my coworkers heard my roommates having sex while I was on a conference call

A reader writes:

So…are you ready for a weird one?

The recent snow saw me working at home in my apartment, which I share with a handful of roommates and a landlady. The landlady does not let me work on my laptop downstairs and confines me to my room. That’s fine, but the roommate in the floor above me hangs out with his girlfriend quite often, and as this recent day had it, they decided to have very loud, very obvious sex while I was on a conference call, and I did not hit mute on my computer fast enough. All my coworkers heard it, and my supervisor even questioned if someone was “making out” in the background. I tried laughing it off, saying, “Yes, I’m very sorry.

My roommates were being very inconsiderate, and I used text responses until everything quieted down again, but since I’ve returned in office, a few of the coworkers who were on the call with me avoid me (as in, they see me walking down the hall, turn around, and walk in the other direction)!

What can I do to clear the air? I don’t think I did anything wrong!

I have so many questions! How long did this period of audio-erotica go on for? (Are we talking 30 seconds or many minutes?) What exactly was heard? (Moaning? Dirty talking? Additional details, please.) And what’s up with your landlady confining you to your room?! (In a hostage/prisoner way?)

As for your coworkers … it’s hard to think that they’d be avoiding you simply for overhearing 10 seconds of some indiscreet moaning, unless you work at a very conservative — nay, puritanical — place. I mean, it’s hardly professional to have sex noises on a conference call, but it also hardly merits shunning you now.

As for what to do now, I would just address it directly with your manager and your coworkers — something like, “I really apologize for the background noise on our call the other day. I have roommates and thin walls, and they clearly weren’t working that day. I was mortified, and I’m sorry it disrupted the call like that. I’ll be more careful about work calls when they’re at home!”

But really, your coworkers are wildly overreacting.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 369 comments… read them below }

  1. CanadianWriter*

    Your coworkers are acting crazy. Have none of them lived in an apartment before? The annoying noises never stop and its not like you have any control over it.

    1. Onymouse*

      I’ve never lived in an apartment where noises carried like that. It sounds like OP is renting a room in a house. If someone hasn’t been in that situation before, they might not realize how much sound could travel from the adjoining room.

    2. Blue Anne*

      The rule in my apartment in college was that if you heard someone going at it, you had to loudly cheer them on.

  2. Sam*

    Is it possible coworkers thought the sounds were coming from porn that was open on your computer?

    1. Artemesia*

      Bingo. If you had a porn window on it would play in the background when you were off mute on the computer. this is quite possibly what they imagined — that you had accidentally left a porn window open. THIS is the only reason I can imagine for them behaving in this way.

      I would do what Alison suggested and clear the air on this one “I am so sorry about the background noise on our conference call. The walls are super thing and my roommate in the next room obviously had the day off. I will check to make sure she isn’t home or doesn’t have guests next time.”

      And it seems that you don’t have a professional environment from which to work from home — so maybe not scheduling conference calls from there in future is wise.

      1. Leah*

        She mentioned it was a snow day, so my guess was this was done instead of a face-to-face meeting normally scheduled for the office.

    2. KB*

      This is exactly what I think they think (and, it’s what I would think in the same scenario). It actually seems more likely than the roommate explanation. I think there’s a strong chance they think you had porn on the computer.

      1. businesslady*

        okay, but still…really? inappropriateness aside, do they really think the OP would be that STUPID?

        1. Rayner*

          Given that AAM’s answered questions on people watching inappropriate material in the office, while other people were present, I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that that scenario has happened to other people before.

        2. TL*

          Somebody’s apprentice was watching porn while my mom checked them out at the store one time. With the phone lying face up on the counter.

          People are definitely that stupid.

        3. Artemesia*

          Sure people are that stupid. Say someone is watching porn and then mutes the computer before the call, perhaps having minimized the porn window. When they unmuted, the porn would play in the background.

          I have done this with other sites and had two things going at once because I had minimized but not closed the first window with a song on it or news program or whatever.

        4. Ruffingit*

          Even if the OP was that stupid, I wouldn’t avoid the person. I might think they were totally unprofessional for having porn on while a conference call was in progress, but I still wouldn’t resort to shunning.

        5. Sasha LeTour*

          The head IT guy at my office is something of a ‘work buddy’ to me, and he’s shared some pretty insane stories of co-worker hijinks past and present. They include everything from sex (while sniffing cocaine!) in the single-stall unisex bathroom, to the executive guy who videotaped his ‘member’ to send to his girlfriend and left the video open for IT Guy to see when requesting a “repair,” to the director lady who made a “Pam Anderson & Tommy Lee”-style porno and left it behind on her old computer as a “parting gift” when she went to a new job.

          So the short answer is: yes!

          1. Sasha LeTour*

            Wanted to add: And that is not to say you’re stupid, OP, but rather, that many OTHER people, sad to say, ARE THAT STUPID, and I can’t think of one person in my life who doesn’t have some bizarre sex-n’work related story.

            Watching porn on company time is usually the tamest of the tales I’ve heard, and it’s not surprising that your co-workers’ minds would go there first. But I agree with Alison; they are overreacting big-time. The mature thing for them to do, post-con-call, is let it go and get back to business.

            1. Mallory*

              Dang — I wish I could think of any sex-n’work- related hijinks . . . the places I’ve worked have been pretty tame (unless maybe they were hiding all the sex from me?) . . .

              But wait! There was the one time when a guy got fired, and our boss gave a couple of us order-takers access to his email so that we could check for any customer emails in there. What we saw instead was a string of emails from hiswife tormenting him over the affair she was claiming to be having while he was at work. She was sending him detailed descriptions of sex that she was having in their apartment on her lunch break and also, in the same emails, calling him all different kinds of worthless.

              1. Sasha LeTour*

                No, it’s me who’s abnormal. Ad agency lifer. It’s the same as shown on Mad Men, only there’s less smoking these days. The drinking and sex are about the same.

        6. Blue Anne*

          Don’t even need to be that stupid. I remember bringing my laptop in to run a client demonstration, and as I was opening it up having a terrible jolt of panic as I realized that there might still be porn up in my browser. There wasn’t, thank god, but it just takes a couple moments of thoughtlessness…

          1. Blue Anne*

            File under “reasons workplaces should give their employees work laptops instead of expecting them to use personal ones”

        1. Jamie*

          Ha! Yes, if anything I’ve learned listening to me talk to and about work isn’t the enticement one would think.

          1. the gold digger*

            1. S&M version 1: “Naughty! You have not met your sales goals! Now I will have to punish you!”

            2. S&M version 2: “You have to increase sales 400% over last year but you have no sales or marketing budget!”

            Hot hot hot.

            1. Chinook*

              I think I once had a service advisor at a car dealership offer to marry me when I told him I had to read the work order before signing it. I don’t know if it was my ability to understand car stuff or willingness to not sign my name blindly. :)

        2. Diet Coke Addict*

          “Oooh, yeah! You like those Excel datasheets? Let me show you my associated graphs! They’re HUGE!”

      1. tango*

        Welll… something like that happened once. A nmale coworker had to call another male coworker at home and ask instructions because the second co-worker was in charge of a project and there was an emergency. Well there was something obviously going on and 1st coworker asked, am I interupting something or is there something going on? And 2nd coworker said “oh my girlfriend is giving me a b**w j*b right now”. Needless to say coworker 1 could not get off the phone fast enough. And it was snickered about for a long time after. And coworker #2 could’ve cared less who knew. I think he even brought it up later. If you knew the industry, you’d not be surprised.

        1. Ruffingit*

          I think he even brought it up later.

          Unfortunate wording ;) Seriously though, this guy sounds completely unprofessional in so many ways.

    1. Jamie*

      Worst multitasking ever. Talk about not being able to give full attention to either activity. :)

        1. Jamie*

          At the risk of losing my auditor credentials – I think that’s the one area I’m not interested in increasing efficiency.

          Don’t make me create an isoquant about this – although way better than an indifference curve.

          Okay, I’ll stop.

    2. Katherine Teapot*

      Not using my usual handle cause I don’t want this to be googleable, but my ex-girlfriend once jacked off during a phone interview for a computer programming job at Google. True fact.

      (I should have known at that point she was not a good choice, but coming from a conservative town where I had very little choice in other nerdy lesbians, it took me a bit of time to develop standards and not just go for whoever would date me, and then move to a place where there were sufficient numbers of women that I could actually apply those standards without being Forever Alone.)

  3. JC*

    I’ve experienced hearing dogs and snoring on conference calls, but this is a new one. So sorry that happened to you, OP!

      1. LBK*

        Fun fact: biologists think that as cats became domesticated, their meowing actually evolved to intentionally sound more like human children crying in order to trigger their owners’ natural protective instincts, the way an actual crying child would. Basically, they mimic babies so that you’ll pay attention to them and take care of them because it makes your brain think they’re a child.

        1. Lucy*

          My cat, when she wants to play, will hide in a closet, or behind a wall and just absolutely WAIL. Like she caught her tail on fire. So of course – I’ll run in to see what appendages she’ll need to have sewn back on… and she dive-bombs me.

          I fall for it every time.

          1. Windchime*

            Mine is part Siamese and likes to hide around corners, in bathtubs, etc. When I walk by, he leaps out with a Siamese-y yowl. I usually expect it, but when I don’t it can really be startling.

        2. JayDee*

          My cat has evolved to sound like a demanding preschooler. “Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. MOM! MOM! MOM! MOOOOMMMMMM!!!!”

      2. KrisL*

        My 2 kitties sometimes meow in the background. They’re mixes so probably don’t have enough Siamese to be as loud. People don’t usually ask about it.

    1. A Jane*

      Ah, snoring on the conference call! I worked at a global company and someone nodded off during our morning staff meeting. A second later, we heard their outlook meeting notification go off and could hear them waking up confused.

      1. Cath in Canada*

        I had a very traumatic dream a few weeks ago that I was woken up by a phone call asking why I wasn’t on the teleconference*, dialed in, fell asleep again during the call, and was woken up by the sound of everyone laughing uproariously at something wildly inappropriate I’d said in my sleep (but no-one on the call would tell me what I’d said).

        I woke up in a cold sweat. “Thank goodness that was just a dream, and there is no teleconference today!” I thought to myself. I grabbed my phone, only to see a calendar notification for the missed call, and dozens of mocking emails laughing at what I’d said.

        Then I woke up again… for real, this time.

        Dreams within a dream are the worst!

        *I have 1 x 5:30 am, 1 x 6 am, and 1 x 7am teleconference per month. Stoopid time zones.

    2. Kelly L.*

      A few years back, one of my bosses brought her geriatric basset hound to work one day, including our department meeting. The dog snoozed the whole time, producing these big rhythmic basset hound snooooooorrrrrrrrrrres.

      All of us almost nodded off in the meeting, it was so soothing.

