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

Here’s an update from Monday’s letter-writer whose coworkers overheard her roommates having loud sex while she was on a work conference call and have been avoiding her ever since.

Update on the roommates heard having sex situation, because I wanted to defuse this as fast as possible–thanks everyone for the advice! And yes, this situation was, unfortunately, 100% true, no matter how farfetched it may have seemed:

So I came in Tuesday morning and ran into said coworkers in the break room. They seemed a little less jittery, so maybe their “overreaction” was just my reading too much into things from my own mortification. However, I casually asked them why I hadn’t seen them around lately, and that if it had anything to do with our recent conference call and that I want to apologize again that my roommates were unaware I was on a call and were upstairs having fun.

As it turns out…the majority of the commenters were right! They did, indeed, think I had been watching porn (and let’s face it, who wants to imagine their coworkers watching porn? It’s enough to make anyone uncomfortable)! Apparently they had completely missed my hasty mention of my roommates on the call! The joke of the day has been, “Soo…you sure you’re really watching media clips over there?” between the three of us.

P.S. Landlady believes my protein supplements, fish oil, etc. cause deathly illnesses, and that “ladies shouldn’t take them,” which is why she won’t let me use them with her knowledge. I can happily say I’m looking at other housing options (and making sure my mute button stays on unless I’m talking!).

{ 144 comments… read them below }

      1. KerryOwl*

        I love that Wilton Businessman just comes in, drops this bomb, and then will not be seen again for like a week . . . Nice work, dude.

        1. Jazzy Red*

          “I’ll have what she’s having.”

          Although I do sometimes feel that way about really good chocolate.

          1. louise*

            I love America’s Test Kitchen, but every time Chris Kimball bites into a fresh food bit, he sounds like he’s having a foodgasm.

  1. Del*

    Glad you were able to defuse things and turn them into a source of camaraderie instead of discomfort!

  2. Coelura*

    I’m glad that you’ve managed to turn it into a fun joke that everyone can enjoy. Its definitely been a great source of fun for my team (all telecommuters) who have heard everything but background sex on conference calls!

    1. Amy B.*

      +1. I second this. So many problems can be resolved with clear, open communication. A bit of levity also comes in handy from time to time. People will be talking about this story for years to come now instead of it being the “creepy” incident they all thought it was.

    1. Leah*

      Happy ending, eh?

      It’s just because of the topic that…

      I’ll show myself out.

  3. AB*

    I am absolutely cracking up over the land lady. I sometimes think it takes a special kind of crazy to be a landlord. I had one that wouldn’t allow fans in the bedroom because apparently sleeping with a fan on your face will kill you.

      1. Mephyle*

        Based on this discussion, is there any single “old country” where people don’t believe that a draft is dangerous? It seems not.

        Here in Mexico, moving air is cold *by definition*. So, for example, on a hot afternoon, when a hot wind starts up, all my in-laws (of every age) will come inside (where it’s 15 degrees cooler) and shiver under blankets but happy because they are protecting themselves from the dangerous wind which might make them cold.

        1. Carpe Librarium*

          Ha, I get goosebumps whenever there’s a breeze, even when it’s 38C. For some reason my brain says “Goosebumps! Woe! You must be very cold, find a jacket or snuggly person. STAT!”
          Then again, I pretty much always want to find a snuggly person. My friends don’t call me ‘cuddle-slut’ for nothing.

      1. Jillociraptor*

        I grew up in the rural midwest in the US and many members of my family believe this. It’s kind of a folk medicine belief in some parts of the rural US too (though I have heard that it’s very common in Korea as well.)

        1. Kuangning*

          I’m inclined to think that the “drafts kill” thing stems from the days and places where cleanliness and animal husbandry were not the best. If, as in England of yore, a summertime breeze was likely to bring you a mix of dust and various manures that had been powdered by traffic, you might well decide that moving air was not just unpleasant but hazardous — and you’d probably have been right.

      2. Windchime*

        My son spent time in Ukraine and it was also a popular belief there. People wouldn’t even open a window on a sweltering bus that was standing-room only because someone might get sick with all the “cold air” blowing in.

