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Me, Madame Fifi and dripping taps

The last time I paid my brothel a visit, I left feeling much better about myself. No, not because of the clothes-pegs-on-earlobes thing Luscious Lulu likes doing. Frankly, I find that whole S&M routine disgusting. And immoral. It’s a good thing that I’m close to completing the scientific study I’ve been conducting in brothels for the past seventeen years.

The reason I was feeling good is because I discovered that I’m not as weird as I thought I was. You see, I have this … thing — this uncontrollable urge to pick up litter. If I see a piece of paper on the floor, it takes incredible restraint for me not to pick it up. I know what you’re thinking: “what’s wrong with that?” Let’s just say that there’s a very thin line between being a conscientious, responsible citizen and being the weirdo crawling on his hands and knees on the Bedford Centre floor, picking up Pick ‘n Pay cash slips. That’s how it started for most Sterkfontein Mental Health Facility residents.

Anyway, back to the whorehouse. When I arrived, I found all the … er, employees of that high-calibre establishment scattered all over the grounds, picking up litter under Madame Fifi’s supervision. God bless her three-breasted soul. Upon inquiring what this was all about, she explained that she ran a tight ship and no clients of hers were going to get “serviced” in a pigsty. To quote her, “Goddamnit, we might be low-down dirty whores but we’re not going to wallow in filth.” I got a lump in my throat. I mean, if I had to make a career change, I’d hate to perform fellatio with a heavy heart because of papers strewn all over the lawn.

Hallucinations aside, obsessive-compulsive disorder is not a laughing matter. Well, not funny “ha ha” in any case. One of the ways in which my particular brand of OCD manifests itself is in my extreme lack of tolerance for dripping taps. My wife can vouch for the fact that on particularly bad days I walk around the house inspecting every tap. All eleven of them. I know, I know. What kind of man even knows how many taps he has in his house? In any case, on those days when my OCD is really acting up, I go around placing my open palm underneath each faucet. If there’s a wet ring of water, I emit a sharp gasp and instigate a thorough investigation to unearth the culprit. It’s always the four-year-old Tamil insurgent. The uncivilized bastard. His own brand of OCD compels him to wash his hands every two hours or so. A right regular serial killer in the making.

I can imagine the horror on your face, dear reader. This is a disturbing piece. And it gets worse. A few years ago I was driving through the Umngeni Valley village where I used to teach. In my peripheral vision I caught a glimpse of one of those communal taps Ronnie Kasrils thought was a fantastic idea when he first installed running water in the area. The unimaginative commie degenerate. What a retarded idea. Villagers who never experienced running water before were always going to treat communal taps like they would a fountain. It’s their only point of reference. The tap in question was practically open 24/7.

On this particular day the water was gushing out at full blast without a soul in sight. Aaargh! The stretch of road I was driving on is the narrow, winding road running parallel to the Umngeni River, leading to Nagle Dam. Dusi enthusiasts know what I’m talking about. U-turn impossible. So I drove on for another 3km until I reached the first safe spot to turn. I then drove back 3km. By the time I got back, a woman was in the tap vicinity, just starting on her laundry. Tap still at full blast. Woman unmoved.

“Sphukuphuku ndini, umpompi awuwuvali ngani kodwa?” [“Dear gentle lady, why is the tap running?”]

“Lalela la wena Khandakhulu, awuhlukane nami uvale umpompi mawukuhlupha” [“Talk to the hand!”]

You will be glad to hear that, after about nine months of petitioning the human mountain of a ward counsellor, they finally replaced the twist-on tap with one of those press faucets. You will, however, be horrified to learn that some innovative genius “solved” this “problem” by installing a plank-and-wire contraption that one could place over the press mechanism of the tap. And then the good times were back at the Umngeni Falls. I have a very fuzzy recollection of the real reasons I quit teaching in that area. It was, after all, about 7 000 kilolitres of lager ago. I suspect that the perpetually running tap might have been the straw that broke this particular camel’s back.

South Africa has many serious challenges. In the greater scheme of things littering and dripping taps seem to pale in comparison to poverty, Aids, illiteracy, crime and the proliferation of Crocs-wearing men. But they are my favourite things to obsess over. Do not be surprised should you see this headline, “Writer perishes under a hail of bullets. Smoker being questioned”. That’s because one of these days I will grow sufficient cojones to confront an imbecile who flicks a cigarette stub out of his car window. And I will sommer just start banging his car with a wheel spanner.

But don’t worry about my sanity. My shrink has it under control. I swear.

[email protected]


  • Once upon a time, Ndumiso Ngcobo used to be an intelligent, relevant man with a respectable (read: boring-as-crap) job which funded his extensive beer habit. One day he woke up and discovered that he had lost his mind, quit his well-paying job, penned a collection of hallucinations. A bunch of racist white guys published the collection just to make him look more ridiculous and called it 'Some of my best friends are white'. (Two Dogs, ISBN 978-1-92013-718-2). Nowadays he spends his days wandering the earth like Kwai Chang Caine, munching locusts, mumbling to himself like John the Baptist and searching for the meaning of life at the bottom of beer mugs. The racist publishers have reared their ugly heads again and dangled money in his face to pen yet another collection of hallucinations entitled 'Is It Coz 'm Black'. He will take cash, major credit cards and will perform a strip tease for contributions to his beer fund.


