Today I got a bloody nose on the train. I held my hand over my nostril to stop the flow and tried to look nonchalant. I debated what to do. The next stop was mine, so I decided that I’d stop by the juice bar close to the station exit and grab a few napkins. I considered going to the grocery store with the self serve coffee station, but I wasn’t sure that they had napkins out for customers to take.
I was worried that I had blood on my face. I was worried that my client would see that I had blood on my face and be grossed out. I thought about using my scarf to cover my face and just bleeding freely into it until I could get to the lobby and use the mirror to clean myself. Maybe I could pour a little water on my workout shirt in my backpack to clean my face.
Never, not once, did it occur to me to take my earbud out and ask someone in the train car if they had a tissue. Did not cross my mind. It wasn’t until I was exiting the turnstile that I heard a woman say, “Ms., do you need a tissue?” Actually, I didn’t hear her until I had walked past her, and she had to repeat herself.
“Oh, yes, please!” I said, doubling back, pausing my podcast and removing an earbud. She rummaged in her purse and pulled out a paper towel. I took it and said, “I appreciate it!” and then was on my way. I was heartfelt in my words, but it still felt kind of rude of me. But I’m not sure how to properly handle people who help me. I don’t know what to say or how to behave. These acts of kindness—or acts of mercy—would be commonplace in an ideal world. So maybe I shouldn’t make a big deal out of it. But it isn’t common, so it feels like a big deal. I feel like I should buy her lunch and send her a thank you card. I feel bad for not.
Here’s what I know about myself: I don’t ask for help and I don’t like to appear weak. It alarms me that, until this woman offered, I didn’t even think of all the people around me as possible resources, possible support systems. If that woman hadn’t offered the tissue, I know I wouldn’t even be thinking about this now. I’d probably have gotten the napkins and the juice bar, used a little water from my water bottle to wash my face, and no one would have known better. But now I’m thinking about what a pathological island I am. And I’m thinking about how I wish I could have repaid her. She made my day.