ask the readers: what have you seen go wrong while living or traveling with coworkers?

Earlier this year, I told the ridiculous story of the intern house I was in charge of, and how the interns living there made tea for a burglar, who then robbed them when they left to go to the beach.

I want to know your own tales of ridiculousness that you witnessed or perpetrated while living with coworkers (camp counselors, this is your moment!) or semi-living with them (such as during work travel where you had to share living space). Tales of petty antics are highly encouraged.

Please share in the comments!

{ 1,062 comments… read them below }

    1. Tableau Wizard*

      I don’t know if i’m more excited or anxious to read these. I’m sharing a hotel room with a coworker for the first time next month. I’m not looking forward to it.

      1. hibernation station*

        fwiw I’ve shared hotel rooms with coworkers five times and each time has been fairly innocuous.

        1. Scrooge McDunk*

          Scrolling quickly, I thought this said “each time has been fairly incestuous.”

          1. Crochettouche*

            “How quasi incestuous?”
            “Like a 4.”

            I have been waiting a year to use that quote from Archer.

    2. Cacwgrl*

      LOL I am now hustling through my last assignment to make time for this reading. Got my popcorn ready!

  1. Snark*

    I’ve told my story of the accidental purchase of an assault rifle traveling for field work, but I was the coworker there. Nonetheless, unless one’s story ends with “what the hell do I do with an old AK-47 I didn’t want in the first place?!”…..

    1. CmdrShepard4ever*

      I have not heard this story, would you be willing to repost it, or the link to the original comment about it please? I’m sure there are other who have not heard/read it either.

      1. Snark*

        Can’t find it, sooooo…..

        I was doing field work in a really remote part of the Peruvian Andes when I was in grad school. It was this tiny little village on a pass at like 16,000 feet, and there was a Peruvian army (or military police?) checkpoint manned by a bunch of perpetually drunk, bored young dudes about a month out of basic. It was a really warm, sunny day right before we left, and we had gotten into our last few beers, and the Army guys were shooting old liquor bottles and getting drunk themselves. I requested to join in the dumbness, and the sergeant knew I was a rich gringo, and he decided to start being concerned about wasteful usage of Army equipment. So I negotiated, I thought, for the purchase of some ammunition. They thought I was negotiating for the purchase of the entire rifle, and I compounded that by screwing up the math (booze + hypoxia != math skillz) on the exchange rate. I hosed the mountainside with a clip or two, had a grand time, and then realized, to general hilarity, that I’d actually purchased this beat-ass old AK-47.

        Our principal investigator was, by the way, thrilled by this story.

          1. Snark*

            Nah, I left it on their front porch before we left. And I think it was like $25 or so. A month’s wages for them, a priceless story for me.

        1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

          This reminds me of something from Harpo Marx’ autobiography….I can’t put my finger on it. Yet.

            1. seewhatimean*

              oh how I love both this show and this story. His absolute deadpan “yeah, and?” delivery just made it perfect.

        2. SL #2*

          Snark, I would read multiple books by you that are nothing but stories about your field work and your career.

          1. Snark*

            That is a gigantic compliment – thank you. I’d actually love to write a book or a cookbook, if I ever have the time and organization to get around to it.

              1. Bigglesworth*

                There’s a chai recipe?!?! Please share (again if the case may be). I’ve been looking for a good chai recipe.

            1. TardyTardis*

              Dictate your stories as if you were telling them to someone (in fact, have someone there who has not heard them, apply beer as necessary). Feed the tape/digital file to a version of Dragon Naturally Speaking or other text to speech program. Edit the text file. See, not that hard…

          2. YuliaC*

            Yes, me too. This is just so far outside of most of our normal lives. So damn out there. So interesting. We would never see any glimpse of this if not for you. Please know that many, many people *DESPERATELY LONG* to read more of this kind of thing.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I mean, don’t we all have those?

      … Seriously, I have no memory of this story.

      Two of my favorite ecology professional stories from people without AK-47s:
      • Fossil hunters in the Arctic (which is where the right age rocks were), on a gravel plain with no perspective clues: “Hell, there is a white shape between us and the camp. A moving white shape! A polar bear! And we don’t have a rifle… No, wait, that’s a bunny.”
      • Meteorologists in the Arctic: “Hungry polar bears have surrounded the research station, having mistaken us for seals. We don’t have a rifle.”

          1. ArtsNerd*

            Just FYI, the casual use of the phrase “spirit animal” is offensive to some Native folks. I’m working to change my habits to say “Patronus” instead.

            1. YuliaC*

              Oh I like the substitution! I am guilty myself of liking the “spirit animal” phrase, but recognize that we do have to respect the anscient tradition. Will be using Patronus from now on, as long as JKR does not object. I don’t think she will! She is usually all for making people feel their best.

          2. CanadianDot*

            Okay, I know, I’m being that person, but it might be better to say something like “Polar Bunny is my new patronus”, as spirit animal is cultural appropriate of first nations religious beliefs.

            1. Friday*

              Good to know! Thank you ArtsNerd and CanadianDot. I am sure JK Rowling would approve as well.

      1. Snark*

        In general, I find that ecologists have the best stories. They’re adventurous and outdoorsy and do fieldwork, but they’re still charmingly inept in a lot of ways, with the result that they can end up in some amusingly Steve Irwin/Mr. Bean scenarios.

        1. Jersey's mom*

          I did my thesis on ground squirrels. Was doing trap and release to determine behavior patterns. When I caught one, I’d sit on the groun and hold the wiggly little beasts while I identified the individual and took some other data. One managed to pull out of my grasp and shot into a nearby burrow, which was actually my pant leg. Recalling that it was covered in fleas, I jumped up with my hands clamped around my thigh, hopping around and yelling obscenities until I finally got it out (while keeping my pants on). When I looked up, I saw the windows of the field station building filled with pre-teens laughing hysterically.

          Gotta love those professional moments.

          1. Snark*

            You unwittingly participated in the time-honored Welsh sport/drinking game of ferret legging! Except you were squirrel legging there.

            1. only acting normal*

              Nope, sorry, us Welsh aren’t claiming credit/being blamed for that one! Ferrets in trews is a Northern England thing, Yorkshire I believe.
              If you’re after questionable Welsh sports try bog-snorkelling.

              1. seewhatimean*

                My parentage allows questionable sports from both areas. Please advise on bog-ferretting -in-snorkel-and-trews.

          2. MasterOfBears*

            I worked with black bears in grad school. We did all workups tranquilized (duh) and extracted a vestigial premolar for aging. (Tiny little tooth of no practical use for the bear.) Also an absolute pain in the butt to get out. So there I was sitting cross legged on the ground with a 190 pound black bear’s head in my lap and both hands in his mouth up to the wrist, trying to work this tooth out.

            Did you know black bears can snore?

            Black bear (with, to remind you, his head in my lap and both my hands in his mouth) made this big sleepy grunt/snore/snarl noise. According to the guys watching, I went from seated on the ground to crouched behind a tree six feet away without any apparent intermediate stages.

            This was four years and two states ago, and I have yet to live it down.

            1. Cercis*

              I have a forestry degree from Oklahoma State. At the time, we were required to do a summer camp out of state – ours was in Montana. One day we’re out in the field and one group yells “bear headed your way” and we laughed. Until it came ambling our way. I found myself backing down the hill to the van, with no conscious thought. Even better, as I was backing, I was keeping one of my classmates between me and the bear. Apparently, I’d really absorbed the idea that you don’t have to be faster than the bear, just faster than your companions. 25 years later, and I still think I would sacrifice any one of them for myself (the man I went on to marry was in a different group that day – after they realized we were a couple, we no longer got randomly assigned to the same groups).

      2. Breda*

        One of my professors in college (for a class in circumpolar ethnography!) did field work in Alaska, and he talked about how they WERE given a rifle for polar bears, but were also warned that if they killed one, there would be so much paperwork they’d wish they just let the bear attack.

        1. Snark*

          I’m just imagining a perfectly ordinary little snowshoe hare who entertains himself by trolling researchers.

          1. Goya de la Mancha*

            Well obviously it was, but that thing is going to be damn near 6 ft with fangs and fire breathing when I retell the story to save face ;)

      3. Treecat*

        Oh this reminds me of a story from my paleontology advisor. He was doing work in Patagonia and was out on a boat for some reason. A penguin swam into the hull and broke its neck, and since it was already dead and he was camping by himself he decided to cook it and eat it. Protip: penguins apparently taste horrible.

        (Honestly, in general, any bird that eats fish isn’t going to taste very good. It’s why duck hunters don’t hung mergansers, but I digress.)

          1. Treecat*

            He was definitely not a normal dude, that is for sure.

            (He also smuggled the dead, eaten penguin’s bones back in the US and its skeleton has pride of place in his office to this day.)

            1. Quill*

              Oh my god, this is something my brother would do. (He’s a grad student of Evolutionary Biology so… fun times have been had in the local woods hunting for deer bones.)

            2. Jersey's mom*

              Oh, sure! My house is decorated in “modern biologist”. Skulls, nests, feathers, beaver chewed log bits, and other odd bits of stuff gathered while I was out and about doing work. God forbid you look in my freezer at the dead bits I’ve found and put away until I could properly clean them.

              Last party at my house, the table appetizers included a bowl of owl pellets and my dissection set for those who were so inclined.

              1. Treecat*

                I totally have bits and bobs of things I’ve collected during my previous life as a field biologist–in my case, mostly fossils–but I also once put a dead squirrel (in a plastic bag, I hasten to add!) in the freezer and neglected to mention that fact to my (non-scientist) roommate, who got the fright of her life looking for ice cream. Oops.

                I’m not surprised that my advisor wanted to keep the skeleton of the unfortunate penguin he consumed, however, it was very illegal to bring the bones out of Argentina and into the US without a permit so it was a BIG risk.

                1. seewhatimean*

                  In some places (here) it’s also illegal to have ‘domestic’ wildlife parts unless they are shed naturally (ie not picked up from a found dead) unless you have the right permits. Skulls from most things would be in that category, as, surprisingly enough perhaps, would the squirrel.

              2. Massmatt*

                Umm, by pellets do you mean you served your guests owl Pooh?

                I hope this means “owl chow”!

                1. UK Nerd*

                  Owls eat mice and voles whole, then regurgitate the bones and fur as pellets. Dissecting them to work out what the owl has been eating is a fun and educational activity for children. I would totally go to a party with owl pellets to dissect.

                2. Jersey's mom*

                  Nope, barfed pellets. At the same party, a bunch of us got into a very animated discussion of poison ivy vs poison sumac: identifying characteristics and chanel throughout the life cycle.

            3. TardyTardis*

              This reminds me of the cow skull my daughter had to boil down and label for her Anatomy class, which she still has in a box at this house (granted, she had to make multiple moves in search of her doctorate). I swear, when she and her husband finally put a down payment on a house, guess what their house-warming gift is going to be (though explaining to the nice airport people why we’re carrying it will likely be Awkward).

              Oh, and we made her boil it outside on the Coleman, because we’re not entirely stupid…

              1. Treecat*

                I used to teach a comparative vertebrate anatomy lab, and on the bone exam I would often put out a cow thoracic vertebra and ask students to identify it. Those vertebrae have an extremely tall spinous process and many hapless test-takers would mistake it for a femur. :)

                (This is why you always study out of the bone box, too, kids!!)

              2. Hlyssande*

                That’s amazing and you really need to give it as the housewarming gift. Take pictures of her face when she opens it.

              3. boo bot*

                I was skimming and read this as “the cow skull my daughter had to boil down and decorate,” and imagined an elementary school-aged child with a skull and a bunch of glitter before I figured out what happened.

            1. Jay*

              I once had to explain the severed baby seal head in the passenger seat of my old dodge hatch back to an irate and rather puzzled state trooper at 03:30 in the morning.
              Fortunately for me I:
              A) had all of my paperwork in order (it was from a dead specimen collected during legitimately sanctioned NMFS field work) and
              B) had managed to override my sleep-deprived brain and refrained from putting a ballcap and sunglasses on it.

              1. Jersey's mom*

                We were doing a study of beaver populations, so I had a truckload of frozen skinned headless beaver carcasses that I was taking to the lab (they had been donated by local trappers). The heads were in a separate load going to a different lab. I got a lot of looks at the gas station. You forget that not everyone is involved in sciencey stuff.

            2. Anonicat*

              I should add, I’ve dissected both mosquitoes and human foreskins in a professional capacity. I still forget this is weird sometimes.

              1. Anonymous Pterodactyl*

                I first read that as you having dissected the foreskins of both humans and mosquitos…

                1. Cornflower Blue*

                  Until I read your comment, I too thought that they’d dissected mosquito foreskins and was very surprised to hear mosquitoes even had those.

      4. Anonicat*

        We were having a “who has the worst field site” competition at a conference, because in mosquito-borne disease research it’s always some variety of swamp. Hands down winner was the guy who discovered that one of his trap sites was where a cassowary liked to hang out.

        If you don’t know what a cassowary is, they’re like a velociraptor that has decided to eat fruit instead of meat, but has retained the razor claws and mean temper. This guy would come to collect/reset his mosquito trap and if the cassowary was there he’d have to just wait in his ute till it decided to go away.

  2. Joan Holloway*

    I immediately remembered one of my favorite posts, “When Satan’s Intern Comes to Stay.”

    1. Damn it, Hardison!*

      I misread that as “When Santa’s Intern Comes to Stay” and thought, oh, that sounds delightful! Satan’s intern, on the other hand, not so…festive.

          1. YuliaC*

            Oh my god.. Is there an etymological reason these two entities are spelled so similar?! Experts, please do weigh in, I must know.

        1. Bored IT Guy*

          Is this like Pirates of Penzance where the boy is bound apprentice to a Pirate instead of a Pilot?

    2. Liane*

      Between this and “Snark and the AK47” do we need to read any further to find the Top 2? YES, we do!

  3. Hills to Die on*

    Not a super funny story, but a satisfying one. Had a manager (Dan) who sucked and managed to be hypercritical of me all the time, giving me incorrect feedback (basically, criticizing me for being right and thinking I was wrong. All the time.) Dave was a manager and Rick was Dave and Dan’s boss. Dave was driving us from the hotel to the client site, and made it clear that his car was leaving at 7:30 sharp. We all got in the car except Dan and another coworker and went to the client site. Dan calls later, wanting to know where everyone is, and we tell him we are already at the office working. Everyone rolls their eyes and Rick looks at me and says, ‘Good. Now maybe we can actually get some work done for once.” When Dan finally did show up, he proceed to say and do so may dumb things that even the client was laughing at him by lunch. Total dyfunction, but so gratifying. Not sorry.

    1. Glomarization, Esq.*

      unable to follow your narrative unless you use GoT names, pls fix and re-post

        1. Triplestep*

          I am laughing because I couldn’t follow this at all. I have never seen an episode of Game of Thrones and those names mean zero to me, but vanilla one-syllable dude names are apparently too much for my addled brain!

        1. Liane*

          I don’t follow GoT (although I have read a couple of the novels) but I do find using those names fun. Or names from any other well-known movie/TV series.novels. Maybe someone will try Lewis Carroll?

          1. YuliaC*

            Oh my. Please do more Carroll than GOT, people, if you can. I would be so happy. I can’t watch GOT due to too much violent images for my continual mental health. But I guess Lewis made most of the characters way too mad for drawing many analogies. I just keep feeling I am Alice all of the time, versus the way too mad outside world. GOT references are more humanly “normal,” while being extreme enough to illustrate the reference…

            1. bopper*

              I’m with you, YuliaC. My DH was watching GoT and I thought I would give it a try. After some dude was stabbing some other dude in the eyeballs, I said “No not for me”

    2. Hills to Die on*

      Not a super funny story, but a satisfying one. Had a manager (Joffrey) who sucked and managed to be hypercritical of me all the time, giving me incorrect feedback (basically, criticizing me for being right and thinking I was wrong. All the time.) Tommen was a manager and Jamie was Tommen and Joffrey’s boss. Tommen was driving us from the castle to King’s Landing, and made it clear that his carriage was leaving at 7:30 sharp. We all got in the carriage except Joffrey and Myrcella and went to King’s Landing. Joffrey calls later, wanting to know where everyone is, and we tell him we are already at the King’s Landing council meeting working. Everyone rolls their eyes and Jamie looks at me and says, ‘Good. Now maybe we can actually get some work done for once.” When Joffrey finally did show up, he proceed to say and do so may dumb things that even the subjects from King’s Landing were laughing at him by lunch. Total dyfunction, but so gratifying. Not sorry.

  4. Thursday Next*

    I was traveling with a colleague internationally and sharing a hotel room with her. One evening, I came back to our room to find her turning the place upside down. She was looking for her passport and airline ticket (that’s how long ago this was). I asked where she’d left them.

    Her answer? In a brown paper bag. Which she’d placed on top of the waste paper basket. The waste paper basket that housekeeping had emptied earlier that day…

    Words were…inadequate to the occasion.

      1. Thursday Next*

        She had a secondary ID that the airport accepted (again, this was a long time ago!) and had initiated the replacement process through her consulate.

        Replacing the plane ticket was an unbelievably difficult and lengthy process–actually more difficult than the passport! But it got squared away just in time to board the plane.

        She was a really experienced traveler, too, so I was baffled! And almost impressed at her level of incredulity that something in a wastepaper basket *would actually get thrown out*.

        1. MsChanandlerBong*

          I am on my fourth Social Security card, and I used to lose my driver’s license, keys, and debit card all the time, but even *I* would never do that!

        2. Liane*

          You’ve got me worried. Considering the chaos of my son’s room, I fear the only reason this won’t be the fate of his passport, is that I am not That Mom who cleans the bedrooms of adult kids. (Now it could still fall into a wandering black hole…)

          1. Just Employed Here*

            Yesterday a colleague found the passport of the child of another person who works in the building in the (shared) photocopier… The parent was on some kind of work trip, but we managed to get hold of her and she came back for it after hours. The child was due to leave for his first international sports camp with his team today at 6.30 am…

          2. OhBehave*

            Those important cards and documents go into our fire safe in the basement. If we need something, we grab it, use it and put it back!

