I was taken away from work in an ambulance, can I ask my coworker to give back an unopened gift, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. I was taken away from work in an ambulance

I had very embarrassing situation at work today. I have been breaking out with a rash for the past two days. Today at work I was carted away in an ambulance. I feel embarrassed that I got carted away because everyone saw me black out on our floor. I was terrified.

The story starts this morning at 7:30 a.m.. I get to work at 6:30, and by the time 7 rolls around, I have hives all over my arms, it is quite frightening. I ask my boss if it is okay to go to Walgreen’s to pick up some allergy medicine. 8:30 rolls around and I’m short of breath and my cube mates are starting to get worried. Despite telling them not to call an ambulance, it was too late. I got carted off in front of the whole first floor. I was so embarrassed and scared. People are going to be asking me at work what happened to me. I know to keep it short and concise as possible because that’s what you coach. How can I save face after this embarrassing debacle? This has been one of them most vulnerable moments of my life.

Do you have an words of wisdom? I think I am most afraid that everyone is going to look at me like I’m weak and crazy.

I can promise you that they aren’t going to think you’re weak or crazy; they’re going to be really glad that you’re okay! It’s not like you called an ambulance because of a stubbed toe; you were short of breath and blacked out, and that’s nothing to mess around with.

I get the embarrassment of being at the center of what must have felt to you like a spectacle, but turn this around: If this happened to one of your coworkers, would you feel anything toward her other than sympathy and relief that she was okay? You would not, and it’s the same for your coworkers. They are almost certainly not horrid people, so they will just see this as a scary incident with a good outcome.

2. Can I ask for my coworker to give me back the holiday gift she never opened last year?

I work at a NGO with a team of four women based in a cramped office. One of my colleagues has left the Christmas gift I gave her last year wrapped and still unopened on her desk in the same place I put it nearly 10 months ago.

Can I ask for it back, to re-gift to someone who may appreciate it? Do you have recommendations for how I should approach the holidays this year?

Nope, you can’t ask for it back. Once you gave it to her, it became hers to do what she wants with.

But it’s certainly rude of her to leave it lying around unopened, and so I wonder about the broader context of her relationship with you. Do you otherwise have a good relationship? Is she a petty person? What does the context tell you about how to interpret it?

In any case, I would just skip getting her a gift this year, unless (a) you think she’s just so absent-minded that she doesn’t even realize that this happened or (b) it would cause tension because you’re all in a small, cramped office together.

3. Should I ask for a raise even though we were told there won’t be any raises this year?

I work in an industry known for its long hours and unreasonable deadlines, and my particular department is famously low paid. At the company I work at, we all have our pay reviews in the same month. Performance reviews are staggered based on start date, but pay reviews are at the same time. This time, everyone in my department was told that, as no new projects were confirmed for the company, there would be no raises. As you would expect, a long line of resignations came in the subsequent months. We’ve had so many people leave that they’ve had to hire more staff just to get us to the end of our current projects.

I have been praised frequently for my work quality, and been given the projects I’ve requested. I’ve turned down two higher paying jobs since I’ve been here because I enjoy the specific projects I’ve been on, but the cost of living is increasing in my city.

I know there is a large project slated for our company, and while these things are never guaranteed, I’m fairly certain we’ll get it. My question is this – do I wait until next year to ask for a raise, or could I ask once I start on the new project? Should I have taken the other jobs?

Ask, and ask soon. They might say no, but there’s absolutely no reason not to ask. And they might say yes, especially since they’ve seen how many people are leaving over this and since you sound like you’re contributing at a high level.

4. I got overpaid for a babysitting job

I’m 12 and I got hired for a babysitting job. I charge $8 an hour. When I got to the job, my employers never actually left the house, but they paid me $21 for two hours, when I only was charging $16 and they never left. I told them that they only owed me $16, but they insisted. I felt weird taking the money. What should I say if this happens again?

This is actually not uncommon with babysitting! Parents will sometimes pay you extra to show their appreciation for your work— it’s basically a tip. It’s one of the perks, and you shouldn’t feel weird about it. If it happens again, you can just say, “Thank you! I really appreciate it.”

Also, don’t be tempted to think you deserve less pay just because the parents didn’t leave the house. You’re being paid partly for your time, and your time is worth just as much even if the parents stick around.

5. Is it pushy to have people send unrequested recommendation letters on your behalf?

I am in a senior role at a nonprofit that is currently hiring for a part-time position that would report in to me. Our advertising asks people to submit a cover letter and resume. One candidate has now had two different individuals supply us with email letters of reference. These have both been positive, have both been from individuals who have been important volunteers for our organization in the past two years, and have both been emailed to me, to our HR director, and to the head of our organization.

Am I wrong to be put off by this? In this same pool of applicants, there are two people who let us know they heard about the role from a board member, which feels like a lighter touch in terms of highlighting a connection, but no one else has submitted these unrequested references.

One the one hand, I feel like this shows the applicant – while she seems very talented – does not feel bound to follow clear guidelines, which would be a concern. On the other hand, by choosing key individuals to recommend her, perhaps she is showing she can think strategically, which is what this position would need to do. Is this more common than I realize? Should I let my feeling that this is overly pushy go?

I think you’re reading too much into it! It’s not particularly uncommon for applicants to have mutual contacts reach out on their behalf. Sending them to you, HR, and your organization head is a bit much, and it’s a little weird if they were formal recommendation letters rather than more informal emails saying “hey, Jane is great because of X, Y, Z and I think she could be a good fit for y’all” … but this isn’t something that should be prohibitive at all. It’s definitely not evidence that she doesn’t feel bound to follow instructions, because having mutual contacts reach out is such a normal thing to do.

Now, if these letters were from people who none of you knew, that would be overly aggressive and off (here’s a story about that), but in this case, I wouldn’t read any pushiness into this.

{ 371 comments… read them below }

  1. Editor in Academia*

    Are we missing a link for “here’s a story about that”? I’m looking forward to reading THAT. Thx.

  2. Another Lauren*

    OP#1, I totally get it! I have severe anaphylaxis, and found out about it by having my throat close up and passing out at work. I was worried that my colleagues (and especially my direct reports) would think I was being a drama queen, but they were incredibly supportive, not to mention relieved that I wasn’t actually dead. I have a feeling that your colleagues will feel exactly the same way!

    Of course, if you have allergies like I do, you’ll now have to spend every meal with your colleagues reassuring them that, “No, I’m fine, I checked the ingredient list. Yes, I’m sure I can eat that.” Just let me eat the damn sushi already! :)

    1. Purple Dragon*

      I was carted away in an ambulance once from work – I had whooping cough (apparently) and had an attack. I couldn’t breathe. Whilst I was away my company dragged everyone into the boardroom and told them that I had whooping cough and for anyone with the symptoms to be checked out. That was embarrassing ! I was really paranoid but everyone was wonderful when I returned. I hope you find out what caused it and you’re back on your feet soon.

      1. Julia*

        I once had a co-worker take me to the emergency room in a company car. Most people just worried about me, but my boss never even asked if I was okay. I found that much worse than fainting at work.

        1. Bad Candidate*

          We had someone here have a stroke while at work. Someone took her to the hospital, which is only a few blocks away and was faster than calling for an ambulance. Management was completely unconcerned and the person got fired for calling in sick the next day.

          1. Bad Candidate*

            At the time she’d only been here a couple of months and she’d been out sick for two other days over that period. So it was sort of this is your last strike in your first 90 days sort of thing. Which I get, but I’ve seen them let other people slide who had a bad work ethic and were playing hooky and called out more than she did in the same first 90 days. It’s very much about who management likes around here. I’ve been debating posting about an issue in the open thread today, unrelated to calling in sick, but related to obvious favortism around here.

            1. Ife*

              What?! Isn’t that like asking someone to come into work the day after they had a heart attack or major surgery or something like that? I didn’t think it was physically possible, I thought strokes take weeks or months to recover from and you have to re-learn a lot of really basic things? (although my experience with stroke survivors is limited to my elderly grandparent who never fully recovered from it.) Sorry, I am just reeling at the company’s thoughtlessness.

              1. Pennalynn Lott*

                Stroke damage happens on a spectrum. From mini-strokes where the person doesn’t even know they’ve had one, to the full-out debilitating version you’re thinking of. But even with a mini-stroke, I think a day or two off work is warranted.

          2. heatherskib*

            Dillards used to have this policy. If you were late or had an unexcused absence 3 days, period, than you would be fired by the time clock.

          3. Pwyll*

            That’s crazy! What was that company thinking?!

            That does remind me of a story though: there was a military commander giving a press conference this year who fainted on live national television and was rushed to the hospital. He was back at work the next day and is still a widely respected General. No one is going think less of you for having a medical episode.

            1. Bad Candidate*

              Really unless you’re a darling of someone in management, everything is “this is the policy, no exceptions” regardless of whether it’s a medical emergency, legitimate issue, etc. For instance if you have an unscheduled absence on the day before or after a paid holiday, you don’t get paid for that holiday. No exceptions. I had another coworker who had an appendicitis on New Year’s Day. She had to call in sick on January 2nd but was back at work January 3rd. Didn’t matter that it was a medical emergency that could have killed her, she didn’t get holiday pay for New Year’s Day.

          4. Elizabeth West*

            Just for FYI, as they told us in First Aid training, even if it’s only a few blocks, that is so not recommended. People may need life support while being transported and you cannot get that from a coworker in a car. Call the ambulance. The ambulance can get through red lights, traffic jams, etc.

            Also, the management at your job are godawful and should be smited.

            1. Bad Candidate*

              I didn’t think of that, but that’s a good point. I think people are thinking of the $1000+ ambulance bill they’ll get. I don’t think she had insurance yet since she hadn’t been there very long.

              1. Ife*

                I would also be thinking, “It will take us 10 minutes to drive there at this time of day, versus who-know-how-long for the ambulance to arrive plus those 10 minutes.” The possibility of needing life support or the patient passing out, or there being some kind of unusual traffic situation, are good reasons to avoid it though.

              2. Stardust*

                Exactly! It would depend what it was of course, but I’d prefer to Not have a huge $500 or more taxi ride (it would really depend what the emergency was of course! Breathing problems, I’d call 911)

            2. Not Rebee*

              I was told by my allergist (and I assume that anyone with asthma or severe allergies would also be told this) to always call the paramedics, especially if you have already used an epi-pen (if you have one). Epi-pens are NOT fix-alls for a severe attack – their only design is to buy you time to get medical help and will give you an extra 15 minutes AT MOST. If you are in the ambulance, you are able to receive medical assistance right when it gets there instead of having to wait to make it all the way to the hospital. It may cause an embarrassing scene, but can also save a life.

              As another note – if you use your Epi-Pen always seek medical treatment immediately, even if you only stuck yourself accidentally. Epi is serious stuff, even if you only used it accidentally, and can really mess you up.

          5. CDM*

            I’m the OP on this one! What kind of org was this where this happened?! My boss came and got me from the hospital… and he made sure I got home.

        2. AnotherAlison*

          We recently had a coworker take another coworker to the hospital in a PERSONAL car and the entire office got a lecture about that. Apparently policy is that you have to call an ambulance for liability and safety reasons, so there is definitely no need for anyone to be embarrassed about having an ambulance take you (even if you think it’s not an ambulance-worthy event).

          1. Bad Candidate*

            I can kind of see that. Though around here the liability would be that the employee would want you to pay the ambulance bill. Most people around here won’t take one unless they are unconscious or unable to walk.

            1. the gold digger*

              Yeah, I don’t want to pay for an ambulance and I don’t even want to go to an emergency room unless I am about to die or to lose a limb, although at least on my current insurance, it would cost me only $150 instead of the $2,700 it cost when I fell off my bike.* The only way it would happen for me would be if I were unconscious and could not protest.

              * I didn’t want to go to the ER then, either, but the urgent care center and my doctor’s office both refused to treat me.

              1. AnotherAlison*

                Yeah, on my work’s insurance plan, a lot of us carry a high deductible HSA, so depending on the time of year, it could be an expensive ambulance ride or a rather cheap one.

                The problem I see is that you don’t accurately assess the risks of a situation in the moment. For example, I took my husband to the ER when he nearly cut off his thumb. He almost passed out at the ER, but what would I have done if he passed out on the way there? It didn’t really occur to me that he could pass out because I have no first aid or medical training at all. Same thing with hives. People do die from allergic reactions, but surprisingly, not everyone knows that.

                1. Kore*

                  Yeah, my office has a health plan where it’s high-deductible and has a 20% copay, so I’m basically never going to opt for an ambulance unless it’s life-threatening.

              2. Bad Candidate*

                My father in law has epilepsy and no health insurance. He doesn’t need to go to the ER when he has a seizure, but he’s had two while at work and woke up on the ride to the hospital. I know his coworkers mean well, but he really can’t afford all the bills.

                1. Temperance*

                  I think there’s a liability issue for his company, though, and that’s why they keep sending him to the hospital. If he gets injured while seizing, they could be liable.

                2. Bad Candidate*

                  Probably. I’d feel more for them if they gave him enough hours to qualify for medical insurance though.

                3. Not So NewReader*

                  I have worked with many people who had seizures at work. Every single one went for an ambulance ride. While I understand the medical expense, it’s asking a lot of people to decide that you are okay after your seizure and you can return to work. Seizures can vary wildly, different people do different things- some thrash, some wander, some stiffen up and shake, unless one is a doc it’s just to hard to tell what is okay and what is not. I have assisted on at least 70 serious seizures and I have come to believe barest minimum the person should be checked for bruising, chipped bones and so on.

                  This skips the liability aspect of the situation, than’s another horse.

                4. Allie*

                  One time at work, I ended up calling an ambulance for a teenage girl who was lying on the floor. I honestly couldn’t tell if she was in physical pain or emotionally distraught, but the fact of the matter was that I couldn’t get a clear answer from her, couldn’t get her to drink water or juice, and had no idea what was going on, but it wasn’t worth the risk to her for me not to do so. I have some basic first aid and CPR training, but not medical knowlegde to figure out whether she was seriously sick. My coworker didn’t want to call an ambulance due to potential cost to her, but honestly in that situation you really end up erring on the side of caution. No one wants to be the person who doesn’t get help.

                5. Feeling really fortunate*

                  I know ambulance costs are really high (my husband has had several heart attacks). But we’ve been lucky – a few years ago our city added a $5 a month fee on their water bill and you receive free ambulance service for every one who lives at that address (they also had an opt-out option). I think that most people probably don’t need an ambulance, but for us it has been a lifesaver and allowed us to be able to pay hospital co-pays.

                6. Honeybee*

                  Seizures (especially grand mal seizures) can appear really serious and scary to people who have never seen one, so I can’t really fault anyone for calling an ambulance if they see someone having a seizure. Besides, it’s also possible that you can hit things or get injured while having a seizure and there’s no way someone without medical training can assess that.

                7. Sniffles*

                  Don’t mean to be obnoxious but why doesn’t he have health insurance now that we are all required to have it? Pre-existing conditions no longer hold any back from getting insurance (that is, assuming you are in the US & not a different country :) )

          2. BananaPants*

            When a colleague had a fairly minor injury on the job he had to take an ambulance ride to the ER rather than have another coworker drive him to the ER three minutes away. It was sort of overkill but is required for worker’s comp and other liability reasons.

            He was also required to see a doctor at the company’s contracted occupational health clinic afterwards. Apparently if you injure yourself on company time they force you to go there.

