One Saturday, about seven weeks ago, I headed out for a 10.5 mile run. At roughly the 3.6 mile mark, heading downhill, I looked down at my GPS-enabled watch to see how far I had gone. As I began to work through the usual arithmetic I do on a run, estimating how long it would take me to sheepishly turn around and walk home, not paying attention to any potential tripping hazards, I found myself plummeting towards the gravelly sidewalk face-first. I stuck out my emaciated computer-programmer arms and grazed my hands on the ground as my face stuck the landing. I have a vivid memory of uttering the sound, "Nuuuuummmmmfffff"
I laid there for a moment, in the gravelly dirt, lamenting my lack of grace. I've tripped many times in my years of running, but I've never landed face-first before. I got up, slowly, and wiped my face which I discovered was covered with blood and dirt. I stood there for a moment, embarrassed, considering whether to turn around or soldier through the next 7 miles. Meanwhile, my nose and forehead dripped blood onto my shirt. I staunched the nosebleed but acknowledged that perhaps this was a sign that I should abort the run.
What I lack in grace, I make up for in preparation. I had grabbed a $20 bill before leaving the house that day, as I often do on a long run just in case I need to take a cab home. Unfortunately, I was in a part of town with no cabs, no nearby houses, and no open businesses. I trudged up the hill, towards a large apartment complex, figuring that someone would be on staff and could call me a cab.
What I discovered on that walk is that if you are bleeding from three separate wounds on your face, and are literally covered in blood from your forehead to your chest, it will not go unnoticed by the good people of San Francisco.
The first person I saw on the street, a nice man with his small child in tow, stopped and asked if I needed some help.
"I'm not sure," I replied. "I think I'm ok, but it's hard to tell."
His kid stared at me, open-mouthed and wide-eyed.
"You dont... uh.... would you like me to take a picture of you with my phone and show you what you look like?" the man asked
"Sure!" I answered, delighted to use an iPhone to diagnose my condition. Turns out, the only thing I diagnosed is that the iPhone 3GS is completely incapable of taking a adequate picture in direct sunlight.
The man asked if he could call someone to come and pick me up, and remembering the $20 in my pocket, I asked him to call me a cab. Two minutes later, he was on his way, with his child's mouth still agape.
I sat down on the curb, waiting for the cab. Cars drove past, slowly and horrifiedly. Many stopped and asked if I needed help. One woman thrust out a pile of napkins and asked if I needed them. I accepted them and spent the next few minutes dabbing at my face.
Another woman stopped and asked if I needed some wet-wipes. This seemed like an obvious upgrade over dry napkins, so I took those too. She grabbed a box, started at it, calculating for a moment how many wet wipes I might need, and then handed me the entire box, telling me to keep it.
I waited for the cab for around 40 minutes. It never showed up. Another woman approached me and asked if she could help me. I explained that I didn't think I was very injured and was waiting for a cab.
"Your nose is broken," she said, staring at me with concern. "I think you need to go to an emergency room. I'm calling you an ambulance."
I talked her into just letting me use her cellphone instead, and I called my wife, who was downtown at an appointment, asking her to find some way to get me home. She called me an Uber Cab, which is an upscale cab company with great service. They arrived soon thereafter, with bottled water and towels. I had them bring me home so I could grab my wallet and phone, and then drive me to the emergency room in their fancy town car.
I finally got to see a nurse in the emergency room who asked me insightful questions like, "Are you the victim of domestic violence?" and "Do you have suicidal thoughts?" (cleverly hypothesizing that I may have been trying to kill myself by face-planting into gravel). Meanwhile, some kid walked past me, caught a glimpse of my face and could not help himself from exclaiming, "WHOA!". His mother shushed him.
Another nurse picked the gravel out of my face and wiped the remaining blood off me. As I waited for the doctor, I took this picture of myself:
I spent about 5 hours in the emergency room, but as it turns out, there's really not much you can do for a broken nose unless you get to someone very quickly who is capable of setting noses. No such luck. They did a cat scan and determined that my brain was still intact despite its inability to convince my hands to break my fall. They also urged me to see a nose doctor once the swelling had gone down.
I sheepishly went to work two days later, with several band-aids on my face. EVERYONE asked what happened. I rotated through a few different stories:
- I asked the barber for just A LITTLE off the top....
- So, I went in for my monthly Botox and....
- The staff meeting did not go well this morning.
Turns out, none of those stories are remotely as funny as the image of a programmer tripping, failing to break his fall with his hands, and face-planting into the ground. THAT is good comedy. Somehow, however, despite the simultaneous laughter and sympathy generated by my face, I managed to get through the work days. I interviewed people, conducted employee reviews, and performed all manner of tasks best executed by people engendering respect and not pity.
The following week I had an appointment with an ear, nose, and throat doctor. (Amusingly, despite the fact that my injury was obviously the giant wound in the middle of my face, the dude still shined a light in my ear and looked at my throat. I guess if you've got 3 hammers...). The doc examined me and then described in graphic detail what the operation was going to be like to fix my nose.
When I asked him if getting my nose fixed was medically necessary, he stared at me, completely stunned.
"Oh, uh, well... I mean, I just assumed you'd want to get THAT fixed," he stammered. "Is it medically necessary, well, you're still getting oxygen to your brain, but... well, I would never recommend that someone get vanity surgery!"
"But that's what this would be, right? If it's not medically necessary, then it's vanity surgery that we're discussing here?"
The doctor stared at me again, flummoxed that I would even consider not getting THAT fixed.
"I would not consider it vanity to want to get the nose back that you had for the first 43 years of your life," he answered.
That was a pretty good way to spin the issue, but I wasn't convinced, and I'm still not. It's been about 7 weeks, and things look better, but I still need to figure out if I want to get things fixed up. My nose, with its semitic origins, was never pretty, but it it used to be more symmetrical and generally less wounded. I might be snoring a bit more, but it's hard to say.
My wife, with polished tact, states that she doesn't care if I get it fixed or not.
My father, who sees himself as my nose's manufacturer, claims that I have violated the terms of service on my nose and unceasingly demands that I return it back to its original specifications.
My daughter, who is nearly a teenager, wants to know if we can go to Hawaii for vacation this summer.