        3. MCL*

          I had to console my sister on an Air France flight once. She had accidentally left her eye contact case at security, so we rigged up a set up cups that she could use to store her contacts in so she could get a little sleep on the plane. Although I had put a note on the cups for the airline crew not to throw them away, they were nonetheless dumped while we were sleeping (totally understandable – the plane was dark and they looked like garbage). Fortunately, my sister had her glasses with her as a backup. Unfortunately, she was just vain enough that this was Not Acceptable. She was in tears in the back of the plane trying to get permission to literally dig through the plane garbage when a flight attendant came to get me to calm her down, and there she was surrounded by a gaggle of French flight attendants cooing in French accents that she was “so beautiful!” with her glasses! I love my sister, and I think she probably would grin and bear it now, but gosh my eyes were rolling out of my head!

    1. Higher Ed Database Dork*

      Ahhh this hurts. Whenever I travel I keep those things on my person at all times, especially the passport!

      1. Anonymosity*

        Me too; I have a thingy that hangs around my neck. If I’m sleeping on the plane, it’s in there, stuffed down my shirt and into my bra.

      2. Tsehafy*

        As some who works at an embassy abroad, please don’t do that. Keep a copy (even a certified copy) on your person and the passport in the safe.

        1. Higher Ed Database Dork*

          Good to know! It’s been a while since I’ve traveled internationally so I will do that next time!

        2. ArtsNerd*

          I had my purse stolen in Italy. Not a wallet. My entire giant, stuffed-to-the-gills purse.* When I went to get the police report** and so forth, everyone was highly concerned about my passport and getting it reported to the embassy. I WAS SO GLAD I LEFT IT AT THE APARTMENT.

          Anyway, don’t carry your passport on your person if you can avoid it.

          * It was embarrassing. I had just pulled out a bunch of cash to get gifts for my family, but on my way to put it back in my room, I ran into friends going to a carousel cafe for the Christmas market, so obviously I had to join. and I thought the spot under my feet was solid, but there was a big ole hole rotating around for someone to grab. But carousel cafe</em.

          **After several attempts across languages to explain that I was not actually on the steps of the Santa Croce church, but on a carousel in the middle of the piazza, and that it wasn't a wallet but my entire bag, I decided that "close enough" was fine. (I could read the Italian well enough to know it was wrong, but not speak it well enough for him to understand my corrections. He could speak English well enough to know I was filing a report for a stolen-thing-with-money-in-it, but not well enough to get more than the broad strokes.)

      3. Snark*

        Oooooh no. Don’t keep your passport on you. Keep it in a safe or locked, secured location. If you’re out and about, keep a copy or some other form of identification on you, so if you get pickpocketed or robbed, you have the passport safe and sound.

        1. Artemesia*

          This is an ongoing argument on Trip Advisor. Many tendentious types insist it is a legal requirement to carry the passport at all times; I remember being at the US Embassy in Paris on other business and being surrounded by semi hysterical travelers who trips had been interrupted by the need to replace their passports. Room safe when in a place and money belt under your clothes in transit.

          1. V2*

            It depends on the country. Some, like the Netherlands, require everyone to have ID on them, and for non-resident foreigners this can only be an original passport (the US passport card isn’t accepted). Other countries don’t require ID’s to be carried.

            1. Sorrischian*

              Yeah, in Russia you are very much required to have your passport and residency documents on your person, so this is one of those things that depends entirely on where you are traveling.

            2. Falling Diphthong*

              Yeah, my son and husband wanted to rent bikes in Germany, but it turned out they would have had to bring their passports. (I assume Germans could leave a more local ID as collateral.)

            3. SavannahMiranda*

              Ummm. Hrm. Lived in the NL for a year and I don’t remember this rule. My passport definitely lived under lock and key in my student housing.

              Although I’m not the type to go much of anywhere on the streets without some form of ID. But certain parts of town in the Netherlands were far too delightful to carry important international documents at the risk of losing them, and one’s lighter, down a twisty staircase.

              It probably is a rule and I never ran afoul of it. But I wasn’t about to risk being That Dumb American who lost their passport to the casual pickpocketry of blitzed international tourists.

        2. Angela Ziegler*

          I’ve just kept it in my shoe under my foot. It’s always with me, it can’t be picked out of a pocket or taken from the hotel room, and it’s not going to fall out. (unless I’m wearing obviously expensive shoes and a thief just HAS to have them.)

          1. ArtsNerd*

            That sounds so uncomfortable! (Also my feet are too small to fit a passport in my shoe.)

        3. Karen Blue*

          yeah expats are technically supposed to carry their passport or EU card at all times here in Germany. No way in hell i would carry round my Australian passport, it’s expensive to replace!

    2. CJH*

      Oof I empathize with this. I had to fish my wallet out of the dumpster yesterday because I left it in a paper grocery bag that I then used to take out the trash. Thankfully I realized early the next morning, since it was trash day!

      Did your colleague get her passport back?

      1. AnotherAlison*

        Perhaps you’re related to my husband. We ate dinner at Burger King then pulled in the driveway at home, and my husband couldn’t find his phone. Turned around, drove 5 mi back to BK, and found his phone in the trashcan. He had put it on the tray and dumped it in the trash. (He tried to blame my son and I because we had watched a video he was showing us, but we were able to prove that he was the last one to have his phone and the one who put it on the tray, ha.)

        1. Sheboing*

          My son did this with his retainer. Called the restaurant when we got home (IIRC a Weinerschnitzel) and one of their employees went through the trash and actually found it. That’s over an above in my book. We got her a $50 gift card

          1. HRJ*

            I used to work at a tourist attraction, and one of the things we did was serve cookies. The transportation was leaving back for the gate with all the passengers when various other employees come in looking around.

            Me: what are we looked for?
            Supervisor: Teeth.
            Me: … teeth?

            Apparently, an elderly gentleman had taken his dentures out and forgotten them, and his daughter was trying to find them while they held up the transport with everyone else on board. We found them sitting next to the coffee and tea machines and cups (ick!), someone picked them up with a napkin, and they took them to the daughter. She just grabbed them, not even taking the napkin. (Double ick!)

            1. Persimmons*

              Digging through trash cans full of food waste for teenagers’ retainers was at least 10% of the job as a waitress, I think. Kids would wrap their retainers in napkins at the table because the parents thought it was rude to leave them in plain sight, they’d forget it, the table would be bussed, and they’d frantically run back an hour later. We couldn’t allow customers into the kitchen due to health code, so we always drew straws to be the one to go trash diving.

              1. KT84*

                I have done the “accidental throwing out to the retainer” thing. At a diner I took mine out to eat and my grandmother and sister through a fit, saying it was gross looking. So I wrapped it in a napkin and into the trash it went. The restaurant never found it. My mother was not thrilled with me for being careless but also was mad at my grandmother and sister for making me hid it.

            2. Anne Elliot*

              My grandma used to do this. Pop her teeth out at the table at a restaurant, wrap them in a napkin, and rest them by her plate. I can’t tell you the number of times her teeth ended up in the trash. It used to drive my mother (her daughter-in-law) bananas.

          2. Miso*

            When I was a teenager, I left my retainer hanging on the wall of our hotel room in Turkey… Totally unintentional, I swear!
            They crafted a little wooden box for it and sent it back, super nice!
            (And might have been a little bit happy I didn’t have to wear it for a couple of weeks…)

            1. AnotherAlison*

              You’re lucky it fit. My teeth seemed to move out of place with just one night of not wearing the retainer. I gave it up for good when my wisdom teeth came in when I was 18 yo. 5 yrs of braces and my bottom teeth all overlap. Late 80’s orthodontia, ugh.

          3. A.*

            I definitely threw out my retainer when I was young and working at a theme park during the lunch rush in the employee only dining room. One of the workers assigned to that area helped me find it.

          4. Louise*

            I was just about to say I did this in middle school with my retainer! I don’t think I ever did find it though…

        2. Arya Snark*

          I work in a wireless related industry. I had a customer (an officer for a huge company) put her phone down on a pile of newspapers then pitch said papers & phone in the fireplace. The stench, I’m told, was quite intense.

      2. Nancie*

        Oh wow, that exact thing happened to me a few months ago, except that I realized what had happened after the dumpster had been emptied.

    3. Bea*

      WUT!? How long was she stranded?! Did she have to pay for the replacement ticket?! Did she get fired because she’s so horribly stupid???

      1. Thursday Next*

        Our boss just laughed and did a lot of work to help her get on the plane as scheduled. She was actually quite brilliant, which made the whole thing even weirder! And very experienced with international travel! Neither of us was living in our home countries at the time, so we were pretty schooled in travel documentation.

        1. Ama*

          I bet it was one of those things where the reasoning behind doing it that way made perfect sense to her at the time, and she forgot the part where to anyone who wasn’t her, it would look like trash. I have worked with a number of brilliant people who have a little trouble remembering the entire world doesn’t follow their thought process.

          1. whingedrinking*

            I know a guy who went to grad school on a full-ride scholarship to do his MA in philosophy (and went on to get his PhD), in a city that was much colder in the winter than the one he was originally from. He got frostbite *more than once* because, although he was vaguely aware that it was below freezing outside, he hadn’t brought a pair of gloves with him and it didn’t occur to him to buy any. So he kept walking to the grocery store without them. His mother eventually mailed him a pair.

      2. A.*

        Firing her seems like a bit of an overreaction. Mistakes do happen. I have never made a mistake like that because I obsessively check over my travel documents but it happens. My friend missed day one of an international conference she was running because she didn’t realize her passport was expired until she got to the airport.

        1. Thursday Next*

          I once realized my (non U.S.) visa was going to expire the day before it did, so I had to schedule an impromptu international trip so I could re-enter on a new, tourist visa. I was scheduled to move back to the U.S. pretty soon, so I didn’t need a more specialized visa.

        2. Anonicat*

          Ahaha…haha…ha. I once missed a flight by TWO DAYS because somehow leaving on the 20th and arriving on the 22nd changed in my mind to leaving on the 22nd, arriving 24th.

          I thought I was going to be stranded in Cairo for Christmas but the men at the airline office were incredibly helpful and also kind enough to not start laughing until I’d left the office.

    4. Oopsy Daisy*

      I was not sharing accomodations with this person, but it’s so relevant I hope everyone will excuse the departure. A coworker I was traveling with went through a very similar thing. He had just finished packing and couldn’t find his wallet with his ID and airline ticket ANYWHERE. He searched the whole room, even opened the suitcase back up and took everything out one by one and looked in every pocket in the suitcase, every drawer, everywhere. Nothing. We had to call the company to reschedule his flight and get him an extra night in the hotel, and he figured out how to cancel his credit cards and everything else sensitive in the wallet.

      Once he’d been rebooked for the night, he unpacked the suitcase again, put his clothes away, and went to move the suitcase into the closet. Which is when he found his wallet, which had been underneath the suitcase the whole time.

      1. Shhhh, its a secret.*

        This is a me thing. Came home from department store shopping, can’t find my wallet. Dig through purse, coat, pants, shopping bag. Call sister who’d driven. She tears apart her car. Comes back, takes me back to the store. Ask EVERYONE. Go home, pick up bag of new clothes, see bright red wallet underneath, create cover story that I’d forgotten I’d come in the house the back way and it was on the porch.

        1. MsChanandlerBong*

          Sounds like something I would do, too. A few weeks ago, I bought some stuff at Ulta. Then I went to another store, put my stuff on the counter, and reached in my purse for my debit card. It wasn’t there. I paid with a credit card so I didn’t hold up the line, and then I frantically searched my bag, called Ulta to see if I had left my card there, searched the car, etc. Turns out that when I threw the card in my bag (there was a long line, so I didn’t want to hold people up while I got out my wallet and put the card away), it slipped into the box for the little perfume roller I bought at Ulta. The box had a small slit in it, and I just so happened to put the card in at exactly the right angle for it to end up inside the box where I couldn’t see it. See also the time I couldn’t find my driver’s license and eventually found it inside a paperback I had been reading.

          1. Anonymosity*

            I lost mine in my car. It slipped out of my wallet (I still don’t know how) and down in between the seats. I thought I’d lost it in the parking lot at the store I just visited, and they didn’t have it either, so I immediately canceled it and drove to my bank to get a new one.

            A few weeks later I found it. Ugh.

            1. Environmental Compliance*

              I also lost mine in my car. It’s still there. My emergency brake has this tiny, exactly credit card sized slit in the plastic. I was getting gas and in the process of opening my wallet to get out my card, managed to drop it and watch it slide perfectly into the recesses of my car. Unless I want to take my car in to take the e-brake apart, it’s going to forever live there.

              The only time I’ve ever had to report a card lost or stolen…

              1. whingedrinking*

                My couch does not have removable cushions and is sprung in such a way that when you sit on it, a gap forms between the back and the seat. A couple months ago I was unboxing my new phone while sitting lengthwise on said couch, and immediately dropped the phone down the gap. I spent twenty minutes elbow-deep in that damn sofa, fishing around (I did finally get it back, but I seriously considered slicing open the fabric covering on the bottom).

                1. MsSolo*

                  The last place we rented had the world’s cheapest ikea sofa that was like this, and had the same experience with both our phones (we had to tilt the sofa up to get them right up against the arm, and then fish around). We lost so many things inside it that when we moved out we did cut a slit in the bottom, extracted my watch, my OH’s sunglasses, several different knitting needles, some money, and a bunch of things lost by previous tenants, and then duct taped it back up. I have never hated a seat more than that sofa.

                2. SavannahMiranda*

                  @MsSolo – that is hill-lair-rious. I mean, I’m sorry you experienced it. But what a great job telling the story. And when the next tenants found the duct tape seam while searching, I bet they felt justified.

                3. Susan Sto Helit*

                  This, but it was a gerbil.

                  Twice. Two different sofas.

                  In both situations we had to cut a small hole in the bottom of the sofa to remove the rodent.

                  The third gerbil to get inside the sofa ended up running around inside the hollow back of the sofa rather than the bottom, so cutting it open didn’t feel like an option (it was a rented student house, and the landlord would probably have noticed eventually). We had to sit there holding the same gap open until the gerbil came out of its own accord.

            2. A.*

              My phone slipped under my seat on my way home at about the same time I got a flat tire. I had to borrow someone’s phone to call my brothers for help. More specifically, a teenager on his bike told me he would be right back and reappeared with a phone for me to use. Then after my brothers arrived and changed my tire, I somehow convinced one of them to retrace my steps super at night including the gas station where I got gas earlier. I found it the next morning under my car seat when I was cleaning my car out. We all laugh about it now.

            3. I See Real People*

              I’ll second that Ugh on myself. My debit card that I was sure had not been returned to me by the department store cashier…found in the recliner a couple of months later when I was moving the furniture around.

          2. Cousin Itt*

            Me and my sister managed a joint version of this. She lent me her ID and debit card so I could go collect something she’d ordered into a store. After picking it up I put them back in the back of my purse (so I didn’t accidentally buy something with her card) and forget to give them back to her. Meanwhile, she completely forgets she gave them to me and thinks she’s lost them. She ended up paying for a new card and ID without telling me and neither of us realised what had happened until I found the original cards in the back of my purse a month later.

        2. the gold digger*

          My husband’s mother called him after they had stayed in our house for our wedding. She couldn’t find her watch.

          Primo and I turned the house upside down looking for the watch. I called every place we had been – I had already had to call these places to find her wallet, which had fallen out of her purse at a restaurant and which meant she did not have her ID to board her flight a few days later which threw me into a panic that they might be staying even longer, but her watch was nowhere to be found.

          I looked again, pulling out all the sofa cushions, looking under the rug, in the laundry, in the folded sheets – everywhere.

          No watch.

          She implied to Primo that I had found the watch and had kept it. That is, that I was a thief.

          Which – even if I were a thief, I

          1. don’t wear a watch and
          2. would never want anything on my body that had been on hers.

          Years later – YEARS – she found the watch in the pocket of a cardigan, something she didn’t have occasion to wear much in Florida.

          She didn’t tell us she had found the watch.

          Primo was visiting them and noticed it on her wrist and asked about it.

          “Oh yes,” she said. “I found it last year in my sweater.”

          1. WolfPack Inspirer*

            I hope you don’t take this in the wrong way, but Primo seems to be an amazing specimen for having been raised by what i can only interpret as a venomous snake.

          2. topscallop*

            1. That’s terrible.
            2. I find things in sweater/jacket/dress pockets and purses I’ve switched out all. the. time. If I’ve lost something, I’ve learned that the first thing I should do is check recently (or not-so-recently) worn clothing with pockets!

            1. SavannahMiranda*

              I think I’m recognizing overlap between that sub and some of the stories on her blog linked above and I think she may already be JUSTNOMIL royalty. =)

              I love our JUSTNOMIL royalty. They are royal for the royal madness they have survived. It’s a meritocracy!

          3. Sleepless in Milwaukee*

            You would never want anything on your body that had been on hers? Except, I guess, her own flesh and blood…

            1. Autumnheart*

              The human body is constantly replenishing its cells, such that every 7 years or so, all the cells in your body have been replaced. So technically, that wouldn’t be the case.

              1. Sleepless in Milwaukee*

                Well, then she could have just waited for 7 years and then worn the watch! Technically speaking.

          4. Scrooge McDunk*

            This reminds of the missing brooch in Anne of Green Gables. Is your mother-in-law Marilla Cuthbert, by any chance?