            1. the gold digger*

              I would so much rather be injured on the job than at home – at work, workers comp would cover me. But our health insurance is not so great. Blue Cross, I am looking at you, you big fat liars. Charging me for a hospital visit ($500) instead of the specialist co-pay ($40) because the doctor’s office is in the hospital (it’s a teaching hospital and all the area specialists practice out of there) is just plain evil.

              1. Temperance*

                Definitely file an appeal/grievance. I had to fight a charge because my hospital’s radiology department was out-of-network, but due to the nature of my illness, I couldn’t *leave*. I won.

                1. the gold digger*

                  Temperance, I am so glad to hear that someone won against an insurance company! I did file both an appeal with BC and with the state insurance commissioner. Lost both times. :( Not only that, but we just got our benefits enrollment packages for this year and they still don’t clarify it in the benefits description. I think they are trying to trick people so they can pay out less in claims.

                2. Gene*

                  I won one once. I broke a tooth on a popcorn kernel and we didn’t have dental at the time. FirstWife worked in insurance at the time, dug into our medical policy, and saw that it covered “accidental injury to a sound, natural tooth.” They denied the claim. But after the appeal and a notarized statement from my dentist, the denial was overturned.

                3. Ted Mosby*

                  woa… ive won a ton of times. often similar things (specialist in a hospital, or care that wasn’t “necessary” in an ER, like wtf would they be giving it to me if it weren’t???). I always thought the policy was reject everything the first time and see what bounces back. Sad to hear you’ve had such a shit go of it.

              2. Not So NewReader*

                @gold digger, thanks for bringing this up. I hear people around here complaining about the same thing, BC is doubling the prices for care for this reason. It must be going on around the country.

              3. Mander*

                I worked for BC/BS years ago and it was awful. We had hundreds of phone calls every day, with people waiting usually over an hour to get through to us, and 90% of the calls were down to the company screwing up the payment to the provider. And many of the calls were repeats for the same issue over and over. That job left me with permanent psychological damage.

            2. Construction Safety*

              It’s commonly called a Return-To-Work visit. It’s just to make sure the employee is 100% good to go or identify any restrictions and their timetable. The Occ-Med place knows what we do & what our workers have to do rather than a random ER doctor coming up with standard responses. We’re not qualified to make that determination by ourselves. It protects the worker & the company. Oh, and we pay the bill.

          3. Turtle Candle*

            Yeah… I have to say, even though I know that ambulances can be devastatingly expensive, if someone had a seizure or passed out or something similar at work, I’d call an ambulance. Not even mostly for the liability reasons, but because I Am Very Much Not A Medical Professional, and I would not be able to live with myself if I went “oh, she’s probably fine” and the person ended up with serious long-term damage or, worse, died because I made an incorrect assessment. I just plain am not competent to know whether something is likely serious or likely harmless, especially when it comes to things like seizures or passing out.

            (Well, okay, to some degree I am–I am not going to call the ambulance over a stubbed toe or papercut or someone stapling their thumb. But you know what I mean.)

          4. TootsNYC*

            Someone at my old job clonked her head on the stairway to the elevated High Line park and broke the skin; walked to the office and was debating whether she would need stitches. We were going to take her to the emergency room, bcs there wasn’t any urgent care that we knew of, and the HR lady came down and insisted on calling an ambulance. Which seemed over the top, since it was pretty clear by then there was no concussion, and it wasn’t even really bleeding that much.

            The employee was nearly hysterical over that–she said, “I don’t have the money! I won’t be able to pay rent. I don’t care that it’s partly covered by insurance–I don’t have that money!”

            1. Mander*

              I knew a guy who got stabbed (minor) in an argument on the street and a passerby insisted on calling an ambulance, even though he begged her not to because he had no insurance. I think he ended up having to sell virtually all of his possessions including his car to pay for it.

    2. Jen S. 2.0*

      Having allergies / anaphylaxis does not make you weak. Having allergies / anaphylaxis does not make you crazy. I’m honestly sad and shocked that you think anyone else is thinking either of those (and I am lucky not to have allergies beyond hay fever).

      You got sick, you needed medical attention. That’s all. You are not weak or crazy for getting sick. Such a thing would never in a million years occur to me. If it does occur to someone, they are the one with the problem.

      The only thing to do differently is that next time, don’t insist that you are fine when you’re not. There is nothing wrong with getting help when you need it.

      I mean, would you rather have actually died at work because you declined help?

      1. Cat steal keyboard*

        I wondered if OP has been shamed for their allergies in the past or for needing help?

        OP if this was my coworker I would no way just leave them to die (allergies can be potentially fatal after all). I’m sorry you are feeling so vulnerable and worried right now but they did the right thing calling for help for you.

        1. Cat steal keyboard*

          Also, OP if that’s the case then I’m really sorry. A lot of people really don’t understand allergies – there have been some scary studies that show a lot of restaurant workers think someone with a food allergy can eat a bit of that food and that a glass of water would help someone going into anaphylactic shock. And more generally people think that because some people claim they have an allergy when they’re actually just fussy (those people: stop it, you’re the reason my husband was nearly killed by a restaurant sandwich after a waiter didn’t take him seriously) they can disregard people’s allergies and appoint themselves as some kind of allergy police. There are people who think allergies are a question of mind over matter.

          But they aren’t. You’re not crazy. You can’t choose to have or not have an allergic reaction. I feel sad that somehow you have ended up feeling like you should be ashamed when you shouldn’t. You’re a human being and this is a tale of other humans treating you in a human way.

          1. Jen S. 2.0*

            This. There are a lot of foods I dislike or hate*. I order dishes without them, I ask restaurants to leave them off, I (politely) send dishes back if they get it wrong, or I eat around them / pick them off. I don’t claim fake allergies.

            *Among my dislikes: bacon, coffee, mayonnaise, pepperoni, peppers, ham, soy sauce, fish sauce, cabbage, cooked carrots, raw spinach, ketchup, wheat bread, runny eggs, mushrooms. And more. I just say, “Number 4 cheeseburger, no bacon,” or “Can the kitchen do the house pasta with no green peppers?” If the pasta arrives with peppers, I say, “I asked for no peppers. Could you please have the kitchen fix it?” If the burger arrives with bacon, I pick it off.
            What is so hard about this?

            1. Colette*

              There’s a middle ground. I get sick if I eat peppers, but it’s not an allergy and it’s not life threatening. I still have no interest in eating peppers, and try to order things that don’t have peppers in them (because if I ask for “no peppers” and the food arrives with peppers, most restaurants will just pick them off and I’ll get sick). I don’t say I have an allergy, and tiny quantities (spices, cutting something on the same cutting board as a pepper) is fine, but I can’t just pick them out, either- at that point, it’s too late.

              1. Purple Dragon*

                I’m the same with meat. I haven’t eaten it in over 25 years so if I accidentally get some the results are painful and embarrassing but I would never claim it as an allergy.

                And as a PSA – Bacon is meat *sigh*. The amount of times someone has tried to give me pasta with bacon in it as a “vegetarian” dish is horrifying !

                1. Whats In A Name*

                  Oh, this is funny. Not your meat-eating side effects but vegetarian bacon.

                  Who knew a PSA was needed?

                2. ZSD*

                  What? How can people not know that? Like, for a long time, I didn’t know that vegetarians usually wouldn’t eat chicken *broth*, but broth actually isn’t meat. How can they think a vegetarian would eat bacon, though?

                3. OhNo*

                  Really? Bacon? I’ve never run into that issue before. I would have thought bacon was pretty obviously a meat.

                  I’ve seen fish touted as vegetarian pretty often, though. I’m not a vegetarian, but a couple of my closest friends are, and I cannot tell you how many times we’ve had to argue with a server about whether or not fish sauce/oyster sauce/shrimp/seafood/salmon was okay for vegetarians.

                4. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

                  I think people don’t really acknowledge when meat is used as a flavor, rather than the main part of the meal (or they don’t think vegetarians would object to that, since it’s just a couple of pieces of bacon).

                5. Elizabeth West*

                  @ZSD – Broth isn’t meat, but if it’s made with meat (chicken broth, beef broth), I don’t think it counts as vegetarian. We had broccoli-cheddar soup at the CA deli where I worked but vegetarians/vegans couldn’t eat it because it had a chicken broth base.

                  The tomato veg soup had a tomato base so it was okay–it was just kind of boring.

                6. Alienor*

                  A lot of people think meat=beef. I can’t count how many times I’ve had this conversation:

                  “I’m a vegetarian.”
                  “Oh, but do you eat pork?”
                  “What about chicken and fish?”
                  “Shrimp? Lobster”

                7. Not So NewReader*

                  “If it once had a face, then I can’t eat it.”

                  I guess that saying is necessary? How sad that people do not understand what “meat” means.

                8. Nethwen*

                  When I worked at summer camps, vegetarian girls used to throw temper tantrums that I didn’t give them bacon. I also had this conversation with a Jewish girl who said she didn’t eat pork:

                  Her, with outrage: Why did you give me turkey bacon? I want real bacon!
                  Me, confused: Oh! I thought you said you don’t eat pork?
                  Her: Bacon doesn’t count. I want real bacon, not turkey bacon. Bacon is the best!

                9. INTP*

                  My grandmother tried to feed me a ham sandwich at a holiday party because “The slices of ham are really thin.” Uuuuhhhhhh….

                  I’ve also sent back a salad that I did not realize would have bacon on it (I’ve since learned that when in the South, never assume ANYTHING doesn’t have bacon on it, no matter how bizarre it would be), and they clearly just put a handful of fresh lettuce on the top of the salad to cover up the bacon because the lettuce underneath was still full of it.

                10. Anna*

                  Alienor – That’s not too unusual in a lot of places. In Spanish the word for beef is ‘carne’ which literally means meat. Everything else is different. If you say “No como carne” in Spain you would probably get a recommendation for pork, chicken, or fish instead.

              2. The Cosmic Avenger*

                Although people normally think of anaphylaxis when they think of an allergic reaction, gastrointestinal discomfort could be a mild reaction to them. What about other nightshades — eggplants, tomatoes, mushrooms, or potatoes?

                1. Sutemi*

                  Nightshade vegetables give me 2-day migraines. I do describe it as an allergy to waitstaff, though I tell them it isn’t anaphylaxis.
                  Mushrooms are not vegetables and I don’t have a response to them. Goji berries are also nightshades.

                2. Colette*

                  Those are fine, but I’m also weird about various foods when mixed with sugar (peanuts, milk = good, peanut butter, ice cream = bad). I don’t worry about it too much, it’s just a pain when eating out. (A surprising number of things have peppers.)

              3. Temperance*

                I do actually have an allergy to certain types of peppers. I won’t go into anaphylaxis, but I will develop a rash and hives almost instantly.

                I’ve had to do the “send it back” thing repeatedly at places where they screw up, and then just pick them off.

                1. Me*

                  How can you tell if they’ve just picked them off? Do you note a particular detail in how the food is arranged?

                2. Temperance*

                  I can tell because I can taste them in the food. This is especially true with things like banana peppers and jalapenos. I’m most allergic to bell peppers, which, to me, have a really strong, grossly hot taste (which I’ve heard is not what they taste like).

                  I’m not allergic to all types of peppers, but I never, ever eat them in restaurants because I can just picture the kitchen staff subbing something I can safely eat with something I cannot.

                3. Jen S. 2.0*

                  Me too. In my example above where I said that I don’t like peppers or mushrooms, I said I’d likely send back something with peppers, but I’d eat around / pick out mushrooms. That wasn’t random — it’s because mushrooms don’t taste like much and don’t flavor the whole dish, whereas the whole dish tastes like green peppers if they’ve been in there, even once they’ve been picked out.

              4. Elizabeth West*

                Same here–after being on warfarin for a year, I can’t eat broccoli (which I actually like) because it makes my stomach hurt really badly. It’s easier just to get stuff without it or eat around it. I can eat food that has touched it–I just can’t eat the actual broccoli. But sometimes, it’s so incorporated into the dish that I have to make another choice.

                I would never judge anyone for claiming a food allergy, but I do wish people would try to understand the difference between an intolerance and an allergy that could be life-threatening. Restaurants should have training on this.

            2. SarahKay*

              Agreed. I loathe mayonnaise and cooked cheese, and will regularly order meals without them, but I always make sure to tell the staff that I’m not allergic, I just don’t like them. If it’s a good kitchen and you tell them it’s an allergy then they potentially waste a lot of their time cleaning boards, utensils, etc, to (unnecessarily in my case) ensure there’s no contamination, and I don’t want to be that customer. I also don’t want to be part of the reason that people with serious allergies don’t get taken seriously.

                1. SarahKay*

                  Before my current (office, external-customer-free) role I had three years working in a restaurant, 9 years working in a department store. That gave me serious incentive to (a) never be *that* customer and (b) never have to work with the general public again if I can help it.

          2. Mimmy*

            My sister’s oldest daughter has a severe nut allergy and has gotten into plenty of heated discussions with restaurant staff. In one incident that I saw, the husband got heated with one waitress, which must’ve scared her off because we had a different waitress for the remainder of the meal. The daughter (with the allergy) was also getting upset. The rest of the meal went fine but it was still unnerving for all of us.

            1. Phoebe*

              I have never understood this. I was a server for many years and would never assume that I knew better than my customer what they can or cannot tolerate; whether it’s an allergy, digestive issue or they just didn’t like a particular ingredient didn’t matter to me. I just wanted my customers to enjoy their meal so they’d tip me well. It’s a far better strategy to just suggest a safer choice than argue with your customer.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                Ditto from me. When I started working I waitressed a lot. Allergies were not as common back then, but I most certainly understood what it mean to eat something you disliked or did not settle well. I always made sure people had their food the way they wanted/needed. It’s just not that big a deal to get the food done correctly and it is a lot easier than arguing with the person. Everyone is happy- win/win.

          3. Koko*

            people claim they have an allergy when they’re actually just fussy (those people: stop it, you’re the reason my husband was nearly killed by a restaurant sandwich after a waiter didn’t take him seriously)

            Yeah, I’m still going to blame the waiter for that. The fussy eaters who claim allergies aren’t putting food on your husband’s plate, the waiter/kitchen are. Just because a lot of people “cry wolf” doesn’t excuse the waiter for their ignorance or disregard for health and food safety. This is part of food handling training and a waiter’s personal opinion about whether an allergy is serious or not should never enter the equation. If I go into a restaurant and say I’m allergic to salt I should get a completely salt-free meal or be told they can’t accommodate me – no matter how absurd or fake the waiter thinks the allergy is. It’s not his job to evaluate allergies, it’s his job to accommodate the request.

            1. Marisol*

              yeah I think medical evaluations are definitely outside the scope of a waiter’s duties…geez…I’ve never heard of waiters acting like that; it seems like in addition to jeopardizing the customers’ health they’d be jeopardizing their own tip–why would they want to do that? But maybe it’s because I live in Los Angeles, where people are fetishistic about their diets…

            2. INTP*

              Agreed. And I know that often the server wants to accommodate things, but it’s difficult to get the kitchen to comply, and they’re in a difficult position between making customers upset and tip poorly or making the kitchen angry with them. But you still don’t get to play with people’s lives to get out of an inconvenient situation. If the kitchen won’t accommodate it, then tell the customer that. It’s the only ethical thing to do.