    1. AB*

      Yes, I think so. But it was still really funny. Whenever the landlord needed to come into our apartment for repairs or what have you, we had to take the table top fans off our nightstands. I’m pretty sure the no bedroom fan rule was in our lease.

    2. Jen RO*

      The draft! I think the entire Eastern Europe is afraid of the draft. Never, ever open the windows on a bus or on a train, even when it’s sweltering inside; the draft is worse than any heat. It will give you an instant cold and might kill you.

      1. iseeshiny*

        Yes! My mother in law is from ex Yugoslavia and is terrified of drafts! Also anyone not wearing socks is going to get sick. Also all grandchildren must be wearing undershirts that must be tucked into their underwear. Also ice cream will give you a sore throat. :)

        1. Office Mercenary*

          Yes! My father believes that not wearing socks causes everything from the flu to pneumonia. And if you’re wearing socks, you have to put on slippers too, or else you might get sick anyway.

          1. Jamie*

            If you don’t have shoes on you can step on a needle and it can go through your foot and travel through your circulatory system to your heart and kill you.

            And if you go on an escalator with untied shoes it will cause a fall which will result in having your leg amputated.

            To this day I don’t know how a needle can go through my foot without my noticing and so accurately thread itself through my veins …or why if my show got stuck I wouldn’t just slide out of it rather than lose a leg.

            I mean, if they weren’t tied how hard would it be?

            And never fall asleep on a plane – God knows what strangers would do to you. Stay alert!

            Source: my very cautious father.

            1. anonintheUK*

              My now late greataunt was apparently convinced that random kidnappers were drugging and selling young English women into prostitution in South America.
              Apparently, if you felt yourself about to faint, before you passed out you should shout ‘I do not know anyone in this lift/carriage/bus’ (as the case might be). Otherwise, next thing you knew, you’d be on the docks at Buenos Aires…

              1. Heather*

                I kind of wish that worked…I don’t want kids and it would save me so much money on birth control ;)

            2. Onymouse*

              Not to worry you Jamie, but I remember a big thing in the news a few years back about Crocs and escalators

            3. Mallory*

              Don’t let a cat be in the room with a baby, because the cat will suck the baby’s breath.

              — my grandma and all the other women in my family of her generation

            4. Mallory*

              Do not cut your hair or nails on Sunday, because it is bad luck and something terrible will happen to you in the upcoming week if you do.

              — my grandpa

            5. Tricia McMillan*

              What can actually happen with untied shoes on an escalator is that the loose laces can get dragged into the top/bottom of the escalator, where the steps go into the floor. The shoe will pretty much tighten to the point where you can’t get it off instantly.

              It’s not really “lose a leg” dangerous, but it’s not safe.

            6. Artemesia*

              When I was a little kid, my dragging shoelace got caught at the top of an escalator and my shoe wouldn’t come off (I assume the lace was knotted and dragging but can’t remember ) The thing kept pulling on my foot and people were tumbling over me and my mother was screaming. Still remember this after 65 years. Still have my leg though.

              1. Jamie*

                You guys are making me feel great about still being afraid of escalators at my age – because I didn’t think about the physics involved and just internalized the fear.

                And even though I’m no where near an escalator I just retied my shoe. Just in case.

                1. Kuangning*

                  I’m another one who’s gotten a shoelace caught in the escalator. It didn’t help *my* fear of them either. I still use the escalators when I have to, but I haven’t bought a single pair of lace-up shoes since.

        2. Emma*

          Of course you have the wear your undershirt tucked in! Otherwise you’ll get a chill in your kidneys!

          Source: Irish parents.

        3. Onymouse*

          This very advice lead to many a wedgies until I learned that undershirts worked just as well when they’re not tucked in.

        1. Joline*

          It’s true. I’ve spent many hours in the back seat of a car (on various trips) with my Oma and Opa begging them to roll down a window. On a good day it could be cracked but then with strict instructions to inform them if there’s a draft.

          Never seemed to get that a draft would’ve really been ideal in the sweltering back seat of that car.

      2. CNM*

        Ha! My German & Romanian family is practically fresh-air phobic due to the association of drafts and illness. It makes driving in the car in any sort of warm weather totally unpleasant. Even air conditioning that is blowing too directly gets the same treatment!

