Friday, June 13, 2008, 04:00 pm
Apple forces bathroom escorts on WWDC reportersParanoia on the part of Apple reached a new high this week when the company refused to allow journalists covering its annual developers conference to use the restroom facilities on site without a personal escort.
After some debate, ComputerWorld's Matt Hamblen wrote a lengthy blog post on the matter because he found it somewhat demoralizing and embarrassing, especially given that he was covering the conference from a secure press area that Apple itself had the opportunity to select and isolate more appropriately if it so chose.
"I started off for the wash room, but was told by Apple officials that I couldn't go alone," he wrote, claiming that the seemingly absurd measure was the result of both Apple chief executive Steve Jobs and a just-announced iPhone 3G being somewhere within a 50 yard radius.
Having obliged to Apple's demand the first time around, Hamblen who had been drinking quite a bit of coffee found himself in need of a second trip to the facilities. So instead of "looking ill" by approaching the same man who'd accompanied him prior, he asked a female Apple staffer if he could possibly handle the return trip on his own. No dice.
"So, I went to my favorite restroom escort, and he looked at me like I WAS ill," Hamblen wrote. He then explained to the escorts that he wasn't an old man with a bladder problem, but had simply been slurping a lot of caffeine. That, however, made him the subject of considerable mockery once he entered the bathroom, as the escorts traded "jokes about what might be wrong" with him.
On his second trip to the restroom, Hamblen was also warned not to talk too loudly because Jobs was behind a curtain somewhere conducting an interview. "Apparently, I not only have a bladder problem, but I run off loudly at the mouth as well," he wrote. "I shared my story of these trips to the john with some journalist friends sitting in the press room, and they began to tell me their tales of Apple paranoia."
One friend noted that during a press event at the company's Cupertino campus, she was treated "treated like a convict on home suspension," almost as if she should have been wearing an ankle bracelet.
"So, through the rest of the afternoon, my reporter friends, women and men alike, said they were going to storm the barricades and visit the bathroom without an escort," Hamblen continued. "One said she made it back without the escort, and a man said he told the escort he was going on the floor unless he could go on his own."
The situation was certainly odd, and akin to a fourth grader asking for a "potty pass," especially since Hamblen was later privy to an authorized interview with Apple staffers in which he got to handle two new iPhone 3G units -- both a white and black model.
"[I] noticed the feel of the plastic rear portion (to allow easy transmission of radio signals) and the slight bulge in the shape," he wrote. "While I was allowed to hold them, I was not allowed to photograph them."
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