          4. Mander*

            This sort of thing freaks me out now that my nephew has been diagnosed with a fish allergy. Even steak marinated in Worcestershire sauce (which has anchovy in it) sets him off. I know that many customers act like complete jerks in restaurants and will make a big deal out of not being able to eat something only to later order and eat a thing with that ingredient with no fuss, and it really irritates me. That kind of behavior encourages people to take it less seriously and can cause a major problem.

        2. Anon Accountant*

          Unfortunately some people don’t grasp how serious allergies can be or make light of them. OP1 tell them something like “all is fine now thanks”. If it was a 1 time reaction you can share that with coworkers you are comfortable sharing that with. If there’s a risk of repeated reactions from exposure please let them know!

          Anaphylaxis can escalate super fast and while epipens are great they aren’t always enough.

        3. Venus Supreme*

          OldBoss at OldJob made me feel ashamed for my allergies, and I wonder if OP is in the same boat. I had two reactions when I was there. One was really severe and I should’ve gone to the hospital, but instead took the next train home (and only the interns were concerned if I was okay). The other allergy was brought on by unlabeled food my boss gave to me. When I told him I was getting an allergic reaction he told me to “pop a Benadryl and keep working,” until a board member saw me and sent me home. OldBoss told me it was my fault for eating something I was allergic to (despite the fact I asked him what was in it and he didn’t know).

          So I wonder if OP has a bit of “Why did I use/eat/be near this allergen, this is my fault, I’m so careless, I could have prevented this” mentality… in which case she needs to know that is Not The Case and any normal, empathetic human being will place her health over their judgements.

            1. Venus Supreme*

              Thank you. I know I talk about OldJob a lot on here. I’m actually considering therapy to unpack all the issues I developed there, and still carry with me in my current (good) job. It’s just icky to think that one person/one company could have such an effect on others!

        4. CDM*

          OP here! I’ve not been shamed in the past for allergies I just hate appearing weak in a vulnerable moment. I can’t stand to miss work because I know I need to do my job. :/

      2. Sadsack*

        I agree with all of this. OP, could you imagine finding a coworker (or anyone) in the situation you were in and telling that person, “Eh, I don’t know, you’re probably fine. I’m not going to bother calling for help.”??? No, that would never happen. I get that it would be slightly embarrassing, but you seem to have such a great and unwarranted degree if shame over this, I wonder if you should consider talking to someone about it. I’m glad you are well enough now to write in!

      3. heatherskib*

        +1 I have an aunt who is deathly allergic to onions, peppers and garlic. She had to leave her sons wedding because of the pasta bar. Please be kind to yourself and ask for what you need to remain healthy and safe.

        1. Fact & Fiction*

          Whoa…they had a parent with those allergies and still chose to do a pasta bar? Your poor aunt.

        2. Venus Supreme*

          I want to scream when people roll their eyes at my dad when he asks for gluten-free foods. He is formally diagnosed with Celiac’s. He’s been violently ill when something gluten merely TOUCHES his food– even small things like picking croutons off a salad. Even if it’s been presented to him gluten-free, he’ll figure out later if it touched something. I know it’s the latest diet craze right now, but some people are actually gluten-intolerant. This has happened often at family get-togethers with family members who Don’t Quite Get It.

          1. Lance*

            So unfortunate when diet trends become so prevalent/people become so senseless about them that the people with the actual allergies or negative reactions to certain foods don’t get taken as seriously as they should.

          2. INTP*

            Family get-togethers can be SO awkward with food allergies (not to mention dangerous if the allergies are extreme or there’s something like celiac involved). People want you to eat their food, so they’ll make something special for you…and then you feel like an ass when you interrogate them about whether they took cross-contamination-avoidance measures and read all of the labels on the ingredients for “may contain traces of…” warnings, or you feel like an ass when you don’t eat the thing they made especially for you. I think I’ve mentioned on this site before that trying to accommodate people with food allergies in ordering for office lunches or making things for potluck can actually put them in a crappy situation for that reason (they look super ungrateful, or they risk their health), and it’s better to ask before doing it.

            1. Venus Supreme*

              I remember that letter! I recently went to a food place that had little signs of what was vegan, what was gluten-free, what had nuts, etc. and it made my experience there a lot less stressful.

    3. Kimberly*

      I’ve lived with a contact allergy to peanuts for almost 50 years. Sometimes it feels like introductions go like this Hello my name is Kimberly I’m deathly allergic to peanuts. At an interview one time I had to decline to shake the Principal’s hand because she was eating a granola bar. Got the job. I have had to leave trainings because of the candies the trainers put out. I can honestly count the people that tried to make an issue of it on my fingers of one hand. A couple of new age mind over body eat honey from peanut blossom types, one Christian Fundementalist (food allergies were god’s punishment for not going to the only true Church I’m in the Bible Belt), and a flight attendant on a commuter flight where all 11 passengers filed complaints because we were convinced the whole crew was drunk/high/sleep deprived. There were many issues on that 45 min flight including attendant and pilot slurring words, announcing wrong destination multiple times an crew members cursing out me and two other passengers.

      That said please get a full work up so you can find out what caused this and work out an emergency plan. I have one, and it makes people more comfortable. The front office has a copy, the nurse, my grade level team, and my gym (protein powder has peanut products). Friends know I carry a card in my wallet. When traveling by plane I add a note from my doctor about my epi in case of problems with security or crews.

      1. Looey*

        You sound a lot of reasonable than another Kimberly I know who is allergic to peanuts. She’s constantly making up stories about people trying to kill her with peanuts and how some random family happens to be there to save her (and on occasion arrest them for attempted murder).

        1. El*

          We have a woman like that at my night job, she would walk up behind you in the break room and lift up the top slice of your sandwich to make sure it wasn’t pbj. And she cries for an hour whenever customers buy candy bars and open them in the store. I felt bad for her for awhile, but then she kept bringing food from a restaurant notorious for cooking everything in peanut oil and dropped Reese’s cups out of her locker one day. Other than the nut thing, she’s a good worker, but I don’t get it. With so many people with life threatening allergies which looks pretty miserable in itself– why she has been this way for years of working with us, idk.

          1. Vicki*

            If she’s truly allergic to peanuts, she would not be risking touching them by playing with coworker’s food. She has a problem, but it’s not a peanut allergy.

    4. CV*

      Oh man, I passed out in the front row of an all-staff meeting about a huge industry-wide crisis (not being too specific because it will out me). The director was 3 feet away from me. I found out later that I also vomited while unconscious and one of my coworkers had to lysol the chair I was sitting in!
      I was so embarrassed to be leaving in an ambulance, but when I got back to work I found out that I was not the first to have been carted out by a paramedic.

    5. Cathy*

      I, too, left work one day in an ambulance due to virulent food poisoning. Highly embarrassing having to be carted out of the bathroom on a stretcher! My co-workers were concerned and worried but never said anything negative – they were just happy I was okay.
      Hope you are feeling better as well :)

    6. RVA Cat*

      I’ve also been carted out of work in an ambulance. In my case, it was all the more embarrassing/horrifying because it was a miscarriage so I was hemorrhaging from my vagina. At least I did make it to the bathroom where a manager from another department found me and pushed me outside in a chair while we waited for the ambulance. I fainted a couple of times.

      I was mortified, but when I came back to work a couple days later I felt like a badass. Not that many people knew but they were sympathetic (helps that my office is 90% female).

        1. RVA Cat*

          Thank you. My husband and I already knew about two weeks prior that we would most likely lose the pregnancy. We have an adorable toddler and at least one blessing of it being at work is that he was shielded from all of it.

    7. Jenny F. Scientist*

      I once had an anaphylactoid reaction, walked down to urgent care (DON’T EVER DO THIS, call 911 instead) and got thoroughly scolded by my co-workers when I came back to work. “I can’t believe you didn’t ask one of us to help you! You could have died!” Totally true. So I am chiming in with one more vote for they’ll be glad you’re okay.

    8. stanleycupcakes*

      Two months ago my coworker found me unconscious on the ground outside work after a seizure, she called another coworker and my boss, who scraped me off the ground and piled me into an ambulance. My boss rode with me in the ambulance and sat with me in the ER and texted/called my parents for almost five hours… on her last day of work.

      I hate being the center of attention– I didn’t even tell anyone two weeks later that it was my birthday– so I was super mortified. Everyone signed and sent me a card when I took a week off to rest up. It was a bit embarrassing, but knowing everyone cared so much made me feel so, so much better about the whole thing. And I strangely got closer to everyone after it. So maybe, OP #1, it’s a blessing in disguise!

      1. Lemon Zinger*

        Oh my goodness, I am so sorry this happened to you. But your boss deserves a prize for what she did for you! What a rock star!

    9. Aurion*

      I’ve also been driven to the hospital by a coworker (non life threatening), and trust me, no one decent cared about it “looking bad”. They want you to be okay.

      Well, my jerk of a manager wanted me back to work the next day (despite being carted to the hospital). But even he didn’t care about the “looking bad” part.

    10. Bob*

      It wasn’t at work but my current manager was taken to the hospital the night before his first day on the job. His wife had to make the awkward phone call to our director that she had never met to say he would need at least another day before he could start. These things happen and nobody thought any less of him. Having said that, I’d be lying if I said we never tease him about it:)

    11. Not Rebee*

      I have allergies as well and always worry that this will happen… but I would rather be alive. Clearly, if they decided to transport you the ambulance was needed!

    12. Jersey's Mom*

      OP #1
      I got carted off via ambulance after having a heart attack. I wasn’t unconscious, but I almost wish I had been.

      Anyhoo, have your short answer ready “yes, I’ve never had an allergy attack like that, but after a discussion with specialists, I’m knowledgeable and will be able to avoid it”. Be ready for follow ups or busybody questions – like “what are you allergic to?” which you can either give another short answer “apparently the scent of Brut, but no worries, I’ll be actively managing it”, or give the good ol’ “Oh, after discussing this with my specialists and family, I’m so tired of the subject, how about them Cubbies?”.

      After my debacle, I got a lot of the “how are you doing questions”, and generally I followed up with “so much better, and thanks for your assistance last {date it happened}”. It kind of put a period on the sentence by acknowledging that they were helpful and I was ok. Almost everyone dropped the subject after an interchange like that.

    13. Vicki*

      Dear OP #1 –

      A former co-worker of mine went into labor and gave birth in an office (with a door at least) at work. 10 years later, it had become her “one thing you don’t know about me” that she tells people at new companies.

      Instead of worrying about what your co-workers think of you, repay them by thanking them for caring enough to call the ambulance.

  3. Sherm*

    #1 My aunt also once left work in an ambulance. She had the symptoms of a stroke — but thankfully (and weirdly), no stroke, it turned out. When she returned to work it was back to normal! No snide comments, or treating her like she might have another emergency at any minute. I think you’ll be relieved.

    #4 That’s really cool that a 12-year-old wrote in. I wonder whether that’s the record for youngest AAM letter writer.

    1. New Bee*

      Same here! I left work in an ambulance after fainting onto someone on public transit (how I made it to work, I don’t know), and my coworkers were exceedingly kind (some even came to visit me in the hospital). It can be tough to accept that spotlight/concern if you are naturally very private, but most people mean well, and if you come back “normal” they’ll probably follow your lead.

    2. Julia*

      1: The same happened to me! It was terrifying at the time (I was only 26), but most people just asked if I was okay. Not my boss, though…

      2: I have a feeling that OP2 will be a great employee (or employer) some day.

      1. CBH*

        +1 for 2’s scenario

        OP it’s great that you are concerned about your pay. It shows you are fair and pay attention to details. Sometimes employers may not be able to do something (give a raise, extra days off) and will compensate in other ways. Maybe the family you babysit for can’t afford to pay you $10+/hr but wanted to show their appreciation. Say thank you and realize that you are doing a great job!

      2. Case of the Mondays*

        When my coworkers have medical issues, I don’t always ask them about it because the news they get after the emergency is not always good. I absolutely care and I worry about them but I don’t ask because I don’t want them to feel like they have to tell me their business.

        1. Lissa*

          Yes, same! It can be difficult, especially with some people where if you do ask you get “my coworker’s trying to pry into my business!” and if you don’t “nobody cared enough to ask.” I now try to stick with something like “I hope you’re feeling better.”

    3. Newby*

      Re#1: I’ve been there. Your coworkers will not think less of you. If you want to cut short questions you can always say “I’m ok. I’m just really embarrassed that this happened at work.” When I said that they stopped asking about the medical problem, reassured me that it was nothing to be embarrassed about and dropped it.

    4. Purest Green*

      Yes to #4! For the record, you sound amazingly responsible and considerate, and you deserve the money you earned.

      1. Vicki*

        Dear #4 –

        Think of that night as if you were working as a nanny. Nannies work in the house where the parents might be present, but the parents want time away from the kids, perhaps to do work or spend time with each other.

        They trust you with their kid(s) and appreciate you enough to pay you extra.

    5. MousyNon*

      I broke my foot and kept commuting on it until I got to work and passed out. FUN. They made me take an ambulance. It was mortifying, but nobody even remembers it now!

      1. Liz*

        Aw man, and here I was feeling hardcore because I broke my foot and took an Uber to hospital because it didn’t occur to me for another two days that I could have taken an ambulance!

        (And my health insurance gives me one free ambulance ride a year! It would have been even cheaper than that $12 Uber trip followed by hobbling and crying into the emergency room!)

    6. Moonsaults*

      My brother had one of the panic attacks that mimic a heartattack, he’s anxious but never has it reached that level so rightfully so, they called an ambulance for him while at work a few years ago.

      Everyone was concerned and nobody meddled.

  4. Engineer Girl*

    #1 – Just say “Anaphalaxis”. Let them look it up. That way they’ll see how dangerous it is. They will also see how common it is. Lots of us live with it.
    Nothing to be ashamed of. It’s just your immune system in hyper vigilance.
    Unless you had epinephrine with you your cube mate probably made the right call. I hope you discover what caused it.

    1. Judy*

      You still need to go to the emergency room any time you use your epinephrine. It just buys you time to be checked out.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        Well yes, but not by ambulance. You need to make sure you are stabilized. And you still feel awful afterwards. Like you’ve been beat up.

        1. TootsNYC*

          I’m not a pro, but I’d think you SHOULD still go by ambulance.

          What if the epi wears off at a stoplight? they have oxygen tubes in an ambulance.

          The epi buys you time for the ambulance & breathing machines to GET TO you.

      1. Raphael*

        Epinephrine buys you 10-15 minutes, but epinephine together with antihistamines can buy you close to an hour. I like Chlor-Tripolon (Chlor-Trimeton in the US, chlorpheniramine generically) in the 4 hour version, it metabolizes super quickly. Even quicker if you chew it, but swallowing works as well. I would take 2 of the 4 mg tablets in the situation OP described, then add epinephrine. However, I could not drive to hospital after the Chlor Tripolons, so I would ask a friend/coworker or take a taxi/Uber.

    2. Case of the Mondays*

      Wish my FIL would take that advice. He has an anaphalactic reaction to fire ants. If he gets bit on the course, he takes the epipen and finishes his golf game and goes home. We have told him how dangerous that is.

    3. CDM*

      OP here : here is the real kicker- I have NO known allergies. I’m 27- you would think I would have found something I’m allergic to by now right ?

      1. Raphael*

        Not necessarily. I have had allergies to peanuts all my life (almost 42 years). But I didn’t discover my pine-nut allergy until I was 15, and only because I went to an Italian restaurant with my family that served real pesto. Go to a good allergist and get tested. There are so many resources for people with allergies, such as FAAN alerts, or Select Wisely cards. But you need to know to what you have the allergy.

