The other day I was in a train station in the Sydney CBD, and went up to one of the ticket machines where you pay with coins. I noticed a woman at the machine next to me, looking down at her hands which were both holding tissues, and resting on the tissues were coins.
I immediately identified her as one of us. While I was paying for my ticket, I noticed that she’d managed to press the buttons and put the money in, and the ticket had come out the bottom. But she was finding it hard to reach her hand in and actually get the ticket, and her change. It was obviously all too much for her, and I was not really hiding the fact that I could notice what was going on, although I know she was trying to ignore me noticing (I know when I’m in the middle of a public checking bout, I do my best to avoid any eye contact with anyone, who might look at me as though "what are you doing?" sort of thing).
So while she was hesitating putting her hand in the machine, I said to her "would you like some help with that". There was no one else around, so I felt there was no harm in reaching out and making my awareness known. I then said "I’ve got the same problem as you, but in different ways."
This was all pretty instinctual, ie I didn’t realise how much I’d want to connect with someone whom I identified with so strongly, until I was in the situation. She said to me "You have this as well?", sort of gesturing to the tissues in her hands, and the ticket and change that she’d finally retrieved.
As she walked away, I felt I hadn’t done enough. She was obviously much worse off than me in the contamination OCD department…I could have told her about some of the books I’ve read, some of the websites (maybe she’s reading this), but nothing came to me. So instead just before she way out of earshot, I put a big smile on my face, and said "Good Luck!". She turned around, and smiled as she kept walking, and that was it.
It was a little moment I’m glad it happened.