The punishment and the crime

My friend offered to drive me to a meeting in Fitzroy on Saturday morning. She knows the area well and took us several streets away from the planned meeting place where the council offers four hours of free car parking.

We pulled up alongside a high black van. I noticed this van in part because my friend took a while to get out of her seat and I went across to her side of the car to wait. When she finally opened her door, it slid ever so slightly against the side of the van, which was not only large and black but also very new in appearance.

As my friend came towards me after she had closed her door, I saw the tiniest fleck of white on the otherwise pristine black wall of the van. I had no time to mention it to her nor was I certain that my friend’s car door had caused the fleck of white on the otherwise perfect exterior of the black van though I imagined it might.

My friend was busy talking to me about the events of her life and given we were engrossed in conversation we walked away without a second thought until we reached the corner and were about to move out of sight of the van and her car when a disembodied voice called out from behind us


‘What was that?’ I asked my friend.

‘Just some rudeness,’ my friend said, and we walked on up the street, but in my mind’s eye I could see the owner of the van kick in the door of my friend’s car or slash her tyres or some other act of revenge.

The day took off from there, begun with an uneasy thought that we had done something wrong and that we might be punished.

It was a full day of meetings followed by lunch and another meeting and although my friend observed shortly before we began our afternoon meeting and people were rushing out to put more money in the meters for their cars parked nearby,

‘I’m being an optimist and trusting I won’t get a ticket.’

Only then I realised we’d parked in a four-hour zone. My friend parked there regularly she said, and so far, so good. She had not yet suffered the pain of a parking ticket.

By days end, I was relieved to find there was no white ticket on the dash board of my friend’s car. But after my friend reached my house and we pulled into the curb on the side street nearby I urged her to park closer to the kerb for fear of losing one of her side mirrors as can happen in narrow side streets.

She re-parked then and got out to check her mirror. The mirror’s rear protective covering was gone, she said. ‘It was there this morning,’

I told her then about the man in the van and she seemed to have registered his presence. My friend said nothing other than it was bad luck. Maybe she was trying to save face in view of a bad experience but for me the memory has stayed.

It seemed a cruel response to a tiny fleck of white paint, if indeed that was the cause, but it’s hard to think about it in any other way. I did not catch a glimpse of the man in the van. Nor did I have the presence of mind to take down his number plate. And what good would it have done? How could anyone prove this road rage?

That evening, I toyed with driving back to the parking place alone to search the gardens nearby in the hope I might recover the rear of my friend’s side mirror. I still might be there, both as proof of the black van driver’s wrong doing, and also to fix a broken car.