Uriel Vigler
Uriel Vigler

My argument with a New York City cop

Every single morning for the last 10 years I’ve had to rush out of morning services to take my daughter to her bus stop. Apparently, the department of transportation has a 5-mile rule, meaning the furthest bus stop from any school cannot be more than five miles away. But we live on the Upper East Side and my daughter goes to school on the Lower East Side, more than five miles away. I’ve tried (multiple times!) to get a waiver and have the bus stop moved outside my house, to no avail. When the second-avenue subway was being built, I thought I might have a chance due to the construction hazards, but still no dice. I’ve been through this with my older daughter, and now with my six-year-old.

The closest they can set our stop is at 80th and 2nd avenue, about a mile from our house. So every day, for the last 10+ years, I have driven her there. If I’m late, the driver pulls away, so it’s quite a rush. But it has become routine.

This week, however, when I pulled up at the stop — on time — there was no sign of the bus or the driver. He was running late. So we sat in the car while I called around, trying to get hold of the school and the dispatcher to figure out just how late he was going to be or if would send a replacement instead.

Meanwhile, a traffic officer shows up and says to me, “Sir, you are in the bus lane.”

I explained that I was trying to drop my daughter off and the bus was running late.

“What can I do?” I asked.

“Well you can’t be in the bus lane,” she repeated.

“Yes, I know, but what am I supposed to do?”

“Park somewhere else and don’t stop in a bus lane,” she said.

“Where else can I stop?” I asked, pointing out that two corners of the intersection are bus lanes, and the other two are blocked by construction. I also explained that I see taxis, ubers, and other cars doing drop-offs in bus lanes all the time. It’s just kind of accepted in NYC considered what limited space we have.

The officer said she understands the situation but has to give me a ticket regardless.

“Give me a chance to move then, before you write the ticket,” I begged.

But she was having none of it. “Absolutely not!” she insisted. “I am writing your ticket right now.”

And having lived in the city for the last 20 years, I know there is no arguing with cops. No point. It doesn’t work. Ever.

So I stayed and watched her write me a whopping $115 ticket. So unfair! Just do an image search for that corner and you’ll see there is nowhere to drop off a six-year-old girl and she certainly can’t wait alone!

And for the first minute, I was outraged. Upset, frustrated, angry. I felt cornered. What does the city expect me to do? Because of the five-mile rule, I have to drive her to this random corner each morning, and now because there’s nowhere safe to drop her off on that corner, I’m being punished with this massive fine.

But then I calmed down and remembered that nothing happens randomly. Everything comes from G-d, and clearly, he wanted me to pay the $115 fine. Why? I have no idea. But I do know that when we reframe our mindset from feeling targeted and victimized, we realize that whatever happens to us was intended exactly for us. Then we can slow down, thank G-d, and really appreciate what we have in life.

The holiday of Passover is coming up, and going out of Egypt is something we very much need to do in 2021. The modern-day version of leaving Egypt means leaving behind our frustrations, limitations, and anger, and realizing that everything happens for a reason — even a $115 ticket!

About the Author
Zimbabwean-born Rabbi Uriel Vigler has been directing the Chabad Israel Center of the Upper East Side of Manhattan together with his wife Shevy since 2005. In addition, he founded Belev Echad which helps wounded IDF soldiers. He has a weekly blog on current events. He is the proud father of eight children (including triplets) and leads a very young, vibrant and dynamic community.
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