        1. Leah*

          Haha. InTthe Netherlands, there’s a fear of drafts because you might have to turn on your heating and spend money. They still won’t turn on the heat anyway but at least with the draft you’re more comfortable.

      3. JustKatie*

        And if you’re a woman, never sit on the ground because your ovaries could freeze, rendering you infertile!

        When I lived in France, they seemed to have a deathly fear of “courants d’air” (air currents) in the house when you open windows. My Brazilian roommate and I were in a constant passive fight with our French roommates over opening the windows.

        1. KJR*

          Speaking of ovaries…my mom wouldn’t let us girls help our dad with any heaving lifting “because we had ovaries.” My husband isn’t buyin’ it. To this day if I have to lift something heavy, I think in my most dramatic “poor me” voice, “OY! MY OVARIES!!”

          1. Anonsie*

            I’ve been told this a few times myself– lifting things causes lady problems. When I have to life heavy things I always think it in a Bart Simpson voice. “Owwww my ovarieeesss”

      4. Jen RO*

        I just want to add that I love this thread and I am happy to hear that all countries have their own silly medical fears.

    3. Bryan*

      It reminds me of when I was apartment hunting in DC. I kept having to adjust my wish list because I would see things like “only a hot plate” and “not recommended for people of 6 feet tall.” So to me, no fish oil isn’t that bad.

      1. Stephanie*

        not recommended for people of 6 feet tall

        Ohhhhh, the English basements. You’re bringing back bad memories of apartment hunting in DC. Yeah, I’d take hiding fish oil pills over 6″ windows any day.

    4. Arjay*

      I believe that my husband’s fan in the bedroom, blowing in my face all night long, will eventually kill me. :)

        1. Rose*

          In Korea they also believe in fan death. No sleeping with a fan on, you’re going to DIE!

        2. Heather*

          Headline on CNN tomorrow: “Breathing oxygen linked with death; drinking water and eating food also correlated”

      1. teclatwig*

        +1 My husband loves his fan (in bed and in the car) and apparently my face is sensitive and thinks I am constantly under attack?

    5. Not So NewReader*

      I have always heard fans and Bell’s Palsy. Oscillating fans are much better.

      1. Windchime*

        Yep, a friend from Turkey got Bell’s Palsy and his parents were convinced that it was from sleeping in a room with a fan.

  4. Cat*

    I’m curious – commenters, would you have assumed your coworker was watching porn? I can’t imagine I would but maybe that’s because I’ve lived in so many apartments with thin walls that I’m primed for that explanation.

    1. Persephone Mulberry*

      It didn’t occur to me until others mentioned it, but I’m pretty sure I’m in the minority on that one.

      1. hildi*

        Didn’t occur to me either. Half of the things people think around here never occur to me, which is why I love the comments!

        1. Jamie*

          It never occurred to me either. I still don’t know how it wasn’t muffled enough to clearly indicate it wasn’t electronically sourced…but it’s been established that I am neither an expert in acoustics of buildings nor a sound engineer for the porn industry.

    2. Jillociraptor*

      I never would have assumed that, but then again we’ve seen so many letters here about bonkers things coworkers get up to that I guess it wouldn’t surprise me!

    3. Celeste*

      No, but especially since it was a female. The worst assumption I would make if I heard the sounds is that the person was watching an R-rated movie during the meeting out of boredom, etc. That there might be People Upstairs would not be on my radar.

    4. Jen RO*

      I would’ve assumed it was a sex scene on TV, like Game of Thrones for example. Roommates would have been the last thing on my mind, probably. I’ve never lived anywhere with walls *that* thin.

      1. Jillociraptor*

        While I think the OP indicated that it was a thin wall issue, there are also sometimes super weird accoustics that make sounds penetrate more normally insulated walls. Friends of ours live in a condo with a corner where, for whatever reason, if you stand there and their neighbors are in their kitchen, you can hear what they’re saying just like they were standing next to you.

        1. Jen RO*

          I am blessed with thick walls now, luckily! A while ago my upstairs neighbor apologized profusely in case his 4-months old baby was keeping me up. I had no idea he had a baby… never heard a peep.

