During this year’s annual shutdown an unknown male worker managed to steal keys to the women’s toilet and shower cabin and lock us out. “Us” being me and the one other female worker out of the hundreds of contracted workers on site.
The women’s is a small room with a separate, lockable, shower cubicle, and a toilet which is close to where we work and eat. Before any women have arrived on site, I notice scattered toilet roll, chemical residue in the sink and shit in the toilet basin. S, when she arrives, is an administrative worker in clean office clothes who approaches me to ask about shower access; I am certain she has not been treating the cubicle like this.
Later on I go to the ladies’ and find it locked, both from the outside door and the internal door. The spare keys are locked inside, and not even my managers can open it. Someone thinks they now have access to their own private bathroom at our expense.
I complain quietly about it to a handful of people, and to my surprise the apprentices step up with form.
“That’s fucking outrageous, what a scumbag!”
“Let’s get in there, the bell-end.”
L, an apprentice fitter, googles how to pick a mortice lock and levers one of the doors open with a huge screwdriver. J and I dismantle the other door and remove the internal locking mechanism. We take the spare keys and have a look in the shower cubicle.
“He’s got a towel and razor in there.”
“Little piece of private heaven.”
I think about it for about ten seconds, then throw everything in the shower into a skip and bury it in wet waste.
“Covid contamination hazard averted.”
“If he asks where his stuff is, send him upstairs to [the boss] to collect it, then he’ll have to admit to using the ladies’.”
We haven’t locked him out, but we’ve got ourselves back in! I hope whoever he is, his day is ruined by a missing towel. Other contractors notice what we’re doing and smile, shaking their heads.
“Know who he is yet?”
“Some people, honestly what’s his problem? How hard is it to use your own toilet?”
“He had a go at tearing down the women’s toilet sign, didn’t he? — not very respectful.”
Me, J and L are a good team for the rest of the weekend — we are slightly triumphant, and we have each other’s backs.
• Emma Rickman is an engineering apprentice at a Combined Heat and Power plant