Tembo suggests I visit the moon

Idle talk turns to cross-generational comparisons at Jiji Ndogo

In Summary

• Inspector Tembo knows a thing or two about scientific milestones


On slow days at the Jiji Ndogo police post, and there are lots of those, believe me, my boss Inspector Tembo and I pass the time talking about anything and everything.

Well, Tembo usually does most of the talking. The man has an opinion about everything, and he doesn’t allow such trivial things as facts to dissuade him.

“You’re still young, Sgt Makini,” he once told me. “If you change careers right now, go back to school and study astrology, you could become a cosmonaut and be the first man to land on the moon.”


Initially, I wasn’t sure I’d heard him right, but knowing my boss, I knew I had.

“There’s a couple things wrong with your statement, sir.”

“I know. Kinda late for you to change careers.”

“A bit more than that, sir. First, astrologists don’t study space, they tell fortunes.”

“You mean like the stars in newspapers?”

“The very same. Also, although cosmonauts go to space, you have to be Russian to be one.”

“You’re wrong, son. Americans have gone to space too, not just Russians.”


“True. And they’re called ‘astronauts’, not cosmonauts.”

“Potato, potato. Same difference.”

“You’re pronouncing both potatoes the same way so there’s no… never mind. The other thing is that more than 10 people have already been to the moon. So, I can’t be the first.”

Inspector Tembo shakes his head, places a hand lightly on my shoulder.

“You poor, poor sob. No human has ever been to the moon.”

“But sir, Neil Armstrong…”

“Was an actor. That’s right, Sergeant. The moon landing was faked in a movie studio. Everybody knows that. But your generation will believe anything.”

“Sir, the moon landing happened in your generation, not mine.”

“Tomato, tomato. Who even says when one generation starts and another ends? But who cares. Your generation will die from cellphone poisoning, anyway.”

“From what, sir?”

“Radiation in those phones you keep stuck to your ears. Don’t tell me you don’t know about this?”

“It’s been debunked, sir. Cellphone radiation is not enough to harm humans.”

“Have you ever seen someone doing that popular dance… The one where hands and legs look disabled… What do you call it?”

“The Odi dance?”

“That one. What normal person dances like that? The first time I saw it, I thought the poor young man was having a stroke.”

“You used to do The twist back in the seventies,” I said defensively. “You all looked like you’re being stung by invisible bees.”

“I’d say more like trying to scratch an itch without using one’s hand, but there was a science to it.”

“True, sir. Chemistry science. As in drugs.”

“Oh no, son. Not everyone took drugs back in the seventies. Some of us just drunk Coca-Cola. You do know it used to contain cocaine, hence the ‘Coca’ part of the name, right?”

I was impressed. For once, Tembo had part of the facts right.

“You’re right, sir,” I told him, placing a hand lightly on his shoulder. “Coke did contain cocaine once.”

“Finally, you get my point.” He smiled proudly. “No wonder I believe you should be considered for that moon trip.”

“But you got part of it wrong, sir. You were drinking it in the seventies, but Coca-Cola stopped adding cocaine in their drinks in 1929. Unless you were drinking 44-year-old bottles of Cola, you had no reason to shake your butts like that.”

Inspector Tembo then got a far-off look. I could imagine him imagining the seventies.

“No wonder I wasn’t that good at twisting,” he said. “Still beats the Odi, though.”