      I miss that dog.

      1. esra*

        Animal snores are so relaxing. I used to work from home and my cat would start snoring during conference calls… so hard to stay conscious.

    3. FiveNine*

      I’ve heard dogs barking, babies crying, and every kind of hold music. Then about a month ago someone in the background had what sounded like one of those clown horns that clowns play around with when they ride through on a bicycle. I really don’t even want to know.

      1. rollcake*

        If the horn you’re describing is the one I’m thinking of, I think that might be one of the iPhone’s more irritating text alert noise options.

      2. Elsajeni*

        There used to be a food vendor who rode a bicycle through my apartment complex honking one of those horns. Maybe someone on the call was buying delicious tamales.

  4. Jamie*

    The landlady does not let me work on my laptop downstairs and confines me to my room.

    This is creepier to me than sex during a conference call – the hell? What does this even mean?

    And maybe I’m just a child, but I’d have found the little aural interruption kind of hilarious. I can’t imagine there being fallout from that with any reasonable people…although I would introduce my roommates to the concept of figuring out how loud you are and making sure you turn the music up just a little bit louder than that.

    1. Eric*

      That is weird. I live in a two-bedroom apartment with a roommate, and she usually stays in her room, but I’m not barring her from the living room or anything.

    2. Diet Coke Addict*

      What DOES this mean??? Is it a room-rental situation where you have kitchen privileges, etc., but the landlady doesn’t want you camping in the living room all day? (Weird, but I’ve heard weirder.) Or are you an actual roommate and your landlady is barring you from certain parts of the house?

      1. the gold digger*

        I rented a room from someone once. I thought I was paying to be a roommate, as in, I could use the kitchen and the living room and the washing machine and the phone. (This is pre cellphone days.)

        No. She expected me to stay in my room. She evicted me after two months. I guess my making oatmeal every morning before she was even up and cleaning up after myself was too much to bear.

        1. Jamie*

          Well, expecting to be able to eat in a place you’re paying to live is pretty freaking rude and presumptuous. And cleaning up after yourself…using her sink to do so presumably…I don’t know who you think you are taking over like that? The Queen of England?

          I’d have kicked you out too, you sound like trouble.

        2. TL*

          When I was looking for a place in Boston, a surprising amount of ads contained something along the lines of “best if you eat out every day” or “I like to cook a lot, so I’d prefer someone who doesn’t use the kitchen at all” and, my favorite, “no guests over, ever.”

          But they still wanted you to pay half the rent.

          1. A Cita*

            This is very common to see in NYC.
            -don’t use kitchen (or use very seldomly)
            –related, don’t bring any kitchen stuff because there’s no room for more but don’t use their stuff either
            -never, ever, ever have guest over
            -don’t be home at all during the day
            -don’t use living room

            And usually want more than half the rent because they’ve been there a long time, their rent is controlled, and when you do the math, you realize that you would actually be paying some of their rent too.

            1. Ruffingit*

              You’d probably be better off finding one of those rent by the week places or something. Geeze.

              1. Sasha LeTour*

                You would, but most of them are gone in NYC (although a few remain in Manhattan). They started disappearing during the Guiliani years under the premise that they were used for dalliances with drug dealers and prostitutes. The end result is that fewer immigrants from other countries are moving to town than ever before, and most of our newcomers these days are wealthy people from the West Coast who can afford $3000 rents.

                I just got a new apartment (with rent stabilization) in December and pay about half that, which means you are lucky by NYC standards. Strangest real estate market rental market in the world, I swear.

                1. A Cita*

                  It really is strange. The only real estate market that saw rent prices increasing, while real wages and employment decreased in the financial crash.

        3. Gene*

          Check out

          Gems like “The room is appox 4ft. tall so you cannot stand up in it. Repeat: THE ROOM IS 4ft TALL so you can’t stand up inside it!, unless you happen to be shorter than 4ft.”

      2. Elle D*

        Yeah, I’m imagining this is a room rental situation. My friend once rented a room from a family, and she was expected to stay in her room or be out of the house. She had a mini-fridge and microwave in her room, and went to the laundromat for clothes. It was similar to living in a dorm.

        I also lived in a house with 2 roommates where one roommate was the owner, and although in general I had full access to common areas and we all got along very well, there were times when the homeowner had guests over and I was clearly expected to stay in my room. I could also see her suggesting I conduct a skype interview or conference call in my room rather than in a common area, since we all had the right to be in the common areas and anyone could theoretically walk in and interrupt at any time.

        1. Linguist curmudgeon*

          One of my friends has horror stories about his old roommate. Friend rented the only bedroom from this guy (roommate/landlord slept on the couch in the common area).

          As a result, when the roommate had lady-friend callers over, my friend was essentially trapped in his room. Super awkward.

    3. LV*

      That was also the weirdest part of the letter to me, but I also read “Flowers in the Attic” recently so I’ve got weird confinements on the brain.

      1. Jamie*

        I just finished re-reading the whole series…damn recent Lifetime movie igniting nostalgia. My daughter read it when I was done and now I need to explain my generation and why we are such horrible people.

        But if I worked with the OP and I got FITA jokes running through my head I wouldn’t be able to help myself…I’d have to start bringing my lunch to work in a picnic basket.

        And leaving powdered sugar donuts in the break room.

            1. fposte*

              Just because of sibling parents? That won’t create genetic abnormalities; it might reveal a significant recessive trait, but there aren’t so many of those that it’s likely to be lurking in both of them.

              1. Emily K*

                It took the Habsburgs roughly 250 years of politically motivated close inbreeding to produce Charles II of Spain!

          1. Ruffingit*

            Seriously. I read FITA in 7th grade and then Petals on the Wind in college. Both left quite an impression. I’m kind of having a WTF is wrong with people/FITA moment today since I just read a local news story about a father and step-mom who kept their 5-year-old in a closet under the stairs.

    4. Jess*

      Yes! I’d be cracking up! It’s totally bizarre and one of those situations that I’d think everyone would be chuckling over a bit…because what else can you do but laugh at the inanity? (And, if your colleagues were a jocular bunch, maybe teasing you about your frisky roommates.) But avoiding you makes absolutely no sense, even for the most conservative workplace. It’s such an odd response.

      1. KJR*

        I was thinking this as well. As one of only a few women in the office, my male co-workers (who like to joke a lot) would have an absolute field day with this! There would certainly not be any avoidance!

    5. Adam*

      I don’t think it’s childlike. Sex is normal and supposed to be fun. It might be embarrassing to here but you can just laugh it off.

      I live in an apartment where I can hear my neighbors if their conversation is anything above normal speaking volume. Yesterday they had a nasty fight to the point where I had my hand on my phone just in case it went bad and I needed to call 911. Let me tell you, I would have MUCH preferred to hear them doing the nasty.

      1. TL*

        Oh, that’s awful. I hate, hate, hate hearing couples fight. In college, my suitemate got into an awful argument with her boyfriend and I spent about 30 minutes in the shared bathroom, wondering if I should knock on the door with a made-up excuse or call the police.

        1. Adam*

          Oh I hate “hostage situations” where you feel like you can’t move because you’ll be immersed in the madness but you want nothing to do but leave…

          1. Just a Reader*

            Like that Friends episode where Ross and Rachel were having the breakup fight and everyone was trapped in a bedroom…

          2. Bea W*

            When I was living with my dad in a situation where I had the bedroom and he slept in a alcove area in the livingroom. His girl friend would spend the night…in retrospect I wish I had thought to escape through a window those nights!

      2. Jamie*

        Thank you! I remember having loud neighbors and I was sick over the fighting and hand on the phone dilemmas. Loud music or sex I can live with – it’s the anger that freaked me out.

        1. Adam*

          Tell me about it. The awkward thing for me is that I don’t want to make the call if it’s just a regular, albeit nasty, argument. I only want to do that if it turns physical. Problem with that is I end up listening to them for WAY too long waiting for things to escalate and hearing so much of their personal drama it feels like I’m rummaging through their underwear drawer…

      3. Diet Coke Addict*

        Yep. My DOWNSTAIRS neighbours fight so loudly we can hear every blessed word (well, curse word) and insult they hurl at each other.

        I’d much rather hear sex.

        (And they leave nasty notes telling us we stomp too loudly. Us, barefoot, and the two 5-pound cats.)

        1. Adam*

          As they say, misery loves company. In their case it’s probably a bonding farce that they can rally together against those “rude” upstairs neighbors and their “horrible cats”.

      4. LBK*

        Ugh, I used to have neighbors like this. I actually did call 911 on them once, unfortunately I never found out what happened but hopefully the guy got dragged away and locked up.

        1. Adam*

          It’s been my experience that even if there is something going on the authorities usually don’t tell you about it unless you were heavily involved. I called 911 on a different set of neighbors the very week I moved into this apartment (my residence is not as bad as it sounds, I promise). The cops showed up and about an hour later they did cart a guy off in cuffs. It never happened again and I never heard another word about it, so I can only hope it turned out ok in the end.

          1. LBK*

            Yeah, I wasn’t expecting them to call me up and let me know what happened, but I did check news reports and other sources for info about arrests in my area. Unfortunately nothing came up and I moved out shortly after that so I don’t know if it kept happening or not. Scary stuff, but I guess the most you can do is report it and hope it’s dealt with appropriately.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          I called once because it was worse than usual. They told me another neighbor had already called. but since I was in the building they wanted me to stay on the line and tell them what I was hearing while the officer went in.
          That was tense. But things calmed down, eventually. Years later, I was happy to find out that at least one half of the couple had decided to sober up and lead a different kind of life.
          I felt sick for everyone involved as I stood there listening and listening. If I had to do it again, I would, though I hope I never do.

      5. Natalie*

        Ugh, one of my most hated signs of spring is suddenly being able to hear couples fighting through open windows. They do at least seem to realize how loud they are a couple of weeks into open-window-season.

    6. Zelos*

      I suspect the OPis renting out a bedroom instead of the whole apartment suite. Her roommates may be doing the same. Renting out a bedroom does allow you to use the common areas (laundry, kitchen) when needed, but since the landlady is still there the common areas are still more hers than shared.

    1. Jamie*

      I don’t see how. Any sound coming from the computer or even a tv in the room would have been a lot clearer than the muffled – if very audible – sounds coming through a ceiling or window.

          1. Jen RO*

            A funny story for the thread: my boyfriend’s brother works at a company that is currently building porn sites (the brother is a programmer). His task a few weeks ago was to figure out which resolution was better for a certain porn video… so he had to watch it all day long and decide which version looked less pixelated. The elderly cleaning lady was mopping the floor behind him, probably in shock at the gall of the guy who watched porn at work, and even looked bored doing it!

            (I wonder if this will get stopped by the spam filter!)

