in your hand as you walked in the door.
Residents were specifically told they could NOT line-up early, like the day after Thanksgiving at Wal-Mart.
The date is rescheduled to August 16th.
The time came.
After 130am, scores of humans lined up at the gates of the Raceway. There was no police presence there to "shoo" them away.
The police arrive at 6am. To their surprise (or not), there are THOUSANDS of people lined up. (I'd love to have had a hidden camera out there watching the line-butting going on!)
The bewitching hour came, 7am EDT. LET THE STAMPEDE BEGIN!!!
Someone actually made the conscious decision to open the gate, allowing 5,500 people to run down the "asphalt area" normally occupied by State Fair of Virginia Vendors in September, to get to the line-up place at the Expo Building to get, well, one of the supposed holy grails.
Gee, whatever happened to the line (if there ever was one) outside the gate???
I saw video. It was ridiculous, scary, and actually life-threatning. I'm not kidding.
One woman's stroller was completely destroyed, trampled by Apple worshippers. She got her child out of the stroller just in time. She was hysterical when speaking to reporters. I would have been, too.
The cameras show another mother comforting her two small children, obviously scared to death by behavior that made the crowd running into the toy store looking for "Turbo Man" on Christmas Eve in the movie, "Jingle All The Way" seem like a walk through Montana by a single human. A human walking an average of, say 24 steps daily.
One woman was sick in line, refused to get out for medical attention, and fainted THREE TIMES! The medics had to treat her in line.
One woman didn't get out in line to go potty. Glad I wasn't behind HER in line.
Wait, I'm just glad I wasn't in line AT ALL!!!!!
Here's the FoxNews.com story, thanks to the AP, complete with an elderly man pushed to the ground, a man using a folding chair to beat people trying to cut in front of him in line, and some idiot trying to DRIVE HIS CAR through the crowd to get to the line.
More wonderful stories about the humanity that lives around me from our NBC affiliate's website, NBC12.com. New highlights there include how many "off-duty" officers were assigned to the event, and how many more were called (some in RIOT GEAR).
Now, remember this. Not only was this first come, first serve, there was NO guarantee that the I-Books would be in good working condition!! A center was set up for people to see to what degree their "new-to-them" computer worked. After that, you had a jewel, or a clunker.
Already, people are heading to the local Apple store having to get a new battery, or a new hard drive, or other minor needs.
So, in all, four hospitalized, several trampled, a puddle of urine, Samsonite folder chair wounds on people's bodies, a crushed stroller, a man with a walker who ended up on the ground.....need I go on?
After ALL the controversy and ALL the publicity and ALL the anticipation regarding this event----how do they NOT HAVE PEOPLE THERE FOR CROWD CONTROL!!???!!???
This is the worst black eye Henrico County has received, from itself, in a long, long time.
So, please don't hold it against me because I live in Henrico County.
I grew up in Hanover County. Their residents weren't allowed to buy I-Books. They should have had exclusivity. At least they probably would have done things like:
--stand one behind the other;
--stop to HELP someone who fell;
And, in closing...my son had an I-Book the past two years.
24 hours ago, I probably would have told you, from what I've seen, it wasn't worth being in a long line to even get one for $50.
Today, I will definitely tell you that a $50 Apple I-Book is not worth risking my life.