Standing at the international check in at Oliver Tambo International Airport you can always pick out the tourists going home.
They’re the ones with life-size wooden giraffes packed in brown paper towering over the luggage.
Aside from which every house in all of London must have one by now.
It’s hardly going to set you apart from the neighbours.
It’s not just people coming here.
It’s when we go there, wherever there may be.
As soon as we go on holiday somewhere far far away we see stuff we have to have or we’ll always regret it.
Like not buying the life-size giraffe.
Over a cup of tea one of my best friends related her story to me.
She shall remain nameless, but we will call her S.
S and her Best Beloved went to New York.
They could have bought home a life-size Statue of Liberty.
They didn’t. Not quite.
They had rented an apartment. In the apartment was a cleaning appliance. Specifically a mop.
But not just any old mop.
It had a little canister on the front you fill with water and detergent that you can spray ahead of you as you clean the floor.
Of everything in NYC, S had to have one of these.
So, off she went, Best Beloved in tow.
Best Beloved has learned that sometimes it is easier to just go with the flow and not fight the unstoppable current that is S.
Sadly, on getting back to the apartment she realised it was a new model that came with a disposable canister.
This meant that as disposable canisters could not be purchased in sunny South Africa this model was a no go.
S would not be thwarted.
She simply left the new one, the better one, in the apartment and decided to take the original home with her.
Only, the original did not fold up nice and compactly like the new one.
S did not care. She taped it up in bin bags and heaved it off to the airport.
At check-in they regarded this bizarrely shaped item with some perplexity and sent it off to customs.
At customs three burly officials from the Bronx unwrapped it.
“Ma’am,” they said gently, “This is a mop.”
“Yes,” said S, “Obviously.”
“Ma’am,” they tried again, trying and failing not to laugh, “Do they not have mops where you’re from?”
“Not. Like. This. One.” S spat.
They quietly wrapped it up again.
S and Best Beloved went through this conversation at about three more airports on route home.
S did not care. She had her mop. All was well in her world.
A few days after returning home, Best Beloved went to the supermarket.
He phoned S.
“Darling, I am at the supermarket,” he said gently.
“I am aware of that,” said S.
“Yes, well, I am standing in front of a rack of mops,” he said through gritted teeth.
“Oh no!” said S, “Not MY mop?”
“Yes, YOUR mop! The same mop you made me carry more than halfway across the damn world because YOU said we didn’t have them here. THAT mop.”
“Oh,” said S, “Sorry about that.”
Unlike the giraffe though, at least the mop is serviceable, although as a memento it is a bit out of the ordinary.
I wonder if she’ll magnetize the mop and add it to the collection of chips from Vegas, hotel key cards and other travel related stuff that she’s put on the fridge?