          5. MissingArizona*

            My husband put his watch in the outside pocket of my purse that I never used while we were traveling. We of course, forgot it was there. Months go by, and the watch is nowhere to be found. He accused our neighbors, my sister, the company company that delivered our couch, everyone. One day I’m looking for a lighter, open the pocket I never use to see if I have emergency matches, boom there’s the watch.

        3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          I had the opposite thing happen once. Second year living in the US, went to the (home country) ethnic grocery store on the way home, got home, started unloading, one item was missing. Re-loaded the bags (because my home country is famous for awful customer service and I just had a hunch I’d need to), drove back, showed them the receipt and the bags, asked for the item or a refund… One of the store employees went out to the parking lot with me and SEARCHED MY CAR. Did not find anything. Said maybe it’d fallen out while I was taking the bags out and didn’t give refund. I never went to that store again. It closed a few years later and I really wonder why.

          1. Emily S.*

            Reminds me of the time I left a tomato on the little shelf in U-Scan at the grocery store. I was pretty annoyed when I got home and realized it wasn’t in my bag! But that was my fault, completely!

            1. Rebecca Riley*

              Today we went to the store. As it is exceedingly hot and humid, I take a plug-in cooler so that the ice cream doesn’t melt before I get it home. I realized as I lifted a quart of ice cream….that’s not my ice cream! We bought store brand butter pecan, and this was national brand black raspberry and chocolate peanut butter. Next bag was chicken, which I also had not gotten.

              I walked back in and gave it back to them, and they were puzzled too. Someone, probably the person just behind me, has gotten home and wondered where their ice cream and their chicken went. “I know I put it in the cart!!!”

      2. Free Meerkats*

        This one pains me, but here’s my story.

        I was staying with friends in Tucson and had a midday flight out of Phoenix. So I get all my stuff packed up the night before, and put my passport and boarding pass in my shirt pocket – shirt is hanging on a coat tree. Since it’s hot, I don’t put on that shirt, but hang it in the back of the rental car. I get up in the morning, say my goodbyes, and drive to the rental car center at PHX. I put on the shirt, return the car and board the bus to the terminal. I check my left breast pocket and … nothing is there! I check kilt pockets, no passport/boarding pass there either.

        I panic and call Tucson so friend can check my room, the sidewalk and the curb where the car was parked – nothing found. So I stay on the bus back to the rental car center, grab a supervisor at the desk and we go down to find the car so I can search it. Nothing in the car. At this point, I’m resigned to my fate and board the bus again back to the terminal, not looking forward to getting a new boarding pass and later a new passport.

        As I’m on the bus, for some reason I look down and notice that the shirt I’m wearing is the only one I have with two breast pockets, and what’s sticking out of the right pocket? We all know the answer to that one. I call my friend to let her know that I found it. Of course she asks where it was. To this day, she still ribs me about it.

        1. Sheboing*

          I got stuck at kilt pockets. In Arizona. I have to think he caught some side eye for that…

      3. Marion Ravenwood*

        When my husband and I got engaged, my engagement ring was a little too big, and so was slightly loose on my hand. One day I was getting ready for work and all of a sudden noticed I didn’t have the ring. I assumed I’d taken it off to get ready but it wasn’t in my pockets or by the sink. Cue me turning our flat upside down in utter panic trying to find it. (I’d had it on in the flat that morning because I didn’t take it off to sleep, so it was *definitely* still in there.) By then I had to leave or I’d be late, so I reached into the top of my work bag for my keys and there was the ring – evidently I’d angled my hand in just such a way for it to slip off and fall in.

        (I then lost it in a park a few weeks ago when I took it off to put on sunscreen and dropped it in the grass when we had to move, but that’s a whole other story…)

    5. DoctorateStrange*

      This reminds of an event that happened at my library a few years ago. I was in the circulation department at the time and was in the workroom when my colleague got a phone call.

      We have an electronic book drop outside our library. It is something like a drive-thru. People drive there to return their loans and the electronic book drop takes it in on a conveyer belt to the workroom. Naturally, this is favored by many people on the go.

      Well, this woman that called us was upset. She had returned her books weeks ago, she said. She was confused why her account still said that she had those books when she turned them in. We looked around the workroom and on the shelves and found none of the titles.

      My colleague asked her where she returned the books. The patron said that she was looking for the book drop and that it took a while but she eventually found it. She saw a recycling bin that had the sign “Books” and went past the actual book drop to put them there. Again, she did this weeks ago. So, uh, we had to explain to her why that was not a good idea.

      According to my colleague, she was mortified when it was explained to her, especially as she had to pay for five books for the library now.

      1. Nerdy Library Clerk*

        Oh no! Though this is not as uncommon as one might hope.

        A city contractor placed a trash/recycling thing on the curb in front of our branch and we had at least three people “return” their items to it before we managed to convince the city contractor to relocate the trash/recycling thing. And this was clearly marked! One flap had “Trash” on it, with images of items and the other had “Recycling” on it with images of items. None of the items were books or DVDs or anything else library related. Apparently, anything that looks even *vaguely* like a book drop and is located near a library *is* a book drop.

        1. queenbeemimi*

          The single universal truth I’ve learned in my time working in public libraries (3 libraries, 5 years): people don’t read signs.

      2. Persimmons*

        My local Salvation Army put the garbage dumpsters and the donation dumpsters right next to each other. Many, many people threw out their donations for YEARS and nobody did anything to fix the situation.

        1. Antilles*

          I’m actually kind of surprised.
          I would have guessed that at some point, someone would mess up the other way (throwing a leaky bag of trash into the donation bin) and then “welp, there go several days of donations that are now unusable, maybe we should move the donation bin”. Unless people throwing trash into donation bins is so sadly common that it doesn’t even raise an eyebrow.

          1. fposte*

            It is pretty common. The monthly bill for trash at donation centers is therefore humongous.

            That being said, you’d think they’d notice that the bills for trash were unusually high and the donations weirdly low.

            1. The Dread Pirate Buttercup*

              It’s super common. Also common: pooping in a bag and throwing it in the donation bin. Also, sadly, homeless people, usually families, trying to use them as makeshift housing.

              1. whingedrinking*

                …okay, I have decided to just interpret that as people cleaning up after their dogs and mistaking the donation bin for trash, because otherwise I’m going to have to renounce my human citizenship and petition for asylum among the squirrels or something.

      3. Ellery*

        Oh wow. You know I bet she’s not alone in this. I wonder now how often this happens. We used to find trash in the book drops, makes sense there might be books in the trash.

        The only library thing like this I really experienced was a patron running back into the library because he’d accidentally returned a book with the $400 check he’d been using as a bookmark.

        1. Nerdy Library Clerk*

          Yeah… we’ve had people use checks, prescriptions, auto registrations, court documents, photographs, even large quantities of *cash* as bookmarks. Amazingly, we’re mostly able to reunite people with the things they didn’t mean to leave in library books.

          That said, a word to the wise: do not put your valuables in library books and then return the books!

          1. Kelly L.*

            Fortunately, I have a prodigious enough amount of old Walgreens receipts that I’ll probably never need to stuff cash in there. LOL.

            It’s also interesting finding other people’s bookmarks in used books. I think the most memorable was a page of Enya song lyrics.

            1. SavannahMiranda*

              I once found one of those couples coupons, that sort of craft thing where people will write their partner a stack of certificates that can be redeemed for backrubs or whatever throughout the year.

              It was an adorable coupon redeemable for breakfast at one of the hipster diners in town.

              I wondered about that couple for a long time afterward. Are they still together? Did they break up weeks later? Were they just too twee for each other to bear? Were they already broken up and this was the favorite memento one of them forgot in a book? So many possibilities! Such little information!

          2. Antilles*

            Not that I’m doubting you here, but I just don’t understand how anyone could possibly do that.
            Even if you’re reading and don’t have a real bookmark to hand, I just can’t imagine pulling a check/cash out of my wallet rather than, idk, one of the 10 different gas station receipts or a business card or any of the other various useless pieces of paper in there.

            1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

              I’ve done it, if I happen to have some cash sitting on the table and need a bookmark. I’ve also bought used books that had money in them, usually foreign currency of some sort.

            2. Not a Mere Device*

              The trick is to get it into the wallet in the first place. I can easily see taking a check out of an envelope, putting it on the table or my desk until it’s time to deposit it, and then absent-mindedly grabbing it instead of the envelope.

              The main thing keeping me safe from this one is my bank’s phone app–checks are deposited, electronically, within minutes after I bring the mail upstairs, and even if I forget to file one, it wouldn’t make much difference if someone had the original of the already-deposited check with “FOR DEPOSIT …. Not a Mere Device” on the back.

            3. Nerdy Library Clerk*

              It’s things that haven’t made it *into* a wallet, as far as I can tell. Like, you get some cash at the bank on your way to the library and stick the envelope in the book so you won’t lose it. Then a brain fart happens, and it’s into the library return bin with the book and the cash. Likewise with all the other things people definitely didn’t intend to return along with their book.

              I must say it wasn’t something I’d have expected, either. But it happens enough that I often wonder if there’s a website somewhere dedicated to all the things accidentally returned to libraries.

          3. myswtghst*

            Not gonna lie, I was super proud of myself this morning when I remembered I stuck my most recent ultrasound pictures in the back of my library book yesterday to keep them safe when leaving the doctor’s office, and pulled them out before I could forget they were there (again).

        2. GreenDoor*

          My library had a U.S. mail dropbox right next to the book return drop. I put my books into the mailbox and my mail into the book drop once. Called both the library and the post office in a sheer panic (the mail was bills to be paid). And both clerks were totally chill about it and said it happens all the time. Apparently there’s a lot of bureaucratic red tape to get the post office to move the mailbox away from the book drop so they all just roll with it.

          I still felt stupid.

          1. Bethany D.*

            Just a few weeks ago my mother accidentally put sent some mail with her driver’s license in the middle! She had dropped the license on the passenger seat in the middle of running errands, then bundled the whole stack of envelopes through the dropbox. She quickly figured out what had happened to it and went back the next morning, but it was already too late. She had to wait over a week for it to arrive in the mail… in a clear-front envelope so anyone could have copied her info… with a cash charge due on delivery. Good grief!

      4. Marillenbaum*

        I’m visiting my parents in Utah right now, and one thing I LOVE about the local library is that they have a drive-through book drop! Thankfully, no one has put a recycling bin next to it.

        1. Emily S.*

          My library has drive-up windows at multiple branches. You can pick up online holds there (during library hours, obvs.), and return materials too. It is THE BEST.

      5. CM*

        This actually sounds reasonable — you’re in a library, there’s a sign that says “books” with a place to put them, you put your books there. You’d think if it was for recycling, it would say “Book recycling.”

        1. Kelly L.*

          My guess was it probably said something like “Recycling: Paper, Cardboard, Cans, Bottles, Books,” i.e. books were part of a larger list of things they could recycle.

    6. Environmental Compliance*

      I once traveled with someone like this. She nearly left her passport *everywhere*. The one I finally lost my temper a little bit was when we were all on our way back to the States from Germany/Poland (I was unofficially her translator/travel guide, since she only spoke English and I spoke conversational German and she glomped onto me once she figured it out), and after a few reminders by people in our group, she left her passport & tickets in the magazine holder on the plane, while we were still in Munich. However, she did remember to grab her stuffed animal. We were all in our twenties.

      She figured it out standing in security to get onto our final plane, and ran up to me frantically asking me what to do, as the security guy trailed after her trying to get her to go to the staff that could help her. FFS, go talk to the plane people and see if they’ll let you back on, but at this point, I’m not missing my flight for you, we only have a 15 minute layover, and you were asked by at least 5 people if you had your passport with you when we got off the plane.

      (They did escort her back, delayed the plane that she was on, delayed the plane she needed to be on, and help her retrieve her passport etc., and were very nice, patient people.)

      1. Arya Snark*

        Did you staple it to her forehead after that because that would be my first instinct.

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          I think someone else threatened to when we got on that first plane. We were all a little sick of her at that point.

          1. Marillenbaum*

            Hi, I see you’ve traveled with my junior year roommate. We were on spring break in Paris, and as the French speaker, she glommed on HARD. Add in being spoiled, needy, and unwilling to even take a simple metro journey on her own (she’d been studying abroad in London; she’d taken some public transit solo before), I was contemplating just vanishing during rush hour and never dealing with her again.

            1. Environmental Compliance*

              I actually had 3 of them glomp on me for that trip. I legitimately went and hid in a local restaurant a few times to get away. None of them were okay with going on a train by themselves, or even just going downtown to shop by themselves. It drove me bonkers. Especially when one of the other of the three Glommers had to constantly be dragged back out of unmarked fake taxis.

              Somehow, on every out-of-country trip I’ve gone on, I end up being the travel guide. Even in Poland, and I don’t speak/read/understand any Polish whatsoever. Apparently being able to read a map and get someplace is a magical skill.

              1. Not a Mere Device*

                Not only that, it’s a skill complete strangers can detect. When I was living in New York, I was approached by people for directions in Toronto, the Boston railroad station, Paris, Hong Kong… Most of the time I was able to answer, too. Including the person who asked me, on my first day in Toronto, where the subway was.

                1. ArtsNerd*

                  When I first moved to DC, I made a promise to myself to remember my early bewilderment and be patient with tourists figuring stuff out – especially the complicated fare system on the Metro.

                  Well that patience didn’t last long, because the questions I would get weren’t actually ones I could answer. There are two that stick out. One was the patriarch hounding me to tell him whether he should get a transit pass or individual tickets, without any context on how much they were planning to take transit… even after I asked for it.

                  The other one was a woman who snapped at me because I couldn’t tell her whether it was worth getting a cab to go from the station to the zoo with a young teen on crutches. I could tell her how far away it was, but she wanted me to make the specific call on whether it was ok to walk. “It’s at the top of that hill right there, at that second stoplight.” “So should I walk or cab?” Isn’t that up to the kid? Is he in pain? How much walking has he had to do today? What are you going to do once you get to the zoo? I still have so many questions about that.

                2. TurquoiseCow*

                  That happens to me all. the. time. Like, it’s the first time I’ve ever been to the place, and I haven’t any more idea how to get around than anyone else, but I am *constantly* asked for directions. Often I haven’t got the slightest idea, but I have a map in front of me (or Google maps on my smartphone) and I can figure it out. Heaven knows why no one else can.

                3. Falling Diphthong*

                  Small blond woman here. Constantly asked for directions, which is amusing to my family because I have an absolutely terrible sense of direction. I look mild-mannered though! While my 6’2″ husband and brother-in-law, who are fantastic navigators, apparently look too tall to approach.

                4. RainyDay*

                  I volunteer as a tour guide. I get asked directions all.the.time, even when I’m not in uniform and just minding my own business (the best was the Midwestern family who interrupted me while I was stretching while out for a run, with headphones on). This occasionally happens when I travel, too.

    7. Collarbone High*

      When I worked for the federal government, it was common knowledge in our department that when people relocated for work, the movers were instructed to just pack everything. People traded horror stories of opening boxes in their new place two months later to find moldy takeout containers or rotting garbage that had been packed, and I was told to put anything I didn’t want packed in my car.

      My colleague placed his entire family’s passports on the kitchen counter the day of pack-out “so he wouldn’t lose them.” Smash cut to him frantically slicing open and digging through dozens of boxes.

      1. Chayary*

        So not work related, bit on a similar note, my parents were helping me move, morning of my mother could not find her one bra anywhere. Gently suggested it might be in a box. Shot down on that possibility. Implication was that this was some mischief done by my little kids. Mom wore a bathing suit under her clothes that day. Found in a box on the other end.

        1. Susan Sto Helit*

          One of my friends has a horror story of her parents helping her brother and his wife pack to move.

          Brother and sister-in-law get to their new house, start unpacking, and come to the box of sex toys. And, upon discussion, realise that neither of them was the one who packed them.

      2. Artemesia*

        I put our garage door openers on a designated shelf in the kitchen and told the packers to leave anything on that shelf for the new tenants — yeah — they got packed. When my parents moved, the movers packed a cord of wood in the garage.

        1. Collarbone High*

          Some friends who were helping us move packed the manual to the microwave, which my mom had put inside the microwave for the new owners. Not sure why the friends thought we’d need a manual for an appliance we left behind.

        2. chilledcoyote*

          We had just had movers move us across country, and they labeled the boxes as they packed. We got to the new house, and there was a large box labeled “Green figurine” that weighed almost nothing. It was in the basement, one of the last areas to be unpacked, but we were dying of curiosity to know what “green figurine” we had, because we couldn’t think of ANYTHING that might be described like that. Finally opened it, and it was a paper mache alligator that my 6 yr old brother had brought home from school on the last day before the move, all alone in the box, carefully wrapped in paper. We thought that was hilarious.

      3. Turtlewings*

        I can vouch for this! When my family was packed out for a move in my childhood, I turned around to find that my suitcase — the one I would be living out of until the household goods made it overseas to our new house — had been packed! A hitherto unexpected force of personality burst out of my timid little frame as I glowered the packer into opening boxes until he found my suitcase AND THE TEDDY BEAR THAT WAS NEXT TO IT, THANK YOU. (Yes, they were in separate boxes, and no, I was NOT going an indefinite amount of time without my teddy bear!)

        After that my parents sent all of us kids to McDonald’s for the afternoon. With our suitcases in the car. They were a little concerned my baby brother might end up in a box otherwise.