            1. Sigrid*

              A friend of mine used to be part of the “porn police” at Google — they checked things that were getting stopped by the automatic “safe search” filter to see if they really were porn. He said he saw enough actual porn that way that it killed any desire he ever had to watch porn, because it just gets really, really boring after a while.

  5. The IT Manager*

    Did you say that it was coming from the apartment above you? Made it clear that it was not in the same room as you or your own apartment? It does not sound like you live in a traditional apartment, more like an old style boarding house. People may not understand that.

    I hear a lot of noise on conference calls. People often apologize for excited dogs in the background, and I am baffled by the person who thinks birds in her home office is a good idea. It would not occur to me that a noise you described as coming through so clearly came from a place outside your home that you had no control over. So I would think you at least a bit odd not to have more control over the sounds that came through your conference call.

    As far as you land lady, I would support the idea of not having a conference call in an open, shared area of the house.

    1. TL*

      I would just assume it was a roommate, but I’m young enough that I have roommates (and the walls in my apartment are very thin…)

    2. Jamie*

      This is why I couldn’t personally do the work from home thing for important calls – my work calls are troubleshooting stuff or answering questions so if the dogs decide to go insane because they are protecting us from the squirrel minding his own business and 1/20th their size I just say sorry and walk to the other end of the house.

      And maybe there is a point to not having the conference call in a shared area, but she said the landlady doens’t want her working on her laptop there, either. That’s what’s so odd – if it’s a shared living space it’s hard to think of anything less disruptive to others than quietly working on a laptop minding your own business.

      True story – when I was doing the phone interview for the job I have now I took it in the bathroom that was most removed from the noise of the rest of the house in case the dogs went on high squirrel alert. I hope it doesn’t need to be said, but I was not using the bathroom…it was just the room with the best noise control. In the course of the phone interview while I was waxing rhapsodic about my love of sequel statements I tossed a tissue into the toilet and barely…just barely…stopped my hand from flushing after I had started pushing on the handle.

      If I had flushed I’m not sure whether I’d have tried to explain or just hung up and changed my name and occupation.

      1. JustKatie*

        My dog is set to “Squirrel alert: SEVERE AND IMMINENT”. Glad I’m not the only person to take a phone interview into the bathroom!

      2. Joey*

        Turned down a guy once for a PR job because he flushed on the phone screen.

        Suffice it to say I didn’t give him the feedback either

        1. A Cita*

          That’s hilarious! But I could definitely see myself accidentally flushing because of the reasons Jamie mentioned. I bet the same happened to him (highly doubt someone would actually be doing that while on a phone interview).

          1. Joey*

            What’s weird is I could swear I heard him go in and do his business too. At first I though maybe he walked into a hotel lobby or something (it was echoey) and walked near a water fountain, but when he flushed I definitely had a different mental picture. And he talked like nothing was happening the whole time. Definitely one of the weirdest phone screens I’ve ever done.

        2. lonepear*

          I work in a building where there are several different companies’ offices that share a common bathroom in the hall. I once went to the bathroom and overheard a woman in the next stall on a phone interview! I did *not* refrain from flushing.

          (Apparently she did not get the job, because she is still there, taking other personal phone calls in the bathroom, and leaving the toilet unflushed.)

          1. LibrarianJ*

            This makes me wonder if she just had no idea of an appropriate venue or if that was her only option.
            I did once have to do interview scheduling and a follow-up call in the bathroom. Unfortunately, culture in that office was that everyone took an unpaid working lunch at their desk with phones on (even if hourly, which I was), leaving to get food or go to one’s car was highly discouraged, and anything more than a 5 minute bathroom break was unacceptable. This didn’t leave many other options for anything that had to be done during business hours. (As a side, definitely realize this was illegal, however I was a fresh grad at the time and didn’t feel I had other options).

        3. Bea W*

          I hope it was because he was in the bathroom looking for a place he could do a phone screen while at a current job and the flushing was someone in the next stall.

    3. Jamie*

      It does not sound like you live in a traditional apartment, more like an old style boarding house.

      I admit my only familiarity with them is Barney Fife living in Miss Mendlebright’s boarding house and he had to hide his hotplate and 70 watt bulb (she only allowed 40 watts) from her. But she did wash his hair for him when he was sick.

      And Mrs. Brimmer on the Walton’s would have some of the recipe with Grandpa and Gramma didn’t like him going over there – because he acted like an old fool.

      Considering how much work it is for cleaning and maintenance not to mention the cost of my house, which seems to be trying to spite me with extra expenses lately, it sounds kind of cool. I’d just have to take care of one room and no one would expect me to cook…

      Seriously if not for the sharing a bathroom thing I might be all over this.

    4. Julie*

      I assume the landlady has some important daytime TV to watch and didn’t want to be disturbed. Or to be more charitable, maybe she needed to clean or vacuum and didn’t want to put it off.

      1. Elsajeni*

        Eh, I think it’s fairly reasonable to say “Please don’t use the shared spaces for private business” — taking a conference call in the living room limits how other tenants (and the landlady herself) can use that space. It might be nicer to negotiate on a case-by-case basis (“Hey, can I monopolize the living room for an hour or so tomorrow?”), but I don’t think the blanket ban is that out of line, and I think it’s a little harsh to assume the landlady is just being selfish.

  6. TheExchequer*

    I propose we NOT add this delightful story to the culture developing on Skull Island, the place where all the bad managment techniques go to thrive.

    Seriously though, I’m dying laughing here.

    1. NylaW*

      You mean the sex during conference calls or the confining to rooms for said calls? I’m pretty sure the latter is already in the Skull Island handbook.

      1. TheExchequer*

        I meant the avoidance by the coworkers, though now that I think about it, maybe we would rather avoid coworkers on Skull Island.

  7. Celeste*

    It sounds like you’re more of a boarder in a house than living in an apartment. Is that correct? If so, I have to wonder if coworkers are wondering why you don’t just rent a proper apartment where you would have more privacy for times when you work from home.

    I’m guessing that your landlady doesn’t want to have you working on your computer in common space so that quiet does not have to be maintained for you, such as no tv, or no interruption of whatever she wants to do in that space. Even though your coworkers are over-reacting, are you really happy in that living space?

    But to answer your question, I think that it won’t be long before some other scandal happens at work to make them move on to the next person. In the meantime, I would just let them have their little snits of walking away from you. It really is about them and their feelings that they can’t or won’t control.

      1. Celeste*

        I think people would question the sleeping room simply because it’s kind of an extreme living choice, and I presume that they all can afford an apartment on what their employer pays. Maybe they have a partner or a traditional roommate, or perhaps they commute farther to get a better deal. There are options, and it does sound like further down the comments, the OP is open to a better situation. Although if the person is an intern, maybe this is just a temporary thing anyhow.

        1. the gold digger*

          It was pretty common when I lived in DC. I didn’t even consider looking for an apartment when I moved there – I didn’t have a job and then the only work I could find was as a temp. Renting a room – without a lease – was the best option available.

        2. EM*

          Really? An “extreme living choice”?

          The OP is a renting a room in someone’s house. That’s it. I don’t even think it’s very unusual, and I wouldn’t consider it “extreme” at all.

          It’s not so different from getting together with a couple friends and renting a home where each person has their own bedroom and they share common living areas, like the kitchen.

          It just so happens in the OP’s case the homeowner is still living there as well.

          1. Laura*

            It’s a pretty common living choice here. It’s probably not extreme in any city that’s really expensive to live in.

            1. A Cita*

              Yep. Very common in NYC. There are also people who share rooms (think dorm style), though that’s not as common and it’s pretty much only college aged kids.

              But yeah, the renting a room, even in a roommate situation where the roommate doesn’t allow access to the common areas like described up thread, is super common in major cities. It’s too expensive to live on one’s own unless you make a really great salary, don’t have other expenses, and don’t mind almost all your take home going to rent.

            2. Chinook*

              It is pretty normal to rent a room up here in Alberta. It seems every other house has its own “basement troll.”. I have done it a few times as it means you don’t need to buy furniture. Unfortunately, most landladies don’t seem to understand that you have the right to be there once you pay rent (don’t get me started on the one who let her guests use my roomates bed while both of us were away for a long weekend. Atleast she washed the sheets – I caught her when she was remaking the bed)

              1. Josie*

                You mean your room wasn’t occupied by other tenants while you were gone? Amateurs.

                I don’t know how far “up” in Alberta you are, but when I was in Fort Mac I couldn’t find a place to rent because I had the audacity to work in town and want to actually live in my room rather than use it as base camp. The horror!

        3. the_scientist*

          Honestly, and I know I’m taking this a bit personally because I am also young, poor and living with roommates, but this kind of “they can afford an apartment on their salary” is outdated and farcical in an era where rents for studio apartments are often well over $1000/month and many people are drowning in student debt. Living further away and commuting isn’t always feasible due to accessibility/reliability of public transit, cost of car maintenance and insurance, and personal preference (I, for example, would much prefer to live with roommates and have a short commute to work than live alone with a longer commute, at this stage of my life).

          As long as you are professional and do good work, it’s really nobody’s business what your living situation is. It would obviously be different if OP worked from home regularly, but it doesn’t seem like that is the case.

          1. O*

            Thank you, it was starting to get my nerves, judging for where they live. Unfortunately I’m one of those people who still lives at home, because I get paid through a grant and after looking for a job for eight months after I got my master’s, I took this one. I’d probably be in the same type of living situation (and some days I wish I was, moving back home after living on your own, not the best environment in the world), but with a medium dog who isn’t the most predictable with other animals, it isn’t the easiest situation to find a place to live.

            1. the_scientist*

              I feel you so hard on this front. I moved home for about 2-3 months after finishing my master’s and finding a job. The cost of living at home was: needing a car (which I didn’t have), spending $500/month on public transport (the location of the job relative to my folks’ house meant I needed to drive to the train station, take the train downtown, get on the subway, and then on the streetcar), and spending 3 hours per day commuting. My only hobby was transit, for that time. I was luckily able to find a reasonably-priced (relatively speaking) apartment with a friend, so I now have a 30 minute commute that does not require a car, but deal with the issue of paper-thin walls every day.

            2. Celeste*

              I was saying that I think the OP’s coworkers might be judging where he/she lives, now that they have found out the circumstances. I personally do think it’s a possibility now that they are doing this avoidant behavior. FWIW I looked into a sleeping room in somebody’s house once when I was new on a job, and decided I couldn’t live like that. When I told my new coworkers the story of visiting it, they were totally skeeved out that somebody who was getting a salary (unlike a college student, etc.) would be a boarder. So, I know that people do make judgements.

              I personally do not care where the OP lives. I just didn’t think it sounded like a happy situation from the details given about what living there is like.

              1. the_scientist*

                But in terms of noise, being boarder is no different than living with roommates, so my original point still stands.

