Reflecting On What We Notice

There’s a surveillance van parked across the street from my apartment.

Well, it could be a surveillance van. It’s a nondescript white number with no windows in the back and no signage on the side. The only reason I noticed it in the first place was that when I walked past it, I noticed a red light inside. And then I noticed that a black partition was behind the driver and passenger side, separating those seats from where the red light was.

It’s been there since last week, which I know because I spent some time hanging out in front of my building, waiting for a package, and for a moment I’d considered knocking on the window and asking if they were a delivery service. But I didn’t, and today, I started wondering, how long it’s been there?

The parking restrictions on my street require that side to be vacant every Tuesday from ten to noon, which means, that van could have slipped into that spot last Tuesday at 12:01 p.m. and gone relatively unnoticed until 9:59 a.m. today. Street parking for me is a combination of tourists (who wouldn’t notice how long a van has been parked there) and residents (who sometimes choose to walk or take public transportation so they don’t have to give up a good space).  As far as surveillance van parking goes, it’s not a bad street to inhabit.

As writers, we are tasked with the question What If? We write about regular people in irregular situations, and we can take a normal setting and zero in on an oddity that other people might not notice. We draw inspiration from real life, but how many of us have experienced discovering a freshly murdered corpse? Or turning amateur sleuth and outwitting the professionals? We learn to experience a mundane task (walking to the car to move it so as not to get a ticket) and reflect on it at a later date, adding our own dramatic twists. A white van parked in the same space for several days becomes a surveillance van. Who do they work for? Who are they watching? What will happen if they’re made?

We’re programmed to file major events away in our memories, but perhaps it’s the day to day events that hold the real mysteries. What about you? What would you have thought was going on inside the white van?

Diane Vallere | @dianevallere


Author: Diane Vallere

Diane is the author of four mystery series. Like her character Samantha Kidd, she is a former fashion buyer; like her character Madison Night, she loves Doris Day movies, like her character Polyester Monroe, she lives in California; and like her character Margo Tamblyn, she has a thing for costumes. Find out more at

9 thoughts on “Reflecting On What We Notice”

  1. Oh Diane – surveillance van, absolutely! Now who’s doing the observing and who is the the target, that is the question. I love those moments of standing around, seeing something mundane, and thinking, “what if?”


  2. It’s from the NSA trying to get info on a person on your block who keeps communicating with people in Egypt. That family in Egypt has one member who knows someone in Syria.


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