A US Mayor obsessed over gadgets has quit a line queuing for a new Apple iPhone after a local asked him about the city’s murder rate in Philadelphia.

Mayor John F. Street abruptly ended his wait in line for an iPhone Friday after a passer-by asked him, “How can you sit here with 200 murders in the city already?”, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported on its Web site.

Street told the man: “I’m doing my job.” 

Street had planned to stay in line for most of the day, waiting for Apple Inc.’s iPhone to go on sale at 6 p.m. When he left at 11:30 a.m., Street said he planned to return to his spot.

The mayor said he wants the new device because he loves trying out the latest technology. Apple’s new handheld would allow him to work some of the day outside the office, he said.

“We don’t have to be sitting in City Hall to be conducting city business,” he said.

Philadelphia recently had its 200th slaying of the year. Its murder rate is up from last year, the deadliest in nearly a decade.

Older gadget geeks fueled an Apple iPhone launch frenzy by taking a prominent place on growing lines across the United States — or paying 20-somethings to do it for them.

Standing outside the Apple store in Chicago, James Budd, a 50-year-old business consultant, was waiting to buy an iPhone not just for himself but also for his 95-year-old grandmother because he believes it will be “simple enough” for her to use.

Budd, who joined the queue at 6 a.m, described waiting to be among the first people to get their hands on the sleek new phone as fun. But he added: “I have a lot of geek friends who are waiting for version two.” 

High-flying professionals who couldn’t escape work paid others to do it for them. Lauren Smith, 21, was No. 144 in line outside Apple Inc.’s (AAPL.O: Quote, Profile , Research) store on New York’s Fifth Avenue and said her boss was paying her $15 an hour to wait.

“If it rains, I’m going to call him and try to knock that up,” said Smith, who works for media company Worldwide Biggies and joined the queue on Friday morning. “The iPhone is not something I’m dying to get.”

In San Francisco, Kyle Laurentine, 17, was waiting for his mother, who was buying an iPhone for her boss.

“I’m definitely a mercenary,” he said. “I don’t want one for myself. It’s obviously beautiful and cool. I just don’t need it. I am 17 years old and I don’t need an iPhone. I have an iPod and a cell phone. Together they do the same thing.”   

Several young entrepreneurs sought to make a quick buck off the launch of the iPhone, which goes on sale for up to $600 at 6 p.m. local time in U.S. cities.

“Buy my spot for $5000 and get my chair,” read a sign Imran Khan, 27, had pinned to his shirt while waiting on line in New York. Khan said he had received an offer of $4,500 on Friday morning but turned it down.

Hundreds queued up outside Apple stores in New York, Chicago and San Francisco by Friday afternoon. Small clusters of customers lined up at stores for AT&T Inc. (T.N: Quote, Profile , Research), the exclusive carrier for the phone for the next two years.

The iPhone melds a phone, Web browser and media player. It has received rave reviews from U.S. technology gurus, who have praised the gadget as a “breakthrough” device that is “beautiful.” 

David Clayman joined the line on New York’s Fifth Avenue on Monday, braving rising temperatures and thunderstorms. He had moved up to the second spot after a group of customers decided to kick out a man who had set up a chair but was not spending much time in the line.

“It’s been kind of rough,” Clayman said of his time waiting to buy the iPhone for his father. “Whether it kills me or not, I’ll be here.”


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