                1. the_scientist*

                  *a boarder

                  Also, the OP doesn’t seem to have shared the details of her living situation with her co-workers beyond saying that she lives with roommates. I maintain that anyone who is appalled at a young, single person (presumably, I could be wrong) living with roommates is wildly out of touch with reality and needs to get over themselves.

          2. FiveNine*

            Correct, it’s actually closer to $1200-$1400 for a 450-square foot apartment outside of D.C. in an older building. Renting a room somewhere might get you at or just below $1000.

            1. A Cita*

              And of course that doesn’t count the expense of utilities and internet, which without having someone to split the costs with, adds hundreds more.

            2. Emily K*

              Yep. I work at Dupont Circle and last spring when I was exploring the possibility of moving downtown, teensy studios around Dupont were in the $2000+ range.

              I did find a steal of a deal and moved from my $1350 1-bedroom in Takoma Park to a $900 basement studio in Takoma Park–decently sized and well below market value. The trade-off is my landlord occupies the main house above me and I share the laundry room and a mailing address with her, so even though I have my own backyard entrance/bathroom/kitchen/locking door to the main house, there’s somewhat less feeling of true privacy than if I was sharing the house with other renters. But heck, I saved $6,000 in a year compared to the previous marginally more private 1-bedroom. With student loan debt and the generally high cost of living in DC, I could think of a lot better ways to spend $6,000.

        4. Cat*

          But having a traditional roommate/s doesn’t eliminate this problem; this happens all the time with traditional roommates (it also happens in normal apartments, I say as someone who lives in one – the walls are often just not that thick).

          And in the DC area, living by yourself really just isn’t an option for a TON of people. No matter how far you’re willing to commute.

          1. fposte*

            Right. Having access to a living room isn’t a “get out of neighbor noise free” solution.

      2. JC*

        I can afford it, but I would rather have the extra money in my savings. I would need to pay at least $250 more in rent, $50 in utilities, $30 for internet, not to mention getting furniture and kitchen equipment. That’s around $300-400 a month or $3600-4800 a year more in my bank account.

        It’s pricy to set up your own place. Why do you think household items made such great wedding gifts?

      3. Bea W*

        Also sounds like she does not normally work from home and this was due to weather. Rents are stupid high in my neck of the woods. Young single people in particular can’t afford their own place.

    1. Cat*

      I can’t imagine caring whether my co-workers rented a proper apartment or a room; it sounds more to me like they aren’t clear on the fact that it was someone totally unrelated to the OP (and not porn).

      1. tesyaa*

        No, the problem is that the conference call was disrupted. It doesn’t matter that it wasn’t the OPs fault.

        1. KellyK*

          To a point, sure. But it’s not as though they work from home every day in that environment. They were stuck at home during a snowstorm. I would think that a 10-second disruption to a conference call pales in comparison to losing a whole day’s worth of work from the OP.

        2. fposte*

          Not sure where you’re going there, but I don’t think most reasonable managers would expect an in-office employee to keep a noise-free setup ready in case a snow emergency required it. For the OP, the problem is actually if people thought she had porn going, not that a conference call got disrupted, because the latter happens without being held against you.

          While some of this may just be subsequent oversensitivity to co-workers’ reactions, it wouldn’t hurt to do a followup apology underscoring the neighbors aspect.

    2. aebhel*

      That is a seriously bizarre thing for coworkers to be hung up over, especially since pretty much any apartment situation (even without roommates, which isn’t feasible in a lot of places even if you’re making a decent salary) has the potential to have the same problems. It’s possible that they’re being crazy judgmental trolls about what is actually a pretty normal living situation, but I think the porn explanation is a lot more likely.

      Also, plenty of people don’t work from home often enough for it to be worth totally uprooting their living situation. It sounds to me as though the OP is in one of those groups.

  8. Shad*

    Yes, clear the air! That way you can make sure they don’t think something else was going on. They are likely avoiding you because they might think something else (maybe kinky) was going on when it wasn’t. Gossip sucks and I am sure this one was gossiped. The best way to crush gossip is to face the people involved directly and do just what the reply said…..tell them what happened, apologize, and promise it won’t happen again.

  9. BGirl81*

    Oh OP, this happened to me once years ago, except it wasn’t a conference call….it was a phone interview. Yup. I quickly took my phone off of speaker and was so flustered I said, “I’m SO SORRY. That was the people who live above me. They’re really gross.” Luckily, the guy I was talking to burst out laughing, so then I could laugh and not want to throw myself off my back porch. I wound up getting the job and, yes, more than one person in the office had heard the story of my neighbors’ amorous interruption. I’m not sure why exactly your coworkers have no sense of humor, but I agree with Alison’s advice! If they must *CLUTCH THEIR PEARLS AND BE APPALLED*, that’s their problem :)

    1. Sarahnova*

      Ha! On the plus side, that’s a killer story now, with a happy ending to boot. :) I think you handled it just right – being very human about it, which made your interviewer laugh.

      1. BGirl81*

        You know, it quite possibly could have endeared me to him haha! Trust me, if you had heard it, you would have laughed too. Years later, when I tell the story, I still refer to the girl as “Faker McGee”. I’m awful!!

        1. A Cita*

          This happened to me, only it wasn’t on the phone, it was when I had an advisor over for tea. Roommate was super loud: think a stray cat in heat singing a duet with a caterwauling baby with an aria of “oh god oh god YOU’RE KING YOU’RE KING oh god” belted in between. I was mortified. Advisor, an older stodgy dood was red faced. It did not end well.

          Have a great story now—I’ve pretty much perfected an imitation.

          1. A Cita*

            Forgot the best part! Roommate sauntered out, starkers, to get to the bathroom. Yep, a day for remembering. (Yes, this was midday.)

          2. BGirl81*

            “YOU’RE KING”?!?!?! Glorious. Just glorious. I should try that on my husband and see if he’ll spring for the earrings I’ve had my eye on!

            (Realistically, he’d probably think I was watching Game Of Thrones over his shoulder and holding out on spoilers.)

            1. A Cita*

              LOL! I know, it was like bad porn. Who actually says that. There were other things said as well, but it’s too graphic. I thought my advisor was going to have a cardiac arrest.

  10. TL*

    OP, I feel for you! But, I wouldn’t worry too much about it! Most people have lived with roommates and know exactly what you’re talking about.

  11. AMD*

    Is it possible that your coworkers aren’t avoiding you, you’re just extra-conscious of their actions right now because you’re embarrassed? I’ve had that happen – paranoia about what my coworkers are thinking about me turned out to be just totally misinterpreting them. (Once I thought someone was angry at me, and it turned out they were just coming down with a bad cold.) It would be really weird/crazy for them to react this strongly to something like that, which makes me wonder if it’s really what’s happening.

    1. Apple22Over7*

      I’m thinking this too. It’s so easy to attach motivations to others’ actions when in reality their actions have nothing to do with what you’re worrying about.

      OP – if you can bring it up and make a slight joke of it to clear the air then I’d do this, but if not just move on. It’s happened, there’s very little you can do about it at this point. If others are avoiding you over this (which would be ridiculous) then it’s on them, not you.

    2. Kit M.*

      This was my first thought. Can ANYONE reading this imagine blatantly and obviously avoiding a coworker based on the events as OP’s described them? I’m not saying it’s impossible that the coworkers are avoiding the OP, but for that to be the case either a) the coworkers are extremely strange, or b) something else is going on in addition to what’s been described in the letter.

  12. Sarahnova*

    If you have the option, I’d like to suggest moving. Noisy-sex-having roommates are one thing, but living with a landlady who confines you to your room is… a little weird and oppressive.

    Re: your coworkers (I too suspect they thought you were watching porn), I’d have a go at tackling it directly: “Wakeen, I’ve been hoping to talk to you about our weekly teapot melting stats, but you turned around when I saw you in the corridor this morning. What’s that about?”

    This may sound counterintuitive, but I wouldn’t be too apologetic. I’d definitely *apologise*, and Alison’s wording is good, but ultimately you didn’t commit a deadly sin, you were just unlucky enough to have roommates with bad manners and bad timing. Calm and professional is, as always, the way to go.

  13. TotesMaGoats*

    This is just all kinds of wow. Apologize to your boss and if you can to your coworkers. I’m sure they’ll understand. And invest in a headset of some kind and a long handled broom to hit the ceiling with when your neighbors get noisy.

  14. Mimmy (formerly ChristineSW)*

    Oh goodness, I’d forgotten that Alison mentioned this on FB a couple of days ago. Definitely a weird one!

    I too am a little confused regarding the living situation–it doesn’t sound like a traditional setup to me. If you get along well enough with the roommates, you might want to ask them to please be mindful about….umm….the activity level when you’re working from home.

    As for your coworkers–sounds like they don’t realize that this wasn’t your doing, as suggested above). Talk to your manager, then try to smooth things over with your coworkers.

    What an awkward situation!! Hope things get resolved soon!

  15. Robin*

    Two thoughts:

    OP, I second the suggestion on moving somewhere where you have a little more control over your environment, but in the meantime, maybe research neighborhood cafes that might have a quiet corner where you can take your conference call (on headphones if possible)?

    Second, when you have no choice but to do a call where you can’t control the noise, this is a good lesson to know where the mute button is and use it as much as possible. I work from home and have a small child, so interruptions are always a risk. I tend to mute all conference calls except when I am speaking.

    1. TychaBrahe*

      I’m thinking if the snow is so bad they close the office, I’m not going to a cafe.

  16. OP*

    Hi all! OP here!

    Yes, I do live in a room rental! 8′ x 8′ of room, to be exact! I’d LOVE to rent a proper apartment, but I live in the Capitol, so rent for an apartment in the safer places starts at $1700/month for a studio and goes on up from there. My landlady DOES let me have use to the shared areas, but strictly believes the living room is for socializing and the dining room is for dining, etc. To quote: “[I] have a desk, so [I] should use that for work.” She has other strange rules, like not letting dirty dishes soak, not letting me take protein supps (I’m an athlete), etc., so thank goodness I’m (hopefully) finding a new place soon!

    I did mention my roommates were being inconsiderate, but didn’t SPECIFICALLY mention they were up there doing the deed. I certainly HOPE they didn’t think I was watching porn while conversing with them!

    To answer Allison’s question, though: I heard them giggling up there, then the bed squeaking, and it didn’t really register in my brain until the really graphic grunts and “Oh god, harder!” comments began before I went “Oh sh–” and turned the speaker off. So they heard…maybe about a minute and half of it, perhaps twenty seconds of the awful stuff (and usually it’s not terrible because that roommate normally has terrible stamina!).

    1. TL*

      She…doesn’t let you take protein supplements?
      WTF? OP, I hope you have the world’s cheapest rent. That’s not normal.

