iPhone X billboardCaroline Cakebread/Business Insider

The hype around the iPhone X has been building since the gadget was first unveiled in September.

On Friday, Apple’s new phone finally landed on store shelves. But hordes of eager consumers had already begun gathering outside Apple retail stores well before the doors opened. Whether motivated by a desire to be first, or a fear of Apple running out of stock, techies love to line up outside Apple stores — sometimes camping out for days — when the device goes on sale.

Word was that the crowds for the $999 iPhone X, the tenth anniversary model of the iconic device, would be even larger than usual. And I decided that experiencing what it’s like to be part of this curious subculture of Apple fanatics and line waiters was something I couldn’t pass up.

As it turns out, a coworker in New York was desperate for the new iPhone X, so I volunteered to do the line thing and get it for her. I chose the Union Square Apple store in San Francisco. It’s a flagship location, and because of its central location I knew there’d be a big crowd. 

I had no idea what was in store, but at 3:30 a.m., my alarm went off and the adventure began.