        1. Autumnheart*

          But then your baby brother might accidentally wind up in the trash with all the retainers! (j/k)

      4. Antilles*

        That reminds me of a story I heard from my aunt who worked for one of the large moving companies.
        Background: If you’re moving a large across country, it’s usually more economical for them (and cheaper for you) if they store your items for a few days and coordinate with other moves in the same direction. Essentially, they don’t just load up your stuff and drive it in a small U-Haul from New York to Atlanta on its’ own, instead they put all of your stuff in a big 18-wheeler along with the stuff of another couple families whose moves are geographically similar (e.g., Philly to ATL, NYC to Savannah, etc). In the meantime during those few days, your stuff is just stored in their warehouse exactly as you boxed it up.
        So a guy calls their office in a panic because he was traveling internationally the next day and realized that he had put his passport in a box. My aunt explains the above process and he says he can’t wait the extra couple days, he needs it immediately. So he begs them to sort through his stuff and find his passport. Of course, he has no idea what box he put it in and they’re all unlabeled boxes anyways. My aunt reasonably tells him that they’ll need to bill him for it, because that’s potentially hours of work to sort through his dozens of unmarked boxes.
        Between several hours of effort searching through boxes and the overnight FedEx shipping charges to get it to him ASAP, it ended up costing the guy over $800 to get his passport.

      5. Emily S.*

        Yep, one of my friends who was in the military got moved once for a new placement. She was annoyed when they took her sandwich out of the frig, and packed it. Like, ‘I was gonna eat that!’

        1. only acting normal*

          At that point I think movers are just f***ing with people – seriously who packs a sandwich?!

          Top tip that worked for me:
          Anything we didn’t want packed had hazard warning tape stuck to it – folder of papers & crate of tea+coffee+essential supplies in the kitchen, vacuum cleaner, suitcases. All else was fair game.

      6. Bri*

        I used to be army and when you have movers like this you have to pick a room and put everything in there you don’t want them to touch.

      7. Not A Morning Person*

        Our movers packed the city-provided recycling bin. They took it from the driveway. We still have it after a few other moves and use it for glass recycling that isn’t allowed in the regular recycling.

    8. NR*

      On about hour 34 of a 40-hour journey, I found a passport in the bathroom of the Sydney airport. I pick it up to turn it into authorities, but because I’m nosy I open it up.

      It’s my co-worker’s, who was traveling with me in the sense that I knew we had the same flights but who I hadn’t seen since Kuala Lumpur.

      OH BOY was she glad to see me when I found her freaking out in front of the nearest security checkpoint.

    9. Mrs. Fenris*

      Before I travel, I typically take out all the superfluous cards in my wallet…you know, the random store credits/reward cards and so forth. They’re surprisingly heavy in aggregate, and they get in the way. That worked great till I got to airport security and…I had taken out my EFFING DRIVER’S LICENSE. Did you know that you can actually get on a domestic flight without it? You have to show two other things with your name on it, you get your bags searched and the Very Special Patdown plus much eye rolling from the agents, but they will let you on the plane.

      1. Carolyn M*

        “Very Special Patdown” – I am DYING and will forever call it that from now on!

        I had a very special patdown once – it must have been the underwire in my bra or something, because even though all jewelry was off and all pockets were emptied, I kept setting off the metal detector. The poor TSA agent looked mortified … me? I thought it was the funniest thing.

        They asked if I wanted to go into a private room (I was locked into a plexiglass cage at the metal detectors at this point) and I told them no – one of them cracked a grin when I said “never let them take you to a secondary location!” The poor TSA agent was trying to be professional and serious … i was unhelpful. I couldn’t stop giggling and when she announced that she was going to use the back of her hands to feel my buttocks I just went hysterical. By the end of it, the 2 of us were cracking up, it was determined that I was not carrying a machete or claymore, and I rejoined my family. 2 seconds later, my father who had been through security ahead of me, reaches into his pocket and pulls out a pocket knife and says “huh – they must have missed this.”

        So yeah … actual knife, no worries … bra with underwires? Make sure you get all up in her undercarriage!

        1. OhBehave*

          I have a friend who was traveling to the DR with his family on vacation. He used a backpack for his carry-on. When they arrived to the hotel and began unpacking, he found loose ammo at the bottom of his bag and in one of the little zippered pockets. (He’s a cop) It was NEVER DETECTED IN SECURITY OR SCANNERS! His wife freaks out and he removes all the ammo, wraps it up and tosses it in the lobby garbage can. Cut to the return trip. Waiting to go through security, he is looking for something in his bag and finds….more ammo! Determined not to tempt fate, he quickly disposes of it in the garbage. I thought she was going to kill him on the spot!

          1. Autumnheart*

            My sister went through a stoner phase in college. My family was embarking on a flight and we were in the security line, when she discovered that she had her pot pipe in a pocket of her backpack. I convinced her that it would be wise to throw it away post haste before we got up to the checkpoint, unless she wanted to face both our mother AND the possibility of being arrested.

          2. Anonicat*

            For a while I dated a law enforcement officer from an agency where they were required to carry a blade whenever they were in plain clothes. He said airport security almost never found it.

          3. AnotherAlison*

            I accidentally put two pocket knives in my husband’s backpack on vacation once, and he tried to go through security with them. They were confiscated, and one was expensive, but I actually think he deserved it. First, I put them in there 2 days before, when we were packing up at a cabin in Canada. . .so don’t be a jerk & pack your own stuff and maybe look in your own bag once in a while. Second, he got one of those random TSA prescreens and went through the prescreen line while I waited in a long line with the kids.

        2. jojobeans*

          LOLOL this reminds me of my last job in a war zone, where you have to get patted down and have your purse searched to enter any building. Seriously, anywhere – they did it at the supermarket.

          With it being a hardship posting in an active conflict zone, an R&R package of one trip every 8-12 weeks (depending on your organisation) is standard, so we all traveled in and out of the country A LOT.

          So of course, entering the airport means going through like seven distinct checkpoints before you even get to the building itself, each of which has a separate women’s search area that is usually curtained off in a little anteroom. There the lady searches your carry-ons, then pats you down. This means you get like seven pat-downs per trip.

          Long story short, some of the women employed to search people can get…a little too comfortable with the people they spend all day touching. Expat women working there often trade stories about being felt up/groped/breast-tweaked, etc. Everyone usually tries to one-up each other, of course, but I think the best I’ve ever heard came after I left.

          Last winter a good friend still working there was evacuated due to a possible kidnap threat against her so she came to stay with me for a couple weeks before leaving on a pre-planned R&R, in order to upset her pre-purchased sequence of flights as little as possible.

          She laughingly told me that one of the women who searched her had added a step: after going over her legs with one of those hand-held metal detectors, the woman then tapped her in the crotch with it (just checking, I guess?!) and then waved her through the checkpoint, completely cleared.

          As someone who regularly was felt up by more women than I ever would have thought possible while working there, that story had me in stitches as it really seemed like the logical next step up from the usual taps and pats by hand.

        3. Elemeno P.*

          My mom uses loose razor blades all the time for opening boxes or letters, and she used to smoke. Imagine her surprise when the fourth time she went through security in the same airport (smoke breaks), they found a full box of razor blades she’d forgotten to take out of her purse.

      2. Free Meerkats*

        Since I wear a kilt almost all the time, I get the Very Special Patdown (VSP) every time I go through the scanning machine, and never when I go through the metal detector. Seems the fabric from all the pleating is bulky enough for the machine to freak out. So I step out of the machine and Assume The Position automatically. And TSA must be used to it, because I’ve had a couple of agents start to get ready for the VSP when I’m walking through the metal detector, then realize I didn’t set anything off.

        1. fposte*

          I had this recently with a travel skirt that I’d worn through the scanner a thousand times before without event. They thought that the breeze from the fan might have stirred it enough to cause a questionable reading.

          1. JanetM*

            I wear ankle-length skirts. I got the VSP and full bag search after going through the scanner because “we can’t see your legs.” I observed that said VSP missed at least three places I could have hidden something, but declined to comment.

            When I got to my gate, I looked down at my bag and discovered a half-full bottle of water in an outside pocket.

            1. Biff*

              When I travel, I wear just a pile of clothes, because I’m almost ALWAYS starting my journey on a Horizon Turbo-Prop. (For those not in the know, these planes are freezing, except for the rare instance when they are a suffocating 86 degrees and humid.) I was in security behind two guys dressed in incredibly baggy clothing (circa Oakland 1996, though this was about 4 years ago) complete with humungous hoodies and those weird oversized shoes.

              Though my clothes aren’t all that obscuring, I got the VSP, not them. I asked and they said “you have on baggy clothes.” I didn’t believe them. I think it MUST be related to layers not actually size of clothing. As in the scanner can see through a big shapeless tee, but it can’t see through a vest, a sweater, a shirt, and long underwear.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          Never travel with a pasta roller. Not unless you have checked luggage to put it in.

              1. Chicken*

                A TSA agent told me that packages of baby wipes often look like plastic explosives, but I travel with them anyway. Because diaper changes.

  5. Booknerd*

    I had an employee who traveled with me to a library conference. After every session or break, she walked around to the tables and took all of the leftover food. She carried zipper bags in her giant purse for just this purpose. The grossest thing she took was all of the leftover peanuts that were just loose in bowls and had been pawed and fingered by everyone at the reception. She then rummaged through her bag of goodies on the drive home and ate her free snacks, stating that it was too bad everyone else hadn’t been clever enough to poach leftovers for the drive home.

        1. SEM*

          They do if they want to cover the fact that they are food insecure by appearing to be confident and thrifty.

      1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

        So you worked with my grandma? This was her at every buffet ever. We also left with all the creamer and sugar from every restaurant

        1. topscallop*

          My great-aunt would take all the condiments packages and plastic flatware from restaurants. She was a kid during the Depression, though, so no one ever called her on it.

          1. Emily S.*

            Reminds me of my Grandma, also a child of the Depression. She used to tell my Mom that it used to be exciting to buy bread from a store, because you got to keep the bag it came in!

              1. SavannahMiranda*

                Was your grandma my grandma? When grandma passed and we were cleaning out the house, there was a dresser where two of the four drawers were full of empty margarine tubs. Carefully washed, nested, and packed neatly and tidily. Piles and piles of margarine tubs, like Russian dolls. Years of margarine tubs.

                It broke my heart. It’s what impressed upon me the damage the Depression left on her more than anything else had.

          2. Quill*

            Oh my god, I thought it was just my relatives!

            Grandma and Grandpa both grew up poor as shit during the Depression – grandpa apparently used to eat raw fieldcorn – and since they raised my mother… let’s just say that I will never, ever be able to go someplace in any car my mother has ever seen without toting along two dozen pilfered napkins, a four set of plastic silverware, salt, pepper, at least one kool whip bowl (for the dog) seventeen plastic bags, two emergency water bottles, and a handful of granola bars manufactured during the Bush administration.

          3. Marion Ravenwood*

            When I was at university the chain pub we frequented used to put out baskets of single-serve condiments and we’d swipe them by the handful. The salad crisper in our fridge had a layer of ketchup/mustard/mayonnaise that was a good inch deep by the time we moved out.

        2. brightstar*

          My mother used to put the rolls from Western Sizzlin in her purse, wrapped in paper napkins. She only tried to take the butter packets home once. She would also bring rubber bands with her to take-out lunch buffets to help keep the containers closed.

          1. Quill*

            Okay, I did do this at the college cafeteria in my past, but… usually this was to bring back to sick, hungover, or studying until they were sick friends in the dorms.

            I did once plate and smuggle out an entire fish dinner from a visit day though.

          2. Marion Ravenwood*

            I have picked up rubber bands in the street before. Partly because I’m paranoid my cats will eat them if they’re left outside our house, but also because I’m involved in local politics and particularly during election campaigns rubber bands (to keep bundles of leaflets/envelopes together) are like gold dust.

    1. Bea*

      I’m eating while reading :(((((((((((

      I’m not that icked out about leftovers but we have to at least know each other.

    2. I'll come up with a clever name later.*

      I once worked with a guy who loved pens. Any time he went to a trade show he’d make a sweep of the other vendors and grab one of the free pens they’d put out from each vendor. And then he’d ask co-workers to do the same and give him the pens they got. It was weird. What was even weirder is he used to be really protective of the free pens our company would put out and get upset when someone would take one “they’re just here for the free pen!”

      1. Snark*

        I’ll confess to replenishing my desk pens from vendor displays, but I wouldn’t be protective of those, ffs.

        1. Amber T*

          I admit to being protective af to the pens I bought myself and brought in and keep vendor pens for random passerbys who pop in and go “oh do you have a pen I can borrow?” and then NEVER GIVE IT BACK.

          (I take my office supplies very seriously. Don’t touch my post its.)

          1. Turtlewings*

            A tip my dad taught me for pen-stealers: keep pens with caps, and when someone borrows your pen, give them the pen but not the cap. Thefts of both the deliberate and the absent-minded variety will plummet.

            1. Bea*

              In haven’t had a capped pen since my teen years O.O And it’s not like you ever replace the cap of a BIC once you pop it on the bottom lol

            2. Old Admin*

              That is why I only use pencils at my desk! Nobody wants them, and they hardly get stolen.
              Some people have the gall to complain “why don’t you have pens at your desk??”
              I just smile sweetly and talk about the retro writing feeling. :-D

          2. Ree*

            I use pink ink and purple ink pens(I keep like, adult blue and black ink pens around too, but only for the rare form filling out)
            I find that most people who ask to borrow a pen return it when it’s pink or purple

            1. Amber T*

              Literally everyone wants my purple pens! I’m a color coded person by nature, and we have your standard black, blue, red, and green pens provided at work. I wanted one more color, so I got a pack of purple pens. “Oooh where did you get the purple pen??” Staples. They’re not rare, they’re just not here!


          3. Autumnheart*

            I will sometimes leave a vendor pen at a restaurant or something, if I have extras. It’s like the circle of life.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I love these details, and the ones about the passport loser being both brilliant and an experienced international travel, because they illustrate that life is a rich tapestry to which “I have a simple, obvious, logical solution” does not apply.

          1. RainyDay*

            I have a reasonable amount of anecdotal evidence that, the more brilliant you are in one area, the less common sense you have. (Worth noting that, according to certain people in my life, I am very accomplished…and once killed a succulent because I forgot plants need sunlight.)

            1. Mid-Atlantic librarian*

              We once had a physics postdoc student house sit for us while we were away for two weeks.

              We returned to find every newspaper we had received during our trip still on the front porch/in the front yard, and water sitting in the basement from a hard rain that had happened days earlier, with wet cardboard boxes sitting in the water. (Fortunately the basement had an impermeable floor, but a bunch of my CD liner notes for CDs in the boxes were ruined.)

          2. SavannahMiranda*

            I am very nearly married to one of them. He is crackpot smart. Can wax poetic about arcana you never knew could be so fascinating. Really sharp.

            The daily grind to find his car keys is grueling. It involves tossed clothes, upended laundry baskets, made beds being pulled apart, and dishes rearranged in the kitchen.

            And every time he walks out the door I yell after him, “Keys, money, phone?”

            He invariably has to come back to grab one of the three. Not sure how one walks to a car one plans to drive without keys. Not sure what he’d do if I didn’t yell after him. If I’m not home when he leaves to go places, he finds himself coming back from the grocery store grocery-less and seeking his wallet fairly frequently.

            He finally got Tile for his keys this week and has begun finding them in record time. He already did the math on the ratio of his hourly rate historically wasted on searching for keys, versus time saved now that he’s gotten Tile, identified it as already having paid for itself, and plotted it’s curve of future profitability.

            Because, y’know, math.

      3. SarahKay*

        My Dad brought back a load of different pens from a teachers’ conference / expo that he’d been to. I was at uni by then, but happened to be home, and when he pulled them out of the bag of goodies he’d acquired I promptly took off all the lids and sniffed each pen.
        Yes, I know, the solvent-y ones are bad for you, but I do like the smell, and I figure the occasional sniff won’t kill me. Sadly Dad’s haul of pens were all disappointingly scentless.
        Dad looked like he wasn’t sure whether to laugh or be horrified, and then got an ‘ah-ha!’ look, reached back into the bag, and passed me a booklet on drug addiction! Cue ten minutes of me reassuring him, that no, I really *do* just like the smell….I don’t smell pens in front of Dad any more.

        1. Bryce*

          Back in high school we found out one of our teachers was colorblind when a classmate noticed him discreetly smelling one of the markers. I doubt that was the intent of those annoying “fruit”-scented ones, but it’s a clever use of them.

      4. Persimmons*

        I am protective of the pens I buy myself from Jet Pens, because they’re expensive and I like ultra-fine point. But freebies? Nah.

        1. The Other Katie*

          I carry freebie vendor pens with me as a body shield for my nice Moleskine pens which are now off the market and not replaceable and I am not letting strangers get their grubby mitts on them.

        2. LavaLamp*

          JET PENS! I give them entirely too much money and my coworkers and boyfriend tease me about my pens/planners/stationery obsession.

          I too keep crap pens in my desk for others because people do things like. . . chew on pens or walk off with them not realizing. Or in my case break a disposable fountain pen, then put it back in my cup and not tell me or leave a note so when I opened it the next morning there was ink all over everything.

        3. Andraste's Knicker Weasels*

          I love Jet Pens! And you can pay my Uniball Signo DX 0.28mm black-brown gel pens outta my cold, dead hands.

      5. ScrappyChef*

        When I worked in the courthouse we had to fill all the paperwork out with only black ink. We were always running out of pens. Finally at a conference, at the end of the day, I would go through and take all the free black pens that were left behind. After a 3 day conference my coworkers were doing it too. We had enough black pens to get us through to the conference again next year.

    3. twig*

      My Grandma use to joke about bringing her plastic-lined purse to events like this and buffets.
      Said purse did not exist — she actually was joking. If the food was really good, she’d say “Darn, I should have brought my plastic-lined purse!”

      1. Ambpersand*

        There are so many family stories about my late grandmother and how she used to take the largest purse she had when they would go out to dinner so that she could shovel in the plates, cups, silverware, and other table items to take home. She was born and raised in pretty extreme poverty in Germany until she immigrated to the US in the 70’s, so maybe that was a part of it, but it had stopped by the time I was a kid in the 90’s (thank goodness). My parent’s have tons of stories though about how they would go to visit and she’d try to send them home with a set of salt and pepper shakers from the restaurant they went to the night before.