          1. CanadianWriter*

            I can hear the woman across the street’s baby, and all of my windows are closed and so are hers. Yay for quality construction!

        2. Emily K*

          Yep. I dated a guy in a house once who had roommates living on the other side of a wall, across a hall, and in a basement directly below him. We never heard the roommate through the wall or the roommate across the hall, but there was a vent that meant he and I heard everything the downstairs couple was up to, and we knew they heard everything we were up to. Even watching TV in bed at night we’d keep the volume super low.

      2. AB*

        In college, a person from an apartment upstairs from us asked me who was watching all the raunchy porn in our apartment during lunch. It had been really nice weather and my roommate, who had been having lunchtime rendezvous with her BF, had left her bedroom window open.

      3. LBK*

        Oh man, I used to overhear my roommate listening to what I thought was some kind of very dark, violent porn that involved both loud sex and loud screaming of pain. It was only after I started watching Game of Thrones that I realized what it was.

        1. Josie*

          Hahaha! That’s the main reason I always watch Game of Thrones with headphones on. (The other is that wearing headphones allows me to yank them out and close my eyes at the same time when I anticipate a beheading.)

        2. Mints*

          Haha! My friend had roommates who liked True Blood, and she would play “sex or dying” when in the other room within hearing distance. It is a pretty difficult game

    5. holly*

      based on what i know about my co-workers’ personalities/professionalism and also since i’m used to most people i know living an an apartment/condo situation and not free standing houses, i would not have assumed porn.

      but if it’s a community where most people don’t rent, maybe people don’t automatically think of upstairs neighbors or roommates.

      i would be massively surprised at a coworker watching porn while on a call, but not surprised at a coworker playing candy crush.

    6. Just a Reader*

      Given that I’ve worked in places where people openly watched porn in the office…yes.

    7. Nelle*

      I would’ve guessed a rogue pop-up or raunchy auto-playing ad on an ordinary site. I like to think my coworkers know not to watch things like that on conference calls, but an ad or spyware can sneak up on you unawares!

    8. bearing*

      Maybe one’s past experience colors which conclusion one jumps to.

      IOW, if you have sufficient experience watching porn on your computer, maybe you think of porn first, and if you’ve sufficient experience sharing an apartment wall with an enthusiastically noisy couple, you think of noisy neighbors first.

    9. some1*

      I don’t watch porn and I’ve certainly overhead sexytimes before, but I assumed it was porn based on the coworkers reaction — they were clearly weirded out. If they thought it was people doing it another room, why be weirded out at the LW?

    10. Elle D*

      I would not have assumed that. I’m a renter and have lived in both a shared house and apartments, so for me roommate noises seem more likely than a co-worker having really horrible judgement.

    11. Anonsie*

      No, but I get why people did. A lot of people– and I mean a lot, a very large part of the population, most of which are otherwise pretty normal –will have porn on whenever they’re on the computer. Just… Always.

      1. Molly*

        Man, that’s a study I’d like to read.

        I’d say I very often have erotic fanfiction open, though often open to the plot parts rather than the sex scenes, but porn gets closed right away once, ahem, it has served its purpose.

        … wait–when you say “on,” I was reading that as “open in a tab.” Do you mean ON on? Like, playing in the background?

    12. Twentymilehike*

      For whatever reason, this comment made me think of the scene in fight club where jack goes home early to Marla and Tyler having very noisy sex, and the chandelier swinging while he’s doing sit ups. I always feel like I need to turn the tv down when that scene comes on …

    13. Artemesia*

      hasn’t everyone had the experience of keeping their computer on mute and then unmuting for something and finding that a previous window is also playing and will interfere with whatever you want to hear until you close (not minimize that window). The first thing I thought of when I heard the story was that they assumed she had minimized her porn window and when she took the computer off mute for the conference call, the porn window played and then all heard it.

      1. Molly*

        This is why the little icon for “sound is playing in this tab” that Chrome and Firefox have added is a lifesaver.

  5. Gene*

    I work in a currently all male office and I would have no problem believing that a coworker was watching porn at home.