  1. Frank Nnete Frank Nnete 16 January 2009

    You’re a funny guy Ngcobo…

  2. siyabonga ntshingila siyabonga ntshingila 16 January 2009

    Wait till the little one graduates to Al Aqsa Martyrs Brugade level.He’ll unscrew the taps just to mess with your head

  3. Emma Ramone Emma Ramone 16 January 2009

    OCD is an extremely distressing condition for sufferers. If your problem with taps/picking up litter does not cause you distress then you are not suffering from OCD.

    It is an extremely misunderstood condition by the general public. And sufferers are not the type to cause harm to others. If anything it is their overconcientiousness and anxiety that they might cause harm to others (they never do) that fuels the OCD.

    In addition, OCD sufferers are not insane in the same way that someone suffering from severe depression is not insane. They are not delusional for example.

    Just because someone needs psychiatric/psychological treatment it does not make them mad.

  4. Hugh Robinson Hugh Robinson 16 January 2009


    I too have never been able to solve that problem. The genius who constructed the contraption did not have the brains to see water was being wasted.

    How about another lot who were given a lovely state sponsored bore hole and pump. When the pump broke it was never fixed and they returned to walking a kilometer for water. These are not isolated cases.

    I say make one person or family reponsible for the water supply. They must purchase . rent the goods from the state then sell the water a say 20c per 20lt or use the barter system. The responsible person then has a business and will keep the water flowing.

  5. Po Po 18 January 2009

    They have those annoying press-down taps everywhere including public showers in the UK. A well-wedged fork always does the trick but it makes showering a bit hazardous :)

  6. Laura Laura 18 January 2009

    Ahaha, this made me laugh :)

    I have the same problem with dripping taps *and* with litter. The worst with litter is when you stop to pick up some litter you see in the street. Then when you look up you see that there is litter _all over_ the place… and after a moment of panicked indecision you just have to cover your eyes and run away :)

  7. Rosemary Gough Rosemary Gough 19 January 2009

    I totally understand your response to litter. I climbed Table Mountain this weekend, and you’ll be surprised at how many empty water and cool drink bottles I carried down that were left by lazy imbeciles. I can’t see why people would throw their empty bottles down??? don’t they think what would happen if everyone did that??? Where does this mentality come from? They don’t deserve to be on the mountain – EVER, they should rather go hiking in the rubbish tips they belong in. Thanks again for a great writing.

  8. Mandrake Mandrake 19 January 2009

    “Sphukuphuku ndini, umpompi awuwuvali ngani kodwa?” [“Dear gentle lady, why is the tap running?”]

    “Lalela la wena Khandakhulu, awuhlukane nami uvale umpompi mawukuhlupha” [“Talk to the hand!”]

    I love your translation of isphukuphuku. My pet-hate are idiots who throw beer bottles on the floor when there is a bin or plastic bag five steps away from them. Then they leave your house without concern and take your glasses, with the promise that they’ll bring them back the following day. These idiots are normally my friends.

  9. isphukuphuku isphukuphuku 19 January 2009

    brothel? Wife????????

  10. Laura Laura 19 January 2009

    ^ Yes, I hoped that part of the post was made up… o_0

  11. Felicity Felicity 20 January 2009

    Received your book at Christmas and have since become hooked. Also have hangups re litter and dripping taps – have ruined a few washers by tightening them too often. How can “they” not get it?! The same goes for lights on in an empty room – this little OCD habit is getting a bit out of hand, as I sneak around the house switching off appliances at the plug, especially those with LED displays. Hope you are not planning another 3 month break soon. PS Your wife must be a very special person.

  12. pete ess pete ess 20 January 2009

    Chill, boet. Deep breaths. Just go with the flow. Re-direct that energy somewhere else. Find a Lulu that will talk soothingly to you out of the corner of her mouth while she – well, you get my drift.

  13. LEBAS LEBAS 20 January 2009


  14. hagler hagler 23 January 2009

    can’t agree enough about the terror of crocs-wearing men. as with the litter, the solution is to bin them.

  15. Dhlakhama Dhlakhama 23 January 2009

    Did you by any chance see an Internet Connection slip for an iPhone in the litter at Madame Fifi’s. It’s playing up and I need to take it in for repairs. (private email supplied)

  16. matthew matthew 1 February 2009

    crocs-wearing men deserve to be shot on the spot. along with uggs-wearing men AND women

  17. Fred Khumalo Fred Khumalo 8 February 2009

    Uyabheda, sphukuphuku sakwaNgcobo. Hhawu, welcome back nomsangano wakho. I am laughing myself silly in this small French town that’s my temporary home. Viva Ndumiso, and thanks for resuming your blogging career!

  18. Jama ka Silwane Jama ka Silwane 4 March 2009

    Hhayi Mapholoba you truly are a genuis with the written word. You’ve been absolutely finishing me for the passed 3 weeks. Been reading Some of my Best Friends (am currently embroiled in an ugly joint custody battle over it with my girlfriend) and I cant help but draw parallels between us, especially in the the “Eish I aint got it…” story. Unfortunately i think i fall into the class of the SKATES though!

    Anyway keep writing chap, I look forward to more of your material, although as I mentioned above, I cant guarantee that I will support your work through actually buying it! Although I am sure I will continue to thoroughly enjoy it.

  19. Bongiwe Ngcobo Bongiwe Ngcobo 5 March 2009

    Very funny Ndums. I’m sure iziphukuphuku were busy drinking their “mindrel” and “making their tv’s go slow” to even worry about water.

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