      1. Diet Coke Addict*

        Dude, no kidding. I’ve had weird roommates and weird landlords, but never one who tried to restrict my eating habits. Unless you’re hauling 55-gallon drums of protein into the house daily, what gives?

      2. Mimmy (formerly ChristineSW)*

        Are the protein supplements in the form of shakes? That’s the only thing I can think of–that the landlady objects to the noise of a blender or the smell. Otherwise….yeah, that’s just weird.

    2. Celeste*

      I see. The place sort of works as a sleeping room, and isn’t really fit for a whole lot else.

      The bit about the dishes is to keep control over the place, a power differential that says you are not her equal. Basically it’s her house and like a parent, you live by her rules under her roof.

      Good luck with the apartment hunt! I hope you find something more suitable very soon.

      1. The IT Manager*

        The bit about the dishes is to keep control over the place, a power differential that says you are not her equal. Basically it’s her house and like a parent, you live by her rules under her roof.

        Or maybe she doesn’t finding dirty dishes sitting soaking in the sink especially with multiple people using the kitchen at different times.

        You are reading too much into this one sentence and making the land lady into a power hungry monster. No need to leap to the most negative conclusion possible.

        1. JustKatie*

          Yeah, that one I can understand. Having lived in rental situations with four people before, one dirty dish soaking quickly turns into all of the dishes “soaking”.

          1. Jamie*

            I’m in the no soaking camp. That’s a slippery slope to a really messy kitchen.

            But the protein things is weird – meaning OP couldn’t use the blender or she didn’t allow it in the house on principle – what?

              1. TL*

                but you’re not supposed to wash hot pans right away – it warps them over time.

                Definitely a soaker over here!

                1. Jamie*

                  It’s the colder water which warps a hot pan – so soaking is as bad as washing. You’re supposed to let them cool before the water exposure to prevent this.

                  Dishes are one of those tasks that everyone has their own idea of what doing them “correctly” means – my husband is a very laid back guy and cannot watch me load a dishwasher without correcting me because apparently I “do it wrong.”

                  And he will load the dishwasher like a freaking NASA engineer but will let everything that won’t fit sit in the sink until the next load. When it would take 5 minutes and a squirt of dish-soap to finish the rest by hand he’d prefer to let them sit for hours …tormenting me.

                  It’s the difference between walking in the kitchen and wondering if we have juice and walking in the kitchen and muttering bad words under my breath because now I have to finish the dishes because I don’t want to wait an hour for stage two.

                  If we ever divorce over a household chore it will be dishes.

                2. Zelos*

                  Huh, Jamie, are you the type to wash as you cook then?

                  I’d like to think of myself as an average cook, but the amount of multitasking to wash at the same time as cook is stressful so I always wash after the meal (never after cooking, otherwise my food gets cold!). I’ve always soaked with hot water myself–either from the tap, or (better) from the constant-hot-water-kettle kept at 90 degrees C. Plates and cooled pots/pans I’ll soak in cold water.

                  I’m really curious as to how people manage a no-soaking household!

                  Alison, sorry if this is too OT–I can bring it up on the open thread if needed.

                3. Joey*

                  C’mon Jaime. Isn’t it obvious that you can fit more stuff in the dishwasher and have them come out cleaner if you organize everything the right way. :-)

                4. Jamie*

                  @Joey – technically yes, but for those not afraid of their hands melting if they touch dish soap in the sink it’s not as imperative that everything possible go in the washer. :)

                  @Zelos – yes, I wash as I go along otherwise I get too stressed and cranky with the mess everywhere. My kitchen isn’t tiny – but I don’t have a giant eat in kitchen like I had growing up so washing as you go along is just a defensive maneuver to combat lack of counter space.

                  And yeah – we can move this to the Off Topic because I find people’s home care rituals really fascinating – and I know that’s weird. I just love hearing how other people do stuff – we’re the same but different.

                5. Jen RO*

                  Getting a dishwasher was the best thing I ever did. (They are not common here, so I only got it 2 years ago.) I wish I’d known years ago! My technique was “let them lie in the sink until someone gets disgusted and washes them”… apparently my boyfriend doesn’t like that approach. He’s like you, Jamie, and I can’t wrap my head around cooking and washing and putting away… I hate all those things, so even one at a time it’s too much for me! (Now we argue about who will load or unload the dishwasher.)

                6. TL*

                  @Jamie: I let my pots and pans cool, then I add water to soak (because everything’s stuck on by then), then I wash. I don’t ever add any water to hot pans!
                  But the rest of my dishes get at least rinsed and sometimes washed right after use.

                7. Kelly L.*

                  I had an ex who could not stand there to be a bottle or can in the recycling after the recycling had just been taken out. I’d be hauling the blue bag to the curb (and rushing, because usually I’d forgotten to take it out the night before and now I could hear the truck starting to rumble around the corner) and he’d come bursting out shouting “I HAVE A CAAAAAN!” Protestations of “just rinse it out and put it in the fresh bag” were greeted with the reaction you might expect if you said “Let’s eat babies today!”

                8. Emily K*

                  I usually wash all cooking dishes up front before sitting down to my meal, because it’s hard for me to enjoy my food knowing there’s a mess waiting for me in the kitchen. I sometimes wash my eating dishes immediately after eating, and sometimes wait and need to soak them.

                  But here’s the Critical Rule of Soaking: It lasts no more than 5 minutes!! The food stuck to your plate is not going to get any less stuck after about 5 minutes of being submerged in water. After a few minutes you’re creating a cesspool in your sink that attracts bacteria and insects.

                  I typically don’t mind dry dishes in the sink waiting to be washed, as long as they get washed within a day or two. Pools of disgusting, cold, dirty water with fruit flies living in them? No, please :(

                9. Emily K*

                  IOW, I feel that running water into a bowl is an elaborate and poorly thought-out ruse to make it look like you’re planning to wash the dish soon, really you are, it’s just “soaking,” you see, and you can’t wash it until it’s done soaking! But if you’re not actually planning to wash it for hours or days, forego the water.

              2. A Cita*

                What Jamie said about waiting for them to cool, but not soaking them. Never soak good pans. My All-Clad pans are still in perfect shape after 15 years.

              3. aebhel*

                You do need to soak certain things if you don’t have a dishwasher, though.

                Fortunately, I have my own house. :)

                1. A Cita*

                  Huh, I’m curious to know what things. I have never had a dishwasher and don’t soak, but maybe it’s about what is being made? (Thinking maybe something like frying chicken in a pan? Something I wouldn’t know about being a vegetarian.)

                2. fposte*

                  I’m definitely repping for the lazy soakers of the world here, but I don’t think there’s anything that *has* to be soaked–it’s just a question of how much elbow grease you’re willing to put into it. I’m willing to put in very little.

                  And A Cita, I’m a meat-eater but the worst thing I regularly deal with isn’t meat, it’s plates that have had melted pizza cheese cool on them and bond nearly inextricably with the china. (Roasting pans can get pretty bad too, but 1) they don’t go into the dishwasher anyway and 2) I don’t roast stuff that often. Frying is nothing.)

                3. Momghoti*

                  The two things that I’ve found that absolutely requires soaking are roasted onions and maple parsnips. Even with soaking it required a lot of elbow grease; I think without soaking it could be considered a permanent glaze.

                  Of course, I have to admit to being a soaker in general. My hubby is a ‘clean as you go’ type(although his ‘cooking’ is limited to heating tins of soup); for a while I would reach to use a bowl or utensil again and it was in the drainboard. When the sauce is scorching is *not* a good time to have to hunt for the spoon…

                4. Loose Seal*

                  Instead of soaking, fill your pan/skillet with water and put it back on the stove on low heat. Periodically, as it simmers, run a spatula around to loosen up the food bits. After a bit, pour out the water and wash as usual. It’s just like deglazing except no wine involved.

                  For me, this process means the pan is mostly clean by the time we finish eating dinner and I just add it to the regular dish clean up. Also works for crock pots (leave them in the crock and let the water pick up the crusted on bits).

                5. A Cita*

                  @fposte: melted cheese *is* tough, but you just wash it last-ish (if you fill your sink with water to wash, pick it last so it’s in there or if you do the running water type wash, put it in the sink so it’s getting hit with water while you wash other things firs). So I guess that’s sort of like a pre-soak.

                  @momghoti: maple parsnips? Yeah, I’m not cooking at that level. However, what time should I arrive for dinner?

        2. Bryan*

          I live with my fiance and I try to keep a no soaking rule. I like to try and keep things put away.

          I always think of the episode of the simpsons where marge breaks her leg and lisa is in charge of the house. bart says a pan is soaking and lisa picks it up and there’s a hole in the bottom because it soaked so long.

    3. Cat*

      Man, finding housing in D.C. really is a trainwreck, isn’t it? (I’m assuming you don’t mean another capitol, though I’m guessing that applies to a lot of them.)

      I recommend Columbia Heights – feels really safe now for the most part but rents are still a tiny bit cheaper.

      1. ArtsNerd*

        Group houses in Mount Pleasant! Really what I recommend, since you’re worried about safety.

        Also Shaw and Bloomingdale and Brookland are gentrifying by the day, and have tons of great amenities popping up.

        1. LibrarianJ*

          I would be cautious if looking in Brookland. There are some nicer places springing up now (the one that immediately comes to mind is the complex directly by the Metro stop),
          but the area in general is not always safe, depending on when you’re coming back and forth. I had an apt on Hawaii Ave for a while (halfway between Brookland/CUA and Fort Totten) and rarely felt comfortable going out by myself after dark. There was a lot of (not terribly violent, but still present) crime while I was there, I think in part because CUA being there creates, for lack of better phrasing, a target-rich environment.

          1. ArtsNerd*

            I’ve walked back and forth to my friend’s houses in Brookland from the metro stop for 7+ years now with little worry, and frequently at night. But it really depends on your individual comfort level, in addition to the exact part of the neighborhoods. Also, as I implied, there’s been a lot of very recent changes making these neighborhoods more appealing than they used to be.

            I usually recommend people refer to the crime map ( instead of blanket neighborhoods for that reason. I think people are quick to reject entire sections of the city when things vary so much on a block-by-block basis.

            1. LBK*

              Oh yes, DC is veeeery street-by-street when it comes to safety. Out of the cities I’m familiar with it’s definitely the most varied in that regard. The one exception would probably be SE/Anacostia, which to my understanding merits its generalized “unsafe” label, but NE is a huge mix and many sketchier neighborhoods now have some of the nicest apartments with great quality:price ratios (Petworth in particular comes to mind).

              1. Elysian*

                I find Baltimore to be way worse on the street-by-street safety front. Several times walking around in B-more I’ve backtracked and been like “oh god oh god I need to find another way…” Doesn’t happen nearly as often in DC to me.

