This winter, I had quite a saga with cars, tickets, and insurance claims. Leaving out many other details and events, I had a court appearance date in Lakewood set for Thursday, February 21, to fight a ticket for failing to yield at a stop sign.
I was informed that points on a license are not transferred to New York from New Jersey. So I decided to just pay the ticket online and not schlep to Lakewood. When I went on the New Jersey DMV website, however, I was in for a shock. Beneath the $85 ticket I was issued for failing to yield at a stop sign, there was also an unpaid ticket from April 1, 2006, for $95. Underneath, it said “DL suspended.”
It took me some time before I realized what that was from. Quite a number of years ago, as I was turning from Central Ave onto Route 9, a very busy intersection in Lakewood, I saw sirens in my rear-view mirror. I pulled over to let the cop pass me, but instead he stopped behind me and issued me a ticket for going through a yellow light. (Can you imagine such a thing happening in Israel, where the light turns yellow before it turns green, to warn motorists to get their foot on the gas and be ready to accelerate?) Although I remember the cop talking to me, I didn’t remember him actually handing me a ticket, and I never received anything about it in the mail. So I forgot the whole incident. (To give a perspective of how long ago this was, Chani realized that it was the night before my brother-in-law and sister-in-law’s wedding. They now have four children and their oldest just became bas mitzvah). When I saw “DL suspended,” I was concerned.
A friend mentioned to me that there is a woman in Lakewood who knows all the ins and outs about tickets and the Lakewood courts, and she gives advice.
I called her and told her about the outstanding ticket and suspension. She very animatedly told me that there could likely be a warrant out for my arrest! She gave me the number of a lawyer who knows the police and legal system in Lakewood well, and suggested I call him immediately, despite the fact that it was almost 11 p.m.
I called the lawyer and he agreed to represent me (for $450). However, because of the pending suspension, he told me that he couldn’t represent me by proxy, and I would have to appear in court. I asked him if I was crazy to drive in New Jersey the next day, as I have been doing for 13 years, not knowing there was any issue. The lawyer replied that because it was being reviewed and he was representing me, it wouldn’t be a problem.
In the end, I found out that the suspension had never been filed. Still I went to court to make sure the ticket could never come back to haunt me later. The judge heard the case and summarily dropped the 13-year-old ticket completely. He also reduced the other ticket to double parking which was a lesser fee with no points.
So what’s the takeaway message from my ordeal? Firstly, try not to get pulled over by a cop who had a lousy supper and needed a power boost by pulling someone over for following traffic and turning on a yellow light. But, more significantly, it’s a lesson about slowing down.
I remember that during my elementary school days, a year seemed like an eternity. The older I became, however, the faster the years seem to pass by. A friend often quips that he feels like life is a blur of holidays – Rosh HaShanah, Chanukah, Purim, Pesach, and summer – and every year it seems to go faster.
If we want to savor life, the only way is to slow things down. Our problem is that as life moves more rapidly and increases its demands upon us, we naturally accelerate to keep pace. But in so doing, we fail to appreciate and take stock of our loved ones and the blessings in our lives.
The Torah never mentions that Shavuos is a celebration of when we received the Torah. The Kli Yakar explains that we are meant to celebrate our being the Torah nation, and our ability to study Torah every day of our lives. Therefore, we don’t want to emphasize the kabalas haTorah of Shavuos, so as not to negate our daily kabalas haTorah. Yet we still need to designate a day to help us appreciate our daily immersion in Torah. That notion is symbolic of our need to slow down constantly to appreciate the blessings of life that we hardly notice.
Life is full of challenges and struggles, and oftentimes full of downright pain and anguish. We naturally recognize the deficiencies in our lives. But seeing and appreciating blessings, and exercising faith and connection with the divine, requires effort and contemplation. The only way we can accomplish that is by slowing down.
I don’t think police officers should pull people over for going through yellow lights. But we ourselves definitely need to slow down as we traverse the intersections of life.