Did you buy iPad 2?

iPad 2

I did. My teenage daughter wants to use one for school. Late-afternoon yesterday, I waited for a surprisingly short time outside Apple Store Fashion Valley in San Diego, where at least 500 people lined up to get an Apple tablet. The doors opened at 5 p.m. local time, and I completed my purchase by 6:20 p.m. Apple Store employees rapidly processed purchases using iPhones.

Judging by the number of people using iPhones -- I'd say 60 percent to 70 percent -- the majority of buyers here were existing Apple customers. So in answering "Did you buy iPad 2" please also express whether or not you use other Apple products and whether or not you purchased (or otherwise own or owned iPad 1). Please respond in comments, or email joewilcox at gmail dot com.

Here in San Diego, the iPad 2 line cut across age, racial, gender and socioeconomic lines. It was a melting pot of Americans, which says something about iPad 2's mass-market appeal. Sure, I saw a few geeks in line, but they were in the decided minority. There was a mood of festivity and excitement in the air.

The guy in front of me was a student studying at one of the local colleges. I wrongly assumed that he was Asian American. He was from Japan. Around 5:40 p.m., he stopped reading and asked if I would hold his place in line if he went to Starbucks and got us both coffee. I handed him a twenty, saying I would pay for both of us.

While he was gone, an Apple Store employee came out and said that the store had sold out all 3G models. Twenty minutes earlier, another staffer warned that most Verizon 3G iPads had sold out. I was surprised 3G models went so quickly -- after all they cost so much more than WiFi-only models. Both employees promised there would be a new shipment of iPads sometime on Saturday.

The Japanese student returned about 10 minutes later, looking for me at the front of the line (I would have waited outside the store for him if the line had gotten that far). He later found me much farther back and handed over change and coffee. We started talking. After realizing he was from Japan, I asked about his family. They were okay but obviously upset by events. He hardly slept the night before. Friday afternoon Tokyo time (the student referred to it as yesterday), an 8.9-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Japan, also sending a giant tsunami.

I had read on the BBC before going to Apple Store that the tsunami had killed 350 people and that 500 others were missing. The student corrected me. More than 1,000 people died from the tsunami, he said. He expressed mixed emotions -- deep sadness about events at home and excitement to buy iPad 2. I asked if he owned a Mac, after seeing his iPhone 3G. "Microsoft -- Windows -- computer," he said. He plans to buy a Mac when the next Mac OS X version "Lion" ships this summer.

He asked if I had the 1st-generation iPad. I sold mine in December for a friend. I could see by his questions that he was thinking about using iPad 2 for school. He wanted to know if I had used an external keyboard. I explained how the soft-touch keyboard was good enough for my needs. I told him my daughter wants an iPad for school, too, then remembered she had studied Japanese for two years, which I finally told him.

As we approached the front of the line, he asked about my profession. I said journalist, which got him excited. He wanted to know if I had been to Japan and was covering the earthquake there. I told him that I write about technology companies like Apple. "Japanese companies?" he asked. Yes. Two weeks earlier, I attended a briefing with Sony Electronics President Phil Molyneux. It was right then that we were ushered into the Apple Store.

A mistake followed. I was rushed to get back home, and so distracted; my daughter and friend were waiting to be driven to an evening event. I should have gotten the student's email address, or given him mine, but forgot. His homeland was in trauma. We connected. I'm much older and could have been a parental figure. On the rare chance that student, who is attending Mesa College, reads this post, please feel free to contact me.

Later that evening, I dropped by the local AT&T store located about a mile's drive from Apple Store Fashion Valley. The place was empty -- nearly no customers and lots of employees milling about. I asked the rep who helped me with my account if this was typical for a Friday. Absolutely not. I shared about going to Apple Store and it selling out of 3G iPads. "We still have a few left," he said. I asked if he iPad 2 at the nearby Apple Store accounted for the unusually slow Friday night. "Traffic is down at AT&T stores across the country," he answered. The reason: The earthquake in Japan, he said. 

This morning, I awoke to news of an explosion at Fukushima-Daiichi power plant.

I will never forget buying iPad 2, not because of Apple marketing or even the product, but because of tragic events across the Pacific and meeting a young man caught up in his family's and countrymen's pain from so far away. That's not the iPad 2 story I expected to write today. Please share your story -- and answer the "did you buy" question -- in comments, or email joewilcox at gmail dot com.

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