        I’d be surprised that she got away with it for so long, but she also managed to accidentally drive the wrong way down an on-ramp, lead the police on a chase, hide in a grocery store parking lot, and then get out of trouble by only speaking in German and pretending not to understand the officer. She was a legend.

        1. Jesca*

          My grandmother was a food stealer from buffets. She would also steal like ALL the napkins and straws from fast food restaurants. She was raised in extreme poverty.

        2. Ali G*

          My Bubby grew up during the depression. She was a sugar packet and creamer stealer, basically if it wasn’t nailed down it was fair game.
          The funniest I remember though was when she was at the grocery store and the deli dept had pre-weighed containers of olives. She tried to negotiate with the deli guy to take out 4 olives and re-weigh it “because she only wanted 8 and didn’t want to pay for 4 extra olives.”

          1. Z*

            My grandmother was notorious for her frugality. My dad likes to tell the story about how, when she made strawberry pie, she would go to the store and buy three cartons of strawberries. She’d bring them home, put all of the worst strawberries in one container, take those back to the store for an exchange, and come home with another container of strawberries.

            (Which she would then dump in a pre-made pie crust with that red strawberry goo. It was not a good pie, just a good story.)

            1. Quill*

              My grandmother just picked berries out of the local woods… both near my grandfather’s property and wherever it looked like there were wild berries unattended on public land.

          2. starsaphire*

            A lot of us, I think, had that Grandma.

            I always reminded myself that she was exercising a skill that allowed her to survive with 3 small kids during the Depression, so I wouldn’t get so embarrassed.

            But yeah. Huge purse, Ziploc bags full of rolls, butter, and fried chicken from the buffet, big stack of mismatched linen napkins in the hall closet…

        3. GreenDoor*

          REplace “German” with “Polish” and this could be my grandmother.

          We’d even be at restaurants where they will *bring you extra on purpose* to take home – like Olive Garden where they’ll bag up extra breadsticks – and we’d tell her to just ask. Even her own leftover meal woiuld be wrapped in a napkin and put in the purse. She’d never actually ask for a doggie bag or a box, even for stuff she paid for.

          I’m also the proud owner of a beautiful pile of mismatched white towels, all stolen from hotels by my grandfather.

      2. SeuciaV*

        My grandma did not have a plastic lined purse but still brought napkin wrapped bacon from breakfast to my cousin’s wedding in her ivory satin clutch. At the time she was convinced that the chef at her assisted living facility was a terrible cook and was trying to kill them all with bad food. The (perfectly ordinary looking) bacon in her purse was Prosecution Exhibit A.

        As the purse (which she borrowed from my mother) now has permanent oil stains in the lining I think we all wish she’d actually HAD a plastic-lined purse.

        1. the gold digger*

          I wrapped a piece of cake from my cousin’s wedding in a napkin and put it in my purse. (There was a ton of cake. A TON.)

          I put a photo on facebook and joked about being the little old lady at the early bird special.

          My cousin saw the post and was appalled.

          “WE HAD TAKEOUT CONTAINERS!!!!!” she wrote.

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            Where I live, cookie tables are a thing at weddings and people frequently provide take out containers for those and/or cake.

            1. Environmental Compliance*

              At our wedding, our caterer brought takeout containers and packaged up whole meals for people at the end of the night. We had no idea they would be able to do that until the server asked us if we wanted to package it up for us or send it with people. It was actually pretty awesome – they didn’t do the cupcakes, but packaged those as well. We sent a ton of people home with food & cupcakes.

            2. Emily S.*

              Cookie tables are the best, we have them here in Ohio. I had one that was laden with all manner of cookies, and we had little goodie bags for people to fill and take home. I ended up with loads of leftover cookies that summer, in the freezer. They were delicious!

            3. LadyKelvin*

              Good Old Pittsburgh. It was scandalous when I insisted on trays of fruit and veggies and not cookies. I thought I was going to break all the little old ladies of the neighborhood’s hearts, because of course, small town, they were invited and wanted to “help”.

          2. Marion Ravenwood*

            When I got married, at the end of the night we gave people a little striped paper bag (like the kind you get in old fashioned sweet shops) with a slice of cake wrapped in a napkin and a tea bag with a blend of tea we’d made ourselves. I figured that this meant people would actually eat the cake. They did, but we still had the top tier and plenty of the middle left the next day, so quite a few people got multiple bags of cake.

        2. Booknerd*

          I once saw my Aunt Bernice put a pork chop in her purse. No baggie or container or anything. She just folded her napkin around it, dropped it in her purse, and snapped it shut.

        3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Ah that reminded me of a big family party that I went to many years ago, that took place in a private room at a Chinese buffet. As my husband and I were eating, my cousin’s MIL, who was the family matriarch, walked over and proceeded to talk at us about something as she stood behind us with her left hand resting on my husband’s shoulder, and her right on mine. Her hands that she’d just used to hold the crab legs, that the buffet is famous for, as she was eating them. Unlike your mother, I was eventually able to get the crab leg stains out of my nice top. I cringed the whole time she had her crabby claw on my clothes. My husband (the ultimate nice guy) thought I was overreacting.

    4. Tragic The Gathering*

      I worked for a large public university where budget was very tight (isn’t it always). Our director was a lovely, brilliant woman in her 70s who’d definitely grown up in a waste-nothing environment. All great, except that when we would hold any events that involved catering, she would harass the caterers at the end in order to take all leftover food, plastic cutlery and flatware back to the office. Even when caterers would tell her MULTIPLE TIMES that they can’t do that due to food safety, she would insist. Then everyone in the office would have to eat leftover catering items, put out at every meeting, for the following week.

      She was insistent that since we had paid for the food, we should get to keep the food. I can understand her thoughts in theory, but it just came off so tacky and unprofessional, and made it look like we were really hard up for cash (which we were but that’s never the impression you want to give off).

      1. Quill*

        Reminds me of catered events at college. Students desperate for non cafeteria food (or just fruit that was actually ripe,) would hang around the library and whisk away the cheese and food trays the moment the alumni were gone, before the caterers could get back.

        … The head librarian pretended not to know about it.

      2. jojobeans*

        Yup, when I worked as a caterer right out of college, we had the same policy.

        It was spelled out in the contract clients would sign, but never failed: every event ended, they come ask if we can box up the leftovers, we tell them they can’t take it for X and Y reasons, they proceed to yell at us for a while, then as soon as we’re out of sight in the kitchen, they grab all the food and make a run for it.

        1. jojobeans*

          And I should mention: these were not needy people living in poverty, broke college students, or food insecure in any way. This always followed these upper-income-bracket people shelling out a ridiculous amount of money for a wedding, or retirement party, or anniversary party, or birthday party.

          They usually insisted on waiving our gratuity (often through complaining about something), as well, despite us making the same as restaurant servers (i.e., less than minimum wage), usually working for 12+ hours with no break, and accommodating all of their awfulness.
          The people who genuinely did not have much money who typically incredibly gracious and were much more likely to not only actually pay the gratuity but would sometimes even slip us some cash.

          Sigh. Rich people, man.

          1. No Green No Haze*

            Yeah. They don’t get rich by tipping the help.

            I live in an otherwise under-the-radar city which is annually visited by several thousand locusts of the shareholder variety, meeting to discuss their wealth management and take advantage of company discounts at affiliated businesses. Rude to the staff, haggling for every nickel, no-tipping canoes.

    5. MCL*

      I was a group leader on a European vacation type thing with, incidentally, another library staffer (MAYBE THE SAME PERSON). She would keep snacks from the breakfast buffet while traveling. In itself, that’s fine – I have been known to keep a piece of whole fruit for myself to snack on later in the day too! But she got really, really judgey when the rest of the group would go to a restaurant for lunch, making pointed comments about how much thriftier she was being by eating snacks pilfered from the breakfast bar and how expensive it must be to eat lunch at a restaurant. And how SHE just needed an apple for lunch and that should be enough for anyone. She was kind of a pill who was judgey about everything, though. Once you understood that about her it was easy enough to tune her out.

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        Augh, my MIL does that. And then gets snitty about how everyone else is getting hangry mid afternoon. “Well you should have taken snacks!!” Okay, whatever, but the rest of us would like an actual lunch!

        1. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

          I have a matriarch-ish relative notorious for saying “I just can’t imagine needing lunch/dinner!” whenever someone has the temerity to insist we pause for appropriate repast. It’s become a running joke.

          1. CM*

            Off-topic but this gives me a flashback to many years ago, having lunch with a boy I had a crush on. He commented on how nobody could possibly eat even half of such a massive burrito… then looked up to notice I was finishing my last bite.

          2. ArtsNerd*

            Traveling with my dad as a child, he’d try to push us to eat as much as possible from the breakfast buffet so that we could skid by on just one late-afternoon/early evening meal (“dinch”.) When I visited the new MLK memorial, I sent him a photo of an engraved quote that mentioned everyone being entitled to three meals a day. Still pretty proud of myself for that.

            1. Inspector Spacetime*

              My family did this too! Free breakfast at the hotel, pack fruit to go, early dinner, only water at restaurants, don’t even think about dessert.

              We were comfortably middle class, but both parents grew up poor so I guess that stuck.

            2. feministbookworm*

              My dad thought that stopping for a sit-down lunch on vacation was a waste of money and of sightseeing time. His midday food of choice was always something that could be bought off a street vendor and consumed in less than a minute, or if that wasn’t an option, then the nearest, cheapest cafeteria. He was a doctor, but remarkably unconcerned about food safety, so we definitely ate some questionable things. In retrospect though, this is probably why I have such a strong immune system as an adult…

              1. ArtsNerd*

                You also probably got exposed to some delicious foods from other cultures that most kids did not! But yes, also an immune system bootcamp.

      2. Marillenbaum*

        WOW. Admittedly, at most of the hotels I’ve stayed at in Europe, taking out extra food from the breakfast buffet was Not Done. Also, lunch is great! She sounds exhausting.

        1. MCL*

          Yes! I should emphasize that I NEVER do this in Europe. Just at some breakfast bars at budget hotels here in the USA where it might not be quite as gauche! She got a lot of side-eye for doing this in Europe.

    6. MsChanandlerBong*

      I used to volunteer with someone who did that, except she didn’t bring Ziplocs, she brought a tote bag so she could take the mini bottles of Smuckers jam and Heinz ketchup that they put out with breakfast. She wasn’t food insecure–she was cheap! Had no debt, owned a huge house in a fancy development, etc. But she never spent a penny if she could get something for free.

        1. SophieChotek*

          I agree. i still have a few! And the mini-ketchup and mini-mustards in glass containers. And the mini-honey in glass containers. Oh and those mini-Tobasco bottles…that I discovered you can now get a World Market.

          1. Rebecca in Dallas*

            World Market has the best mini-foods! I always buy tons of stocking stuffers there.

          2. Emily S.*

            Man, World Market is the best. In the recession, they closed all their locations in my town, and haven’t come back…. it’s a bummer, since now, the closest one is two hours away.

      1. Nana*

        Wealthy cousins travelled to Bermuda annually. Served two mini-pots of jam each day at breakfast; shared one and took the other home. Jam for the year! And cute, too.

    7. KoolMan*

      Not sure what is the problem here? First world problems, probably. Rather than food going to waste but consumed what is your problem ?

      1. MCL*

        My problem was that she was really judgemental about how other people chose to eat. I could care less about her keeping items from the breakfast bar. She could have declined to join us for lunch and eaten her stuff and that would have been fine, but she wanted to make people feel that they were being wasteful for not doing the same. If making other people feel bad is a first world problem to you, I guess I don’t know what to tell you.

    8. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      I will admit to using my empty sandwich box to take home some leftover cake from a conference buffet. It was really good cake and I didn’t want to eat another piece, and I could see the catering staff chucking it all in the bin.

    9. A.*

      At my mother’s repass, we walked into the dining room where the food was set up and there was this man shoveling food into his pockets. He didn’t have tupperware just straight into the pockets the food went. We make eye contact with him and he freezes before running out the front door. We actually had no idea who the man was, never saw him before but we all got a good laugh out of it. My mother’s biggest pet peeve was people who packed away food at parties she hosted. Generally as the host, she would be running around trying to ensure everyone was having a good time, so she usually didn’t eat the yummy leftovers until the next morning. So it was only fitting someone would be stealing food at her repass before any immediate family had a chance to eat.

    10. myswtghst*

      Years ago, I often got to travel with groups that included my boss’s boss, who was a “work hard, play hard” type. In addition to volunteering to be the designated driver for most of our group dinners (so I could avoid the pressure to join her in a beer and a bottle of wine and after dinner drinks and so on…), being sober meant I got to talk her out of stealing various pieces of silverware. The most memorable was a metal citrus juicer at a Mexican restaurant that she was just fascinated with, which she kept trying to sneak into various people’s purses / bags until I convinced her she could get one online.

      1. Quill*

        I’m sorry, but what?

        I mean, I spent many an awkward quarterly lunch at my old job listening to my then boss go on about how we should all get sous vides because there was no other way to eat a steak, but at least he didn’t try to steal anything…

    11. Random Obsessions*

      Your coworker is Nanny Ogg, and all other witches on Discworld (except Granny Weatherwax), so I think she’s amazing. :P

  6. MuseumChick*

    This one isn’t that bad. Shortly after I graduated I got an internship at a historic site that provided housing as part of the compensation. A male person I had gone to school with, knew well, and was friends with also got an internship at that some site. We shared an the apartment (2 bed 1 bath) I only accidentally walked into the bathroom once without knocking. We still laugh about it today.

  7. Positive Reframer*

    Camp Intern, so not so much contact with campers lots of cleaning, stocking, organizational things. 7 teenagers, half a house, 2 1/2 day weekends. Professionalism wasn’t precisely a concept. Long back-scratches were a thing, as in 5+ minutes that were sometimes extended into back rubs. There was also the weekend I tried to fry chicken for the first time (or maybe the second) I don’t think it was fully cooked, no one died though.

    1. Positive Reframer*

      There was also the goose battle, some of the geese and interns did not get along.

        1. Positive Reframer*

          I think it was a hockey stick not a broom. There was some sort of long handled thing

      1. Turquoisecow*

        There was a pond on the campus of my old job, and the geese nested there. They would walk across the road, and people had to stop while the babies and parents ambled across.

        I guess there must have been an Incident, because one year we got an email about improving “human-goose relations.” It was hilarious.

      2. Bryce*

        The pond in my hometown had ducks who were nice, and geese who were aggressively territorial monsters. Never trust a goose.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          People keep them as the equivalent of guard dogs for just this reason. Not ducks, though.

          Fermilab has an issue with migrating geese who were like “Hey these cooling ponds are refreshingly warm, we can just live here.’

          1. Anonicat*

            Of all the potential environmental impacts Fermilab must have thought through as they set up…I’d be willing to bet this was not one of them.

        2. Marion Ravenwood*

          My university was built around a lake, and there were bridges connecting one side of the lake to the other. Quite often we’d have stories in the campus newspaper about the resident geese terrorising students and stopping them crossing the bridges on their way to lectures/halls. They are vicious beasts and I must admit they scare me slightly.

      3. Positive Reframer*

        The geese in my current work environment seem to be much more civilized. They were even using the sidewalk this morning.

  8. user6246*

    It’s not hilarious, it’s sad. My first day of work was a company trip to a spa. We needed to share rooms and I shared it with a girl.

    We started to talk about her experiences, my background, etc. She was quite full of herself. While talking I commented that most people on my “level” seemed much younger than me, which was true – I had the same position as people with considerably less experience.

    You can imagine the rest. The very same evening she told my boss I was unhappy about my position. My boss changed her attitude towards me immediately.

  9. Academic Addie*

    I lived in housing with other interns about ten years ago. There were two guys’ dorms and one girls. Each was a 4-room suite. We normally hung out in our dorm, because it was the most central. One of the guys was totally insufferable and weird. No sense of boundaries, or norms. He fell “in love” with one of the girls, a brilliant and motivated young Jewish woman who I am still friends with.

    He communicated this by buying her a Moses action figure, coming to our door, and telling her “I got you a Barbie of your Jesus!”

      1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

        I think I might pee myself if I don’t let an audible laugh out, but then everyone will think I’m bananacrackers

      1. Anonicat*

        Ah! Anatomically correct dolls are so rare, good to see a manufacturer getting it right.

    1. Spooky*

      That’s it. We’ve found it. We’ve found the best comment on the internet. Tough luck Hanukkah Balls, there’s a new winner now.

    2. Cube Ninja*

      That’s probably the worst way to challah at someone I can think of. I’ll see myself out. :)

    3. Triplestep*

      I just want to know where I can get a Mosses action figure. I want to sit him on my Seder table next Passover!

    4. Nana*

      There IS a Moses action figure. It’s at Something McGee online (sorry…brain fart here). Rubber chickens, odd toothpastes/bandaids…and a Moses action figure.

  10. Gold Crocodile*

    We had a co-op who would always take more than her fair share of food (we have an office that is stocked with snacks for employees). At our annual summer off-site, we had a clam bake, and there were leftover lobsters. She brought them home with her. My co-op had to drive her home with all the smelly lobsters in her purse. Stinky!

    1. SeuciaV*

      Another moment where an actual plastic-lined purse would have come in handy. (Because you never know when you’ll need to transport leftover lobster, amirite?)

      1. Nessun*

        Last year my boss flew in WHOLE live lobsters (to the prairies!) for us for a social/teambuilding event. At the end of the night, he had six or seven left over, so he wrapped each one individually in a white kitchen garbage bag, and we each got one to take home in the cab! Fortunately, not a lot of scent, and the windows were all open. I’m not a big seafood fan – I texted my bestie and said “meet me at the corner of X St. and Y Ave. and I’ll give you a lobster”…without context, she said it was the best text she ever received. (And she loved the lobster!)

