[From: Factory Stories, Factory Management, November 2014]
Today I finally experienced being denied access to the factory. I bought new underwear that was supposed to be nonmagnetic, and I thought I would be able to pass the security check. Who could imagine that they would not let me in? No way. I had to ask someone to call the line leader to let me in (according to company rules, people who cannot pass the security check have to be brought in by a member of management with a position of line leader or higher). I was waiting and waiting, from 7:20 to 8:00 (work starts at 7:30), but there was still nobody there to pick me up. I was already thinking that no one would come. Embarrassed and at a complete loss, at last I heard someone call my name. I responded and saw an unfamiliar guy at the door. He said he had come to pick me up, but unfortunately, although he belonged to management, he was only an assistant line leader, and the security guard said he lacked the authority to let me in. The assistant line leader said he didn’t believe that, but the security guard picked up a contact list to prove his point, saying: “Look, only someone with a rank of line leader or above can let people in! Sorry, there’s nothing I can do.” I said, “Then help me call a team leader.” And he said ok.
I was thinking that if no one came to let me in, I would just wait outside (I had already swiped my card). If they made me take leave, I would just file a complaint (in the past it was common for leaders to tell workers to ask for leave instead of coming to let them in). But this was just a fantasy: the assistant line leader noticed a team leader coming by, so I signed in at the guard post, as did the team leader, then the security guard checked me with his scanner and let me in. While we were entering I kept apologizing to the team leader, saying “So sorry for all the trouble,” but I’m not sure why I thought I needed to do that.
After passing security I went to the changing room to put on my overalls. The changing room was in a mess, and I couldn’t find my uniform. I had to dig through a pile of dirty clothes on the floor to try and find something that was a little less dirty. After five minutes I had already changed three times and was still unable to find anything appropriate. At that point the team leader came by again. It seemed that he too was unable to find his uniform. When I saw him I started apologizing again. He laughed and said, “No problem, it’s ok.” I said, “I can’t find my clothes again!” He picked up a green hat (team leader uniforms are green), tore off the name tag and then said jokingly, “Yeah, it’s a fucking mess, I can’t find anything.” I didn’t have the courage to look at him directly, but I felt a sense of joy at discovering that team leaders also had to rely on tearing off name tags to get into uniform. According to company regulations, tearing off name tags and wearing other people’s uniforms is a punishable offense.
At that moment, while I was still looking for something to wear, I heard an announcement through the speakers calling me to report immediately to the production line. I grabbed someone’s clothes and rushed to the workshop. I felt bad about stealing some other girl’s work clothes, leaving her with nothing to wear, but I really had no choice. What’s funny is that her name was almost the same as mine, just one character different! When I got to the production line, I first went looking for the instructor, worrying that he would scold me. I never expected him to laugh it off, saying it was no big deal. He also said that if he had known I had been unable to pass the security check, he would have sent someone to pick me up. I explained that my new clothes had set off the metal detector. He said: “No problem, I understand” – sometimes even line leaders wear something metal and also have to rely on others to let them in. At that moment, the line leader came in, also laughing, and said, “So you managed to get in, good, go to the XX post.” I had mixed feelings about the whole thing: on the one hand I felt happy that they didn’t scold me, but on the other I felt uncomfortable because I didn’t understand why they were all so nice to me, I didn’t understand why I was making such an effort to appease them.
When I went out for lunch at noon I had no problem passing the security check – when the security guard saw my name he just scanned me and let me through. But when I returned I would again need someone with authorization to let me in. As it happened, I came across that team leader again at noon and he let me back in. When we were about to finish work I told the instructor that I would not do overtime that day since it was too much trouble to always ask people to come and let me through the security check. He laughed and said, “Don’t worry, I’ll find someone to come and let you in.” This kind of warmth really gives you no choice but to accept the offer, but in the end I still refused to do overtime that day. I sensed that the security guard was not keen on letting me back in after the lunch break, that he thought I should go home and change clothes, but that would have been a lot of trouble, since my clothes were still wet from washing and returning to the dormitory takes a long time. Besides, I really didn’t feel like troubling the team leader again, so I just went home after my shift [, opting out of the chance for overtime pay].