Whether it was the FAA flexing its bureaucratic muscle or corporate controlfreakitis, we hourly grunts "on the floor" were required to wear ID badges at all times. These were plastic laminated affairs that clipped to a shirt collar or pocket edge and even sported a bar code. We'd scan the ID badge to clock in at 6 A.M., when we started a job, when we finished a job, and on and on and on ... until it was time to clock out for the day, and we'd scan 'em that one last time before leaving.
Out on the floor there was a class distinction between company hired grunts and temp service grunts. The distinction transcended pay scale and how each group was treated by management, and was accomplished by way of the ID badge design.
Company grunt badges had the company logo, employee photo, employee name, and barcode. Temp service grunt badges had only the employee name and a barcode. Period. The blank spaces where the company logo and employee photo would normally be were glaringly obvious in their absence, and stuck out like a sore thumb. We temps were as much as branded.
We were, in fact, generic life forms. We were faceless. The temps. The expendibles. The lowest of the low.
And we were easily identified.
One day when reading the comics page of the newspaper I had a minor brainstorm. Staring down at the page it occurred to me, a longtime fan of Dik Browne's Hägar the Horrible, it would be a hoot to cut out a headshot of Hägar and tape it to my ID badge as a makeshift "photo." Besides being half Swedish, I shared something else with Hägar other than Scandinavian lineage: we were both gingers.
It seemed like the perfect plan.
The public debut of the Hägar ID badge drew rave reviews from fellow floor grunts, both company hired and temps. But it didn't take long for one of the company ass-smoochers to tip off the floor manager of my little experiment in creativity.
She approached me without any warning and requested my presence in her
office cubicle. "Come with me." she as much as ordered, and then goose-stepped towards said cubicle.
It felt like back in high school and being sent to the principal's office ...
She sat down at her desk, deep crows feet signalled something very serious was about to be discussed. I chose to remain standing. The exchange went something very close to this:
FLOOR MANAGER (FM): "What's that on your ID badge?"
NON-CONFORMIST (ME): "That's Hägar the Horrible. Do you notice the resemblance?"
FM: "You have to remove that picture from your ID badge, Jeff."
FM: "Because it's against the rules.
ME: "You actually took time out of your busy day of important work to tell me that pasting a picture of a cartoon character on an otherwise picture-less ID badge is against the rules?"
FM: "Jeff, if one person does something like this and it is not addressed, then the next thing you know every temp on the factory floor will be doing it."
ME: "Do you really think I have that level of suggestive power over the 200 temps you have out there?"
FM: "I am not going to debate this with you, Jeff. You have defaced your ID badge, which is against the rules in your employee manual. Just take the picture off of your badge and go back to work."
It was at that point I realized she wasn't dealing in the world of reality, but instead a world of rules, regulations, conformity, uniformity, and control. My counter-in-queue was:
1) temps' badges didn't have a picture of a face,
2) adding a face actually "faced" and not defaced said badge.
This astute counter argument, as least in my opinion, would have failed at penetrating the fortified by-the-rules mindset she was obviously armored with. It was a losing battle.
ME: "Fine. I'll remove Hägar. May I go back to work now?"
FM: Thank you and yes, please do.
And that was that.
Once back at my work station I unclipped my ID badge and commenced with removing brother Hägar's image. Conformity didn't feel good and neither did thoughts of the inevitable questions from co-workers whom had taken a liking to having Hägar in the shop. It was clear that although a battle had been lost, the war was still on.
As I was about to reaffix the now faceless ID badge, it occurred to me that nowhere in the employee manual did it specify exactly where on my person said badge should be affixed, other than being in clear sight. I quickly double-checked the manual as a smirk painted itself across my face.
So instead of the pedestrian shirt pocket location for hanging the badge, I opted for clipping it to the bottom edge of my belt buckle - thus positioning the badge to dangle in close proximity to other dangling apparatus.
The disgruntled fans of Hägar on the factory floor were appeased with this new display of defiance. Frequent "thumbs up" confirmed this, as well as others voluntarily joining in with similar or unique affixations. It was all very heart warming.
Oddly enough, nothing was ever said about the new location of the Hägar-less ID badge by management. And I'm sure management knew, as I noticed my floor manager's and other managers' eyes casting looks "below the equator," if you know what I mean. She knew, I knew, and the best part was this:
The employee manual didn't address this issue!