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.


10 thoughts on “The punishment and the crime”

  1. I love the new look of your blog and need to catch up on all your new posts. You make such riveting story about the most mundane things Elisabeth — I just love the tone of this piece and the way it so casually goes along —

    1. Thanks Elizabeth. I wish this tone, this casually moving along reflected my state of mind, as in casually moving along. It’s not always so. Happy birthday for what’s left of it.

  2. For 12 years one of my bosses allowed the door of her car to hit my car. I know it was her because of the way we were forced to park our cars. I am usually an outspoken person but I knew to stay silent about this. Why? She had a high-end car, I had an old ‘bomb’. She was in authority, I was subject to her, or more to the point, her husband. I even used it as an excuse to myself not to buy a new car. Did she know? Would she have cared? I suspected she would either have felt embarrassed or maybe annoyed that I would make a fuss and so I didn’t.
    Funny the messages we give ourselves, innocent or guilty.

    1. Ahh the powers of the power imbalance between people and cars, Karen. I hope the same fate – a scratched door – did not befall your new car. Thanks, Karen for your always wonderful insights. Cars and men and scratches and all manner of things that we sometimes find unfathomable and yet they continue to dog us.

  3. I’ve mixed feelings about driving. I haven’t owned a car for about twenty-five years now but in the fifteen or so years prior to that my world revolved around them. They enabled me to cram my life fuller than it needed be and to take on more than I should have; I was always buzzing here, buzzing there. Oddly, though, I have no anecdotes concerning road rage to share, certainly none where I was the rager—of that I can be sure—but I’m also struggling to come up with any occasion where I was the ragee. This has nothing to do with me being the faultless and flawless motorist because I never was. I just think I was lucky. I do remember first hearing the expression—probably in the early nineties—and thinking of it as an American thing and not something we’d see over here what with British reserve and all that. And, true enough, we’re not shooting each other on the highways and byways yet but it does seem to be catching on here too. I’m glad all that’s behind me.

    1. There’s a lot of road rage here in Australia, too, Jim, as suggested in this post, but rarely does it lead to death. Just a few scratched cars and bruised egos, sometimes even bruised skin. It’s not a pretty thing. Thanks, Jim

  4. I learned early on that leaving your car parked is a supreme act of faith!
    I am reminded of when I had my first car – in 1976. Brand new, I parked it in a store parking lot. I came out to find the 2 back tires flattened. Air let out. Something – a gut feeling – told me to check, as a guy in a truck had yelled at me as I left it there. I think he had wanted that parking place. I was young and upset. It felt violating.
    A year later, someone stole the car battery.
    I kept the faith and held onto that Plymouth for 11 years.
    But here I sit, decades later and remember the incidents clearly. And wonder if flat tires is the worst that could happen now.

    I’ve been enjoying your writing and your blog, Elisabeth!

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