  6. B*

    That is wonderful! Glad you tackled it right away and very appropriately. Big kudos to you.

  7. Blue Anne*

    OP, based on that last note, I think a lady lifter fistbump may be in order.


    1. Emma*

      +1 fellow ladylifter.

      I bet this landlady thinks weightlifting will make LW’s uterus fall out too.

      1. Catherine in Canada*

        My Ukrainian mother-in-law used to get hysterical about me painting. Apparently raising your arms over your head, as in painting the top of the wall and ceiling, can cause infertility, miscarriage and extreme annoyance. No, wait a minute, that last was me.

        1. Midge*

          A friend’s Russian host mother used to yell at her for sitting on the ground, and for wearing pants. And sometimes doing those things simultaneously! Apparently it was both unladylike and going to lead to infertility.

        2. Mints*

          I’m sure it was unintentional, but using “hysterical” here is funny because the root word means “uterus” and ancient people actually thought wandering uteruses were a medical issue that caused hysteria

          /geeking out

          1. Chinook*

            “wandering uteruses (uteri?)” makes me think of a uterus with a bag on a pole and little legs, looking for a new home.

      2. Leah*

        It’ll just plop right out on the floor. Happens every time. Then, as a female, she shall cease to have a reason to be.

        1. Blue Anne*

          Maybe *that’s* why people keep telling me that lifting weights will turn me into a man.

      1. Blue Anne*

        Major props to you! When I was in high school (and significantly chubbier) I was on the swim team – now that I’ve replaced most of my fat with muscle I can barely stay afloat. Super impressed by people who manage to combine those sports. :D

        1. OP*

          Ha! Yes! Open water in particular you NEED the extra insulation. My former coach would regularly have me gain ten pounds on the on-season in order to keep me “warm” and give me extra buoyancy. I’d go from 20% bf to 25% and then cut back down on the off season!

  8. TotesMaGoats*

    On a more important topic…what other strange things does your landlady believe??!!

  9. Anonalicious*

    Great ending! Glad you cleared the air.

    But I wonder, if fish oil will kill you, what does your landlady think is in fish?

  10. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I think this is a good time to share a story a male friend once told me. He lived in a house with two other guys, and he came home one night after a night out drinking. He went to his room, closed his door, plugged his headphones into his computer, and turned on porn REALLY LOUDLY, apparently. He figured it was fine since he was using headphones.

    The next day, it turned out that he had drunkenly plugged his computer into his speakers, not his headphones. He had blasted the whole house with extremely loud porn for about an hour in the middle of the night.

    1. KerryOwl*

      He probably kept turning it up and up, because the headphones were muffling the sound for him!

    2. WorkingAsDesigned*

      I have GOT to stop reading this posting at work – trying to figure out how I would explain why I’m laughing out loud while not talking with a co-worker… :-)

    3. Joey*

      That sucks. Did roommate find him the next morning passed out on top of the bed with headphones on, tv on, and the speakers humming? That would have been hilarious. Those are the stories you tell forever.

  11. KerryOwl*

    I’m still curious about her not “letting” you use supplements. What will happen if you disobey her? I guess whatever it is, it’s not worth it, not the hill to die on, etc etc, but . . . I just hate to hear grown adults talk about someone not “letting” them do something.

    1. hildi*

      “I’m still curious about her not “letting” you use supplements. What will happen if you disobey her? ”

      I agree with this and am curious, too. I am generally a rule-follower, except on stupid stuff (as deemed by me, obviously), but this is rule I’d probably enjoy disobeying since it’s so……nonsensical.

    2. OP*

      Well, I suppose I COULD take them if I really wanted to (and do anyways, since I wake up at four in the morning most days and plop them in a shaker bottle), but she went into absolute HYSTERICS last time and e-mailed me a ton of extraneous articles on the “subject.”

      1. Gene*

        I’d love to get links to some of those articles, mainly to send to an anti-vaxxer associate who uses thousands of $ per year of supplements, nostrums and potions for “health”.

