Times Square was buzzing last Wednesday evening. I guess Times Square buzzes 24/7, 365 days a year, but last week was extraordinary. If you've visited New York's landmark thoroughfare, you'll recall the dazzling HD screens that turn night into day and flash commercials in your face. It's where street vendors tout comedy shows and tickets to heaven to a sea of photo-snapping Asians, star-struck couples and scowling, scurrying locals. The "Crossroads of the world", you'll remember, is bounded by the Theatre Disctrict, One Times Square (from which they drop the New Year's Ball), the New York Hard Rock Cafe and, of course, Toys R Us.
Last week's action unfolded outside the mega toy-store. We were dedicated parents, foraging for gifts to take home and almost missed the "You are the controller" shirts that every sales representative there wore. Satisfied with our purchases, we stepped out into the refreshing evening chill, to be accosted by lavender signs on every building flashing "You are the controller". That was when we noticed the line.
The line stretched from the toy mecca's entrance to the end of the block, where it twisted right and continued a few hundred metres down the road. As we watched, it grew. More and more people, dressed for the freeze, some with chairs and blankets, took their places in line. They planned to spend the night on line, so they'd be poised to storm the shop as doors opened in the morning and the newest have-to-have gadget, the Xbox Kinect would come on sale. Kinect technology replaces the joystick or game controller with the player. Instead of pushing buttons, on-screen characters mirror your body's movements as you play. With Kinect, you are the controller of a virtual world.
Half a block away, we boarded the subway for Crown Heights, where I would stand in line to register for the Shluchim Conference- a weekend of spiritual upliftment. It would be a weekend of true connect, one that would empower each participant to be the controller of their piece of this world, to make it a better place.