Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Sinking of the Titanic

The Sinking of the Titanic

            ‘Grandpa,’ said Katendi suddenly, ‘Why did the Titanic sink?’
          ‘It hit an iceberg,’ I said.
          ‘Why did it hit the iceberg?’ she persisted.
          ‘Because the iceberg got in the way,’ I laughed.
          ‘Ho ho,’ she said, ‘Do you expect me to believe that that the person steering the iceberg wasn’t doing his job properly, and foolishly sailed the iceberg right in front of the pabwato? Don’t you think it’s more likely that the person who was supposed to be steering the Titanic wasn’t doing his job properly?’
          ‘Exactly,’ I said, ‘You’ve got it in one. That’s the answer.’
          ‘No it’s not,’ she persisted. ‘Why wasn’t he doing the job properly? Are you really trying to tell me that this huge liner, with a crew of a thousand, didn’t have somebody who could steer the boat properly? I mean, the iceberg was about a thousand times bigger than the boat. You might perhaps excuse the big iceberg for not noticing a little boat, but you can scarcely excuse the little boat for not noticing a huge iceberg.’
          ‘So you want the true story?’ I asked.
          ‘Yes,’ she said.
          ‘The story begins with the captain, Mr Cycle Mata. He had always wanted to be the captain of a big ship, but nobody would ever give him the job. Over a career of many years in many ships he had worked all the way up from able seaman to chief engineer, but the ship owners would never let him steer, let alone appoint him captain.’
          ‘Why not?’
          ‘Nobody’s quite sure, but some say he was entirely lacking in any sense of direction.’
          ‘So what did he do?’
          ‘He decided to build his own ship, and make himself the captain of it. And so, in the shipyards of Belfast he spent ten years building the biggest passenger liner the world had ever seen. When the Titanic set sail from Southampton on its maiden voyage it had two thousand passengers, whom he had promised to take to New York in only 90 hours. He was front page news all over the world.’
          ‘But he didn’t know how to steer the ship?’
          ‘That wasn’t his problem. He employed officers who could do all that. A man called Dotty Scotty was made Vice-Captain. He had a safe pair of hands, although they were a bit wobbly. But at least he knew the difference between north and south, port and starboard, matters that had always been a complete mystery to Cycle Mata. As Purser, Cycle Mata appointed Axe Chikwale, a man who knew how to squeeze money out of the rich first class passengers so that the Captain could live in luxury. Splinter Kapimbe was First Officer in charge of discipline. Second Officer GBM was the Great Banqueting Manager and Chipembele Kambilimbili was officer in charge of sport and entertainment.
          ‘So they all set sail for New York. What went wrong?’
          ‘Nothing went wrong. The whole system worked quite well, even though Cycle Mata never called any management meetings. He just dealt with his officers individually.’
          ‘His previous experience had been in the engine room.’
          ‘Exactly. So he’d never heard of a management meeting, he just gave orders.’
          ‘Without consensus, wasn’t he in danger of the others ganging up on him?’
          ‘He just demanded personal loyalty to himself.’
          ‘Didn’t it sometimes happen that some officers would suspect that one amongst them was more favoured, and others were being done down? Mutiny is always a danger on board ship!’
          ‘Cycle Mata was too smart for that. He would call officers into his cabin one at a time, and say to each of them My dear fellow, you are my favourite and preferred officer. You are like a son to me. You are my successor. When I retire you will be the Captain of the Ship. But don’t tell any of the others, or they might become jealous of you.’
          ‘And they all fell for that story?’ laughed Katendi.
          ‘Oh yes,’ I said. ‘Each of them had a very high opinion of themselves but a low opinions of the others, so each was very convinced that they were the natural choice as the next captain. So each of them greatly respected the Captain, calling him Your Excellency, and following behind like little dogs as His Excellency did his daily inspection of the deck, giving orders such as ‘Paint that rail! Clear those plates! Rearrange those deckchairs in straight lines!’
          ‘He was even concerned with the arrangement of the deckchairs!’ Katendi marvelled. ‘If he had everything under such control, what went wrong?’
          ‘Just one little thing went wrong. One day, during his morning inspection, His Excellency did not feel so excellent, and suddenly collapsed flat on the deck. Everybody thought he must be dead. But none of his officers had time to check because each had to quickly establish his position as the new captain. So each summoned his subordinates and organized to take control of the ship. One officer led his men to the bridge to control the wheel, and met several rival factions! Others ran to the purser’s office to secure the safe. The entire ship descended into complete and continuing chaos. The control room became a battleground as the engine ran full throttle. As the first class passengers hid in their cabins, the second class passengers looted the shops, the third class passengers feasted in the first class kitchen and the fourth class passengers were recruited into the rival armies of the rival officers.’
          ‘Then the ship hit the iceberg.’
          ‘Exactly,’ I replied.


  1. Able semen?

    Not after the operation.

  2. This is a good one. I think the other reason why the titanic sunk was because the great Cycle Mata had achieved his greatest ambition. He had nothing else to look forward to. His first choice disciplinarian is also too ambitious that he goes to any lengths to get his goal. His modus operandi apart from splinting include ever living products from china and africa with high preference for the later.