    2. Autumnheart*

      Now I’m laughing conspicuously at my desk at “smelly lobsters in her purse”. That sentence reads like a mad lib.

      1. Autumnheart*

        Also, how big is the dang purse if it can fit even one lobster, much less multiple lobsters?

    1. ContentWrangler*

      I had never seen this before – wow, that poor lower-level employee. Since the company was being so rigid, I really hope the OP paid the lower employee back. It was probably a lot of money that employee suddenly had to spend because of OP’s choices.

    2. EddieSherbert*

      Wow, I missed that one. That sucks for everyone involved.

      I hope OP was able to sort things out… or really, more importantly, her company sorted things out. Because really that sounds like the company’s fault… If I got stranded somewhere over the weekend, I would still be able to contact my manager or their manager or THEIRS, etc. to get help.

      1. clara*

        I don’t think the company was rigid they paid money on the basis of OP saying she would take a certain flight, she then changed the plan and took the difference for her own spending money (Immoral and fraud in many places) and this was way before her weight became and issue.

        Then she took the employees phone and all the money so he had no way of contacting the company anyway then she didn’t tell them until employee reported it. So what could the company do at the time? OP took his work phone and didn’t tell them. Most companies (in my country, not the USA anyway) won’t reimburse expenses if the approved flight and hotel aren’t used. The problem here is the one out of pocket is the lower ranking employee while the OP still got to keep the money she skimmed.

        I’d have sued her if I was the lower ranking employee it sounds like he had little money and she caused him and his sister real financial harm while keeping the money she gained from causing him harm (not her intention but that was the reality). And I’d have fired her if I was CEO for fraud (which she did do and can’t use the fact she panicked at the airport as an excuse for that) and endangering another employee.

        1. EddieSherbert*

          I didn’t see anything about phones? But I missed that she took all the petty cash (which does sound like maybe it was supposed to be shared cash)… yeah, that’s sketchy.

          1. Kelly L.*

            Yeah, it came out later in the thread that the poster had the co-worker’s phone too, for whatever reason.

          2. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

            If you read through the comments on that post the person replied several times giving additional info further on.

      2. brushandfloss*

        The OP in that letter had kept the phones , petty cash and knew their coworker only had low limit credit card. The lower employee was left stranded for two days just because the OP wanted to keep the extra money and booked a non-approved flight and then didn’t tell anyone at their job. I know we’re supposed to kind to LWs but all was the OP’s fault not the company’s.

        1. CM*

          Agreed, and I think the OP fully acknowledged how shitty her behavior was. But putting that aside, the company should have taken care of the junior coworker and reimbursed him for all expenses. The company shouldn’t just tell the junior coworker that he can take it up with the OP. He incurred business expenses that were not his fault. She was acting as an employee, it’s not as if they were on a personal trip together.

          1. Nessun*

            Agreed. The company could say to OP that they are responsible for the cost of lower-level coworker’s flight/meals/etc. and need to reimburse the company…after the company has reimbursed the coworker. It should be between OP and their employers; putting this poor guy in the position of needing to go to OP for repayment is not appropriate.

          2. AcademiaNut*

            Yes, the company should have reimbursed the junior coworker fully, been very sympathetic and given him a few days off to make up for the extra two days of travel, and fired the LW (or at least demoted her, and taken away all responsibility for anything financial in the future).

            This was the one where the LW was embarrassed and upset about the weight issue and the fact that people were talking about her (and mad at the coworker for not keeping it secret)- not the fraud part, or the treating her coworker terribly part, which emerged slowly in followup comments.

      3. DArcy*

        I can’t see how ANY blame at all falls to the company or the airline. The airline didn’t bump the co-worker; the OP did, because she ignored the cheaper airline’s policy of requiring overweight passengers to buy two seats, then decided to resolve the problem by having the airline give her both of the company prepaid tickets.

        “I’m taking your ticket, your company phone, and all the petty cash. You’re on your own now, tough luck.”

    3. Goya de la Mancha*

      Wow, just read that for the first time. I feel like an update would not be a good one, but we can always hope!

    4. Kittymommy*

      Wow! I don’t have any words for that. That’s… bad. An update would be great, and fantastic if it’s a good one, but wow…

    5. Jules the 3rd*

      Or to hear from the employee…

      With luck, it’s a ‘I paid back the employee, this gave me a boot to deal with it with a therapist and things are better.’ We do see those sometimes, they make me happy.

      1. Observer*

        Yeah, that’s the only possible good outcome. Because what that poster did was unconscionable. And, it is NOT all about their weight and humiliation over that. Let’s face it – the first step in that mess was going against company policy and lying about it (the op got the travel plans approved and then changed them to put some money in their pocket). That’s not a mistake made in the heat of a stressful moment.

        1. fposte*

          It was kind of an interesting moment in internet discourse for me–she was somebody very upset and in trouble, she’d been discriminated against for a hot-button issue, and it wasn’t a situation that could be changed now, so sympathy was a natural first response (and I’m perfectly okay with being kind to OPs that screw up–that’s not the same thing as saying that what they did was okay). But even in the best-case scenario she’d totally screwed somebody, and in the likelier case scenario she’d done it for her own financial advantage, and those were bigger issues than what she was upset about.

          1. Observer*

            This is so on target.

            Some people did, rightly, call her out on their apparent lack of empathy for he person they had harmed. When the topic was being discussed, they actually commented that if the coworker had had a CC it wouldn’t have turned into such a problem, and didn’t seem to understand just how outrageous that was.

            There was a very strong sense of “I’m embarrassed because I was an idiot and got found out

            1. fposte*

              It’s really hard to tell just from posts, but if the shame were intended as a conscious diversion, it didn’t do a bad job of it. And even if not deliberate, some of the shame may come not just from the seat kerfuffle but from the fact that her dubious financial transaction was found out.

        2. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

          She should have been fired for that alone. The company thought it was paying for two employees to fly on a decent airline. The OP cancels that, rebooks two tickets on a shitty airline, and pockets the difference. So her junior employee was suffering before all that happened by having to fly on Spirit International or whatever instead of Virgin. She was enriching herself at the expense of a subordinate from the get-go.

    6. Cacwgrl*

      Ugh, I am completely appalled over the number of comments going easy on the OP there. IMO they deserve every bit of the disciplinary issues being handed out by the organization and would love an update

      1. CM*

        It’s interesting how much we all want to empathize — I’ve seen this in other groups too, where somebody confesses and everybody is like, “Don’t feel bad!” But this OP really, really should feel bad because this story gets worse and worse as it unfolds in the comments and the OP has no excuse for leaving her coworker stranded for days in a foreign country with no money and no phone, AND not even telling anybody who could help.

        1. fposte*

          Yes, that’s what I was thinking too. I do think the company isn’t dealing well with this, so the poor co-worker is getting screwed by his employer as well as his co-worker, but she really buried the lede, perhaps deliberately.

      2. EditorInChief*

        Yeah, incredible. The entire chain of events were 100% her fault. She totally screwed over her subordinate because she was greedy about getting to pocket the extra cash from changing the flight to an unapproved cheaper airline, left him with no money, no corporate card and no phone; I hope he got his money back, whether it was through the company or suing OP. I hope she was fired.

      3. Lilo*

        agreed. i’m also wondering how exactly this played out. did OP sit down and once it was clear that coworker wouldn’t fit, a flight attendant escorted him off the plane? were they both at the gate when the gate agent said OP would need to take 2 seats and OP decided to take both while coworker reluctantly agreed being lower (although this wouldn’t explain why OP left with literally all of the things)? or did OP, upon hearing that there would only be room for one, scurry down the boarding bridge saying something along the lines of “i need to be on this, see you back at work” while coworker looked on helplessly?

        1. fposte*

          Or, as somebody suggests, was he in the bathroom the whole time and just found out when he got to the gate that they wouldn’t let him on?

        2. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

          From the tone of the original post, I wouldn’t be surprised if in her embarrassment and panic she simply pulled rank with him standing right there. Something to the effect of “I’m senior and I’m using both tickets and going on ahead. You’ll need to catch the next flight.” Then grabbed the tickets and off she went leaving him with mouth agape and no ability to push back. He may have been so shocked in the moment he didn’t even have time to discuss money and the phone. It really is a shocking thing too, to leave him without enough money for even food and no easy method of communication — pay phones have all but disappeared these days at least in the US. The only thing that would be even worse is if she had his passport as well.

    7. Blue Clear Sky*

      That is MIND-BLOWING. I went from feeling so bad for the OP at first, but then every update she had, a little piece of truth came out where she had done something awful (took the guy’s phone!!!! Took all the money!!! WTH!!!).

      I would also love an update……although I would be shocked if she was still employed there!

      1. Diamond*

        Yep, I am left with no sympathy whatsoever. I mean, she got fat-shamed and that sucks, but… in the first place she secretly went behind company policy to get extra petty cash (was she intending to keep the leftovers or what??), then she left her junior employee stranded in a foreign country, took his ticket, the extra cash, and his phone (WTF), she knew he had no money, and she didn’t tell anyone he was there. She also doesn’t appear to have reimbursed him after the company refused to (though they should have of course). I mean, come on. You can’t cover all that with ‘I felt ashamed’. She made intentionally cruel and selfish decisions the whole way along.

        1. DArcy*

          I can’t think of ANY reason for her to take his company phone other than to prevent him from “embarrassing her more” by calling the company for help getting home. She mentioned that she KNEW she was cutting off his only possible communication to the company since they wouldn’t take collect calls.

          1. Jan*

            I read it that they had a shared company phone on loan. This would make sense if their regular company phones are on CDMA, and the company keeps a stash of GSM phones to loan to travelers to a GSM only country (i.e. most of the world).
            So in the moment she may have just overlooked that she had the shared phone in her pocket.
            Still does not make any of her behavior right.

        2. Sylvan*

          That is a kind of dangerous situation to be left in: no phone, no money, no ticket home. And did he speak the local language?

          And after leaving him there, OP didn’t let anyone know he was in that situation, needing help. OP’s lucky he’s all right.

  11. MariaTeapot*

    I’m SO fortunate my co-worker living experience went well, really. I was about to be homeless because my landlord decided we all had two weeks to move out. I was freaking out because I refused to move back home again (long story). It was a little weird because my coworker was my boss, but she was compassionate and had a bed. Probably by far the most awkward thing was when I started ambien. I didn’t sleepwalk, but her stories of telling me she tried to drunk walk through the tv were interesting. Don’t drink and ambien.

    *grabs popcorn for rest of stories*

  12. Tiny Orchid*

    I used to work on sailboats – we all lived on the boat and took people out for “adventure sails” where we dressed up in traditional clothing and pretended to fire cannons at the other boat. Well, we actually fired cannons, but they only had flour charges in them (flour makes a great plume of fire but doesn’t actually send anything out the end).

    We had a cook on board, who made us 3 meals a day. It was great! Except that he didn’t ever throw out leftovers. He served us cooked slimy lettuce one day. When it got to be the fourth time or so that something made an appearance (usually disguised in something else), we started to hope that he would take a day off.

    Because it was my job on his days off to go through the freezer and throw away the food that looked obviously spoiled. I’d usually hold an “auction” – I’d hold up a bag of something, ask if anyone would eat it, and if not, into the trash it went. Amazing how hungry we all were on his days off! It took a few tries to figure out the right amount to throw out without arousing suspicions.

    1. Midge*

      The way the story was going, I was hoping that you shot the bad food out of the cannon. :)

      1. Tiny Orchid*

        We only ever shot grapefruits out of the cannon, and only when we were in transit to another port (when we were out at sea and couldn’t see another ship that might have turned out to be a Coast Guard vessel). I wouldn’t consider that “going wrong” – that was a day going very very right!

    2. Amber T*

      Thank you for ruining the illusion that you don’t actually fire cannons (but honestly that’s a fun fact about flour!). I’m distracting myself from the rest of your story because it’s making me nauseous.

  13. Snarkus Aurelius*

    At my first job, I worked for an older woman who, in retrospect, had severe anxiety issues. Every year, my organization put on major conferences. Lower level staff like me were “on loan” to the meetings department to run the check in desk, give out badges, do on site registrations, etc. Instructions were clear: our regular bosses were not, under any circumstances, supposed to ask us to work for them on site.

    During college, I worked in catering so I was very familiar with room set up, place settings, putting on tablecloths, etc. (This is relevant later, trust me.)

    At this conference, my department put on a huge breakfast for public officials. It was a Big Deal. I helped plan it, but I was never at the event itself. That breakfast started at 7 AM (!) probably because my boss was an early riser.

    During this time, I was working late. I wasn’t getting to my room until 11 PM. On the morning of that breakfast, my boss called my room at 5 AM (!). She was freaking out, and it may have been a panic attack. She’d gone to the room where the breakfast event was being held, and the room wasn’t ready. Two hours before the event started. The catering staff were ignoring her, and a hotel manager couldn’t be found. There were only “ugly tables” and the chairs. I tried to explain to her that the events crew goes in the night before to do room set up, and catering does the rest in the morning. I asked if there were caterers there, and she said yes. Then I explained that catering has a staff to guest ratio and not to worry because there would be enough people to set up the room in time. I also mentioned that the tables didn’t have to be pretty because that’s what tablecloths were for. She said that wasn’t good enough, and she didn’t understand why the room and food weren’t ready now. I reminded her food SHOULDN’T be ready two hours in advance or else it would be gross. Nope. She got me and the meetings VP out of bed to come down there and talk her off a ledge. The hotel manager came later. We couldn’t do anything to calm her down. She only did when the place settings were done.

    Yes, of course, the room got set up in time. This was a five star, international hotel! But the meetings VP and I never forgave my boss for getting us out of bed over a non-existent problem that we couldn’t do anything about.

    1. Bridget*

      Omg. I work in catering and I feel your pain. People wonder why we don’t have rooms set hours and hours beforehand and sometimes, with people like your boss, nothing we tell them seems to get through.

      1. Snarkus Aurelius*

        The irony is that my boss kept flagging down catering staff to ask them questions and she was upset they were ignoring her. I wanted to say, “The more you talk to them, the greater the chances your event doesn’t get set up on time! That’s why they’re ignoring you!”

      2. Sheboing*

        Because my mil–and we live in a dusty desert, mind you–sets the Thanksgiving and Christmas table with plates, glasses, cutlery, etc at least a week ahead of the big meal. And we all sit down to gritty plates….

        1. Artemesia*

          I usually set the table for a big event at home either the night before or the morning of — because we have a tiny galley kitchen and I need to get this kind of prep out of the way so my husband can cook. One year I did a last minute perusal of the table for a dinner party just before guests were to arrive. The cat had barfed a nice hairball onto one of the plates — it did reinforce my need to do always do a last minute inspection.

      3. Strawmeatloaf*

        I really don’t understand that. “Why is the food not sitting out for 2+ hours?!” There are only so many things that can sit out for so long without being packaged.

    2. H.C.*

      I used to work in catering too and I’d be horrified if we started putting out food two hours ahead of event start time!

    3. LadyCop*

      I have worked hotel security…and yeah, definitely different people who set up the physical chairs and tables and those who “dress up” everything…which can be done awhile in advance, but if the room was turned overnight, then it would last minute.

  14. Anon for this one*

    I was staying in bunks, although this is as an adult (not camp) as we were working in a remote location. I woke up in the middle of the night to… clear indications that there were two people sharing a bed near me. I just pulled the covers over my head and went back to sleep.

    Different place, but similar situation – waking up in the middle of the night to noises that indicate someone… was alone in the bed, but missed having someone sharing the bed with them. I was kinda ticked off in that case that he didn’t bother going to the washroom, but again… it’s just easier and less stressful to have a quiet giggle and go back to sleep.

      1. Anon for this one*

        I will not confirm or deny this suggestion.

        When away from home for a very long time I can appreciate that adults can make their own choices. It’s just weird when you have to deal with the consequences!

    1. Thursday Next*

      This reminds me of a summer camp job I had–camp was on a college campus, and we’d amuse ourselves by reading campus police reports. One stated that a couple was in a dorm bed together, umm…awake…when SUDDENLY they noticed there was an extra person in there with them. Said extra person took off upon discovery.

      Hey, it’s college, folks!

      1. ThatGirl*

        I graduated two years before my then-boyfriend, now-husband, and went back to campus to stay with him over a big football weekend his junior year. We were trying to sleep when his roommate came in drunk, with a girl, also drunk, and they proceeded to get busy in the (tiny) closet. SO. Awkward. And as I told him later, she wasn’t even interesting to listen to.

    2. DaniCalifornia*

      In both of those situations that’s when I would have been half asleep and SUPER annoyed and I don’t censor myself well in that situation. (My husband has had to tell me what I’ve said the next day because I have no recollection of anything I do while asleep!) I probably would have loudly said ‘REALLY?!?” at the least.

  15. Midge*

    I did fieldwork abroad for a number of summers where I would live at a hotel with the faculty who ran the project and the student workers. I’ve gone swimming with world class experts in this field, seen the drunken antics of both students and faculty, and had carpool singalongs with the faculty to 80s hits. All in all, it was weird but great.

    The last year I was there (as a grad student supervisor), I had a male undergrad who sexually harassed me the whole time. At meals he would sit way too close and sometimes put his arm around me, he would make suggestive comments, he and his friends insisted on showing me a picture of when he ran naked into the water at the beach. My favorite was when he was assigned to stay back and help me on a task, his response was to play “Let’s Get It On” on his phone. It was ridiculous. And non-stop since we were living and working together. At the time, I felt too uncomfortable having a frank conversation with him about how he needed to cut that shit out. So strategy was to ignore him, not laugh at his jokes, not engage whenever possible. More than one of the female faculty/staff members commented to me about his behavior. I’m not sure whether the male faculty didn’t notice, or if they saw it but also weren’t sure what to do (and therefore did nothing). Either way, I ended up putting up with this shitty situation for the entire season because I didn’t feel comfortable doing anything about it and my supervisors didn’t do anything on my behalf either.