        1. Lisa*

          Wow! I’ve never met anyone else allergic to pine nuts. People look at me like I’m crazy when I say that. I it’s my only allergy.

      2. Moonsaults*

        There are late life allergies that do pop up. My best friend and I grew up eating cheeseburgers and dairy in ridiculous amounts. Now she’s painfully lactose intollerent, just to name one thing that suddenly appeared :(

        It could be something weird and that you’re not used to being around either. She had a bad reaction to a paint that she was using on her walls. She was also drinking wine, so she decided the reaction was to the wine and refused to drink wine again…until randomly was using that paint again years later and had the same symptoms. Put it all together and now wine is A-OK, it was all the paint >_<

      3. Mephyle*

        I used to think allergies were something you were either born with or not. Apparently not. You can develop them at any age. I got oral allergy syndrome (reaction to certain fruits and pollens), and mystery hives (which might be related OAS or not) for the first time in my 40’s.

      4. Renee*

        Not necessarily. I’m in my 40s and I’ve apparently developed a mosquito bite allergy in the past year. New allergies can pop up at any age.

      5. Fridaaaaaaaay*

        I found out when I was ~30 that I have a mild olive allergy – all my life, I’ve avoided them because I didn’t like the taste, and my mom finally told me that she let me snack on a bunch when I was a toddler, and I swelled up like a balloon. So in my case aversion=allergy!

        1. TootsNYC*

          this is really common. In many cases, the aversion comes because there are very, very mild allergic reactions. And the allergy (or intolerance) may make them taste different to you than to others.

      6. Candi*

        I used to be able to eat nutmeg. I’d put an 1/8 or 1/4 tsp in my oatmeal. (No more, it can be poisonous in large amounts.)

        With the last two months, I started to get a rash in my mouth when I ate it in any noticeable amount. Soreness under the tongue, roof of my mouth, and along my cheeks and gums. (I discussed it with my doctor.)

        Allergies show up when they bloody well please… and the list of ‘you can’t eat this’ gets longer and longer.

        I read on Cracked a couple years back an interview with a woman who was in-cre-di-bly sensitive to lavender in any form. She carried liquid Benadryl with her -at least four large bottles, AND two Epi-pens. Yowch.

      7. Allie*

        My own particular major allergy is melons. I could eat them up until my early 20s, then they started making my mouth itch, then one day a piece of cantaloupe gave me a severe reaction and my throat swelled up when I was about 25. It happens.

      8. Security SemiPro*

        I’m nursing a slowly and steadily growing allergy to black pepper. Right now, it just makes my tongue itch and swell up. But it’s getting worse over time, so I’m avoiding it whenever I can. I never liked pepper, but the reaction wasn’t obviously an allergic one until I was 30 or so.

      9. Mander*

        I once had a reaction to (apparently) Japanese sake. Half of my face and my lips swelled up but I could breathe OK so the nurse on the emergent care help line told me to take a benadryl and avoid sake. A few days later I foolishly decided to test my luck and had another glass from the same bottle with no reaction at all.

        No idea what other substance I might have been exposed to at the time. My roommate and I bought the sake to go with a Japanese themed meal but there wasn’t any fish or unfamiliar ingredients involved.

      10. a different Vicki*

        I discovered a medication allergy in my forties, when I was given an antibiotic I’d never had before, and a food allergy when I was fifty. The food allergy is to one of the ingredients in Truvia, a very-low-calorie sweetener. I don’t know whether I was reacting to the artificial sweetener part of it, the first time I ever had that, or the stevia leaves, which I had had once before.

        Sometimes a person’s immune system is primed by the first exposure to something, and then reacts badly to future exposures.

      11. Liz*

        Hey, my mother is in her late fifties, and she has just developed a gluten intolerance. (And she’s really mad about it, too!)

  5. Sami*

    To OP#4: Enjoy the money! For many years I was a babysitter and a live-in and live-out nanny. Taking care of kids isn’t easy and childcare workers (in all forms) are terribly underpaid. And good ones are worth their weight in gold!
    If you want to (definitely no pressure) you could spend that $5 on something to take with you the next time you go to babysit to do with the kids. Coloring book, crayons, play-dough, etc. Keep up the good work!

    1. Nina*

      +1. They also may have tipped you because they’re legitimately pleased with your services. Babysitting is hard, and I say this as someone who has only babysat relatives. :)

    2. Yetanotherjennifer*

      If the parents were home then your job was extra hard. Young children tend to prefer their parent’s company and authority to that of someone else’s. If you were able to keep the kids happy and occupied so the parents could get things done then that is well worth the money and tip.

      1. Rincat*

        This is true. My toddler daughter is an angel when she’s at the babysitter’s without me, but if I am around, she turns into a little terror because she doesn’t understand why she can’t have my attention and play with me.

      2. AthenaC*

        I was just about to say something similar – whether the parents are home or not, it’s still work to take care of and play with kids! And that work deserves to be compensated. OP#4, these are parents who have shown they value you and care about paying you fairly. So keep working for them as much as they need!

        1. TootsNYC*

          even if it’s not hard work, or if it’s fun:

          You are giving up control of your time in order for someone else to dictate how you use it.

          You deserve to be compensated for that.

      3. LD*

        That’s a great point! Some young children will not pay attention to someone else’s authority. I babysat regularly for parents in my neighborhood and occasionally did it for groups of kids when their parents were having a party. I recall one situation where the party ended early because one little boy didn’t like it when I told him “No” to something he wanted to do. He had a toy bucket in his hand and hit me in the face and my nose bled. It was a pretty dramatic ending to their event! I got asked back, but that boy was never there again.

    3. blackcat*

      Yeah, do not worry about getting overpaid as a babysitter.

      When I was in college, I had a regular babysitting gig (2nd Friday every month or something like that). I liked the kids, they liked me, and it was easy for babysitting 3 kids where one is still in diapers.

      One time, the couple wasn’t back at midnight, after they said they’d be back at 11 (I think they left at 5). At 12:30am, I call both cell phones, because I’m starting to worry that they like got in a wreck or something. I leave one message to that effect. I call my roommate to tell her that the kids’ parents’ aren’t back and to let her know I have no idea when I will return. She says, “Ok, I was getting worried about you! Thanks for calling!” and I get even more annoyed at not getting a call from the couple.

      By 2am, I am freaking out. As in, WTF DO I DO IF THESE PARENTS ARE DEAD?!?!? There was no extended family in the area. I debate walking three houses down to the house of one of my professors who I knew was a night owl and being all like “Grown up! Help me!” but ultimately decide that he would have no additional ways of helping.

      By 3am, I have called both cell phones 3 times each, and I set a deadline of if they weren’t home by 6am, I was going to call the police and report them missing and call the phone number of the wife’s sister (who was out of state but a drivable distance away–like 4 or so hours).

      At 3:30am, they show up, and they do not look good. I immediately ask if they are okay, because I’ve been so worried about them. I get short replies, but it seems to dawn on the wife that I must have been having the “What if they’re dead!?!” thought process. The wife says she’ll drive me back to my dorm (I’d normally walk) because its so late.

      In the car, I get the story: they had an epic, epic fight. She tells me to never get married. She gave me $400 and said, “Please come back. Next time, if we are going to be out later than expected, we will call.”

      I took that overpayment as “please come back pay.” Now that’s a much more dramatic story than yours, but overpaying babysitters, particularly if the job is not exactly as described, is very common.

        1. blackcat*

          Well, I think I charged like $12 or $15 an hour, and they owed me for over 10 hours of babysitting. So only like $250 of it was bribery. And honestly? I think they had put me through $250 of stress. I am also not a night-owl (not even in college), so being up until 4am screwed up my sleep schedule for days.

      1. anonderella*

        I’m gonna throw my baby-sitting-stravaganza story in here! :
        (PS, there’s a twist at the end!)

        So, I once babysat Kallen Esperian’s son – I was early/mid-teens, and he was about 10 (I think). I should mention here that I had never babysat for anyone before, had been an only child with cousins all my age, and was only doing this because the son and I had met at a tutoring service and got along fairly well.

        Her house was *nice*, and HUGE; exactly how you’d picture an opera singer’s house decorated. Not to mention the other stuff her house had that mine rarely offered : all the ice cream and pizza I could eat and Saturday-night-HBO I could watch.
        There was just one thing – the kid had like five of his friends over. Kallen apologized and said she would pay me more; I was super cool with this, as I figured the boys would keep to themselves and play video games or something – which they promptly did as soon as the parents left.
        So here I was, loading up on sugar and settling in before the GIANT tv, and listening to the periodic mini-battle cries of video game triumph that ensured no one needed checking on. The Esperians were supposed to be out all night, something like 6 or 7 hours at a nice dinner/event; a few hours in, Kallen calls to check on us. We chatted for a bit, I handed the phone off to the kid, and went back downstairs; a few minutes later, the kid’s friends leave, so I figured Kallen told him they’d been there long enough and to go home. I was still hearing the video game, so I didn’t check on the kid until I stopped hearing it, sometime after dark. He was bundled up on his bed in the dark, so I didn’t turn the light on.

        I’m sure those sticking with the story so far are seeing where this is going, so I’ll jump ahead –

        It’s about 11-ish, and I have streamed into my brain-eyes so much monster movies. It occurs to me to more dubiously check on the boy – you know, actually *look* at him.
        Welp – he is not in his bed. I turn the light on and see lumpy pillows on his bed, covered with a blanket. The video game console has timed out and turned itself off, and the tv stares blankly back at me.
        Oh, sh*t.
        Ok – in the land before cell phones – I think, call my mom. Do not call Kallen Esperian.
        Welp – can’t find the phone. The boy’s the last one to have the phone. Boy and phone are missing, and I’m in a giant dark house by myself. Oh! The parent’s room – there’s always a landline in the parent’s room.
        Welp – phone’s dead. There’s no dial tone; just silence..
        OH, sh*t…

        I pull myself together – that’s a lie, I ran from room to closet to room, turning on every light and opening every door – and return to the boy’s room; shaking out the blanket on the bed, the missing phone tumbles onto the floor. I hang this up, and return to Parent’sRoomPhone, and, with low and trembling head, call my mom.
        Again, my head repeats, do *not* call Kallen Esperian. Do not tell an Armenian Italian opera singer, that you have lost her son.

        My mom has to drive over to the house to convince me to call her; I was that scared. On the phone, Kallen listened to my fear-babble, and, very confused, said ‘I’ll call you right back.’
        Here’s what had happened – I mentioned we met at a tutoring place; I was just lazy with schooling, but this kid had serious ADD. After his mom called the first time, he had asked to just go to one of their houses, and Kallen assumed he would let me know; not only did he not tell me he was leaving, he didn’t even hang up the phone. It just died where he left it on the bed. My guess is that while his friends went down the stairs in front of me, the kid (not even thinking about me) grabbed some of the excess pizza in the kitchen and left that way.

        I was still paid for that night- overpaid, I think for her son scaring the sh*t out of me. Goes to show, you can completely screw up sometimes, and still (kinda?) deserve the money. If you didn’t do anything dishonest to earn it, just take it – like somebody suggested, spend it on someone else if it makes you feel better.

        (PS to this is, I just googled Kallen Esperian’s son, and apparently he was arrested in my hometown for burglary; according to the 3-year-old article, he should still be homebound, wearing an ankle bracelet today.
        HA! not really ha, that’s kind of awful – but now somebody always knows where you are, kid!)

        1. Myrin*

          OH MY GOD, I had no idea who Kallen Esperian is, so I googled her and the second article was the one you talk about in your PS; I was just about to ask you if that’s actually the same guy when I saw that you’d even mentioned it. My god.

          1. anonderella*

            I had to google him to see if I would recognize him – I remember him being a cute kid with slightly darker hair. I definitely remember his name being John, idk why I shied away from using it in my post. Felt too finger-pointing-ey, I guess. I texted that article to my mom and she lost it.

            I will say this, Kallen Esperian is/was a really cool lady. I wonder if she remembers the babysitter who “lost her son”.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          Good lesson for parents; if the sitter hands over the phone so you can talk to your kid, either ask the kid to give it back or call back if they accidentally hang up.

          1. anonderella*

            That was one of the best parts – Kallen said he did this all the time with the phone, but she hadn’t said anything to me about it before this incident.

      2. JKP*

        “please come back pay.”

        I babysat a lot in my teen years for many different families. Once (and only once!) I babysat for a family with 4 boys 6-12 who complained to me that they could never find babysitters. After the parents left, the kids ganged up and physically overpowered me, held me down, and tied me up. Then they did whatever the hell they wanted for the rest of the night until their parents came home and untied me.

        The parents tried to pay me a huge “please come back pay.” bonus, but I never went back. No wonder they couldn’t ever find anyone to babysit! I found out years later that the dad (a cop) ended up in jail for sexual assault, and I figured they must have inherited their sociopathic streak from him.

        1. Noobtastic*

          I once had a kid call 911 on me, because I sent him to his room. That is when I learned that if you hang up on 911, they will call you back.

          When I told the Mom about it, she said, with a heavy sigh, “Yeah, he does that.” Strangely enough (/saracasm/) she also had trouble getting babysitters.

          I have had several families for whom I babysit frequently, or even regularly. I even had an actual retainer for one family, so I got paid every Friday night, whether they needed me, or not. I never took “come back pay,” because if they needed to bribe me to come back, I figured they can bribe someone else. Good babysitters are IN DEMAND, and when word got out that I was good, I could pick and choose. And it’s strange, in many businesses, satisfied clients will refer you to others. But many, MANY satisfied clients of babysitters realize that there’s only so much time available when that person can work, and so the more they like their babysitter, the more they clam up about the babysitter, should anyone ask.

          Want to know when someone is really happy with their babysitter? Ask them about it, and see just how skilled they become at evasion. They will do anything they can to prevent anyone else from trying to “steal” their babysitter! Which, of course, alerts all the other parents that whoever this baby-sitter is, that person must be good! Let’s watch when they leave the house! OH, I recognize that person from church. I’ll call them tomorrow. Hehehehe. Think you can keep a good babysitter away from me, do you?!

          Seriously, take the money and be proud. They are happy with your services and will want you again.

    4. heatherskib*

      +1- I was always in demand at your age because I brought legos, coloring books, and books to read when I came.

      1. heatherskib*

        Oh, I forgot to mention- one of the families I worked for did flowers for cruise ships from their garage. If they got a particularly large order, they would call me in to watch the kids while they worked from home. If the kids were asleep, they also would take the time to teach me the details of their business like how to arrange flowers, how their book keeping system worked, etc. If your situation is similar, don’t discount the knowledge you can get from these situations.

    5. Rebecca in Dallas*

      My sister babysat a lot when she was in high school and getting extra money was not uncommon at all! She actually used to regularly babysit my now-husband’s little brother who is only a couple of years younger than she is. She always said that was the best job because he was old enough to entertain himself, she was basically just there in case 911 needed to be called or something. Whenever my future father-in-law was the one to pay, she always got a generous tip! She suspects he didn’t actually know the agreed-upon rate and would just give her whatever was in his wallet.

      1. Rebecca in Dallas*

        Oh, and babysitting while the parents are home isn’t unusual either. Usually it means the parents need to do something without their kids underfoot. My sister and I both used to babysit for family friends when they had parties at their home. Our job was to keep the younger kids (belonging to both hosts and guests) upstairs and entertained.

