Nowhere to run: pay customs, courtesies

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany --  I like running, especially outside. So, I decided to go on a run after work on a typical cold, dreary day here. I also forgot several items for this run like socks, but I was determined, so I bought new ones. While shopping, I spotted something that was not hard to miss - an obnoxiously bright yellow reflective shirt.

I also this shirt to wear in lieu of a reflective belt, which is always uncomfortable while running.

It was time to step out onto the cold concrete and run now that I had my socks and my fluorescent shirt. The run was great until my nose started running as well. I sniffed, and then I had to spit.

The spit was red.

It was blood - my nose had started to bleed.

Luckily my nasal faucet started near the shoppette, but before I went in, I had to find something to stop the bleeding. I had two options -- the bright shirt or my running beanie. The shirt was new so I had to sacrifice the beanie.

I walked in with the beanie over my nose and made a beeline for the restroom. There was no toilet paper, no paper towels. They did have one of those rolling environmentally-friendly hand-towel devices, but attempting to use that would end in disaster. The beanie was filling up at this point and blood began to splat onto my new neon shirt.

With blood spatters on my shirt and a beanie over my nose, I marched up to the front counter to ask for paper toiletries of some sort. I realized I was probably an eyesoar, so I told the clerk I would wait in the restroom for the paper.

I waited and finally heard a knock on the door. I opened it and retrieved a roll of paper to stop the bleeding. When the bleeding stopped I noticed the blood was all over my bright shirt.

I looked in the mirror and began to clean up, but I couldn't get it off any of my clothing. There was nothing I could do at that point. I had to leave the bathroom, blood-spattered shirt and all, and walk back to my car.

Paranoid my nose would start up again, I stuck a piece of toilet paper in my nose and took the roll with me for my journey. It was around 4:45 p.m., a busy time on this base as most people are or are about to get off work. This time is also 15 minutes before the German and American national anthems play to signify the end of the duty day.

I could have waited to walk outside to avoid having to stand out in the cold as the songs went off, but I didn't.

I was around the corner from the gym and within eyesight of my car when I heard the first note. It was time for the anthems.

There was nothing to do but stand at parade rest in the cold as the songs played. There I stood on a busy intersection on base with a wad of paper up my noise, crazy static hair, blood spatter all over my fluorescent shirt and a roll of paper in hand that began unraveling as wind picked.

As I stood there for roughly five minutes, I thought of all the times before this I tried to and have witnessed others, avoid standing outside as the anthems played. These five minutes also made me realize how stupid it was that I would try to avoid this time to pay tribute to those who served before me and who serve with me now.

Either way, I was going to have to wait somewhere. If I'm in my car I have to wait; if I'm in a building, I have to wait; and if I'm outside, I have to wait. The only difference is that if I'm outside, I have stand still and display the proper customs and courtesies. I stood there and asked myself why I avoided this before and came up with no good reason to skip out on honoring my wingmen.

I've looked a lot dumber running inside to avoid this military tradition than I did standing outside that day in the cold with my blood spattered fluorescent shirt and paper up my nose.