“iPhones perked up, like dogs in the back seat arriving home, and barked a notification at their owners.”
From “Tim Cook’s Big Apple Circus” by Nathan Heller, now available on Apple News+:
Visitors to the Apple campus early last Monday… got an unusual greeting as they drove toward Apple Park. With the appointed hour approaching, many guests’ iPhones perked up, like dogs in the back seat arriving home, and barked a notification at their owners: “Prepare to check in.” The owners did what they could. An advance guard of Apple employees wearing black down jackets over teal T-shirts hailed them with greetings and directions. A rear guard pulled credentials from the Wallet apps and Touch I.D.s on visitors’ phones.
Then it was up a winding footpath (Steve Jobs Way) to a round glass pavilion perched atop a subterranean auditorium (Steve Jobs Theatre), the route marked at each turn by more employees, more greetings, more teal. By this point, visitors felt extremely checked in, and a warm bemusement settled on the crowd. “It’s unclear to me where any of these people come from or why they’re here,” Ken Ziffren, a media-and-entertainment lawyer whose firm represents Apple talent, remarked. He was unsure what the company planned to announce but, like everyone, was being made cozy in the dark.
It was a Scandinavian-seeming day in Cupertino: gray, blustery, and bright. Fresh mulch along Steve Jobs Way gave the wind a fervid springtime musk. Multiculti digital music playing from speakers in the foliage helped enforce a Zen-like air. Inside, at a round bar centered in the room, baristas proffered apple-cinnamon rolls and apple cakes and poured hot Chemex coffee into paper cups whose off-white hue recalled the Apple IIc. Outside, on a terrace ringing the pavilion, caterers refreshed trays of yogurt, empanadas, fruit skewers, pastries, bread pudding, inari, and quiches topped with swirls of savory cream. These sculpted portions, like much about the theatre, seemed a challenge to chaos encroaching from outside. At one point, a gust tipped a coffee cup over. The spill vanished from the cream-colored terrazzo floor within minutes.
Vanishments of all sorts added a mysterious air. There were no trash cans in the pavilion. In their place, humans walked around with trays onto which guests tossed garbage. The biggest absence, over all, was informational: What was this event about? Media types slumping over laptops or lecturing at selfie sticks had speculations, nothing more. The teal shirts answered most specific questions with a helpful vagueness, like Parisians directing lost Americans toward a distant restaurant for lunch.
My take: Always a pleasure to read a well-crafted account of an event you saw (and smelled) first-hand. Heller did a nice job capturing the preliminaries. I particularly liked the “fervid springtime musk” of the fresh mulch. I wish he hadn’t stopped so abruptly after the lights went out.
Below: A video I shot taking the same stroll a year and a half earlier, when the park was first opened to reporters.
More video from September 2017: Live from inside Apple Park