    1. irritable vowel*

      Sexual harassment and even assault during fieldwork is unfortunately common. I read a study about it where hundreds of women were interviewed. I’m sorry you experienced that and that your supervisors didn’t intervene.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        My friend experienced this in college too, but from a faculty member. It eventually became a court case and was really, really awful for her dealing with the fallout of just trying to protect herself and others (some of whom refused to go on the record) from this predator.

      2. Artemesia*

        I used to start a class in corporate training asking students to come up with a ‘disaster in the workplace’ they had either participated in or observed. These were college seniors and many of them had done internships or been camp councilors or worked low paid summer jobs. The most common story they shared involved sexual harassment. We worked with the stories to explore the extent to which the failure was a matter of poor training or poor management. The consensus on these harassment stories was always ‘management.’

  16. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

    This one is kind of sad… but I’m reminded of the post in one of the open Fridays a couple of months back. A poster left their coworker in another country without money, a plane ticket, or even a phone and then didn’t tell anyone at the company what happened. The guy was stuck at the airport for a couple of days and his sister had to take a payday loan to buy him a return ticket. If I have time I’ll see if I can find it and link it.

      1. Sara*

        I’m not sure why but all the links to comments are just linking to the main thread for me. :(

        1. lisalee*

          You might have to click the link and then give it a second–for me it takes my computer a minute to jump to the right spot. The poster’s name is “no name” though so you can also search that.

        2. essEss*

          I find on my browser I have to wait for the entire page to load and then after about 30 seconds it will jump to the anchor tag of the correct comment.

    1. fposte*

      Oh, I had forgotten about that one. I still don’t understand why some of those actions got taken by the OP, especially the change of the original airline ticket.

      1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

        The open questions are probably why this one has stuck with me in memory. Well that and I just can’t fathom what that poor stuck guy went through. It is truly unbelievable.

        1. fposte*

          I never was clear on whether he even got told he was going to get stranded or just walked up to the gate only to get turned away.

          1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

            I don’t think he had a chance to talk to the LW before it happened, I’m inferring this from the fact that it would seem reasonable in the situation that the LW was embarrassed and it would also seem reasonable for the guy to ask for the petty cash and work phone if he knew what was going on.

            For some reason I imagined him in the bathroom as all this was going on.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I think the company had her book on an approved airline, probably with costly factors like fully refundable tickets. Once they were booked, at her level she could trade in the tickets (fully refundable) and did, pocketing the difference in cost, and bought new tickets on a lower-priced competitor. But OP calls the cost difference “petty cash,” which isn’t the same thing at all–you don’t get business money for taxis and coffee by changing the plane tickets and pocketing the difference.

        The sort of thing that people might tell themselves is fine–company is willing to pay 2X for this, so if I make a separate plan that only costs X why should they care? And then something goes sideways, the refundable tickets aren’t there, and the company finds out, and it actually wasn’t okay that you pocketed X on each of your previous trips as a bonus.

        1. fposte*

          Yes, I was concerned that financial malfeasance might have been involved here too. Which would be bad enough on its own, but stranding a co-worker because you wanted to siphon money off of tickets–that’s job-ending.

        2. clara*

          Yes I’ve already mentioned no one seemed to pick up on the fact she committed fraud and still financially benefited while her junior coworker suffered.

          1. fposte*

            It did get queried in the original comments, but it wasn’t clear enough to say it was fraud.

      3. momofpeanut*

        The ticket was changed to a cheaper airline so the OP would have more money for petty cash. The OP says this later in the comments.

      4. Jules the 3rd*

        The OP got $$ X for the trip, and had authority to change airlines. OP changed airlines to save $$.

        It was not clear if OP pocketed the delta $$s or they went back to the company, but I had the impression the delta was part of the ‘petty cash’.

        She also said she was coming from a country with extreme weight… focus. It sounds like Japan, which has set a *legal limit* for waist size (link in my name), if anyone wants more context.

        1. fposte*

          I was pretty convinced that the petty cash was not intended to go back to the company, even if it did make it back once they learned about the travel debacle. It also sounded to me like the OP wasn’t authorized to change to the airline she did, because it was referred to as not being company approved.

        2. Safetykats*

          Another part of the problem was that apparently the OP booked both (2) seats, and then when it became apparent that the airline was going to require her to have 2 seats because of her size (so that actually 3 seats would have been needed for both of them to fly) she made the decision to take his seat. The airline didn’t bump him – she did. Which frankly was a pretty crappy decision as technically she was the one who was seat-deficient, not him.

          That said, the company travel policies are a mystery to me from the comment chain. Where I’ve worked, the person who would have been out money on this deal (if anyone) would be the OP. Because of the way we have to justify expenses (govt travel) you have to have preapproval and generally a medical evaluation to have special seating – for example, if you need first class because of a hip replacement, or an extra seat. The approvals aren’t hard to get, but there is a process to be followed and documentation required. We have some heavy people who unfortunately just refuse travel even thought the accommodation isn’t that hard to get. Unfortunately I think there is a lot of shame involved, because I don’t see the same reluctance from people who need special seating because of other medical conditions. They just get the doctor’s letter and go.

    2. Snark*

      I will treasure this story forever, and I hope the poster is able to laugh at it as much as I am soon.

      1. Categorically Cat*

        For some reason, any link I click in any of the posts just takes me to the post on best fictional bosses. :/

      2. Thursday Next*

        That was a tragic story. Stranded in another country, with no money and no phone, and then told I wasn’t going to be reimbursed for the plane ticket my sister had to get a payday loan to cover? I’m not sure I’d ever be able to laugh about it as a disinterested bystander, let alone if I were any of the parties involved.

        1. Snark*

          Oh god, I didn’t scroll down far enough to realize the person didn’t get reimbursed! That’s terrible. And in any case I meant to write the poster’s coworker, not the poster, but yeah…..not a good ending, even if the situation itself could have been funny with the distance of a few years.

          1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

            Yeah, that one sort of unfolded in the comments, it I was reading it while the updates were coming in and it was like watching a slow motion train wreck as the scope became clear.

          2. DArcy*

            Yeah, the company said they weren’t going to reimburse the victim because the entire situation was OP’s fault; the company fully paid for proper transportation and it’s not their fault that she fucked him over.

        2. fposte*

          Yeah, if I got to funny it would be funny/outraged “you can’t top this.” And it would take a few years of doing well before I could get there.

  17. Sara. if you're reading this...hello*

    I once had a really, really terrible sore throat that developed while on a trip for a conference. My boss and I were sharing a hotel room. She looked at my throat and announced that I had tonsil stones; you could see them in the back of my throat, it was obvious.
    She said if I could just poke the stones out, I’d feel much better. I did not want to do this for many reasons. But, she insisted it would help and I should get over it, and I was miserable, so we sat together in the hotel bathroom while I attempted to use a toothbrush to nudge out these tonsil stones. I whined and she insisted, and then I gagged so much that I threw up. Then we went to bed.

    The next day, I skipped the conference and went to urgent care. I had strep throat, not tonsil stones.

    I have not let her forget this. Neither of us refuse to budge in our positions (Mine: you made me throw up. Hers: yes, but it really looked like tonsil stones).

    1. fposte*

      Even if it freaking looked like tonsil stones, why would you poke around in somebody else’s throat?

    2. Amber T*

      Oh my god… tonsil stones are not painful?? If they’re large enough you can feel them and they’re annoying, but dear lord your boss was so in the wrong here on multiple levels.

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, that was my thought. It occurs to me that the co-worker may have been essentially a pimple-popper operating in a different sphere.

      2. TheNotoriousMCG*

        I would get some that would cause a sore throat, but not strep-level sore throat!

        Plus, the easiest device to use to get them out is a bobby pin in my experience

        1. fposte*

          I think it’s very much a question of individual anatomy and crypt location, but I sure wouldn’t let somebody else in my throat with a bobby pin.

          1. BAL or BLA(h)? Depends on the day!*

            Yeah, I can get away with ejecting those disgusting little bastiges with my finger. Thankfully, after menopause they seem to have stopped. *happy dance*

            1. Just Jess*

              Holy Cow! You can dislodge them with your finger? I have to sense/”feel” them and begin aggressively coughing them up or else they will embarrassingly fly out when I’m vigorously laughing or unexpectedly fall so that I have no choice but to disgustingly swallow them.

              Now I have a new tool in the fight! I’ll just go on and skip that bobby pin method.

      3. What's with today, today?*

        Oh no, they can be agonizing! I had to have my tonsils out (as an adult) because of them. They were so big they were making my throat swell shut and I couldn’t talk. The pain was horrid.

        1. Adele*

          Yup, me too. But when I first got them I was able to pull them out with extra long tweezers. When they kept recurring I had to have a tonsillectomy. Best thing ever–previous to that I was constantly ill with colds and bouts of streph throat.

        2. Amber T*

          Ooh I didn’t realize the stones themselves could make your throat hurt – my bad! I had my tonsils out a year and a half ago so I thankfully haven’t had to deal with them since. Tonsils in general are just awful.

      1. fposte*

        For some people, little pockets in your tonsils can amass solid matter, which initially is small and fairly soft (think, like, wet shortbread) but can grow and harden over time. They’re often asymptomatic but they can contribute to bad breath, and if they get bigger they can be a problem. You can also feel them sometimes, especially if you’re familiar with having them, so that can bug you. Unless those little pockets are really deep, it’s generally not hard to remove the “stones” once you know what works for you. (Waterpiks are also popular there.)

      2. Sara. if you're reading this...hello*

        they’re sort of equivalent to plaque build up, but on your tonsils rather than your teeth. Not everyone gets them (it turns out I never have).
        They actually can be poked out, or dislodged, or you can wait for them to fall out on their own, or I think you can go to the dentist (who would also poke them out, but in a fancy dentist way)

      3. Good, Cheap, or Soon. Pick Two.*

        The first two descriptions describe minor tonsilloliths, or (as they’re more commonly known) tonsil stones. For some people with abnormal tonsil crypts (the “pockets” in your tonsils), matter can build up and harden into stones. Now, if these stones are small and on the surface of the tonsil, they can be mild and easily removed with a water pick. They can range from odd feeling to mild discomfort. If, however, you have deeper crypts, they can build under the surface and become quite large, leading to very enlarged tonsils, increased discomfort, trouble swallowing, and secondary infection. For reference, why they can be this problematic is that ones that develop in occluded crypts can grow to the size of a large grape.

        It’s a condition that affects a portion of the population and it can worsen over time since each stone that you have can increase the size of the crypt it develops in. Waterpiks help you keep the crypts clear of matter, so they’re incredibly helpful… it’s just miserable to shoot water into the back of your throat. For larger stones, people do need to see either a dentist or an ENT. Usually the ENT is a better bet… you can probably guess how I know all of this. Fortunately, treatment options do exist (not just tonsil removal, since your tonsils do play a role in your immune system), including laser resurfacing to reduce the depth of the tonsil crypts. It wasn’t fun but it worked.

      4. Concerned Lurker*

        Also, most people’s tonsils shrink as they age. So, getting tonsil stones tend to happen less as one ages.

      5. Errant*

        For me, they manifest as little whitish-yellowish globs that I suddenly cough up every once in a while. They’re firm enough to keep a shape, but crumbly/soft enough to break up easily. Kind of like a small bit of cottage cheese. They smell bad and taste bad and there’s not much you can do to prevent them – a thoroughly unpleasant minor body (mal)function.

        1. Just Jess*

          This sounds exactly like my tonsil stones. For some reason eating a ton of bread (like eating four large croissants in three days) and eating even just a handful of peanuts are two contributing factors.

    3. batshytecrazy*

      I never heard of tonsil stones before & had to Google search. I was much happier being ignorant :-)

      1. Amber T*

        Yeah, fair warning if you’ve made it this far down and hadn’t heard of tonsil stones before – don’t google search if you’re grossed out easily. They truly are disgusting to look at. I can’t think of a person who’s throat I would poke around to remove tonsil stones for (I’m clearly not a doctor).

      2. Star Nursery*

        Me too! They always say you learn something new each day and today I have learned at least two things. Tonsil stones sound miserable.

  18. Gen*

    We had to take a week long training course in a former country house turned hotel. Because the building had some kind of protected status there was only so much they could do to change the layout and some of our staff got lost constantly. Or claimed they were lost and snuck out for smoke breaks. The smoking shelter was clearly visible from the conference room so we could all see Tristan smoking while he explained on the phone to our manager that he was lost somewhere else in the building. The hotel bar was overpriced and terrible. By the third night the five managers had had enough and decided to strike out across a farmers field towards a village that was rumoured to be nearby. This was before mobiles had easily available maps so these guys just sort of walked off into the fog in vaguely the right direction. By the time the rest of us went to bed they weren’t back but they were the managers so no one felt like they should check up on them. If they needed help they’d call us surely? The next morning four of them turned up for the training looking hungover and worried. They’d got a taxi back but the village was so remote there weren’t any larger cars so the older male manager volunteered to walk back. At nearly midnight, across what turned out to be three fields, in the fog… yeah he wasn’t in his room. Nor was he answering his phone. At this point people started to panic because what if he’d fallen in a ditch or something? They ended up calling the police who came out pretty quickly and were about to head off in search for him with the other managers when he stumbles out of a shed near the main gates. After stumbling around drunk in the fog, losing his phone and getting chased by sheep he hadn’t realised he was nearly back to the hotel and had just broken into the first shelter he could find to sleep it off.

    1. TheCupcakeCounter*

      I might have peed myself I’m laughing so hard (while trying to be very very quiet)

    2. ErinW*

      I don’t know what country you were in, but this sounds exactly like the beginning of An American Werewolf in London. There would have been no wandering unfamiliar villages at night for me.

      1. Gen*

        I am actually in Yorkshire (where that part of the movie was set but not filmed) no one got turned into a werewolf though fortunately

        1. ElspethGC*

          What corner of Yorkshire? I’m from the East Riding, but I was reading through that thinking “Sounds like the Yorkshire Dales…”

      1. Snack Management*

        +1 I’m now imagining a drunk Steve Carrell being chased by sheep in the English countryside at night.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Bill Bryson said that the difference between Americans and Brits is how they react to anecdotes about walkers being trampled to death by cows. Americans want to know why you would be walking in a field, while Brits immediately think of another cow-trampling story.

          1. MasterOfBears*

            I’m gonna hazard a guess that Bill Bryson is not familiar with the midwestern and southern portions of America…

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              He’s from Iowa.

              The English are a nation of walkers. Americans… not do much. And there’s an entire different footpath mentality, where American hiking areas are usually only wilderness while European trails will potter through farms.

              1. jojobeans*


                I grew up in a small farm town in Iowa.

                I can safely say I have never walked through a field with a cow or cows in it, apocryphal stories of cow-tipping regardless…

                1. only acting normal*

                  Whereas I’m a city dwelling Brit and I’ve walked through plenty of fields with sheep and cows in. You do have to be wary of cows, and know when to beat a retreat or just bypass their field.
                  Brits are much less likely to encounter bears though. :)

  19. CatCat*

    Well, an exJob used to host a big conference. Coworker and I were supposed to attend and drive to conference. He refused to travel with me because I was a single woman, and he and his wife had agreed that the other would never be alone with an unmarried person of the opposite sex. He said this to me like it was reasonable at work. I told him it was really offensive. Needless to say, we drove in separate cars. My attitude toward him was never more than icy civility after that.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Oy. I assume that job reimbursed you both for mileage/gas/etc.

      If I was a manager and had someone tell me that, I would tell them they could either go with their colleague or not go at all because I wouldn’t pay extra expenses to cater to his ridiculousness.

      1. Kelsi*

        This is what my agency does. If you want to go separately for whatever reason, you’re expected to cover your own mileage. (Although usually the reasons are far less dumb than “I can’t be alone with an unmarried woman.”)

    2. Xarcady*

      Wait–so it was okay for him to be alone with a married woman who wasn’t his wife? Seriously, did they think a single woman was, I don’t know, going to rip his clothes off or something, but a married woman was going to sit there prim and proper with her hands folded in her lap, gazing at a picture of her beloved, and muttering prayers for chastity?

      1. queenbeemimi*

        Well, everyone knows every woman’s goal in life is to get a husband– someone who’s already got one won’t be out to steal yours.

    3. Technical_Kitty*

      Wow. That’s…… depressing for their marriage, and more than a little childish.

    4. Cait*

      Wasn’t there a letter here awhile ago … written by a woman whose husband and her had the same type of agreement? In the letter, she didn’t want to go on business lunches with male coworkers I believe?

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Yes, but it was all male coworkers.

        I mean, people who think affairs can only happen between one married and one unmarried person just haven’t been paying attention.

    5. Beancounter in Texas*

      My father once commented that his father-in-law thought it was scandalous that my father should eat lunch in public with another married woman, because people would see! (They’d known each other since high school in the same town.)

    6. Mai Oui*

      Still, I think it’s kind of cool that he actually kept his promise. Many are not so protective of their marriage. It might be time to have a talk with his wife, though. There has to be some element of trust . . .

    7. Persimmons*

      I would have been really, really tempted to say the sort of things I usually just think silently. Like “Tell her it isn’t a problem because you’re gross”.

      1. CatCat*

        I was so shocked in the moment!

        But this was also the workplace where I was refused an assignment I was interested in because “no one would take a woman seriously” doing that assignment. So, yeah. I actually got that to get them to backpedal on that relatively quickly, but after that happened was when I decided to leave and started my exit plan. The assignment where a “woman wouldn’t be taken seriously” actually helped me get my next position so HA!

      2. Treecat*

        The more vulgar “Don’t worry, I wouldn’t f**k you with a dog’s p***y” came to my mind, but I am NOT nice about these things.