        1. Fact & Fiction*

          Yes, plus a lot of parents want to see how new or young babysitters do while they’re gone before tossing them into the thick of things unsupervised.

        2. the cake is a pie*

          I’m pleasantly surprised to hear how common this is. My mom used to have our teenaged neighbor come over to baby sit when she (my mom) needed to do filing and tidying in her home office–or sometimes when she just wanted to nap and read a book.

          Rereading that last part has only added to my anxiety over whether to have kids . . .

        3. Turanga Leela*

          Yes, parent here and I regularly hire a sitter even though someone is going to be at home. Usually, it’s because one parent (me or my partner) is going to be out and the other has urgent work to get done from home. So the sitter plays with the kid, and the at-home parent can finish a project in peace.

          1. Loose Seal*

            Ugh. Not at you, TootsNYC, but at the term. Why can’t it be parent’s helper? I’m so tired of society making the care of children the mother’s responsibility.

            1. Noobtastic*

              Two out of three times when I was there to occupy the kids while the on-site parent was busy, it was actually the father.

              In fact, one time, it wasn’t even planned. I was there for some other reason (I think I had a church errand, or something) and he got an urgent phone call, that was going to last a long time. I played with the little kid, and kept him happy and occupied. He was laughing and squealing, but we both agreed that happy sounds are quieter and less annoying than angry or pained sounds. And the Dad was used to talking over laughter, as opposed to a tantrum (the kid was 2) or “I’m BLEEEEEDING!” so, yeah, he was very grateful to me. My impromptu “parent’s helper” gig earned me a regular babysitting gig.

        4. Noobtastic*

          Also, if this is your first time babysitting for these parents, they may have been home because they saw this as a trial run.

          Either way, if they paid you extra, that’s a good sign.

    6. K.*

      I could have written this letter at 11-12! My first child care gig was basically “can you keep her out of our hair while we get stuff done” for my neighbors’ 3-year-old. The first time I did it, they “overpaid.” I asked “Did you mean to give me this much?” They were like “Yep!” and I never asked again, even after my one-girl babysitter club grew and I started sitting a lot, for lots of families.

    7. Stitch*

      Heck, when I was 13 and babysitting the neighbor’s kids (my younger sister’s age, so they were practically siblings themselves) I didn’t even set a rate, or know the appropriate amount to be paid for anything. Neighbor-lady would get home from her date, or work from home in her study, and then pay me in some number of $20 bills. (Probably ended up being around $8-10/hour? Idk.) But the next year I took a “business” class at school and had fill out an old-school application, where I think I put down that I got $3/hour for babysitting? I don’t remember how I got to that number. But my teacher took me aside and lectured me that my time was worth more than that.

      1. Noobtastic*

        Also, if you don’t charge at least the going rate, the parents will think you’re not worth it, and won’t call on you. Well, a few will, but they’re mostly the cheap/desperate kind. Cheap ones will try to stiff you every way they can (such as agreeing on an amount for the night, based on the number of hours they PLAN to be gone, and then staying out waaaaaay past that time, but only paying the agreed-upon amount, because you “have a contract”) and you don’t want them. And the desperate ones are usually desperate because no babysitter will sit for them twice.

        Find out what the going rate it, and charge that, or a little bit more, if you’re excellent. Since you’re twelve and just starting out, I’d go with the going rate, and let the parents’ responses guide you in when it’s time to raise your rates.

        Also, it’s a very good idea to invest some of your earnings into paying for CPR/first aid classes. Or, if your school is open to it, requesting that they be taught at school. If you can get an official certification (it’s usually good for a year, I believe), you can charge more, simply based on that. And the parents will usually be glad to pay for it, knowing that you can save their children, should they choke or have a heart attack, or something. The more training you get, especially through official channels with certification, the more you can charge.

        Look into first-aid and child-care training in your area. Some classes may want you to be older, but some may accept you now.

  6. Patsy Stone*

    #1, I’ve been in the same situation from both sides…once being driven to emergency by a colleague in the middle of the work day, and once taking a colleague to emergency. When I was the one being taken, I was scared, worried, and completely mortified that I needed a colleague to drive me to ER. However, when I was the one doing the driving, all I cared about was the well-being of my colleague…I wasn’t concerned about anything else except their health, and that they were going to be okay. That changed how I thought about my own experience of being taken to ER from work. I can guarantee you that nobody will be thinking that you’re weak or crazy! All anybody will be thinking about is your well-being, and if you’re okay. Nobody will think that you’re going to hospital in an ambulance because it’s a fun and enjoyable experience. Take your colleagues concern at face value, because that’s exactly what it will be….concern that you’re okay, that’s all.

    1. aebhel*

      This. I had to call an ambulance for a colleague who’d fallen down the stairs and broken her ankle quite badly. She was pretty embarrassed, but I was just glad she was okay.

      OP, I can see feeling really vulnerable and embarrassed about being the center of attention for a medical issue, but I promise you that your colleagues will not think less of you for it, and if they do, they’re the jerks.

    2. Rebecca in Dallas*

      Yes, I had to drive a coworker to urgent care then home. She had been sick with a cold and her ear congestion caused really severe dizziness. I didn’t think any less of her! I just wanted her to feel better and felt awful that she felt so bad. We had a woman in another department have to be taken away in an ambulance once (I think she had severe food poisoning or something? I don’t even remember) and I can promise, everyone was just concerned that she was okay and nobody thought she was weak at all.

      I’ve been taken away in an ambulance because of fainting (not at work) and yeah, I was super embarrassed. But people do forget about it and if they ask questions, it’s out of genuine concern. Just tell them you had a severe allergic reaction (which sounds like it was the case) and you’re feeling much better. Sorry you had to go through that!

    3. Noobtastic*

      “Nobody will think that you’re going to hospital in an ambulance because it’s a fun and enjoyable experience.”

      Well, there’s always THAT PERSON. But do you really care what THAT PERSON thinks? Pay no mind to fools.

    1. V*

      Ah, you’re thinking it was one of the nieces who’ve been featured before? “Niece A” could be 12 based on that post.

  7. Weasel007*

    #1- been there, done that and got the t shirt. Only I was in a highrise and was having a strange vertigo migraine and ended up on the floor of the bathroom. Suddenly I found out how fast EMTs can get to my floor. If it makes you feel any better (and I hope it does) After a few weeks people forget about it and find something more exciting to focus on. Depending on your work office culture you can send out an email that says thanks for the concerns but you are ok now and want to move on passed it.

  8. Nobody*

    #1 – Amazing timing for this question, because just last week, I had to call 911 and watch a coworker get carried out on a stretcher and rushed to the hospital by ambulance (he is ok now and out of the hospital). From that perspective, I can assure you that the only thing your coworkers care about is that you are ok. You have no need to “save face” because you didn’t do anything wrong, and I’m sure nobody will think any less of you because of this. As a matter of fact, after my coworker’s incident, I have actually been thinking a lot about how great he is and how devastated I would have been if he hadn’t made it. A lot of people here saw and heard about what happened and have been asking about him, and people keep saying, “I hope he’s ok; he’s such a great guy.”

    1. virago*


      I was carried out on a stretcher after having a seizure at work. I don’t remember anything of my “medical event” — when I came to, I was in an ambulance en route to the ER and one of my co-workers was asking me, “Do you know where you are?”

      My colleagues were great! *Two* of them accompanied me to the ER (the second one followed the ambulance to the hospital). A third gave me a ride to the hospital for the follow-up CT scan and MRI, since I had to be seizure-free for at least 90 days before I could drive again. One of these same people drove me to the neurologist’s office (I was diagnosed with epilepsy and am now medicated).

      My boss gave me the time I needed for the medical appointments, and for a week or so after the seizure, people were coming up to me, hugging me and saying things like “I was so worried about you!”

      As I write all of this, I realize how fortunate I am and that not everybody gets the support that I did in the workplace.

      I just wanted to let you know that I experienced something totally out of my control – I lost consciousness, made weird noises, turned blue, fell to the floor, and shook all over* – and among my colleagues, who can be a snarky bunch (me included!), not one person said anything afterward that wasn’t sympathetic and concerned.

      * I asked one of my work buddies what exactly had happened, since I have no recollection of it.

  9. Way over there*

    #2 – feeling your pain OP, my ex-boss used to do it all the time! We have an unspoken rule that people who leave on holiday should bring back some souvenirs. Over the years, I noticed that my boss would accept them… then just leave them around his seat to dust. Doesn’t matter if it’s edible, non-edible, nicely packaged or cheap snacks. It always miffed the team off slightly. I am tempted to steal back the box of chocolates I got him from Belgium myself too.

    1. Chrissie*

      OP2, is it possible that your gift was very nicely packaged and small enough that your coworker mistook it for a decoration? Often you see Christmas decor including faux presents.

      1. Not a Real Giraffe*

        I was thinking of ways to give the gift recipient the benefit of the doubt here, too. Maybe she didn’t realize it was a gift intended for her? Idk!

        1. Sadsack*

          I wondered about that, too. Did OP ever ask her about it? If not, why not? I am so curious about the dynamic there.

    2. Lily in NYC*

      I think OP should sneak into the office, take the gift, and then just give it to the coworker again this year. (not really but the thought amuses me).

      1. Seal*

        I’d totally do that! In fact, I’d make this an annual tradition just to see how many years it takes before she opens the package.

    3. Marisol*

      I’m surprised people keep giving him things. I think the team should stop doing it. If he asks about a souvenir, which seems unlikely, I would say, “well, I noticed you didn’t seem to like them, so I thought you might prefer if I stopped bringing you stuff.”

    4. Vicki*

      “Over the years, I noticed…”

      How is it that anyone brought him a souvenir… twice? After the first few months, I would think everyone would have brought back, at most, a post card.

    5. Noobtastic*

      Or, just give him a wrapped empty box. Why waste good stuff on a man who is not even going to unwrap it?

      Normally, I’d say that’s a bad move, and honesty is the best policy, but in this case, honesty is downright wasteful.

  10. INTP*

    #1: I agree that no one will think anything of this, unless you make it weird. If someone asks just say “I had a weird allergic reaction and got short of breath and passed out, but I’m fine now!” No one will think that was a melodramatic thing to go to the ER for, plus it’s also boring enough that they won’t continue to speculate about your health like they might if you answered vaguely.

  11. Observer*

    Two things – Did your boss let you go and get the allergy medication?

    Also, have a conversation with your doctor. Now you know that you are likely to suffer anaphylaxis when you have an allergic reaction, so find out what to look for and what medications you can take early in an attack, to keep from getting to that point. Ask him if there is some way to figure out what you were reacting to.

    And, I’m with everyone else. You don’t need to “save” face, because you have not lost any. Just keep this experience in mind if you ever hear anyone dismissing allergic reactions.

    1. MK*

      Yes, the letter is unclear about whether the OP got sick despite taking medication, in which case she did all she reasonably could to void this and it’s just bad luck, or the boss refused to let her go, in which case the boss is a jerk and this whole incident is on her.

      1. Jeanne*

        I can’t tell if OP had time to go to store or even was capable of driving. Even if boss said no, a bad allergic reaction is not the boss’ fault. If she was too sick to drive and crashed her car, is that the boss’ fault for letting her go? No one is to blame. Reactions that severe are not usually stopped by a Benadryl.

        1. Knitting Cat Lady*

          Also, allergy meds might ease symptoms. They’ll never completely eradicate them.

          I had an allergic reaction to an antibiotic last year.

          For three days I was blotchy bright red and itchy all over.

          All this despite the anti-histamine I took daily to ease the itching of my eczema.

        2. MK*

          Reaction that severe also do not go away by ignoring them. If your employee tells you they can feel an allergic reaction coming and ask time off to dash to the pharmacy to get medication and you tell them “no, keep working”, the resulting situation is absolutely your fault; not the bad allergic reaction itself, of course, but the drama of an employee fainting and having to be taken off in an ambulance. If a manager is informed that a worker is feeling ill, they do have an obligation as the person in charge to adress it somehow: the specifics of how depend on the situation. I cannot tell what happened here, but if the manager just refused permission for the OP to go, she is to blame.

        3. Observer*

          That’s actually not true. Remember, this was not a totally sudden onslaught, and in many case, if you take the medication fairly early in the process, it really can help.

          I say this from experience.

    2. Colette*

      I’m not actually sure it was anaphylaxis. She had a rash, and then she passed out. presumably the medical professionals she saw figured out why and advised her what to do in the future.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        Hives and fainting are two symptoms of anaphylaxis. And any time you have a reaction in two separate systems of your body (e.g., skin + gastrointestinal), you need to use epinephrine and get medical treatment.

        1. Colette*

          It could have been anaphylaxis, but it also could have been a weird virus or some other type of infection like meningitis. Regardless, emergency medical attention was necessary, but just because she assumed it was an allergic reaction doesn’t mean that it was.

    3. CDM*

      OP here: I was sick well before I took Benedryl, I asked my boss if I could run to walgreens and I’d be back. He was genuinely concerned.

  12. Required Name*

    #2 – Is it possible she doesn’t know the gift is for her? I know it may sound weird, but if there’s four of you sharing one cramped office, I could see how she might not be 100% positive it’s intended for her (unless it’s clearly marked, in which case obviously not) and thus be wary about touching it. I know that might sound silly, but there are some people who will not mess with things that aren’t explicitly theirs. To give you an example (because I’m one of those people), I won’t touch things people occasionally place in my work locker. The locker has my name on it (everyone’s does), I don’t share it with anyone, and there are zero reasons someone would put something in there if they didn’t intend it for me. Still, unless it has my name on it or someone says, “Hey, I put a cookie in your locker,” I won’t touch it for a couple weeks until I’m sure it wasn’t meant for someone else. Obviously 10 months is a more extreme version, but if she hasn’t even moved it, it’s clearly not impeding her work.

    I know it’s a bit of a stretch, but I wanted to provide that as an option. If that is what’s happening, she’s likely super aware of it being there (because the longer it goes with no one else claiming it, the more obvious it is that it’s meant for her, but now it’s well past the point of being awkward). If you’re on neutral to good terms with her, and you think this could be a possibility, it might be worth it to make a light comment about it just to acknowledge that yes, it is meant for her.

    (Alternately, are you sure she’s even seen it? Could she just be really unobservant/not able to see it from where she sits? Not even moving it from where you put it 10 months ago really stands out to me.)

    1. Jeanne*

      It is odd. If she really didn’t want a gift from OP would she really look at it every day? Or throw it out? You have to let it go or have an honest conversation.

    2. Mookie*

      If that is what’s happening, she’s likely super aware of it being there (because the longer it goes with no one else claiming it, the more obvious it is that it’s meant for her, but now it’s well past the point of being awkward).

      I could legitimately see this happening to certain people, me in particular. It’s like having inadvertently dug yourself a gigantic, ostentatious hole in a public place where holes aren’t allowed, briefly wandering away from it because a butterfly or something distracted you, having lost the butterfly and having forgotten the hole you wander back towards the latter, fall into it headfirst, and then in this sham, I-meant-to-do-that-what-hole-I-don’t-see-any-hole bluff you just live out your days as a hole-dweller and never, ever attempt to hoist yourself out in case anyone’s watching because to leave would admit that you dug that hole. This is a terrible analogy, but, again, people like me who are self-conscious and allergic to even mild attention could weave an elegant, elaborate, and plausible-sounding defense in our heads for why that gift must never be touched and its existence never acknowledged.

