Sue Z.

Sue Z. is not having it. The only thing she is having, in fact, is enough. Enough of the bullshit, the pressure–the sheer overflow of responsibilities. Could it have been any wonder, then, that she was quite literally at capacity? In such a way as to make her vaginal canal–whilst on her period–get blocked up. She had wedged a tampon into it the previous night, and when she awoke the next morning, late already to her job at the Ikea factory, she tried her best to pull it out, but the string had disappeared.

Having no time to deal with it, she continued about the vexing business of getting ready as hurriedly as possible so she wouldn’t be any later. Her boss had a tendency to dock her pay despite the fact that Sue Z. (which is also the moniker her name tag bore) always made it up if necessary by staying late. But Lars–yes, fucking Lars…because apparently Ikea believed in maintaining some level of “Swedish authenticity”–claimed that wasn’t permitted, even though Sue Z. couldn’t understand why. Why couldn’t she just work the number of hours agreed upon even if, occasionally, she didn’t get started on time?

This question plagued her to no end after arriving forty-five minutes late and being given a stern look by Lars, who subsequently left the floor to go back up into the little perch of a room where he could Big Brother them from afar thanks to the wonders of CCTV. Sue Z. looked over at Frank, one of the oldest and longest-running workers at the factory. Sometimes she wondered if maybe he wasn’t seventy years old. But he would never say, and people respected him too much to ask. Basically, because Frank was the elder white man, he was the person unofficially “in charge” when Lars wasn’t around. Which is why, whenever Sue Z. showed up late, he would berate her before then going into a softer paternalistic mode and asking her if everything was okay. Today, most certainly, everything was not okay. And though she knew it never had been in all her days working at this godforsaken place, today in particular was when everything crystallized to reveal how not okay it had all been.

As she went about the tedious process of checking parts for defects before packing them into their boxes, she kept feeling a sinking sensation in the pit of her stomach. Then she started getting extremely overheated, despite the fact that it was always freezing at the factory. What was going on with her? And then she remembered: the tampon. While aware that it often took at least three days for toxic shock syndrome to set in, the sudden arrival of her fever made her think she was an exception to the rule–and that she really oughtn’t to have made a point of buying the extra-absorbent tampons (notorious for being more prone to causing TSS). But when you’re on your feet all day with nary an opportunity for a bathroom break and an ever-looming quota to meet, you realize there’s little time to change your tampon. So maybe somewhere along the (assembly) line, Sue Z. had lost track of when she actually did change it. Maybe it had been a full two days for all she knew–that’s how much the days ran together in their “whiting out” banality.

Feeling faint and feverish, she turned to Frank and announced she was going to the bathroom. Not waiting for some kind of sanction, she scurried off as quickly as possible. Upon finding herself inside the confines of the disgusting cubicle, she attempted, once more, to remove the tampon. She worked her Kegel every which way trying to free it without the help of the vanished string. To no avail. One second on the toilet, the next completely unconscious, it seemed it took a full hour before anyone could make mention of the fact that Sue Z.–their best, most efficient worker (even for all her so-called tardiness)–had disappeared, causing an immediate production lag time that would be felt for weeks to come. How true it is that one person really can make all the difference.

Even Sue Z., for all her arrogance about her right to being allowed a more flexible work schedule because of how productive and expedient she was, never imagined what a profound effect her sudden “canal blockage” would create. That a mere hour of being off the floor, and then subsequently causing others to stop what they were doing to go look for her when she didn’t respond to any messages or calls, would set off a chain reaction in the very supply chain that made Ikea so “renowned” (for it certainly wasn’t the furniture itself–which, like a fashion model, was thin, dainty and shoddy at best).

When Sue Z. finally came to, she was in the factory’s “nursing area.” Why didn’t they just take her to a hospital? Lars was standing over her, that constantly disapproving expression on his face. She wanted to kick him in the dick, but resisted the urge. Mainly because she was still feeling quite feeble. She opened her mouth to ask, “Am I going to be all right?” Lars responded, “Sue Z., I honestly don’t know. What I do know is that you’ve compromised the workflow. I’m going to have to… let you go after today. You clearly can’t manage your own personal health and I simply can’t be responsible for your recklessness. We need strong, healthy people working here.”

Sue Z. spat back, “Are you even allowed to say something like that to me? This is fucking America. We’re not in Bangladesh. I have some rights. And one of them is to–one time, in my entire tenure of working here–‘compromise the workflow.’ You fucking emotionless Scandinavian.”

Obviously, Sue Z. was seen off the premises and advised to go “tend to herself” by seeking viable medical attention. After taking an Uber (i.e. going from one exploitive company to the next) to the hospital, she hobbled into the emergency room. And while doing so, she had to admit that, despite the blood-soaked tampon weighing her down, she did actually feel lighter. She needed that job like she needed a hole in her head. Or a stopped-up hole in her vaginal canal.

It also seemed no coincidence that mere days after Sue Z.’s “revolt,” which took place in 2019, Ikea decided to announce that it would be closing its lone U.S. factory location. Danville, Virginia would never be the same. And neither would Sue Z., who vowed only to wear bleeding cups thenceforward and work solely in non-committal environments like a flower shop. She didn’t seem to fathom that flower shop workers and their ilk might end up bleeding freestyle from their vag in the river underneath the bridge for as well as the job paid. Begging the question, once again, how are “feminine hygiene products” not subsidized by the government?

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