“Please could you pick me up some new shoelaces if you’re going to the mall today?” Mr Incredible tossed the tiny challenge lightly over his shoulder on his way out the door. At face value this was one of Mr I’s most simple requests. Arriving at the mall I made a beeline for the first shoe shop. In the UK I’m pretty sure shoe shop staff must be working on commission. “Would you like the special colour matched lilac shoe polish to go with the shoes you’re buying for your toddler, they’ll last so much longer?”, patters the sales assistant.
Hmm, yes, the shoes may last longer, but you make this mistake only once before realising that in 3 months time the shoes won’t fit. Then you’ll end up with an almost full bottle of lilac shoe polish and a new pair of shoes for your toddler, but they’ll be brown, or pink or red this time. Fear not though, the shoe shop will be delighted to sell you the accompanying colour co-ordinated polish.
They also stock protective sprays, insoles, matching handbags and shoelaces. But not, it seems in South Africa. In each shop I got that look, that you’re a crazy foreign lady look. Not ready to give up quite so quickly, I quizzed each and every shop assistant in each and every shoe shop in the mall only to be met with bafflement.
I diligently followed their suggestions. I went to the camping shop (hopeful, but no), the wedding shop (extremely tenuous, but I gave it a shot) and the supermarket (they had a couple of pairs of horrible nylon ones in lurid shades – not ideal for the discerning man’s business shoe, so yet another no). Quite frustrated by this point I cornered the guy in the supermarket and demanded to know where he bought his replacement shoe laces? Was there a secret shop somewhere in the townships I could try? He shrugged (you’re a crazy foreign lady).
As I was heading back to the car thinking I had exhausted every possible avenue, I spotted a tiny cobbler tucked away in a tiny corner. As well as mending shoes and cutting keys, they had a shoelace selection marginally more expansive than at the supermarket. They had black AND brown, although they were fat flat laces rather than neat slim cylindrical ones I was searching for. I bought some. Mission sort of accomplished.
It seems that in Johannesburg, decent shoelaces are like the submarine Red October in Tom Clancy’s famous novel (virtually undetectable). If anybody has located the holy grail of Jo’burg shoelaces, please let me know.