              2. Bea W*

                Same with Boston. Certain neighborhoods get a bad rap on account of crime that is really limited to a small area or negatively publicized more so than other areas with issues.

            2. Natalie*

              I lived in Brookland a few years ago and I never found it to be especially scary. I was on Shepherd in a nice little spot of single-family homes though.

              My only complaint was how far away the Metro was (15 blocks or so). Why aren’t the bus/Metro systems in DC integrated? Argh!

    4. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      Ugh, your landlady sounds like a peach to live with. Controlling what (unobtrusive) activities you do in the shared space is silly but I could probably write it off as “her house, her rules,” and not letting dishes soak could be a reaction to people who leave them “to soak” for days – but controlling what you EAT AND DRINK? That’s absurd.

      But as someone who lives in another very-expensive part of the country, I completely understand why you’re there. In some parts of the US it’d be easy to “just move somewhere better” but not everywhere. I had a friend who lived in a pantry for 6 months because it was all she could afford.

      Good luck finding somewhere affordable but saner in the near future.

      1. Elle D*

        I was thinking the same thing regarding the dishes. I once had 2 charming roommates who left their hamburger helper bowls soaking for days upon days, to the point where it smelled. They did this repeatedly, despite my politely asking them to wash the dishes in a more timely fashion. I can sympathize with the landlady.

        The protein supplement thing on the other hand? Crazy.

    5. the_scientist*

      Does your landlady also think that she is a “house mother”??? Honestly this is the weirdest part of the whole situation, to me! So creepy that she thinks it’s acceptable to control your diet and other things….yet she’s okay with people doing it in her house? (A friend of mine looked at an apartment where the landlords said “we don’t allow overnight guests because it’s not appropriate for young ladies”. All the eye rolls, forever).

      If your co-workers are that appalled by some not-that-horrible sex noises, they are the ones with the issue. Anyone who has ever lived in an apartment knows that the walls are paper thin and that you can’t always predict what roommates and neighbours will do. Furthermore, most people SHOULD be understanding of the fact that many young people these days live with roommates or in less-than-ideal situations due to insane rent prices in major cities. So clear the air (and make sure they know you weren’t watching porn!) but feel free to make a joke about it because it is pretty hilarious.

      1. tesyaa*

        It’s fine to live in a less-than-ideal situation, but it’s not professional to let it affect your work (including conference calls). I’d be sympathetic if the job was 100% remote with no physical office, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

        1. tesyaa*

          Others have pointed out that this was a snow emergency situation, in which case I agree the OP should be cut slack for this.

        2. Kelly L.*

          It doesn’t sound like working remotely is the norm at this job, but that on this particular day the OP was snowed in.

        3. Cat*

          Even if the OP does telecommute, one-offs happen. I’ve had plenty of conference calls disrupted in my office due to outside construction; St. Patrick’s Day revelers on the streets outside; motorcade sirens; etc. You can’t guarantee anything.

          1. KellyK*

            That’s a good point too. How silly would it be for the OP to be in an apartment she couldn’t really afford, living on ramen and running up her credit cards to pay the bills because her boss decided the interruption was “unprofessional”, just to have nearby construction or sirens disrupt another conference call.

            1. tesyaa*

              Everyone knows sirens and construction can’t be controlled. It’s true that the OP can’t control her roommates’ behavior, but people do not expect to hear sex in the background, sorry. If the conferees heard sirens, they’d probably be sympathetic, wanting to know if there was a fire or an accident near the OPs home.

              And even though she can’t control her roommates’ behavior, a quick heads up (“I have a call from 11-12, I’ll try to use the mute button but just letting you know) could have worked wonders.

              1. Cat*

                I think we’re back to the flat tire issue – sometimes things happen that aren’t predictable. If she worked at home regularly and knew her roommates tended to have loud, daytime sex, absolutely – precautions are in order. But if you work from home and your normally staid roommates just decided to have loud daytime sex that day, that is not necessarily reasonably foreseeable and reasonable co-workers will get that.

                1. Jamie*

                  I am dying at the thought of sending out a flyer to all my neighbors ahead of time when I think things might get louder than normal at an unexpected time.

                  You know, so they can take it into consideration and plan their schedules accordingly.

              2. TL*

                Yeah. I don’t really track my roommates’ sex schedules, so this would’ve caught me off guard as well…

        4. Katriona*

          I’d actually be less sympathetic if the job was 100% remote, because in that case OP should have a suitable environment to get her regular work done on a daily basis. It sounds like this was just a one-off instance of working from home, so it makes sense to me that she wouldn’t know to plan around her roommates’… um, habits… during the day because she isn’t usually there.

          1. tesyaa*

            I meant I’d by sympathetic if a person had no choice but to live in suboptimal housing, but had no physical office to go to. I agree that a person with a regular remote schedule should have arrangements in place to minimize distractions.

        5. dahllaz*

          It doesn’t sound like she normally takes conference calls from home though.
          The recent snow had me working from home
          I took that to mean this was an unusual situation (in more ways than one!) and done out of need not just convienance.

    6. Robin*

      Hi OP,

      Thanks for the extra info. I know DC is an expensive place, but definitely at least talk to the roomies. And I know DC has tons of cafes where you can go for your conference calls. Even if your work understands this time, I think they will see it as unprofessional on your part if it recurs.

      1. JustKatie*

        A cafe is generally a good alternative, but if it was a really bad snow day, getting to one nearby might have been a problem (or they could have been closed!).

      2. Turanga Leela*

        Do you take conference calls in cafes? I’d be worried about ambient noise (although sex noises would be less likely). I’d probably stay home but use my phone on non-speaker mode.

        1. LBK*

          Yeah, I would think a cafe would be an even worse place in terms of background noise. Maybe not sex noises but there would definitely be more people around you talking and coffee machines/espresso grinders/oven alarms/etc. going off all the time.

        2. Windchime*

          Yeah, I met a coworker at Starbucks the other day to work together and it was a lot less cool than I thought it would be. At times it got super noisy, in fact; I would think it would be difficult to hold a conference call there.

        3. Emily K*

          Or the opposite problem: I work occasionally at a cafe down the street from my apartment that’s so quiet that I feel like I’m disturbing the peace and ruining the concentration of all the other folks on laptops if I join a conference call!

      3. Jenna*

        Is a cafe actually a good alternative? Aside from it being a snow day and a cafe maybe not being in reach, some business things shouldn’t be talked about out in the open like that, AND, people in cafe’s don’t tend to like listening in on other people’s phone calls.

    7. LizNYC*

      Oh, man, OP, sounds like you inherited a relative of my former landlady — the one who was afraid my laptop was leaving “cosmic rays” in her table when I dared to use it on her dining room table once (not kidding). As for what you eat/ingest, she should mind her own business. Seriously. And I hope you can get out of there to greener pastures soon. My sanity increased once I left my hellish situation (she was a hoarder who saved newspapers — so one match and *foom* goodbye loft).

    8. Jamie*

      I think the definition of walls that are too thin is when you know how much stamina someone in another room does or doesn’t have.

      And if living rooms are only for socializing I should board mine up or rent it out – because I think they are meant for watching TV, working, or napping on the couch. And the dining room’s primary purpose is for people to drop their stuff on the table so I have something to complain about.

      So with these additional details I’d just make sure they knew it was your room-mates and anyone who isn’t a pearl clutcher will either get a giggle out of it or immediately let it go.

      And the pearl clutchers? Tell them you tried to rent a room in a nunnery or in puritan New England circa 1630 but they were full up.

      (And I’m aware the pilgrims got up to some hijinks and shenanigans to rival any season of the Real World – but I’m assuming they kept the noise down and didn’t interrupt conference calls.)

      1. LBK*

        I wonder if the landlady is equally as upset about the loud sex as she is about OP’s protein supplements. Or maybe she doesn’t have a problem with it since beds/bedrooms are for having sex, so it’s okay to happen there!

    9. BOMA*

      … I’m sorry, but that is weird and incredibly rude on your landlady’s part. I hope you have good luck finding a new place soon! I know DC can get extremely expensive; when I lived down there I lived in a more suburban area farther out down the red line and I commuted in. It saved me hundreds of dollars a month.

      1. LBK*

        The Metro is getting crazy expensive, especially since there’s no unlimited ride option like most other public transportation systems. If you have to transfer lines for your daily commute, forget it – you will easily cancel out any savings by spending hundreds on commuting costs.

        1. Elysian*

          Ugh, plus its super unreliable. If you actually need to be at your job on time, Metro-ing a long distance really might not be the way to go. You never know when the delay is just a minute, or 10 minutes, or 45 minutes-I-might-not-actually-make-it-in-today-after-all.

    10. TheSnarkyB*

      Hi OP, thanks for this extra information. I think this helps clear it up!
      It sounds like your coworkers didn’t get a full explanation of what was going on and maybe that’s why they’re freaked out or acting weird. I’m probably the 100th person on here to say that I would assume porn. Perhaps your computer (maybe in the next room or whatever) had started playing porn that you thought was paused (it happens), or whatever else…

      And since you had to mute, it sounds like they heard obvious sex noises, you start to say “oh sh*t” and then silence from you for at least some amount of time. If you didn’t come back and fully commandeer the conversation to totally explain, I see how some of them maybe got to sit with an assumption for a few seconds too long.

      When you came back, what did you say? (I understand wanting to just move on, but I feel like it would have been wise to say something along the lines of: “OH wow that’s not safe for work! I’m so sorry you all had to hear that. I have very inconsiderate upstairs neighbors and a very thin ceiling.”

    11. julen*

      I was wondering if your in-the-moment explanation wasn’t enough to explain the situation to your coworkers. If they heard “Oh sh-“, ask if someone’s making out, and your only response was a quick ” yes”, they probably didn’t think it was your roommates.

  17. tesyaa*

    Many work-from-home arrangements specify that the worker must have a place to work that’s as free from distractions as the office itself.

    1. Jamie*

      Very true – but this seems like a one off as she was just home due to the recent snow…not a regular arrangement.

      For regular work from home I totally agree – but when people are stuck home due to weather or other emergencies they just have to make due with what they have.

    2. TL*

      I think this was a one-off, due to snow. Or something that’s only set up for emergencies, rather than a consistent thing.

    3. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      Sounds like this was a snow-related work-from-home situation, though, not a regular arrangement. It may not have been safe for her to go to the office.

      Also, if the OP hadn’t happened to be on a conference call, I’m not sure the noise from upstairs would have been more distracting than things that might happen at the office – just less G-rated. They trimmed the trees outside my classroom the other day, which was both louder and went on longer than I imagine the OP’s noise situation was, and I just put on headphones. (I had no students at that time, obviously.) And once a year the Blue Angels practice above my school! There’s only so much you can do to maintain a silent workspace, especially in cities.