      That, or the co-worker’s being passive-aggressive. In which case I’d buy myself a gift, wrap it, put it on my desk, and play Dueling Mysterious Gifts until someone gets curious enough to ask, whereupon I’d shrug and disclaim all knowledge of it.

      1. seejay*

        I’d buy myself a gift, wrap it, put it on my desk, and play Dueling Mysterious Gifts until someone gets curious enough to ask, whereupon I’d shrug and disclaim all knowledge of it.


    3. Daisy*

      I don’t think thats a weird suggestion at all, that was my first thought. I’ve lived in shared houses where an item of post/ piece of food/ clothing etc sat there for ages, and after a few weeks/ months when I’ve been bothered to ask about it everyone has said ‘mine? Oh no, it’s yours isn’t it?’ Unless OP put it in her hands and said ‘here’s your Christmas present’ I’d assume she doesn’t realize.

    4. Marisol*

      This provides a nice way to resolve the situation. The OP could frame it like an honest mistake, “did you know that was your present?” and clear the air, regardless of what the coworker’s actual motivation was.

      1. Noobtastic*

        Yeah, just straight-out asking her about it is probably best. Not the most entertaining, perhaps, but best.

    5. Grey*

      In any case, I’d try to find a way talk about it. If it was an honest mistake, next Christmas will be awkward if you get a gift for everyone except her.

  13. Anja*

    OP#1 – I had an allergic reaction last week. Luckily I didn’t end up having to go to the ER (mine ended up just being face/ears/neck rash and swelling). I did have my entire team see me swell up and go home, though. I’m back at work this week again and everyone has been incredibly supportive and just happy that I’m okay. First aid trained colleague and colleagues on either side of my cube are now aware of the addition of an epipen to my purse and know how to use it (since we haven’t identified the reaction yet).

    If people think you’re crazy or weak because of a medical emergency they’re jerks. They’re the problem, not you. But odds are really on the side that they’re going to be concerned, not judgmental.

  14. curious*

    #2. I wouldn’t get her a gift at all, even if it would cause tension. I might keep “forgetting” to bring the present in then, though. Can someone really be that absent-minded? 10 months?

  15. Cat steal keyboard*

    #2 That is really odd. I feel like we are missing some back story here, big time.

    #4 Is this one of the nieces by any chance? Think of it this way: if I ask a baker to make me some bread I need to pay for the bread where I make it into a sandwich or feed it to some ducks because I have made an agreement to pay money for that particular thing. Tipping is nice to do. And you sound very thoughtful and I bet you’re a great babysitter.

    #5 I kind of agree with AAM but I also think if OP is having a gut reaction they shouldn’t totally dismiss that either.

    1. JLK in the ATX*

      Sometimes an initial gut reaction is too emotional for a pragmatic decision such as hiring. If the OP has a question about this, in regards to the applicants ability to ‘follow directions’ (assuming there were no directions to specifically not send references; in the US we typically don’t send references unless upon request, but perhaps that’s not the case where the applicant comes from?) and/or use their connections to obtain a goal job (which is the point of having a network) then the OP should work that into their interview questioning.

      For me, if the OP decides not to interview this applicant, they really need to have a good reason especially when you have two strong referrals advocating for the applicant. I’ve been on the end of applying for roles in which I had a connection to (and activated my connections) the organization and received no communications. It’s embarrassing to the referring parties.

      1. OP#5*

        OP#5 here. I know I don’t want my gut reaction to color my view of this person’s candidacy, but I don’t want to discount it either. On paper, she is very well qualified, and frankly, the people who recommended her are quite … exacting, so if they are pleased with her work, that does tell me she can work successfully with all kinds of people.

        I am definitely accustomed to the norm of having people activate a network less formally at this point in the process (“Hey, my colleague Drusilla is applying for your open spot. She’s fantastic, and I’m happy to talk to you at any point about how talented she is.”), so I want to make sure I don’t let the fact that she’s approaching this more aggressively count too much against her. With Alison’s reply and some of the input here, I’m thinking it’s more a question of exploring this aspect of her personality during the interview phase for fit.

  16. Marmalade*

    #4 I was a nanny for a few years and often babysitting is a harder job when the parents stick around! Kids are often better behaved when parents aren’t there. Don’t feel you deserve less pay just because the parents stayed.

  17. Thomas E*

    #4 It’s not terribly unusual to pay a babysitter to look after the kids while staying in the house. Sometimes people just want the time to do something I.e. Work or relax rather than going out.

    1. not really a lurker anymore*

      Yep. I get a crapton of work done when I’ve got an older child over to play/watch my kids.

      I need to find a sitter who’s not family though.

  18. Bluesboy*

    #4 Maybe this is off topic, but am I the only person slightly uncomfortable about a 12-year-old being left responsible for small children? I know she wasn’t left alone in this case, but presumably that was the intention originally.

    In the country I’m living in if you leave a child at home alone before they’re 14 years old you can be prosecuted for child abandonment (and in theory actually go to prison, although prosecutions rarely happen except in extreme cases). I think that is clearly excessive, but a 12-year-old being left responsible for smaller children, potentially including babies does disturb me slightly – not to say that a 12-year-old can’t be mature, but it’s a lot of responsibility if the child gets sick or has an accident. But maybe this is just a cultural thing and kids in the US are expected to be mature and grow up faster – in any case it isn’t a criticism, I’m sure the parents know the OP well and are confident in her level of maturity.

    That said, I think Alison’s advice is spot on. Sometimes you get paid for your work and sometimes you get paid for your time. If you are at reception on a quiet day when everyone else is on holiday and the phone doesn’t ring I don’t think you would expect to be paid less because you worked less: you’re being paid for your time – and that applies to you too OP#4. And take the tip for what it is in this case – a compliment showing that they were impressed by you!

    1. New Bee*

      I’m not–at 12 I watched my 4 younger siblings regularly, and there’s nothing in the letter alluding to OP being responsible for small children (which I’m taking to mean babies to toddlers). The parents being home also made me think of a “mother’s helper” role (thanks, Babysitters’ Club)–needing someone to play with kids and make sure they don’t turn on the stove for a couple hours is different than full-blown nanny duties.

      FWIW, I was in (American) high school by age 14 and would’ve found the idea that I couldn’t be left alone at home bizarre. I wonder why they chose that age?

      1. Bluesboy*

        Fair enough, thanks for answering. Maybe I have a wrong idea of level of maturity of a 12-year-old, it’s a long time since I was that age and my own son is just 8.

        Incidentally I just googled the law for the US out of curiosity and although only three states have minimum ages for staying home alone in Illinois the law is 14 too, so I guess it isn’t just here!

        My best guess is that the law is more supposed to cover parents actually going away for a few days and leaving their children. At that point 14 makes more sense. But I did find an article about a woman in Connecticut being arrested for leaving her 13-year-old to babysit for an hour so who knows?

        1. Red Rose*

          I started leaving my son, who was one of the more responsible little boys (I led his cub scout den, so I had a good chance to compare), alone for about 20 minutes when I ran to the store (daytime) when he was 10. That increased gradually, but I didn’t leave him alone overnight until he was a high school senior (already 18 and able to drive). He really was never asked to babysit, but I think he could have handled a couple of hours with younger kids at around age 12. Not babies though. He’s 25 now and I still think he couldn’t handle babies.

      2. Chinook*

        Up here, there is a Red Cross Babysitting Course offered for those 12 and up. You are not required to have it, but it is a signal to parents that the average 12 year old can handle babysitting. Of course, every child is different.

    2. Chrissi*

      I was a paid babysitter when I was 12, just not for late night hours. I had taken first aid and CPR and even “babysitting classes” :). I feel like 12 is the age a lot of people start babysitting.

      1. Bluesboy*

        Babysitting classes? What a great idea, I didn’t even know they existed!

        To be honest I’d be a lot more comfortable with a qualified 12-year-old with first aid and CPR training looking after my child than with some adults I know!

        1. Rookie Biz Chick*

          American Red Cross and maybe the Ys have a few different courses for kids, some online. My kid took an advanced babysitting class this summer and they even covered some business aspects like marketing and scheduling. The swim moms of younger kids on her summer swim team loved it and she’s had a lot of referrals.

        2. Emilia Bedelia*

          I took the Red Cross babysitting class when I was 11- I got my own little card as a “certified babysitter” and everything. It covered CPR, common household dangers, and even some simple crafts/activity ideas, as I remember.

          I did a lot of babysitting for Bible study groups at my church when I was 12-14ish- there would be 6-10 kids that I’d look after and amuse while their parents were meeting. This was pretty ideal- free dinner, the kids pretty much amused themselves because there were enough of them that they could play with each other, the parents were right there if I needed help, and I’d get a lot of money because there were a lot of kids. Win-win-win-win for me :)

      2. Blj531*

        It’s also about the type of babysitting you’re doing. I sat all through college and after, and I always used to explain to parents that they paid a higher rate for 21 year old sitter than the 12 year old down the street because of experience. For instance, I was actually sitting for a family (8 and 12 year old, 8 year old needed care and had some issues that were slightly too much to just be left with the 12 year old) when the older hold had their first babysitting job. She went down the street to sit for 2 hours while the parents went to a movie. I sat for 5 hours while parents were a good distance away, and answered a “what do I do if kiddo won’t stop crying and go to bed” call from the new sitter, and was fully prepared to go down and help her if something unexpected came up. A 12 year old is great for a few hours while you are close, a 16 or 17 year old can be there late or for much of the day, and at 20 I could safely handle your overnight, your supervising another sitter, your multi week nannying that included play dates and errands and talking to teachers, your sick kid, etc. Things that would be absolutely inappropriate for a 12 year old. But you only get that experience when you start with the 12 year old jobs!

        1. Noobtastic*

          Exactly! It’s basically an apprenticeship program, although informal. The age when it is acceptable to start varies by locality. Most places I have been in America, though, 11 has been OK for a “helper” role, and 12 has been OK for daytime, short-term, unsupervised gigs.

          No overnight babysitting until at least 18, for legal reasons, but 16 could do late-night.

          No week-long (parents on a trip) gigs until 21.

          It’s fairly standard, although a lot depends on the individuals and the parents involved. Some parents want someone in their thirties, and some parents are young, themselves, and figure that if they could do it, so can this kid. And then there are the young people who have been so piled-on with responsibilities by life that they are already basically parenting younger siblings, at home, so they can certainly handle it at someone else’s house for some extra cash.

          Interview, interview, interview! And that goes both ways, as sitters should interview the parents, as well.

      3. Elsajeni*

        Yeah, I started babysitting when I was about 12, too. And the girls in the Babysitters’ Club books are 11 to 13 years old! They get more responsibility than a real kid their age would, since it’s fiction — at that age I mostly babysat for school-aged kids I already knew and for fairly short periods, like, my friends’ younger siblings while the rest of the family went to a movie, or younger kids at my church while their parents were in a committee meeting — but it’s not crazy for them to be babysitting at that age.

      4. Mander*

        I used to babysit some of the neighbor kids when I was around 12. Of course my parents were just down the street if I needed anything but several of my friends did the same at that age.

    3. NJ Anon*

      I baby sat at 12. It was for my next door neighbor who knew my mom was home if I needed assistance. Also, if I was hiring someone new to babysit, I always had them come over and “watch” the kids while we were home the first time. Kind of like an intro. Paid them, of course. And yes, always paid more than what they charged.

    4. Kt*

      Yeah I babysat at 12, was CPR certified and went to classes.

      I quickly found out childcare was not for me

      1. Noobtastic*

        Yeah. My sister is a good babysitter, and kids love her, and she knows, absolutely, that she never, ever wants to have children of her own.

        But nobody outside the family believes that. “You’ll make SUCH a good mother, someday.” She’s very discreet about her growling, I must say. Some people just should not be parents, some because they’d be horrible parents, and some because no matter how good at it they are, they would be miserable.

        I think all youth should do a stint of babysitting, just as I think all adults should do a stint of food service and/or retail work. It really helps you learn a lot about yourself and others.

    5. Oryx*

      I was that age when I started babysitting neighbors and family friends. I was probably about 10 when I started babysitting my sister.

    6. Blue Anne*

      Sure, I started babysitting at 12, for two girls down the street who were about 6 and 8. Parents would get home around 11. By the time I was 13 I was regularly sitting once a week for a family with four little kids.

      Like a couple of other commentors I had babysitting “classes”, though. We had a couple sessions on it in Home Ec, and I did a CPR & Childcare course with the Girl Scouts.

        1. Blue Anne*

          I always had late bedtimes – I’m the only child of two workaholics who never would’ve seen me if they made me go to bed early.

    7. blackcat*

      At 12, I had a “mother’s helper” gig 2 days a week after school, similar to what’s described here. I entertained a toddler & baby while the mom slept napped or cleaned. If anything went wrong, she was right there.

      At 13, I had more proper babysitting gigs (the parents gone) in the afternoon, but my own mom was alway down the street. It wasn’t until I was 16 or so that I’d babysit without my own parents as immediately accessible back up.

      In college, I’d do overnights and caring for kids with special needs.

      I think that type of progression is pretty common.

    8. just another librarian*

      12 is pretty normal to be babysitting in the US. I myself had a few regular babysitting clients that I sat for from that age to about 16-17 when I just got too busy with extracurricular activities and schoolwork. I preferred it to the other typical retail/fast food jobs teenagers have and it was pretty flexible since I could always say no, if I didn’t want to work a night the parents requested.

      My mom was always home when I was babysitting (usually just a few blocks away) and it was a small town, so I knew most of the clients’ neighbors at home.

      I still work with kids although not in a child care setting.

    9. Temperance*

      When I was 12, I was regularly in charge of my 8-year-old sister and 4-year-old brother and cousin. This is normal.

    10. AnotherAlison*

      I have a 12 year old who I wouldn’t put in charge of others, but I babysat neighbors’ kids when I was 11 and I was fine with my older son watching the younger one when they were 12 and 5.

      When I was 10, I was responsible for feeding my sister (age 2) and taking her to the babysitter in the summer, whose house was across the street. My mom would go to work at 8 am and let us sleep in and get ourselves up. In hindsight, I think my parents put too much on me at a young age because they were dealing with their relationship drama, but we kids survived.

    11. the gold digger*

      I started babysitting at 11, making only about 20% of minimum wage. (And I did the dishes! And washed diapers!)

      I want to start again – babysitters these days clean up!

      1. Agnes*

        I started at 11. My mom thought that was young, but the parents in the neighborhood asked me directly. Never had any problems, though I didn’t enjoy it much.

    12. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

      I was a paid babysitter at 12. And my sister was not only a paid babysitter at 12, but for SIX children at one time. I can’t remember those kid’s ages though. My sister also went on to have 5 kids of her own so she’s just good with lots of kids. :)

      My own son is 13 and could totally supervise another kid for a couple of hours, not a baby or toddler, but 5 and up would be just fine. Also, the local hospital here (I’m in the US midwest) offers first aid/CPR for babysitters classes for 11-17 year olds for free.

    13. Observer*

      Yeah, it may or may not be legal in some jurisdictions, but there is no inherent reason a 12 year old can’t take charge of young children in their home for a while. Of course, leaving your cell number is necessary. I do remember calling my mother on a couple of occasions (I did a lot of babysitting) because cell phones didn’t really exist then, so reaching a parent wasn’t so simple (and sometime just not possible.) She talked me through a couple of situations.