      2. hildi*

        OP, I truly don’t mean to quibble and please read my tone as sincere and not snarky at all. But my next question is….who cares about her hysterics? On the one hand, it’s a flip thing for me to say since I am not the recipient of it, but I wonder if its’ something like where she follow you around haranguing you for it all day and it’s truly oppressive. Or do you just have to listen to the Charlie Brown “wa wa wa wa” in the background and you can just nod politely and do what you want anyway. And I’d think the emails would be a simple matter of “delete!” But then again, I have an extraordinary ability to ignore and avoid things (like a missed phone call – my husband will call it back – who cares?!?!?!?).

        I suppose there’s more context and history and you’re having to look her in the face and we’re not, perhaps that’s why it’s so hard for us to understand the mentality of acquiesing to her crackpot demands. So I’m not second guessing you….just genuinely fascinated at the dynamics there.

        1. OP*

          The answer is…both. She’s only caught me at it once over the weekend and badgered me about it the entire time I was home. Would rather not deal with it again. I’m not a fan of being mother-henned, no matter how well-intentioned.

          1. Student*

            If you stand up to her and tell her what you actually think, instead of caving to her, it would probably do a lot more to dissuade her from further “mother-hen” behavior.

            My own parents came up with this kind of nonsense all the time. As soon as you bowed to one crazy idea, there was always another one right around the corner. Once I told them they were nuts and I wasn’t having any of it, it stopped very quickly.

            1. Zelos*

              Oh yeah, this. My parents like to tell me to eat my vegetables because vegetables are “alkaline” and will “balance out my body’s pH” because my body was obviously “acidic”.

              The funniest thing was that they were telling me “vegetables are alkaline” while waving a lemon in my face. A lemon. (Yes, they believe that lemons are basic.) And I have a chemistry degree.

              I handed them a strip of pH paper and told them to never bring up the subject with me again and I’ll pretend I never heard it (for the sake of my sanity).

              1. Zelos*

                Missed mentioning the part where my parents were disbelieving and arguing with me about the acidity/alkalinity of the fruit (and said I should consult with my engineering cousins…). Jumping straight to pH paper would be pretty condescending. (Well, it’s not great either way, but I was exasperated by repeat discussions.)

                But yeah, lots of people have odd beliefs. I’m sure I’ll have beliefs that seem absolutely nuts to my second cousins in a few decades.

        2. Nina*

          I agree. I know that the OP may not have the option of going elsewhere if she disagrees with the landlady, but this woman does not have the right to dictate what you do for your own health. I would definitely keep looking for another place.

      3. Molly*

        Ugh. I’ve had that awful landlord vs room-renter relationship–different issues, but I can still feel the awful power dynamics from here. I hope you get out of there stat, and find a landlord who has zero interest in paying attention to anything you do.

        (My older, house-owning friends don’t understand why I prefer apartment buildings to apartments in houses. They don’t grok how incredibly refreshing it is to be utterly anonymous and have no relationship with the people who live around me, and have NO ONE paying attention to what I do or where I go.)

    3. Emma the Strange*

      This puzzled me too. I can think of three possibilities:

      1. The landlady just berates the OP until the OP caves (or pretends to).

      2. The landlady threatens eviction. “My house, my (crazy) rules.”

      3. The landlady takes and throws away the supplements. Note that this would be stealing, and therefore illegal. If she tried to physically take them from the OPs hands, I think that would also arguably be assault.

  12. Andrew*

    Does your landlady have issues with guys taking supplements? It’d be pretty funny if she’s saying only ladies shouldn’t take them if she thinks they cause deadly illnesses.

    1. OP*

      She doesn’t! The loud-sex guy upstairs takes them all the time! Somehow, I think sex noises on the call are the least of my worries!

      1. ArtsNerd*

        Thanks so much for the update, OP! Congrats on defusing the situation, and good luck on finding better housing. It’s definitely a challenge in DC.

  13. Crow T. Robot*

    I feel like the craziest part of this whole thing is your landlady’s thoughts on women taking protein supplements. As a beginning lifter, I would start a revolt if someone told me I couldn’t take protein powder (it’s just whey!). Please tell me you hide a tub in your room and take it secretly.

  14. knitchic79*

    I just started following this blog so I HAD to read the original post. Omg I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard! Great job diffusing a crazy situation OP. And thanks for the laughs!

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