    4. anon o*

      Give her a break! She was only working at home because of the snow. I don’t think we all need to have a full office on standby on the chance we get snowed in.

      1. aebhel*

        This. Someone who doesn’t regularly work from home is not going to be set up to work from home and should not be expected to have a quiet office set up at a moment’s notice. OP can’t control what her roommates do, and if she’s in DC, roommates are pretty much par for the course.

    5. Tinker*

      Yes, but if I set my home office up that way I’d last about half a day before escorting the hyperactive extravert out at bayonet-point and throwing the single serve automatic coffee grinder and brewer out a second-story window. Not to mention, I couldn’t afford to keep that much beer in my fridge.

  18. German Chick*

    I would love to discuss with other AAM readers if they believe that Americans have louder sex or thinner walls than other nations, but I don’t think that’s in line with Alison’s request to please remain dedicated to useful and on-topic discussions in the comment section.

    But it’s so tempting!

    1. businesslady*

      oh, I think we can indulge a little topic-adjacent discussion, can’t we? because while for the most part I’ve been blessedly spared any knowledge of my fellow building-dwellers’ sex lives, I have a couple stories that I can’t resist sharing:

      a few years ago, our place faced a very narrow alley, & on warm days (when the windows were open) you could hear a couple from either our building or the adjacent one gettin’ frisky. nothing too egregious though.

      in my last place, you could very occasionally overhear neighbors’ sex noises–but only if you were in the kitchen, which was weird. also, the only audible participant was a man, & it was always for a VERY short period of time. like “ah ah ah AH AH [silence].” to the point where I didn’t even realize what I was hearing the first couple of times.

      some friends of ours once had a neighbor who apparently listened to TLC’s “Waterfalls” EVER SINGLE TIME she had sex. which is so bizarre on so many levels.

      …all of these happened in the USA, although I’ve also had some interesting experiences with the more liberal attitudes of European nations w/r/t porny TV programming (specifically, husband & I were once watching a commercial for one of those “sexy phone-chat” things, only to be shocked as it escalated to full-on male/female nudity).

      1. O*

        It might have been because of a shared kitchen vent, I lived in an old victorian that had been split into apartments, and not very well done, and could often hear people through the vent in the kitchen.

      2. Kelly L.*

        Waterfalls? Yeah, that’s weird–the damn song is at least partially about AIDS! At least listen to Red Light Special. ;)

        1. businesslady*

          that was pretty much my exact same reaction when I heard this anecdote–slightly different wording, but identical sentiment. :)

      3. EvilQueenRegina*

        My ex-roommate once told me she had a neighbour who always played the theme tune to The League of Gentlemen when she was having sex.

      1. Rev*

        “…I would love to discuss with other AAM readers if they believe that Americans have louder sex or thinner walls than other nations…”

        I am currently doing extensive research on the American Tendency Towards Paracoital Auditory Amplification Theory.

        This theory states, and I quote, “Americans who participate in sexual activity in confined spaces have a greater propensity towards decibel density than their European counterparts. This is due to the traditional European monarchical dynamic, as opposed to the American democratic dynamic, which allows for the magnification of sexual expression.”

        My research, which is quite extensive, leans towards rejection of the “thinner walls” explanation of this phenomenae. From the “Yee-haw!” of Arkansans, to the “Aaaaa-eeee!” of Louisianians, not to mention the”Waah-hooo!” of Floridians, wall thickness and/or construction material is irrelevant and ineffective is reducing the volume of the American expression of climactic release.

        I need some assistance, however, in turning the above-mentioned theory into an actual scientific fact, in that my research is limited to the Southern States. Funding is needed now to form a consortium of Western and Northern regions of the U.S., as well as qualified volunteers between the ages of 25-40 who are willing to work closely with me in this scientific endeavor…

        Okay, I quit. :>)

        1. EE*

          Interesting. A friend of mine passed a pleasant evening or two with an American lady some time back and told me had a theory that the American university system of having sex in the same room as a non-participant led to quietness.

    2. Mints*

      (all speculation)
      Do you maybe hear more stories about loud sex from American friends than European? Because it might be a result of Europeans being generally more open to sex, so the stories would be kinda boring to tell

    3. Parfait*

      I suppose it’s possible that Americans have thinner walls on average because our cities are so much newer on average. Very few of us live in 200 year old houses with walls a foot thick.

      And the stereotype is that Americans are loud people. So, there may be some merit to this theory.

      1. Jamie*

        I’m waiting for the commenters who have lived overseas and in the US to chime in on the “love thy neighbor” thing. Because I’m totally leaning toward it being construction because it’s my understanding that on average the average house/apt is smaller in Europe and cities apartments and even homes are really close together.

        Even Jean and Lionel’s million + home in Holland Park looks like a duplex it’s snug between other homes on either side.

        So maybe it’s cultural because if you live in closer quarters perhaps you just learn really quiet sex as the default?

        Come on posters who have lived both places…what did you hear and where did you hear it? :)

        1. rollcake*

          I lived in a massive apartment building in Japan where the walls were cinderblock (this actually kept it nice and toasty in winter) and only ever had noise issues with people stomping around above or sneezes, etc floating in through the open window (I can only hope that my neighbors never heard any of, uh, my noisy activities). A friend living closer to the big city, in a much smaller and more thinly-walled apartment frequently heard her neighbors getting it on, especially during the summer since the windows were always open.

            1. rollcake*

              I was gonna make that comment as well, but figured I shouldn’t hit below the belt ;) But yeah, you are right!

        2. A Cita*

          Well I lived in India, and I never heard any sex noises there (neither from neighbors nor from partners).

        3. Abradee*

          Even more off topic but related to apartment noise, almost every person I’ve ever lived below is Mr. or Ms. Heavyfoot. A lot of it could be contributed to the older buildings I’ve resided where creaky floors contributed to a lot of the noise. But I’ve also wondered how much of the problem could be alleviated if people walked a bit more gracefully and didn’t dig their heels into the floor with so much force. And thanks to this question, now I’m wondering if that’s an American way of walking and if people in other countries are any lighter on their feet.

          To bring it back to loud sex (never thought I’d ever type that, at least not in this forum): I read a story a few years back about a woman whose neighbors took her to court because she made so much noise during sex that it could be heard down the block. I don’t remember exactly what city this was, but it was definitely somewhere in England.

          1. businesslady*

            we had a set of upstairs neighbors that we nicknamed the Clompersons due to the unbelievable amount of noise they made walking around their apartment. I can only assume the Heavyfoots are their good friends.

            (also, fposte, you’re probably right about shoes inside–I grew up doing that & somehow switched over after leaving home, to the point where I think it’s super weird to leave my shoes on when I’m in a domestic space.)

            1. fposte*

              Yeah, I don’t like doing that myself. I totally get the places that consider it rude to do so.

              1. businesslady*

                whereas now my parents think it’s weird that I take my shoes off when I come inside–“are your shoes dirty or something??”

                which, on a related note, my boss’s boss once had a party in her home during a brutal winter, & everyone’s shoes were so disgusting that they had to be left in the foyer. it was pretty funny to see all my coworkers (myself included) all dressed up but then wearing socks. especially since I failed to plan for this eventuality & was wearing, let’s say, “whimsical” socks under my (work-appropriate, knee-high) boots.

        4. De (Germany)*

          I have once heard some rhythmic thumping sounds from a bed that stood at the wall, but in 11 years of living in 6 different apartments (including dorms that were certainly not built 200 years ago…) I have never heard anything more than that. Sometimes a vacuum cleaner, but usually even that means someone has a window open.

          Also, very few people here live in old houses, because well, 200 years ago we didn’t have that many people living in cities. Most houses were built within the past 60 years. Right now I live in one that’s 120 years old, though, and that has its own set of… let’s call them quirks. Like walls that do not really form 90 degree angles. And not enough parking spaces.

          1. TL*

            I heard rhythmic thumping sounds in my dorm (and, at 18, I thought, “are they playing with basketballs?”) and my current roommate is loud enough that I can hear her when I’m in the living room – which is a fair amount of time, as my room is cold and does not get Internet.

        5. WorkingAsDesigned*

          One of the benefits of living in rural area are the local newspaper’s police reports. Paraphrasing a report from a few years ago:

          Police were called to Apartment A by Apartment B’s dwellers, due to a concern of domestic abuse (loud noises/banging on the walls).

          Upon responding, police discovered that Apartment A’s dwellers were enjoying some “weekend post-breakfast activities”.

    4. Bryan*

      I imagine it’s more the construction.

      The last place I lived was a 100 year old duplex with shared vents so that definitely did not help things. I’m not sure how it’s like in Europe. Also a lot of complexes in America are built very cheaply leading to thinner walls.

    5. Jen RO*

      In Europe, never heard sex noises! But it could be because I had a lot of neighbors that were 70+…

    6. TheSnarkyB*

      Ooohh, interesting. I would actually hazard a guess that Americans are louder during sex in general. I tend to think that our culture is overly influenced by porn/porn-like expectations, so there’s more of a “performative nature” to sex with Americans, if you will.

      Note: I have no data points that would allow me make valid comparisons.
      … actually I could probably use more data points in general …

      1. German Chick*

        I am actually a strong believer in the performative nature theory as much as in the use of brick walls. From the limited experience that my own apartment provides, I can conclude that I can only hear the 5th floor neighbor aka “the viking” groan in summer heat (when all windows are open), but never in winter, whereas in the States, I have second-hand experience with some pretty verbose sexual encounters (women screaming obscenities and yelling for G0d’s help). Fascinating!

        1. Onymouse*

          Anecdotal, but I remember reading that US houses are more often constructed of wood frames than in other countries, which would certainly lead to thinner walls.

          1. Jen RO*

            That’s what I would have figured too. (Americans, to us Europeans the idea of building a house out of wood is preposterous. You’d be seen as a crazy person if you did that here.)

            [Then again, some of our concrete buildings have super thin walls or weird acoustics. I could hear the upstairs neighbors peeing and could hear the next door neighbors’ cell phone ringing… they had Macarena as a ring tone.)

    7. Elysian*

      I’ve only had trouble with this once, on one night, from my upstairs neighbor. When they did it at 11pm, we thought “oh, ok. Well, we both get up at 5, but we can indulge them for a night, they’re not usually loud.” Then they did it again at 1:30am and woke us up. Then again at 3:30am and woke us up again. At that point I was brooming on the ceiling like an uncontrollable crankpot, cause seriously?? That’s enough for one night.

      1. Jamie*

        I don’t think I could even get mad at that …I’d be too busy admiring the effort. Good for them.

        In reality though – wake me from a sound sleep and even if you’re giving me a million dollars I’m going to be pissed…so while my hat is off to them in theory in reality I wouldn’t have taken it as well.