    14. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      As an adult, I do think it’s a bit crazy that we leave 12-year-olds alone with that much responsibility. I’m not a parent, but I can’t imagine that I’d be comfortable with that.

      But as a kid? I totally babysat at 12. Probably even younger. It’s definitely normal.

    15. Shannon*

      I started babysitting at 10 in a “mother’s helper” situation and by 12 was baby-sitting solo. My parents and/or a pair of retirees were usually at home, one or two houses down, in case I needed the help (never did, though).

    16. Natalie*

      Like a lot of people here I started babysitting at 12 too. And, like the LW, I wasn’t actually left alone with the kids. At first I watched infant twins with their mom (dad’s work meant he wasn’t home for months at a time), as both me and the twins got older I watched them while mom was in other parts of the house or running quick errands, and by high school I was watching them when mom or mom and dad were actually gone.

    17. Sparrow*

      This is very common in the US, though I think it definitely depends on the 12 year old. My sister had her first kid four years ago, when our oldest nieces were 12 and 14. She and I both trusted the 12 year old to watch the baby, even as a newborn. I still wouldn’t trust the oldest niece with a baby, and she’s 18 now…

    18. AK*

      Like many others, I started babysitting when I was a little younger than 12 for a family across the street – I was hired mainly because the mom knew I could always call on one of my own parents for help if there was a problem. (My Dad worked from home, so someone was always there.) I took babysitting classes when I was 13, and the recreation department in our area kept a list of babysitters who’d taken the classes and were looking for work, and handed it out to parents on request. I was still getting babysitting jobs from that list when I was 18.

    19. Alienor*

      I started babysitting at 11. The first kid I sat for was an 18-month-old, and I remember being there on New Year’s Eve, so easily past midnight. In retrospect, that may have been a bit of an ambitious job for a sixth-grader, but the worst thing that happened was that she woke up and was watching TV on the couch with me when the parents got home. I had a pretty lucrative babysitting career from then until I was about 15–it helped that I had a much younger sibling, so the parents from his playgroup were like a built-in clientele.

      1. Mander*

        Honestly most of my babysitting jobs really involved me either playing video games or watching TV with my charges. I was really only there to call the ambulance if anything happened.

    20. SusanIvanova*

      When I was 16 and visiting my grandparents, my uncle assumed that of course I knew how to babysit and left me alone with my baby cousin. “No problem,” he said. “She’s sleeping, and we’ll only be gone a couple of hours.” And then she woke up and started crying and I had no clue what to do. I still haven’t really forgiven him for putting me in that situation.

    21. Cath in Canada*

      I started babysitting at 12 too. It was for our next-door neighbours and one or both of my parents were always at home, so if anything happened that I couldn’t handle I could yell for backup! Nothing worse than a dirty nappy ever happened though.

    22. Candi*

      Never babysat myself -other kids had that sewn up, and I “had to concentrate on the grades that would get me into college”.

      But my son… at 14, all on his own he got a job babysitting four kids. Although technically the eldest was his classmate, the single mother didn’t trust him. (I do not know the stories there.) $20 a week for him.

      The job ended after: “I’ll pay you on Monday”, “I forgot, I’ll pay you tomorrow”, “My budget is tight, can you wait a couple weeks?” He walked.

      Tip: If you have always done your own nails, and are pleading a tight budget, don’t try to bargain out the payday with a shiny new manicure, especially when the cheapest place in town is $35.

  19. Newish Reader*

    #3: Whether or not you should have left your current job for a higher paying one is a judgment call on your part. Leaving a job you enjoy just for more money isn’t always the best solution – money isn’t everything. You also have to factor in benefits and your happiness/quality of life. I’ve previously had opportunities to accept jobs with a higher salary, the benefits either cost more (resulting in lower take home pay), weren’t anywhere near as good, or both.

    Just because a job has a higher salary doesn’t mean you’ll enjoy the company, coworkers, supervisors, culture, or job responsibilities. Staying with a job you enjoy even though it pays less than somewhere else isn’t bad in and of itself.

  20. Allie*

    As someone who has had a severe allergic reaction, the only thing I think LW1 did wrong was not prioritizing self care in that situation. Them calling an ambulance over your wishes can be a life saving thing. Anaphylaxis can kill you. I have also been the person who called the ambulance for someone and ttust me, they were not judging you. This may never happen again, but in any kind of medical situation, don’t let “not making a scene” or embarrassment prevent you from getting the help you need.

  21. NJ Anon*

    Sadly, had a coworker who wasn’t feeling well, refused to let someone call an ambulance because he was going straight to the doctors office from work and didn’t make it. He had a heart attack behind the wheel and died. It was awful. So, no, be glad they did what they did. They will be happy you are ok.

    1. Faith*

      I heard a similar story when I was taking my CPR/AED certification course. Apparently, denial is actually one of the symptoms of a heart attack. The person will actively insist that they are fine and they could not be possibly having a heart attack. By the time they finally make it to the hispital, it’s often too late.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        NJ Anon’s story is why they told us not to drive people or let them drive themselves, and our training told us the same thing about denial. Call the ambulance and let the EMTs/paramedics assess the situation.

      2. irritable vowel*

        I read recently that this is especially true for women, not only because women are more likely to be like “I’m fine, it’s nothing” but also because heart attacks in women more frequently manifest as feeling kind of flu-y, not as the classic pain in the chest and left arm.

        1. DArcy*

          That is absolutely correct, and very important. Denial until it’s too late is especially common with female heart attack patients because women are far more likely to have heart attack symptoms differing from the classic presentation of chest and left arm pain leading to an abrupt collapse. Women’s heart attacks tend to be “slow burn” in the colloquial sense, with “flu-y” symptoms slowly getting more and more severe over the course of a day.

    2. Isben Takes Tea*

      You can always call an ambulance for someone–they can refuse aid once the ambulance arrives, but there’s no law that forbids you from calling 911 on behalf of someone else. (Again, there are laws that prevent you from directly assisting someone who has declined treatment, but not for summoning EMS, even if that person still declines to be treated.)

    3. Alienor*

      Just in the last year at my office, we’ve called an ambulance for someone who fainted and was fine (they got checked out by the paramedics, declined further treatment and were taken home by a family member), and also for someone who was transported to the hospital and ended up dying shortly afterward. Sometimes it’s hard to gauge on your own how serious a problem is, so when in doubt, it’s always better to call for professional help.

    4. HRChick*

      We had someone get stung by a bee, use their epi, refuse any offers of ambulances or rides, walk to his car and die before he got there. He was a much-beloved coach at the university. There’s a building named after him. I never knew him, but people are still very sad about it.

  22. Scott M*

    #4 : sometimes parents will do a trial run with a new babysitter, and stay in the house the first time. This is especially true if the child has never been without the parents. Normally they would tell you this up front.

  23. Red Reader*

    #2 – Is there a reason that at some point in the last ten months (or more like, the first week) you didn’t go “hey, you gonna open that or just decorate with it? :) “

    1. Murphy*

      If I were OP2, I feel like I would have felt a little awkward pointing it out at first so I might not have said anything…and then as time went on and it was still there, I might feel more awkward bringing it up after all that time.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        I feel like, after 10 months, it’s totally reasonable to say something like that. Either what you or Red Reader suggested. But you also have to know your audience.

    2. SAT*

      Yes this! For all our sakes OP 2 please just ask her why she he hasn’t opened it! If you’re willing to ask for it back you should at least ask first why she hasn’t opened it. Agree that I would have asked in the first week. But use a neutral tone, curious but not accusing. I bet she doesn’t even “see” it anymore.

      1. Whats In A Name*

        I was going to comment the same. If OK with “can I have that back” certainly OP can muster a “So, is there a reason you still haven’t opened my gift? Were you waiting for a really bad day so it would cheer you up?”

    3. Bad Candidate*

      I almost wonder if the person thinks it’s not a gift wrapped gift but something that is supposed to look like a decorative gift.

  24. Aloot*

    #2: You absolutely can ask for it back, but it’s a horribly rude thing to do and will make people think much less of you and your lack of manners. As it stands now *she* is the rude one, and it’s best if you let it stay that way. I would either not give her another gift again ever, or just buy her something (very) cheap from the dollar store. Not as an actual gift but as a token of “I am not excluding you from something I am including everyone else in.” Spending a dollar on a gift for her might be a great investment to avoid any drama about excluding her from the gift-giving, if you do give gifts to everyone else.

    #4: It’s not overpayment, it’s a tip! Would you tip a service person who did a great job? It’s the same thing here.

  25. Pudding*

    #1 – if you are embarrassed already, talk to your boss. Give him an explanation that you are okay, explain you don’t want to be a spectacle and ask he give an update to your coworkers. This is a good way to avoid everyone overwhelming you buy asking what happened and if your okay

  26. Not an IT Guy*

    #1 – Listen to everyone else, the right thing was done and no one will think of you as weak or crazy! And be very grateful that you work at a place that will call an ambulance for you and most likely won’t punish you for needing one.

  27. KR*

    Hi OP. I’ve been carted away twice in an a from two separate jobs. The first happened at the job I’m at now. I was severly dehydrated and had an untreated potassium deficiency. I excused myself because I felt like I was going to be sick and in the bathroom I sat on the floor then played down and couldn’t get up. I felt like I couldn’t breathe, I was having chest palpitations and my vision was narrowing. Since I work in municipal government I knew the paramedics who took me away (and fortunately dispatch is within our phone network so it wasn’t a big show to call an ambulance) and I got some questions about it but everyone mostly forgot about it. My boss does take me seriously if I feel faint or need to sit down – not that he didn’t before. Since I’ve got dehydrated like that quite a few times since it’s helpful if I need to call out because he gets it. The second time was when I was working in a cafe. I woke up sick but I worked an early morning shift and couldn’t find anyone that early to come in for me. There was one person coming in two hours after I did, so even though I had to sit down frequently and moved more slowly I thought I could wait until she came in to go rest. Unfortunately it became sitting between every customer and then not being able to stand up to help the customers much less handle drive through, running food and the morning rush. That one I was just severly dehydrated as opposed to deficient in something so after they took me to the ER to get fluids I took a taxi back to work and worked a few hours because I needed the money. No one ever thought less of me for it (I think) but they did try to remind me to drink water. More so the cook I was working with that day told me it was scary to see me so out of it and she was glad I was okay but then things were back to normal.

  28. Lontra Canadensis*

    Nosebleed from hell ambulance trip here. I wasn’t embarrassed, but I was annoyed – after calling for help and telling co-workers that I needed to get to an ER, a couple of them were standing there debating where the closest ER was, and should someone drive me or call 911, blah blah blah, indecision-cakes. At that point I broke out The Mom Voice and *told* them to call. Even the EMTs were impressed by the amount of bleeding. :)

    1. Bad Candidate*

      Ha. My dad had a house fire a few years back. He was outside at the time but left his cell phone in the house. We lived next door but we were at work, so were most of other neighbors. So all he could do was try to put it out with the garden hose before it got too big. One neighbor comes by and says “You havin a problem there, Neal?” He says yes! “You want me to call 911?” YES! “Are you sure?” Neighbor is lucky my dad was focused with the garden hose.

      1. Whats In A Name*

        I am replaying this over and over in my head. But in my version the neighbor has a garden hose around his neck shortly after he asks “Are you sure?”

        1. Bad Candidate*

          It’s like you know my father! If he wasn’t trying to literally save the house I think he would have strangled the guy.

    2. Garland Not Andrews*

      We call that the “Mama’s had Enough! Voice” ! It does not matter if she is your mama or not, anyone hearing it straightens up and flies right! My Mom is really good at it. With five of us she had to be!

    3. seejay*

      I needed to get to the hospital/ER and it was only two blocks from my apartment. I tried to walk, but I was actually suffering from severe blood loss at the time, to the point that I was actually in… well… I was in pretty much life-threatening danger at that point, but I was also kind of not thinking straight either so *walking* seemed logical since it was only two blocks.

      Well, I made it a block before I collapsed.

      I managed to signal for help from a parking meter lady who was ticketing cars. I probably could have made the rest of the walk there with someone helping me but she called 911 or something instead and I hear sirens and I’m just groaning inwardly because I know there’s an ambulance coming.

      Nope, not an ambulance.

      A fire truck. The full size one. With a ladder on it. And six big burly firemen in full gear get out to ask me what’s going on and the emergency. I’ll spare the TMI but I explained I was bleeding and had to give them the TMI details. More sirens eventually and the fire truck ambulance shows up where they get me inside, strap me up on the stretcher, hook me up to an IV and stabilize me, and drive me… one block.

      In truth, yes, it was an emergency, I was actually dangerously low on blood, I had to get a transfusion, I was super weak, and it was *dumb as rocks* to try to walk in the state I was in, but boy was I mad, annoyed, and embarrassed as shit to have that much hoopla surrounding the whole thing, *especially* given that it was one block away.

      1. Augusta Sugarbean*

        For anyone still reading, the reason that so many resources are sent is that phone calls in an emergency are not reliable sources of information. People calling are generally not medical professionals and are not able to assess the severity of the emergency. And dispatchers cannot reasonably assess a situation over the phone. And emergency situations can deteriorate quickly. Believe me, you’d rather have too many EMS resources than too few. So the safest approach is to send a standard set of resources. It’s much better to turn them around when they aren’t needed than to try to get more on the way.

        You yourself were experiencing the emergency and were not able to accurately assess the severity. I’m not sure why you’d be mad and annoyed that many people showed up to make sure you didn’t die. One block away from the ER is still not in the ER.

  29. Anononon*

    During the interview phase for my current job, a previous supervisor for an internship emailed one of the hiring managers on my behalf. My job, now, is in the same exact area as the internship, and my supervisor works closely with multiple people, including the hiring manager, in my current company. So, I think it was a legit, and super kind, thing for her to do.

  30. Erin*

    #4 – I think it would be highly, highly unlikely that they’d say, whoops we overpaid you, we need you to pay that back! It is almost certainly a tip like Alison said, to show appreciation.

    I too have babysat while parents were home. (One was a bit amusing – the mom was working and the dad had had his wisdom teeth out and had an infection on top of that, and was on pretty heavy painkillers. He attempted to play videogames and ended up staring blankly at the TV in a stupor. Definitely not in a good set of mind to take care of his daughter, ha.)

    But I think babysitting when the parents are home can be really awkward, so I’m betting this family acknowledged that by giving you extra money. Like, hey, I know we were here, but we really needed you here and you did a great job and you deserve to be compensated for it.

    1. Ama*

      When I was babysitting I often got larger tips when the job was a bit unusual — parents stayed home, very short duration, etc. Once I was only watching one of a pair of sisters that I regularly sat for while the older one went to a school thing with her parents, and I got a big tip because the little one was very upset that she was left out and cried almost the entire time.

  31. LBK*

    #5 – Are they good letters from people whose opinions you trust? You seem to be really, really focused on interpreting what it means about the candidate that she took this approach and a lot less focused on what those letters actually say, which I think would give you a lot more concrete information about this candidate’s professionalism, propensity for following direction and ability to think strategically. You’re being presented with a history book and you’re still trying to read tea leaves – neither one will predict the future perfectly, but one’s a hell of a lot more reliable.

    1. OP#5*

      OP#5 here. Yes, I take your point about content over process. I’m not sure I would use the word “trust,” but the letters are from two volunteers whom I found kept me on my toes, which does speak well of the applicant’s ability to work successfully with all kinds of people. I know I don’t want my gut reaction to color my view of this person’s candidacy, so this is a helpful articulation of how to separate the two.

