toxic jobs

Personal stories about toxic jobs and workplace woes.

May 03, 2010

office key v security pass

Return to work moms, like Jo, are often overwhelmed by the changes that have taken place since they last had a job, and being given a security pass rather a key to the office, shop or factory where they've found employment is a bit of a novelty at first but it soon becomes a real problem.

Jo presumes that there are still some jobs out there where you're given the key to the workplace and you don't have to think about it any more because it's attached to your key-ring along with the keys to everything else, but she fears that such jobs went out of fashion about the same time tea-ladies did.

"These days," says Jo, "more and more workplaces - even the small companies - are utilizing security-locking systems and being at work is fast taking on the feeling of being like an inmate in a prison."

Jo has been issued with a big fat ugly pass that neither fits in her pocket nor her purse. She either clips it onto her belt or attaches it to a chain and wears it around her neck like a noose.

"If you lose it - which is not hard to do," explains Jo, "you have to pay for its replacement. Knowing this, I became paranoid about losing the damn thing!"

Jo’s whiz kids at home tell her that security systems that work by palm, fingerprint or face recognition are already being used in some workplaces, but Jo imagines she’ll be in a rocking chair before that happens where she works.

In the meantime, Jo and most everyone else is stuck with security passes or even the necessity to remember a continually changing combination password code in order to enter places of employment.

"This security pass that I wear around my neck reminds me of my childhood," confides Jo. "I was an only child and my parents sent me to camps during the school holidays. Most of us were only children at the camps, and for the whole time we were there we were required to wear name tags. I felt like lost baggage or something. It was so dehumanizing."

The company Jo works for occupies three levels of an office block, and her job requires frequent trips up and down the elevator.

"You guessed it!" laughs Jo. "Even the elevators require a security key to operate them. If I am unable to insert the key quickly enough and press the right floor number, I’m taken on a merry ride either to the basement or the 50th floor or anywhere in between."

Frustrated by this system, the oft-stranded Jo removed the key from her neck-chain one day and in doing so it unfortunately slipped off the chain and fell through the gap between the elevator and the lobby floor.

Gaining access to her office after this accident required waiting in the lobby until someone ventured out and allowed her back in. That, of course, was the easy part. The hard part involved getting a replacement security key.

"Nobody believed me," laughed Jo. "It was probably easier for them to believe it was a ploy to obtain two security keys, one of which I intended to give to an industrial espionage agent who would enter the building in the dark of night and steal all the company's secrets!"

Everybody has a ridiculous story to tell about security passes and keys and codes and how difficult it is to work with the fear of losing or forgetting them, so it is understandable that Jo would prefer to work in a place that has low-security requirements.

However, unless she intends working as a park-ranger - and it is debatable whether even park-rangers can get away without a security pass of some description - it is almost inevitable that she will be lumbered with some type of security pass wherever she goes. It is therefore pointless for Jo to groan about security passes and the prison-like environment in which she works.

Jo begrudgingly accepts that the security is for her safety, too.

"One small mercy," laughs Jo, "is that I’m thankful that my job doesn’t require me to use a security pass to use the toilets. A lot of jobs do!"

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