Saturday, August 21, 2010

Tram Stories III

Need a Band-Aid?

Bordeaux is glorious in the fall; the tourists have left, new fashions fill shop windows, the air smells of roasting chestnuts, the afternoons are warm, the trees lining the avenues and parks make up for their numbers with their colors and you never know if you need an umbrella.

Blissful in this new season, I had cast off my sandals for my ballerina flats. However, walking around all day soon reminded me, that though they weren’t new, I hadn’t worn my flats in half a year. The scourge of French streets, the blister, had attacked my unsuspecting feet. I hadn’t even exposed myself to the enemy (i.e. heels of any kind and all low-quality shoes, however cute they may be).

“Drat! I’ll have to ride the tram home.”

The tram costs about a euro (with as many trips as you want within an hour). I pulled out my card of ten trips, swiped it and installed myself. The lady facing me, a gracefully faded brunette, delicately tucked her crossed ankles under her seat to give me more space. I bent my head to inspect the damage. I eased my heel out of the shoe; it was bleeding slightly. I’d leave my shoe off until I needed to exit the tram.

“Would you like a bandage?” The lady was holding a Band-Aid out to me, her voice as soft and rich as her perfume.

I hesitated.

I don’t know why, but I always say no. Ask me if I want some water on a hot day, a second helping of dessert or help with a heavy bag and my first reply will most likely me no. Ask a second (or maybe third) time and I’ll give in. I don’t want to be a bother. Once when I was four or five, I didn’t want to bother asking where a friend’s toilet was. So I held it until I finally wet my pants in their garage.

You’d think that would have cured me, but to this day I still do it. Is it the desire not to be a burden or pride in trying to be the Super Woman who doesn’t need anything? I don’t know. I just deny my need for help or information or my desire for something.

Back in the tram, I knew that I really did need the Band-Aid. Why not let this sweet-faced lady help?

“Oui, merci madam,” I answered, taking it. The paper edges were slightly frayed and it peeled open easily.

“I hope it sticks still; I carry always some in my sack and it is there since a moment.” Her thin penciled eyebrows frowned her concern.

“No, no, it’s perfect,” I assured her. “It’s the first time of the season that I’ve worn them, so I wasn’t expecting it. Thank you.”

She settled back in her seat, repositioning the designer sack on her knees. We didn’t say anything more, but I felt her satisfaction in being of use. When I exited the tram, with an “au revoir” and smile, I walked without pain.

I begin to rethink my “saying no” habit. I realized if everyone said no, then people would stop offering help. My part in encouraging courtesy is to accept and be courteous myself. I resolved to be more ready with a “thank you”, to be less prideful and to accept the kindness of a stranger. I can still play at being Super Woman, even if sometimes I need a Band-Aid.


  1. This is good, Jenna. Your stories make me think. I love how you write of things you know. Well done!

  2. If you don't mind I would like to react in French:
    merci, Jenna, tu as tout à fait raison. Je me reconnais dans cet bel histoire. J'avais déjà commencé à accepter de l'aide plus souvent à cause de mon état de santé et de laisser ma fierté de coté et je me sens mieux!