I'm still young and foolish enough that I chose to stand outside, taking pictures and having nice conversations with the policeman and other people instead of being warm and alone in the car. It was 15 degrees and dammit, it really felt it.
The police presence represents a Sensible Idea more than anything else. I don't think anyone's ever thought "Hey...dozens of geeks with cash are all alone in a secluded parking lot; seems like easy pickin's" And I don't think any of the people waiting have ever had it occur to them that what with the darkness and the seclusion, they might be able to help themselves to a considerably steeper discount than what the store had intended.
No, it just seems like the sort of situation where hiring a special detail for four or five hours makes sense, that's all.
Which is not to say that he doesn't come in handy. We must face a sad truth about our Tribe: we Geeks have our share of wingnuts and we've got plenty of people who might have developed the industry's best-selling network analysis app, but never got around to developing a fully-functional suite of social software.
There was the year, for example, when we got six inches of snow overnight. And (good God) someone decided to ride their bike to the sale. Leaving aside the question of how he intended to get his purchases home, how did he intended to survive out in the elements overnight?
I weighed the chances of getting knifed to death against the chances that I'd have to explain to a reporter from Channel 5 (HQ: right across the street) why I allowed someone to freeze to death ten feet away from my warm and cozy car, and let the poor fool inside.
This year, the wingnut faction was represented by a very early-arriver who brought a hairtrigger paranoia with him. I think I was freaking him out by hanging out near the entrance nearly since the moment I'd arrived. Clearly! I was trying to jump the line.
I wasn't there when it happened, but I was told that he confronted the cop, angrily asking if he intended to enforce order. And he asked in such a charming fashion that the nice officer told him to get back in his car and stay there.
So the answer to his question was clearly "Yes."
The policeman was indeed very, very nice. And he looked almost exactly like Patton Oswalt, if the comic were about a foot taller, ten years older, and could wear a gun holster in a non-ironic context.
The wide swath of personalities and people is always a happy aspect of any geek event. I was pleased to encounter many of the exact same people I used to see here every year.
"So where's the older guy who I always used to see you with?" I asked one familiar face, and that's when I learned that (a) it was a bit too too cold for him so he begged off, and (b) oh, he invented the Bose Wave radio. So now I know lots about how the thing was designed...including how much each of these units costs Bose to produce.
(Holy cats. "Bose Wave Radio" has now replaced "bottled water" as my benchmark for ungodly markups.)