The mayor has left the sidewalk. Now, he's returned for 45 minutes. Then gone at 2 p.m. for a meeting at City Hall.

And so it goes for Mayor John Street in his quest for an Apple iPhone, which he said he plans to buy with his own money.

Street said he will return around 5 p.m. depending upon on how long his business obligations at city hall take.

After sitting and standing in line since 3:30 a.m., waiting for the device to go on sale at 6 p.m. today at an AT&T store, he responded to critics who lambasted him for wasting city time.

When asked whether he was concerned about perceptions that he was shirking his duties as mayor of the nation's sixth-largest city, Street replied:

"No, I wasn't worried that people think that. People need to be more educated. There's a time when people had to be at a certain place to do their jobs and now you can be almost anyplace and work somewhere else."

Street said his staff "knows how to reach me."

He also said he didn't want to "pull strings" to get a phone.

A member of Street's security staff is now camped out on Ranstead Street near 16th Street, saving a spot for the mayor. He was third in line from the doors to the store.

The line itself was modest - at 2 p.m. it numbered slightly more than than 20.

People in line said it was "cool" that the mayor was waiting in line just like everyone else.

Leonard F. Johnson, first in line since 6 a.m. Thursday said: "Everyone deserves a personal day. Next people are going to be asking him to account for his bathroom breaks."

Johnson said Street is "a lame duck. He isn't even running for office anymore."

At 11:30 this morning, just before he left his station for the first time, Street declared: "I'm taking care of my business. By 4 a.m., I sent my first e-mail to my chief of staff. I was doing my job while the city was sleeping. I have my Blackberry with me."

Street, an unabashed fan of new technology, said he had sent about 30 e-mails while waiting outside the store.

"I think it's not a bad thing for a person who needs that device to sit and wait. I could have used influence to get one, but I don't work that way."

Just before his remarks, 22-year-old city activist Larry West of Mount Airy confronted the mayor.

"How can you sit here with 200 murders in the city already?" West asked.

Street announced: "I'm doing my job."

He then left for City Hall, returned to his post on the street for about 45 minutes, and then left for City Hall again. He said he would be back before the doors opened for the iPhone sale.

The aide, meanwhile, declined to be identified.

"I'm just holding a spot for the mayor," he said.