Waiting is Half the Fun: H & M Opening at 3rd St Promenade

The rain was starting to get heavy and there I was, standing in line, waiting.

Why did I take this assignment? I kept thinking this question over and over, as images of my editor in her warm bed were flashing.

The people at H & M were waiting to get our hard earn dollars before they're spent in the upcoming black Friday sales or better yet, saved for emergencies in our bank account for the imminent recession.

The rain started pouring harder. But at least the people at H & M's hearts were in the right place, as they started passing out umbrellas and water to the 85 or so people in line.

The occasion for such a large number of people to be standing in the middle of Third Street Promenade under the rain was for the aforementioned store's big opening. I remembered that being one of the reasons I decided to come was the promise of a gift card to the "first 100 people in line or so" as my editor said the day before.

She also claimed that the store "would open at 10 a.m.", and being there at nine wasn't such a big deal. Only that the store wasn't opening until noon.

The people around me were from all ages and walks of life, the woman in front of me was in her late 50s and from the conversation she was having with the girl next to her, she was no stranger to these events. "There's an American Apparel opening soon as well" she said.

The young woman behind me, Tiffany Gutlay, said she was "dragged" to the opening by her two other SMC friends near the front of the line. Gutlay, an SMC student herself, came all the way from Chatsworth. "I am not really a big fan of the store, my friends called me last night and I had nothing to do."

Lisa Cordero and California Bustamante, who were joined by a young male who declined to be identified or interviewed, came also all the way from the Valley. They sat patiently outside the entrance of the store, covered from the rain by big umbrellas. "We got here at 6 a.m. this is the first time we have done something like this and we thought it would be fun." Cordero said.

As Gutlay chatted to the young man next to her, "a fan of H & M", he seemed to be, liked the rest of us, a virgin to an event like this. "This is my first time doing this." was a phrase heard often.

As time seemed to be moving slowly and rain kept stopping one second and pouring the next, the saving grace of this adventure was the good attitude and humor from Tom Johnson, a Santa Monica resident whose Jim Carrey-like jokes and demeanor kept the people around him entertained. "I was just walking by and had nothing to do, I am off work today," Johnson said "I heard about the gift bags and the gift cards so I decided to stay."

By 10 a.m., there were about 150 people already in line, many of the even had their young children and toddlers with them. "We're here for the free gift cards and gift bags" Cindy Corona said, when asked why she would spend four hour in the rain.

Corona was joined by her four cousins, one of them, George Gonzalez drove two of the teen girls with him. "Today I have no work or nothing. They know I wake up early so they had me drive them here. My friend works in the store so he told us about it."

Everybody in line seemed excited about the possibility of getting a $300 dollar gift card. "You can get anything from $10 to $300 so stay in line and don't leave after 11 of there's nothing we can do for you. We don't even know what amount each card has, it's all random" kept repeating Cheri from time to time, she was one of the people in charge of keeping people in line and whom had earlier passed out the umbrellas. "You can call the 800 number in the card to know how much you got."

Finally, at 11:30 the gift bags were passed, containing a couple of magazines and a T shirt. Nothing too exciting. But at 11:45, the big prized arrived, the gift cards.
The people around me started calling the number, wanting to know what was the amount their cards had. "Did you call the number? How much did you get?" Said the young H & M fan to people around him and to me. I didn't have any intention of checking, but with such a request, who could say no? "$25" I said.

There was a scream coming from a few feet behind me. Cindy Corona had won the $300 gift card. "I shouldn't have cut ahead of them in line" Johnson said. "By the way, nothing that I've told you is true." He said as he laughed.

Finally we were about to go inside the store. The line started moving as the music from DJ inside the store kept getting louder and louder, as well as the sound of our wallets opening to let H & M take a few of our dollars for "Christmas presents", as we kept telling ourselves...