YOUR STORIES: Drama of the Dead Sea Salts
Leave this field empty
Monday, October 12, 2015
By Johan Liebenberg
Pin It

Photo of Johan Liebenberg courtesy of Johan Liebenberg

Happily, Change Your Life Travels received a recommendation that we feature the following story from Johan Liebenberg's blog https://capetowncafe.wordpress.com/. Even happier, Johan agreed and sent photos to accompany his excellent story!

Before we plunge in, here's a bit about Johan from the ABOUT ME page on his blog: I have lived in Cape Town for most of my life. The exceptions are a spell of a year in London and an idyllic two-and-a half year sojourn in the Cape Winelands, living in a rustic farmhouse. I am a freelance writer including directing and writing a documentary. I have been working a feature film script with a local director that is in the early stages of production as well as a six-part TV series pilot that is also in the works.I supplement my feature articles and scriptwriting with photographs. I love food, photographing it, reading or writing about it and I love cooking it. In my blog, I would like to share with you Cape Town – My city, my Memory. This is both a memoir of the City I grew up in and where I live at present; and it is a portrait of Cape Town today, as I see it, in all its contemporariness, its beauty and even its ugliness. 

Here goes:

DRAMA OF THE DEAD SEA SALTS
Another Shopping Mall Adventure
 
After coffee at the popular Vovo Tello at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town, I said goodbye to my friend and we went in different directions.
Image courtesy of Johan Liebenberg
As I headed towards the parking garage, I suddenly had an urge to pee. I tried to calculate how long it would take me to get home … was it worth the risk?


Image courtesy of Johan Liebenberg

I dithered, weighing up the two alternatives .. .a race towards home in heavy traffic or … turn back?

I turned back.

Image courtesy of Johan Liebenberg

On one of the cobble-stone squares I asked someone dressed in a uniform and who looked as though he worked there where the nearest toilet was.


Image courtesy of Johan Liebenberg

My heart sank when he pointed a finger towards the shopping mall whence I’d just come. “There …” he said. 

Image courtesy of Johan Liebenberg

I trundled back the way I had come in some discomfort. I imagined all sorts of dark scenarios if I didn’t make it (man caught exposing himself in V&A Waterfront) but I made it …


Image courtesy of Johan Liebenberg

I walked down the endless kiosks selling expensive wares, searching for an Information Kiosk. Nothing.

Image courtesy of Johan Liebenberg

On the spur of the moment I turned to ask for directions to the nearest public toilets from a kiosk – a fatal mistake.


Image courtesy of Johan Liebenberg

The salesperson was an dusky-skinned, dark-haired beauty who smiled at me pleasantly. Instead of giving me directions she asked: “Do you not come to this mall often?”
She spoke with a heavy accent. It was not unpleasant to listen to. 
“No, not really.” 
“Do you not like malls?”
“No, it’s not that …”
“Do you not like people?” she interrupted. 
“No, I love people and once I’m here – “
“You look happy.”
“Well, I am quite happy.” 
“It must be because you’re not married.”
“Well, I suppose there is something –“
“That is why I am happy too. I am also single. I am Israeli,” she continued, without waiting for me to respond. 
“That’s nice. I was wondering if ..”
“Have you ever heard of the Dead Sea?”
“Of course I have.” 
She showed me a bowl of coarsely grained salt. “This,” she said, “is salt from the Dead Sea.” I said nothing. “It is the lowest ocean in the world and there is so much salt that nothing lives in it, no bacteria, nothing.”
I realized suddenly I had walked straight into a sales pitch. But somehow I couldn’t tear myself away. All I really wanted to say was: “I am only looking for a toilet and am not interested in the properties of the Dead Sea, or that bowl of salt.” But I didn’t. In salesperson parlance I had been hooked, I suppose. 
“People with skin cancer go there … they are cured … people come there to exfoliate their skins and they look magnificent.” 
“That’s wonderful but actually I –“
“Hold out your hand,” she commanded. 
I obeyed. It was impossible to not obey.


“Really ..” I began. 
“Now rub it into your skin. No, properly. Rub ... rub … rub...”
I rubbed, rubbed, rubbed. 
“Now the top of your hand as well. Rub it well. Good, that’s it. And now I will spray water over it, so continue rubbing till your hands are clean. That’s it. But the top of your hands must be free of salt too. Is it free of salt?”
“Yes.”
“No it isn’t. See? .. There is more salt on the top of your hand. I am wearing my glasses so I can see … but you can’t, because you are not wearing your glasses.” My glasses were dangling from my chest by a leather string. I cleaned the last of the salt off my hands as she instructed. 
She made me rinse my hands in a bowl of water. The water turned an ugly grey. 
“Is that me … that came off me – how depressing!” It was meant as a joke, sort of. 
“No, it’s not depressing at all – it’s all the dead skin you carry around with you,” she pronounced calmly.
Now she applied a creamy lotion to my ‘purified’ hands. “Rub it into your hands … no, not too much. You’re overdoing it; men don’t like to have too creamy a skin.”
“Oh, sorry.”
She beamed at me. She asked me how it felt. I said it felt wonderful (and it did!). Then she gave a long, probing look and said. “Johan (she had asked what my name was earlier and told her - her name was “Shir Maadani”.) But now under her intense, scrutiny I began to feel distinctly uncomfortable, or more than I already felt because she looked as though she was wanting to delve deep into my soul to discover there dark hidden truths that I kept from the world. 
“Johan,” she said. “I like you.” 
Oh my!
I mumbled something about liking her too. 
“It’s all lovely, “I said with an expansive gesture meant to include her as well as her salt from the Dead Sea. “But please, could you now –“
She offered a calm smile and held up the price list. “Johan, it is marked here R800 for the salt and R800 for the cream but because I like you, I am going to offer both to you for a ridiculously low price of …” (I promised I would not disclose her ‘incredible’ discounts’).
But what was slowly beginning to dawn on me that she was not going to release me until I had bought something. The toilet began to fade into the distance, like a beautiful little bird flying away from me. I envisioned wetting myself in the Victoria & Alfred Shopping Mall in full view of hundreds. 
“No,” I said firmly. “I can’t aff – I mean, really don’t need that now, although I’m sure it’s a wonderful product, in fact, I can see it is a wonderful - “
“Very well,” she said, “you don’t need the cream. You can use your own cream. So I will go down with my price for the salts even more (because I like you so much.) 
In the end, I left there with a bottle of salt from the Dead Sea after she whispered in my ear the price I could have it at. It was an offer I could not refuse – but also the only way I could get to the toilet. Because only once my card had passed through her machine with a depressing whirr did she consent to release me and told me how to get to the toilet. 

Image courtesy of Johan Liebenberg

I should have stayed in bed.

© Johan Liebenberg
Check out more stories from Johan's blog: https://capetowncafe.wordpress.com
Leave a comment:
2 Comments
Simone - All is said!

Love this slice of life. Piece of heaven.
Lorraine - How many times have we been sucked in to a purchase we had no intention of buying.. The cart vendors must go on some kind of hard sell course.. They are slick, charming and suffocating!