“Welcome! Come through, I’ll introduce you to the team.”
Stella followed Eden into a locker room where people were sat on benches chatting, or stood pulling on pristine white lab coats.
“Everybody,” called Eden, “This is Stella. Be nice, she’s on secondment from Head Office to get some hands-on experience here.”
Various people waved or called out a greeting, and Stella waved back, “Hi everyone. Treat me like a new girl that needs teaching everything, as I don’t want to be a passenger here. If I’m doing things wrong, or even just not meeting your standards, please let me know. Don’t be shy.”
A woman sat nearby, her face lined and hiding her true age, no make-up to hide the wear and tear of a working life, laughed quietly. “Oh, don’t worry about that dear. You’re in the shit with us now.”
Everybody else laughed, including Stella and Eden.
Turning to Stella, Eden gestured towards the woman that had spoken. “Lila here is very experienced, and has helped several of our new joiners get settled, so do what she says and you’ll be just fine.”
Stella nodded and stepped towards Lila, asking, “I guess I need a hair net and a coat. Where are those?”
Lila pointed at the shelves lining the far wall of the room. “I’ll go and get you a coat, which you can keep in your locker. On those shelves you can find the hairnets and the diapers.”
Stella stopped in shock and looked at Lila. “Diapers? I, err, what? I don’t need diapers.”
Lila smiled kindly at Stella. “We’re chopping chilli peppers and hand mixing hot spices for barbecue rubs and sauces. You really don’t want to be having to touch yourself when you go to the toilet, so the company provides diapers as an alternate arrangement. It’s less a health and safety thing and rather more about personal comfort.”
Looking at her new colleagues Stella realised that many of them had an obvious bulge in their clothing that did look like they were wearing thick padded underwear. In fact, the only ones she couldn’t tell were in the mid-thigh length lab coats, the draped fabric hiding any evidence that might be there.
Speaking quietly Stella said, “Umm. Look, it’s fine if people prefer that approach and I completely get why the men don’t want to have to hold and aim, but I think I’ll be ok.” Her voice dropping a little more, she added, “For us girls we just need to sit and tinkle, no need to hold anything sensitive.”
Lila laughed and shook her head. “You don’t wipe after?” she asked, but followed up swiftly with, “No, it’s fine. Your choice entirely. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and find a diaper for myself.”
Stella watched in amazement as Lila walked up to the shelves, pulled from a box there what was clearly an adult sized folded disposable diaper, and disappeared through a door labelled “Changing Room”.
On her return Lila seemed to walk a little more awkwardly, a hint at the thick padding between her legs, but didn’t mention it, just beckoned to Stella and said, “Come on, let’s get started. We’ll get you a coat, and then I’ll start you on something easy and straightforward.”
Stella shrugged and went with it. She was here to learn after all, and indeed that morning was a culinary crash course for her. Although her placement was to help her understand the processes and efficiency measures in detail, she needed to get on top of the basics first, and she was finding out that her approach was very basic indeed.
The others didn’t mind, and provided helpful hints and demonstrations from time to time, but otherwise left her to progress at her own pace. Eventually they stopped for a break, everybody clustered around a coffee machine, and Stella realised she wanted the loo first.
Someone sniggered as they pointed it out to her, reminding Stella that she’d been chopping chillis for much of the morning and had various other spices on her fingers. She washed her hands thoroughly before entering the cubicle, pulled down her jeans and underwear and sat quietly thinking through how things were going.
Feeling pleased with her start and glad that everybody had been so kind and helpful to her, Stella absentmindedly pulled some paper from the roll as she finished and reached down to wipe.
Lila and four others responded to the screams.
Two days later, still limping as she walked, Stella returned to work. She approached Lila, who looked prepared for confrontation.
“I’m sorry,” said Stella, “You did warn me. Umm… Could you show me how to fit a diaper?”
Lila smiled and took Stella’s hand. “Come on, this will be fun.”