INTERNSHIP DIARY

Meet Ajoji, the no-nonsense ‘receptionist’

He can stop corona in its tracks and catch a murderer with his phone

In Summary

• Armed with a Kitabu and ‘the temperature thing’, he welcomes all visitors to the office

• Nobody except ‘Mkubwa’ can escape his spray, and he takes mask-wearing seriously

Image: DAVID MUCHAI

His name is George but everyone calls him Ajoji; he seems to really like that. At my industrial attachment place, Ajoji is our receptionist — or that is what he thinks he is.

Being a receptionist means he arrives at the office the earliest and leaves last. He sits at his desk at the entrance every morning and watches people stream in for work as he makes snide comments about them, like, “Watu wengine ata hawaesimu kasi sao. Mtu anafaa bata ngoma akikuja kasi.” Or, as in my case, “Kichwa yako haifuri ukifika kasi saa tatu?”

By the way, he makes these comments in your presence because the only thing Ajoji respects or fears is the ‘Mkubwa’. We are still not sure if this Mkubwa is the floor manager, the chief of the department, the ICT county secretary or just any random person who gives him some money for soda because he calls all these people Mkubwa. Although for any random person who provides a soda, Ajoji will only call you Mkubwa till the end of that day and then revert to factory settings the next day.

Now at his desk, he has this big, black book he calls ‘Kitabu’. He also has a hand spray that he must spray on your hands. Well, unless you are Mkubwa; Ajoji doesn’t think Mkubwa can contract or spread corona. He also has the temperature measuring thing and a few other items, but the Kitabu reigns supreme above all existence. It comes before anything else. Even before you can breathe, you must write on the Kitabu. 

Coming at a close second is the temperature thing. When you arrive at the reception in the morning, Ajoji, while pretending to read a newspaper, stares at you without looking at you (if you don’t understand what I mean, just go with the flow; there is no time to explain, bwana). He then fishes out the temperature thing as he mumbles something about saa na kasi under his breath. Basically, I guess the way the temperature thing works is that if it indicates a value that is like higher than 38, then you might have corona, and if it is a lower value, then you are safe.

I submit to you that there is nothing on this planet that excites Ajoji more than using the temperature machine on people. When you walk in, after doing enough of pretending to read the newspaper, he lowers his face mask down to his chin so he can tell you, “Wear your mask properly and sanitise.” You sanitise and then he fishes out the temperature machine. He loves the machine. You look at his face and you can swear he has been waiting the whole night to use the machine. “Just stand there,” he motions to you.

Now, either the temperature thing does not work or Ajoji does not really understand how it works. Because he points the thing at your forehead but doesn’t check it or show you the value. Instead, he proceeds to write on the Kitabu a temperature value that is 0.1 degrees higher or lower than the preceding value. So everyone’s temperature record is like 36.1, 36.2 36.3, up to 36.9, or 36.8, 36.7, down to 36.1.

And then you have to fill in the Kitabu before you can finally access the building. Like I said, anyone who is not a Mkubwa must fill in this book. Whether you are an employee, a visitor or an intern like me, you must fill in the Kitabu. Name. Phone Number. Reason for visit. Time of arrival.

Under time of arrival, the first person to arrive after Ajoji writes 8.05am, and then everyone else who arrives after just writes the double quotation mark, which basically means everyone arrived at the same time. But Ajoji has never known what the double quotes means and is too proud to find out, so he just nods you in.

The other day I asked him why it is so important for everyone to fill in the book. He said, “It is for security reasons.” And I was like, how? The Kitabu does not capture our fingerprints, does it?

“If you do anything bad in the building like steal or kill someone, then we can find you through the Kitabu,” he explained. Which makes a lot of sense since any malicious person who wants to access the building will just write their real names and their real contact details. Because the Kitabu is the Book of Truth, and no mere mortal can dare lie before its supreme self, right?

Then I asked, “Now, if I walk in there and kill someone, what will you do?”

“We can just get your contact from the Kitabu, phone you and tell you to come back. Don’t play.”

You can all see how I am undertaking my industrial attachment at the safest and most secure place on Earth. Perhaps second only to the White House.

Edited by T Jalio