      1. LBK*

        Thanks for following up! And that isn’t to say you can’t take the methodology into account at all, for sure – just make sure you’re looking at both pieces, not just one, which it sounds like you’re doing.

  32. Karen*

    Oh geeze, I have ADHD and #2 is something I could totally see myself doing. I’d want the person to point it out to me and be understanding and laugh it off.

  33. Former Retail Manager*

    OP#2….you’ve reminded me of a somewhat similar situation with one of my co-workers. Every year at Christmas I make homemade cookies (3 types) for our entire workgroup of about 12 people and our manager. I gift these cookies in individual tins along with a holiday card. As most people know, homemade dessert type items that don’t require refrigeration last about 3-5 days, max. Fast forward to March of the next year. One of the co-workers I gave these cookies to told me that she’d sat them on her kitchen counter and left them there until a few days prior when she thought about eating one, IN MARCH! Fortunately, she decided against that and tossed them out. No idea why she told me this because I think it made her look both ungrateful for the very time consuming homemade gift and a bit ridiculous for not realizing that homemade items don’t last that long. But whatever….I have a good rapport with her and just wrote it off as a funny story.

    For what it’s worth, this person doesn’t tend to participate in office gifting hardly ever. No contributions for retirement gifts, baby showers, secret Santa, nothing. In her mind, I don’t think she considers office gifting to be very important to include how she should react when she receives a gift. I can only wonder if your co-worker has similar views that aren’t necessarily intended to offend, but rather it’s just not a priority.

  34. Bananistan*

    #2 – I could see myself being this person- not now, but maybe in high school or college when I was unbearably shy and anxious. Someone gives me a gift, I’m not sure whether I should open it in front of them or not, the moment passes, then I still have this gift and maybe the person will be offended if I take it home to open it there, but I don’t want to draw attention to myself by opening it at the office, now weeks have gone by so opening it will be even more attention-grabbing and weird, now months have gone by so it’ll be SUPER weird… This may not be what’s happening with your coworker, but if you know her to be shy or awkward, it’s one possibility.

  35. KL*

    OP#4 – It sounds like they gave you tip. When I babysat years ago, the parents that tipped were the ones that were happy with the job you did and wanted you to come back. I babysat for the family that lived across the street and they paid very well because they didn’t have to pick me up or drive me home. :)

    And yes, it can be awkward when the parents are there. I’m not sure about your family, but that happened to me with the same family above. One of the parents was a physician and was on call and the other had something to do that day. Since the physician could be called in at any minute, I stayed over that afternoon until the other parent returned. The only time I remember being weird was when the kids were being quiet and he asked me if I had any homework that needed to be done. Since I did, he sent me back to my house to get my math book and I sat at their kitchen table and worked on my homework while his children did theirs.

    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      Off-topic: Is tipping a thing with babysitters?

      It seems weird to me. You agree on a price, but then… you pay something more than that? Why not just agree on a higher price ahead of time?

      I realize that most tipping follows the same logic (and most tipping seems silly to me too), but it seems especially egregious when it’s such a close, individual, personally-negotiated transaction.

      1. LBK*

        I think the tip for babysitting is usually a flat amount (like an extra $10 if you worked a couple hours and an extra $20 if it was more than 3 or so) rather than, say, a proportional 20% tip you would give a waiter. So including it in your rate would require some overly complicated calculations for something that’s, as you say, a more informal one-to-one transaction.

      2. caryatid*

        sometimes i just round up, say to the nearest $5-10, or i round up to the nearest hour.
        just to keep them happy. good babysitters are hard to find.

      3. Sarita*

        My customers usually tipped me an unspecified amount on top of my normal rate, usually higher on weekends or holidays, but I didn’t expect it and sometimes they didn’t do it. Often it was a very small tip (like the total came to an odd number so they’d give me the next highest number in $20 bills and tell me to keep the change).

  36. Jean*

    OP #: I was carted off in an ambulance once too. I had some complications after my gallbladder was removed, and one morning found myself laid out on the floor in the kitchen at work with horrendous chest pain. I could barely breathe or speak and my hands and feet were numb. Everyone was VERY kind to me – my boss even got out my cell phone and called my husband right after she called 911. At the time I was in too much physical distress to be embarrassed, but I sure felt awkward afterward though. But my coworkers couldn’t have been nicer about it and honestly I’m glad they were there!

  37. Cat*

    I’m going to take this opportunity to recount a babysitting story from literally 20 years ago, about which I’m still bitter. I got paid $1.50 an hour to babysit a neighborhood kid (even in the ’90s, this was not a lot of money). One time, the parents were gone for three hours, only had a $5, and told me they’d take the extra 50 cents out of my payment next time.


    1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

      Holy cow. I did most of my babysitting in the ’90s, and even then I charged $5 an hour! I’m surprised you went back more than once.

      1. the gold digger*

        This is how stupid I am.

        A family called me from way outside of my neighborhood to babysit all day. Ten dollars for the entire day for four kids, two in diapers.

        They picked me up at 6 a.m. or so and dropped me at their house. The kitchen counters, table, and sinks were full of dirty dishes, so I had to do the dishes before I could give breakfast to the kids.

        There was not one clean diaper (this was in the days of cloth diapers) in the house, so I had to wash a load of diapers (youngsters, this was a nasty, disgusting task) before I could change the two kids in diapers.

        The kids were really -energetic. I literally had to pull one of them off the curtains while another was trying to climb out of the second-story window.

        Parents returned at about 5 p.m. Gave me ten whole measly dollars for an entire day of babysitting, maid, cook, and laundry service.

        When they called me again, I told them no, which was the smart thing. The not-smart thing (and she still has not forgiven me and rightfully so) was that I gave them my friend Jackie’s phone number when they asked. I bet they never got anyone to sit more than once and they relied on the timidity of 13 year old girls to demand their rights to get away with paying such crap money for such an awful situation.

    2. Observer*

      $1.5 an our in the 90s? That’s insane.

      I don’t think there would have been a “next time” for me.

      1. Elliot*

        In 2003, I made $2.50 an hour. It was what the parents could afford and it was not worth it!

        I currently only pay my daycare provider about $5/hour, but she has multiple kids. I wish I could pay her a whole lot more because she, you know, keeps my kid alive. I give her a bonus when I get a bonus, but it never feels like enough for what she does.

        Unfortunately, child care workers will never earn what they’re worth because they have to earn less than the people they work for by definition. It also means that children of higher paid parents often receive significantly better care in the most impressionable years of childhood, but that’s another beast altogether.

    3. Bananistan*

      I babysat for my neighbors twice when I was a teenager. The first time, they came home right on time and paid me twice what I had asked for. Awesome! Of course I agreed when they asked me to babysit again. That time, they came home 3 hours late, didn’t call to say they’d be late, and paid me exactly what they owed– no tip, no “overtime.” That was a big disappointment.

    4. HRChick*

      I’m going to vent too!

      Baby sat for someone who said she would be back by 9. Got back at 1am and, guess what? Had no cash or checks so she couldn’t pay me.

      She lived across the street from me and so I would drop by and ask to be paid. Finally had to get my dad to call her before she would pay me. She shortchanged me and kept telling me how rude we were

      She never got a babysitter in that town again!

      Or, at least in that neighborhood since my sister and I were the only babysitters. She would call all the time begging too. HA

  38. Caroline*

    It is very common (although not required) to give the babysitter a little extra. Good, reliable babysitters are extremely valuable to parents, and this is how they make sure you’re motivated to say yes next time they need you.

    Even if they didn’t need to leave the house, the work you did for them was valuable. If they didn’t want you there, they wouldn’t have hired you! There’s no need to be over-grateful or think that you don’t deserve the compensation. Show your appreciation for their generosity by doing a great job babysitting next time, too.

  39. Caroline*

    OP#2 Because I’m snarky, I might say, “Hm, is that the gift I gave you? Oh dear…I did give it air holes, but it’s probably dead by now!”

  40. Gretchen*

    #1 – I was an attorney at an intense, large law firm and had a full-on tonic clonic seizure (having never had a seizure before). The secretaries found me convulsing on the floor and foaming at the mouth and I got carried away on a stretcher into an ambulance when everyone was coming and going from lunch. I’m here to tell you that even the people who were generally jerks at the firm were incredibly nice and understanding and sincerely worried about me and my career was 100% fine after.

  41. Roman Holiday*

    OP 1 Just piling on to say you have nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about. People get sick or have health issues all the time – it doesn’t reflect on their value as an employee. One of my colleagues had a seizure in our office this year and we had to call an ambulance. The only thing we felt was relief that we’d seen it start (in our office configuration, it could easily have been missed) and that the paramedics had gotten there so fast and that he was back the next week. FWIW, he was quite embarrassed about “causing a scene” as well, so your reaction seems totally normal to me!

  42. marymoocow*

    If they had paid you $20, then it would be reasonable to think they didn’t have exact change or they just rounded up. But they gave you $21, which means they pulled out a $20 bill then made the effort to grab another bill. They wanted you to have that extra money. This is assuming they paid cash. If they paid by check (when they could write any dollar amount) then they definitely wanted you to have the extra tip.

    1. Uyulala*

      That’s a technique often used at restaurants too. If you pay $21 instead of just a $20 the server knows you don’t need change.

  43. Marisol*

    OP #4 – this is a really good opportunity for you to learn the lesson that you have every right to be well compensated for your work. As you get older you’ll have times when you need to negotiate your salary. If you can internalize the idea that you deserve top dollar now, you’ll do a lot better for yourself in the future.

  44. JoAnna*

    OP#1, this happened to one of my former co-workers. She had a kidney stone and the pain came on very suddenly while she was at work, so one of my other co-workers took her to the hospital. (It was only five minutes away so we didn’t call an ambulance instead, but we were debating.) I’m sure she was embarrassed but, as Alison said, we were all just very relieved that she was all right and that it wasn’t a super-serious problem. Don’t worry about it.

  45. Nethwen*

    Q4: If the OP was raised like I was, on stories of people being given too much pay as a test of their honesty/integrity/etc., it can be quite disconcerting to be paid extra with no explanation. Adults could have helped me so much by 1) explaining that for some jobs, like babysitting, people pay extra, like a tip, and it’s fine to accept it, 2) if the adult is the one giving the extra saying something like, “I know this is more than you charge, but I don’t need change,” and 3) having discussions on how those stories fit into a modern context (they were normally based in the 1920s – 1950s).

  46. MissDisplaced*

    #1 Don’t feel bad. And you shouldn’t feel embarrassed either. You were clearly having an allergic reaction to something and, well, these things can happen to anyone at any time! Your coworkers did the right thing, and it could have actually saved your life if the situation had really been worse. They will be glad to year you’re OK and that this truly wasn’t anything life threatening–and yes, they will understand it was a scary moment.

  47. seejay*

    LW#4: back when I was first delivering newspapers (I was 12 or 13 at the time), one of the first people I collected from paid me $3.90 instead of the $3.25 they owed me and even though I was good at math, I was a bit flustered because I had the $3.25 there and a bunch of extra change, and I had no idea what to calculate to pay them back. It wasn’t like they gave me $4 in bills and I owed them 75 cents, it was $3 and 90 cents in change and I would have had to hand them back exactly a bunch of change that they’d already given me.

    The elderly gentleman looked at my confused face as I was trying to figure out how to calculate the difference between 90 and 25 and what to give back to him (which I knew how to do but because of the way this came at me, I was so confused at the time, I was just floundering) and he just smiled and said “that’s a tip dear”. Oh! Sudden lightbulb moment.

    So yes, it’s a tip for a job well done and because they appreciate the work you’re doing! Take it and enjoy it!

    (and yes, that’s a sign of the times that a 65 cent tip for delivering newspapers was big at the time. It might’ve been more, I could have the prices off, I honestly can’t remember, but it was 30 years ago and us old folks get forgetful.) ^_^

  48. Suzi D.*

    OP1: A similar thing happened to me, and everyone forgot about it after a few weeks, once I was back at work and OK. I had the same kind of concerns, but everyone really was just glad I was fine. A short, “the doctor said that everything is fine now.” seemed to work well for me.

  49. Mena*

    1. Please don’t over-think this – everyone will just be happy to see that you are ok. In a previous position, a person sitting behind me collapsed to the floor, I sat on the floor with him, talking until the ambulance arrived. When he returned to work a week later, I simply said, “I’m so glad to see you are feeling better!” and immediately moved onto a work topic. Some socially clumsy people with ask “Why?” questions which I suggest you answer with, “Things are sorted out now.” and then move to a work topic. If questioned further, just say “It doesn’t matter now – it is all sorted out.” (and yeah, you’ll get nosy people that question what happened … some just don’t understand boundaries at all) Good luck and hope you are feeling better.

  50. Moonsaults*

    OP #1, I have had two instances where someone had to be transported for medical attention by ambulance. Both times the coworkers involved were aware that those people were in a vulnerable embarassing situation and didn’t make any sort of fuss about it, there wasn’t gossip or hearsay involved either.

    One of those situations happened in a shop that had a bunch of turds who didn’t even like each other and they still all cared and were upset but very much so in that “I just saw someone I know in a bad situation”. I hope you feel better and have the quiet support of your office as well.

  51. me*

    LW#2: I have a similar gift story. I gave a small potted cactus to each of three co-workers a couple of Christmases ago. Two of the colleagues eventually took theirs home. The third one left hers sitting atop her cube wall but never watered it. You could see that it was slowly shrinking and shriveling over the months. A couple years later she moved cubes and left the cactus in the old cube. Its still there, because no one new has moved in there yet. It’s beyond saving at this point. Weird!

  52. Kira*

    I’m a fairly recent lurker, but had to chime in with my story of support for OP1. I was working a shift in the emergency room as a medical student, when I started getting bad stomach pains. I thought I could tough it out until my vision started to go black. Even then, I thought I was tough enough to make it to a chair and sit down casually, rather than embarrassing myself by sitting on the floor. I was wrong. In a very detached fashion, I watched myself topple over in a faint, hitting my head on the counter on the way down. Now, at least they didn’t have to call an ambulance, but only because I was already in emergency. Not only did my coworkers watch me pass out and hit my head, they then had to treat me. I was embarrassed as well, but they were all very kind, concerned, and professional. There were no repercussions.

  53. Pommette*

    Op #4: Back when I was of babysitting age (late 1990s/early 2000s), it was common for parents to pay sitters for a minimum number of hours (typically, 2-4), even when the sitters worked fewer hours, or, in instances where jobs were cancelled at the last minute, didn’t work at all.

    I protested the first time an employer offered to pay me for four hours when I had only worked one. Her explanation was pretty convincing: if it weren’t for the one hour you spent working here, you wouldn’t have spent any time or energy/money getting here, and you could have made other plans for this evening. The time that you gave up is valuable. (Perhaps unsurprisingly, this person was also a successful small-business owner; I suspect that some of that success was due to the fact that she treated her adult employees with the same kind of respect as she did her teenaged ones).

    Babysitting is hard work; it’s also important work. Because it’s often performed casually, and by very young (and historically/typically female) people, it’s also work that is usually performed without the legal protections that are normally accorded to workers (e.g. minimum wage and minimum shift length regulations). You don’t need to feel guilty because your employers went beyond the expected minimum: it means that they can afford to do so, and that they think that your work and your time are valuable.

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