  19. Ann Furthermore*

    OMG this is cracking me up! But OP, I’m sorry you’ve got subsequent weirdness to deal with now. It’s possible your co-workers think you were watching a naughty video and that’s why they’re avoiding you now. Who knows?

    I think Alison’s advice is good, and just clearing the air next time. And, I think it’s important to keep it light and upbeat without making it into a Big Deal. Just say, “I’m so sorry about the background noise last time! My neighbors obviously had a better snow day than we all did!” Or something like that. You’re all adults — no, you don’t need to discuss things in graphic detail, but everyone knows that this is something that people do.

    And this so totally reminds me of something that happened while I was working at home once. We have a sitting room area off our bedroom, which I use as my office. So I was working from home one day, and my husband got home from work — he usually finishes earlier than I do. He gets pretty grimy during the day so he always hops into the shower first thing. So he did that, and when he got out I was on a conference call. So he came over and stood by my desk, and danced around in his underwear while I was trying to keep a straight face discussing something deadly dull like process flows.

    1. KJR*

      Oh Ann, I could totally see my husband doing something like this!! It’s fun being married to a man with a wicked sense of humor isn’t it??

  20. Mena*

    No, YOU didn’t do anything wrong however you created a very awkward and uncomfortable situation and now need to re-think how and if you work from home. “I didn’t do anything wrong” seems a bit immature given that your home situation has now made others feel uncomfortable in a work setting – um, ya you need to take some ownership. “Sorry for the background noise the other day … it was even more awkward for me to be in the next room” is a place to start of up if you want to clear the air.

    1. Jamie*

      I don’t think that she needs to take ownership of anything. This is no different than if she were Skyping and had her back to her window and one of her neighbors decided to take up streaking that day.

      She didn’t do anything wrong here (and mitigated it fast), and I doubt very much the neighbors timing their frolic with her conference call so they are blameless in the broadcasting of it outside of their building.

      Her home situation didn’t make her co-workers uncomfortable – excellent acoustics and amorous neighbors inadvertently did.

      This falls into the “sometimes sh!t happens” category.

      1. the_scientist*

        I occasionally do videoconference calls from my apartment and I am LOLing at the idea of a neighbour taking up streaking behind me! I live in a condo-style building with floor-to-ceiling windows that look directly into the next door building, so it’s a possibility once construction on that building is complete…..

        To your larger point, I agree. Shit happens sometimes.

      2. Mena*

        Actually she is concerned that she didn’t mitigate it fast and you do need to take some control over your home environment as far as it affects your professional life. So yes, ownership is needed. The suggestion of a headset is a very good one, anon-2.

        1. Jamie*

          Agree to disagree – she said it was about 20 seconds from when she realized what it was to hitting mute. That’s about as long as it would take most people to react since the brain is in work mode and takes a little bit to figure out exactly what you’re hearing.

          I’m just not a fan of people owning that which they can’t control. Different opinions and all that – but I certainly wouldn’t want her to accept any responsibility for it if she were my co-worker.

        2. Coffeeless*

          Now I’m picturing her going next door and “taking control” of their environment. Somehow, I doubt that’s really feasible.

        3. Kelly L.*

          May I ask what you mean by “take ownership”? I’m not trying to be snarky, it’s more that “take ownership” is a good-sounding phrase that means different things to different people, and I’m not sure where you’re going with it.

      3. fposte*

        I’m in agreement. If she were regularly working from home, if the neighbors regularly had sex at that hour and she knew it, or if she were indeed playing porn, then she would have some responsibility, but none of this was the case. She did what she should have done and may just need to underscore it a little more if she genuinely thinks people misunderstood.

      4. Mephyle*

        I agree she didn’t do anything wrong, whether in process, situation, judgement, or anything else. And she mitigated it as fast as possible. But it is different from if a neighbour streaked, because (if she’s right in her perception that it caused awkwardness), her coworkers may be thinking that the “sorry about my neighbours” is just an excuse and a cover-up for her having something nsfw playing on her computer during the call. If they do think she’s capable of doing this and forgetting to turn it off during a conference call, it could be a problem.

        1. Mephyle*

          If they do think she’s capable of doing this, of forgetting to turn it off during a conference call, and of making up (what they perceive as) lame excuses about “neighbours” it could be a problem.
          Because for some people, it wouldn’t occur to them to tell an innocent truth, and so they would assume anyone else in such a position is making up an awkward lie, too.

  21. T*

    I don’t know if this is too fine a point, but if you follow Allison’s advice, you might refer to them as neighbors rather than roommates. If they are roommates, the implication may be that you should have some say in what’s going on in your own home. Neighbors, on the other hand…

    It just might be a bit less weird, anyway.

    1. Celeste*

      It’s not a fine point at all, it’s a great one. Roommates work out a living arrangement that they all agree on. Even if it’s not a friendship, it’s cooperative. The OP doesn’t seem to have that. The landlady doesn’t just rent to tenants to live in her place, she sets the house rules that people will live their daily lives by.

  22. Abradee*

    Yes! I was actually thinking of the first PAN you posted when I read this. I had completely forgotten about that second one.

  23. ZSD*

    I think I speak on behalf of all AAM readers when I say we are always ready for a weird one.

  24. Nina*

    I feel bad for the OP, but I’m still cracking up. I’m in the “the coworkers thought it was porn” camp. I would just apologize, promise it won’t happen again, and leave it at that.

    As for the landlady, the thing about the supplements had me wondering; do you use a blender for them? Because those appliances are loud first thing in the morning, and I’ve known people who get mad because their bedroom is close to the kitchen, so they can hear that when they’re trying to sleep.

  25. Annika*

    I’m surprised by the criticism of the coworkers here. It’s obvious that the coworkers thought it was porn and the OP didn’t clarify. Listening to porn on conference calls is completely unprofessional and would make me think a bit worse of a colleague, tbh. Not massively but it would be like coming over to someone’s desk and seeing porn playing on their screen. It’s just not done. In my. Job, you’d get fired. 100%.

    Apparently we are all American prudes! And we should be livening up conference calls with sounds of coitus. Well, count me in as a a happy prude.

    1. Jamie*

      I’m not seeing criticism of the co-workers here – in fact there is a lot advice to make sure the co-workers know it was a neighbor thing and put them at ease as they may think it was porn.

      This is actually a scenario with no villains – which is kind of cool.

      1. fposte*

        Save maybe for thin building walls. But you could also look at that as cost conscious architecture that made housing more accessible to the lower-paid.

  26. Whippers*

    This one sounds made up to me. Maybe I’m wrong but it just doesn’t read as genuine, not withstanding the content.

  27. ella*

    OP–If you get stuck at home again and have to have a conference call, any chance you could give your roommates/neighbors a heads up on the schedule and approximate length and ask them to be quiet? You don’t even have to say you hear them having sex, just be like, “I’ve had some coworkers comment on the amount of background noise coming from my end of the line, and was hoping you could help me out” or something.

  28. Sigrid*

    If we’re allowed to use this thread to tell stories of hearing people have sex — at my undergrad, many of the dorm rooms were situated around central courtyards. My senior year, a friend of mine was living in one of these rooms, and one of her neighbors, who also had a dorm room that opened onto the courtyard, was notorious for having extremely loud sex at around 2 pm every day — with all her windows open. This being college, of course, many people were in their rooms trying to study, etc. at 2 pm, so it was quite disruptive. When an RA finally told her she needed to either be quieter or close her damn windows, she wrote a long screed about how the other women in her dorm were “interfering with her pleasure” and posted copies of it on walls and doors all over the dorm.

    1. Nina*

      LMAO @ “interfering with her pleasure!”

      I’m all for enjoying yourself but the fact that she didn’t want to close the windows implies that she wanted everyone to hear what was going on. The RA was well within their rights to bring it up because as you said, loud noises are disruptive, regardless of their reasoning (during sex, playing loud music or playing video games) especially if it’s around midterms/finals when the students are stressed and studying more than usual.

      Did her speech have any effect?

      1. Sigrid*

        It lost her even more respect! But I’m pretty sure that’s not what she was going for…

  29. Steve G*

    Looks like it’s time to move! Besides the sex thing, your landlord tell you where you can work on your computer? That is very restrictive.

  30. MR*

    I should forward this to my wife…reminding her what sex is like.

    I’m only kidding…sort of…

  31. Mochafrap512*

    I think people are being extremely hard on the landlady. If she is older or ill informed, she may think protein supplements are similar to steroids and many people are afraid of people on steroids. If you have ever been with anyone violent, you would understand. We don’t know her past.
    Also, as fa as the soaking the dishes? Maybe she allowed people to soak them, but they started leaving them, and other people had to do them or her dishes got moldy (it happened with roommates of mine). Or maybe because there are so many people living there, the kitchen needs to always be ready for use. If that many people are trying to cook all their meals, that’s one revolving door!
    And as far as the living room? My parents have asked me not you study downstairs because they feel bad making any noise, even when I say it’s ok.
    Please think of alternative reasons before jumping on someone.

    1. Onymouse*

      It’s like how we expect interviewers to be reasonable people, so should a landlady. I don’t see any piling-on aside from the fact that people find the fact that she controls OP’s food intake to be rather strange.

      1. Mochafrap512*

        I agree with you, but I also have to think of it from every angle and wonder why she’s controlling these things. My grandma doesn’t understand the difference between steroids and protein and if the landlady has ever been around someone who was on steroids or just violent in general then I can understand her being controlling. I don’t condone her controlling behavior, but can understand if any of these things are a factor. The fact is, we haven’t heard both sides, and I feel we are being harsh. That said, maybe none of these things are factors and she may be just a controlling individual.

        1. Mochafrap512*

          If she is confused about protein vs steroids then this would go under the category of a landlord who prohibits alcohol and drugs. My other grandma was absurd severely by an ex husband who was an alcoholic so she has taken the extreme approach and prohibits alcohol in her house and avoids events where people will be drinking heavily. She hates when my sisters and I talk about our drunken nights.

    2. Tinker*

      The thing is, there’s usually a reason why someone is a nut. That does not make them any less nuts.

  32. OP*

    Hi all! OP again! I resolved the situation and will be sending Allison an update this evening. All good news, if not mildly amusing. :)

    (And for the commenter who said this story sounded fake, I promise you, this is a 100% true situation. You seriously cannot make something this ridiculous up!)

    1. Mochafrap512*

      I didn’t see the comment about it being fake, but I promise you there’s only one person on here who thinks that. The story is too nightmarish to have been made up and you shouldn’t have to feel like you have to defend yourself on here after asking for advice. Don’t let them get to you. Can’t wait to hear your update!

  33. Willow Sunstar*

    Where I work, the remote policy states that if you know noises are going to be happening at home where I live and they will carry over to the conference call, you need to find someplace quieter to be remote, such as a library. If the OP’s workplace doesn’t have a similar policy, perhaps they should instate one.

Comments are closed.