    8. yet another Kat*

      Did you used to work with Mike Pence?

      (Please delete if this is overly political/derailing)

    9. What's with today, today?*

      We have a guy like that. We do this program every fall where we give backpacks and school supplies to all the kindergarten students in our county. We all take turns delivering them to the different school districts, in the company car, with our office manager (a woman). Except for one man, who refuses to ride in a car alone with any woman other than his wife because, I’m not kidding, “People will talk!” This co-worker is in his 80s, so boss just deals with it rather than try to change it.

  20. not so sweet*

    When I was a doctoral student, our advisor said two of us could go to this conference in Detroit if we could travel cheaply. So I found us rooms at a private college in the city, and my colleague drove, and I navigated (very helpful for strangers in Detroit). This worked great until the day that we wanted to go to different mixers after the conference sessions. He wanted me to take his car, but I refused because I wanted to drink at the mixer and not have to worry about someone else’s car and Detroit U-turns. So I went out and had a good time and got a taxi back to the college.

    In the morning he didn’t show up at our rendezvous, so I wanted to go wake him up — but it was a Catholic college and I wasn’t allowed to go onto the men’s floor so I stood by the staircase looking for another resident to go bang on his door for me, and eventually I heard what had happened the night before.

    He went out and didn’t drink much, so he had decided to buy a 6-pack on the way home and drink in his room. But it was the first time he was trying to drive in Detroit in the dark by himself and he got lost. He thought he saw a clear new-asphalt parking lot next to the road so he pulled in to get his bearings — and what he’d seen was actually a steep ditch, and his car slid in and got held up on a pole. Eventually someone with a pickup truck and towing cables came by and pulled him out. But for the rest of that trip, I had to climb in and out the driver’s side because the passenger door was broken. AND I had to listen to him complain about MY travel arranging which caused the problem, according to him.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      Sounds like he may have had a little more to drink than he claimed.

      But separately, WTH is the deal with the Detroit U-turns? A few weeks ago, I dropped a coworker off at his hotel in Dearborn, and was sitting in one of those U-turn lanes, next to another car also waiting to turn, when someone came from the opposite direction and split the middle right up that lane, intentionally. Scared the crap out of me.

      1. Liane*

        Sounds like Dallas, Texas. We were always making U-Turns when we went places on the major freeways. It got so bad when we were dropping off a friend at Love Field (airport) that Google Maps couldn’t keep things straight. Friend’s phone was reciting one set of directions and our son’s a completely different one. Both guys were using Google Maps app, riding in our car, and had typed in “Love Field, Dallas TX.”

        1. AnotherAlison*

          I definitely get that–nothing like Google to get you lost in an unfamiliar city, but Detroit is designed to for U-turns. You can’t turn left at major intersections. It’s laid out so that you turn right, go a block or two, then make a u-turn to go left. I’m not a world traveler, but I’m not a shut-in, either, and I’ve never seen it anywhere else.

          1. Red Reader*

            We call that a Michigan Left :) they’re actually pretty efficient under most circumstances, as I understand it.

            1. Annie Moose*

              Yeah, the idea (as I understand it) is that cars turning right are never stopped (because everyone has to turn right), and cars turning left will back up on the road itself, rather than leading up to the intersection.

            2. AnotherAlison*

              So is it legal to turn left on red? I see people who do, and I see others who sit there. (Sometimes people honk, and other times, they all just seem to go along with the sitter.)

              1. Red Reader*

                Yep! At that point you’re basically following the rule to turn onto a one way street, which is the same for lefts as for rights – in Michigan, at least, it’s allowed unless it’s specifically posted no turn on red.

              2. mandassassin*

                Professional driver/CDL holder here: it is legal, at least in Michigan, to complete a boulevard turn on a red light, unless otherwise posted. Just like making a right turn on red. The people who wait at that sort of turn (with no contradictory sign) are wrong, unless they’re trying to proceed straight across the street from the stop line (into a driveway or side street). Not that it stops most people from going anyway, of course.

          2. Annie Moose*

            Ahhh, good ol’ Michigan lefts. Very common here in Michigan, on divided roads. Very uncommon for literally anyone else! Once you’re familiar with them, they’re pretty easy, but if you don’t know how you work, they’re pretty confusing. “I have to turn right to go left? There’s a dedicated U-turn lane?? I’m supposed to turn into the leftmost lane of traffic???”

            For the record: Turn right (east), and briskly get into the leftmost lane. When you see the turning/U-turn lane to the left, get into it. Yield to oncoming traffic and merge in when you’re clear.

            1. Annie Moose*

              Whoops, should have clarified: my example is when you’re turning left onto a divided road. If you’re turning left from the divided road, drive past your intersection and get in the leftmost lane. Enter the turning/U-turn lane to the left and merge into traffic going the opposite way when you’re clear. Briskly get into the rightmost lane and turn right at the intersection.

        2. Erin*

          That’s really interesting. My husband used to be involved with Google maps so I know a bit about it and it seems to be going downhill, not….getting better. (Just my impression, not super inside knowledge, so take that with a grain of salt. :)) But it’s Google, you’d think they’d be on the ball!

          1. sunshyne84*

            I just want them to put the entrance to my apt complex on the map so my uber drivers would stop calling me from the exit gate saying they can’t get in.

            1. Claire A.*

              You can actually request that change! I requested several; there was a whole neighborhood that Google maps thought was only accessible by boat. There was a perfectly nice road….

            2. Teach*

              There is apparently a Google Maps app where anyone with a smart phone can add a location and 360 * photo? Just heard about it at a tech conference in the context of using technology to make underserved populations more visible.

      2. Kelsi*

        I don’t know, I had a similar experience in the car with my mom once, in broad daylight. She was driving and it looked like a turn-off into a gas station driveway–we both saw it! But when she turned it was a four-foot drop off. Thankfully she saw it in time and slammed on the brakes, and also, thankfully, even though we were turning left across traffic, no traffic was actually approaching. She was able to safely return to our lane and turn at the next corner to get to the gas station’s actual driveway (off the other road).

        It was totally scary and I’m sure anyone looking from a different angle thought my mom was drunk, but it genuinely looked like a driveway entrance to both of us.

        1. Ranon*

          There’s about a three foot drop between my works parking lot and the bank next door- one morning we all got to work and there was a car high-centered on the wall between the two lots (there are wheel stops but the retaining wall is flush with the ground and there is no signage). We figure she was trying to cut from one lot to the next and just didn’t see the drop. Luckily the tow truck guy was able to get her car off the wall pretty simply and she was actually able to drive the car away, but what a sucky morning!

          1. Classic Rando*

            My grandma lived in a beach cottage. It’s the last house on the street before the beach, on a double lot with a large driveway. Behind the house was a knee-high fence, a crumbling stone retaining wall, a creek, and a parking lot that was about 3 feet lower than the yard. At night in the summer people used to cut through her yard on foot, hopping over the stream. We had private property signs posted all over.

            One night at around 2am, in the off-season, my tiny Italian grandmother was woken up by someone knocking at her door. A young guy in his 20’s (with some friends in several cars) had driven into her driveway and back yard, and stopped at the fence. Seeing the parking lot beyond, his friends dared him to drive through the fence, and he thought that sounded like fun. Riiiiiight up until the front end of his Explorer swan dived into the opposing bank of the creek and got stuck.

      3. PureMichigan*

        Are we talking Michigan left’s or the U-turns over the overpasses in Detroit? It isn’t clear for the OP, I suspect you’re talking about a Michigan left. But you can’t actually split those up the middle (and if I recall, they’re statistically safer) so I’m a bit lost here…

        1. AnotherAlison*

          I’m talking about a left on a regular surface street (which involves a U-turn, apparently). I’m not from MI so I don’t know all the terminology! I was in the right lane of a double left turn lane, turning into eastbound traffic, and someone was next to me in the right lane. There was another lane across from us that could turn right into the eastbound traffic. Someone came out of that lane, across the 4 lanes of eastbound traffic, and went between me and the car next to me, into the westbound lanes of traffic (going east). It’s really difficult to explain without a picture, sorry.

      4. Minocho*

        We call them “Michigan Turns”, actually. And they’re all over the state. Somehow, some person who liked them because they “decrease cross traffic flow” or some such junk, got into a position of enough power in the state that they’re a thing. I don’t remember them in Detroit as a kid, growing up, much, but they became a big thing, requiring reconfiguring many roads, when I was in high school on the west side of the state.

      5. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        Oh. Michigan left. You mean Michigan left. I am from that area and am reading this going ‘What on earth- you can’t use U Turns around here’ when I finally caught on. They are much better than traffic circles, I can tell you that.

    2. Beancounter in Texas*

      Once upon a time in the UAE, the only way to get to the other side of the street was to U-turn. You could not cross traffic except at intersections.

      1. Grad Intern*

        This is a thing in the Cancun/Tulum area in Mexico too–no left turns, only U-turns, then go back the other way and make the right. They have big signs that say “Retorno” before the turn so you know when it’s coming.

    3. ErinW*

      Other than his being a jerk to you about it afterwards, I feel for this guy because I have done this myself, NOT drunk and NOT at night. It was an unfamiliar town and I figured out I was heading in the opposite direction from what I wanted. I turned into a snow-covered parking lot (I thought) to turn around, but it was actually a ditch with just enough slope (and snow, of course) that I couldn’t reverse my car back onto the road. I called my then-boyfriend now-husband, and we flagged down a cop, and with the two of them pushing, I managed to get back on the road, not without enduring some “How the hell did you do this?” from both of them first.

    4. Not a Mere Device*

      I was expecting this story to end with him explaining himself to either US or Canadian border agents.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        There is a story like that at my company at the Windsor bridge or tunnel, but I can’t remember enough of the details for it to be funny. Basically, someone forgot their ID in a hotel room on the Canadian side, realized it on the bridge, turned around in the middle of the bridge (how?!? – I don’t know if that can be done, but again it was a long time ago), and got stopped by agents. It was especially hilarious at the time because of who it was.

  21. CMart*

    I’m part of a rotational program at my MegaCorp which I think has become a fairly common fixture at a lot of companies. New grads (typically, I’m a career changers personally) come on board as a cohort, spend X amount of time in different positions, “graduate” after a couple years and then get placed in senior-level permanent positions. They often do things collectively as a program; networking events, trips to other locations, charity functions etc…

    The cohort that started a year before I did is now infamous for their out of state trip to one of our plants. They all went out on their last night there and between the 10 people in attendance, none of them were functional enough in the morning to realize that they’d left “Chad” behind until they were 4 hours into the drive back to HQ.

    The tale is now told as a cautionary one by upper management about what “professionalism” means, and an uproarious anecdote by those who have the hazy memories of the incident.

  22. Paper jam*

    I roomed with someone who started on the same day as I did. She instant messaged me at work to say she bought a dog because she thought her cat would be lonely, rather than have a conversation with me like a normal roommate.

  23. Werewolves not Swearwolves*

    Last year I attended a conference on my employer’s dime in an awesome locale that I will probably never get to personally travel to. Someone else from my institution also got to go too and though we were there for different reasons, she attached herself to me like a leach and I’m still mad about it. She wanted to do every meal, every session, break and touristy thing together. She even called the hotel ahead of time (unbeknownst to me) to request that our rooms be next to each other.

    I really regret not being able to politely tell her that I just wanted to be alone most of the time. But she was a known drama queen, so I just let her tag along so she wouldn’t start shit.

        1. Wannabikkit*

          Did you know there’s a spin-off tv series? It’s about to start screening on New Zealand tv.

    1. Lindsay J*

      Hotels really should not honor requests like that unless they hear from both parties due to things like the Erin Andrews stalking.

  24. Anon Good Nurse*

    This was a bizarrely funny travel situation that came up a few years ago. My old job required a lot of travel every quarter (3-4 trips, usually packed into a three week window.) On a good stretch it was exhausting and draining, but our company had been going through a rough patch and we had a lot of unhappy clients. So the mental and physical exhaustion went to 11.

    After a particularly long and harsh all day meeting, my co-worker and I went to the airport. We got separated (not a big deal, I went to the restroom to change my clothes and she went to grab a bite to eat) and figured we’d meet up at the gate. It was cutting it close and we were flying Southwest. I had an earlier boarding position so I got on the plane in a window seat near the back, pulled out my iPad, put on my headphones, turned on the latest Masterpiece theater and zoned out. The plane took off and a few hours later, landed at home. At that point, I took off my headphones and was packing up when I heard my co-workers voice. I turned around to look for her and, lo and behold, she was sitting in the seat next to me. She had pulled out her book and started reading when she sat down and zoned out herself. We had been on the plane for 2.5 hours without realizing we’d been sitting next to each other the whole time!

    (BTW – I always think about this whenever Alison talks about needing personal space on business trips… fortunately, this co-worker and I travelled together and were pretty compatible (i.e., both needed personal space after meetings and respected that…) We each understood how something like this happened after long and brutal meetings. Other people in our organization were shocked and thought we were both just anti-social.)

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      That’s a great story! A co-worker and I recently traveled together for the first time and knew instinctively that our travel styles would complement each other. It is SO NICE when that happens.

      1. Anon Good Nurse*

        I love these comments! Everyone at our company was so weird about it! She and I just laughed it off, but it seemed like it made sense.

        It is nice when your travel buddies are on the same page as you! It takes so much of the pressure off. I loved it when I traveled with her. Others… not so much, but that might also explain why everyone else thought it was weird. :)

    2. Lynn*

      A friend and I were on the same flight home from a music festival. She’d gotten a higher boarding number than me (on Southwest) and asked if I wanted her to save me a seat. While I appreciated the offer, my SO and I don’t even sit next to each other on Southwest flights to avoid dealing with a middle seat. No way I’m sitting middle when all I want to do is take a nap.

      1. Rebecca in Dallas*

        Yeah, if we happen to see two seats together we’ll snag them (I’m petite and can fit in the middle pretty easily) but otherwise, we’re like “OK see you when we land!”

      2. Free Meerkats*

        Something that came to a head early in my wife and my relationship was airplane seats. She sits next to the window, takes her anxiety pill, and goes to sleep. I sit in an aisle seat. She said something like, “Don’t you want to sit next to me?” and I said, “Yes, but not in a middle seat, you get a middle seat.”

        Even on a longhaul to Australia, we sat with a seat in between us.

  25. Not Australian*

    I told a desperate co-worker that there was an apartment coming vacant in the building I lived in. She was always beautifully dressed and made up so I thought she’d be neat and tidy about the house. Big mistake. She cleaned out her fish tank and left wet gravel in a paper bag in the kitchen, and when the kitchen ceiling collapsed she collected fallen plaster in my saucepan and left it for me to deal with. I moved out, and changed my job…

      1. Alli525*

        “An apartment coming vacant in the building I lived in” … sounds like OP lived on one floor, and coworker lived one floor above.

  26. Jack Be Nimble*

    I worked as an RA in undergrad, and since we were all SUPPOSED to be BEST FRIENDS 5EVER there ended up being so much weirdness and tension. Gold medal goes to the girl who laid on her back on the floor during our weekly meetings, cried during meetings to redirect and change the subject if people disagreed with her, and held very exclusive nightly “study sessions” which she blacklisted me from because I turned down her invitation once, during the first week of training, after we’d already spent ten hours as a large group that day.

    She was a nightmare and encouraged everyone else to be nithtmares, as well.

    1. DorthVader*

      I’m so glad there’s another ResLifer! One colleague during my junior year decided she didn’t like me, I think because I saw through her BS and didn’t think the sun shined out of her ass? We were in sister buildings, so saw each other at weekly staff meetings but thankfully didn’t work directly together. Well she got fired for getting caught drinking with underage residents and apparently tried to take down everyone else that she didn’t like with her. Two other staffers in her building were fired and she told pro staff that my fiancé, an RA in another building, bought me alcohol. He did, frequently, but the pro staff liked him more than they liked her so they never investigated. I got a Facebook message about it while I was across the country at a conference (the worst week of my college career for many reasons) and couldn’t do anything until I got home.
      Of the 20+ other students I directly worked with in ResLife, I’m still in regular contact with 5 plus my husband. I know WAY too much about everyone else.

    2. Amber T*

      Oh Res Life. I learned SO MUCH about the professional world from being on Res Life and I credit it with so much (it taught me way more than actual college did)… but jeez I look back and think “never again!”

  27. Quickbeam*

    Years ago, I had to do an extensive travel assignment with a coworker. As soon as the plane left the tarmac she became completely dependent on me….how to change money, get on a bus, checking into the hotel, running our presentations, when to eat…you name it. It was like having a barnacle attached to me. When we got back her husband pulled me aside and asked how it went. I gave him the short version and he told me she’s hopeless when traveling. Like completely dysfunctional, I need a mommy.

    We had ended up having a single free day before we returned. She just wanted to sit in the hotel room but begged me not to leave her. I blew her off, rented a car and spent the day sightseeing. When I got back she was in the same chair she sat in when I left….she never moved. Was fine back in the office but she never apologized.

      1. Quickbeam*

        Yes, would have been more helpful if he had warned me ahead of time!! He said he had hoped she’d be better with a work associate.

  28. Jesca*

    I was on a business trip in another country. We were walking across a well lit, spacious parking lot that was between our hotel and this small grocery store. A car sped (yes – sped) out of her parking spot hitting one of the work travelors. When she stopped her car, the car was still on top of the woman in our party. English, while a main language, is not a language people speak for the most part after school, so trying to scream at her to get back in her car and pull forward took about 5 minutes for her to understand.

    Once the woman in our party was freed, the driver came over to profusely apologize and then explained to us how the same thing happened to her last week!!! So, of course, I asked her if this was common and she assured that yes it happens all the time.

    A couple days later a gentlemen the company gave us as a driver hit two pedestrians while driving us through a major city. There were also lots of those electric train cars, so it was not pretty.

    For the rest of my trip, I did not cross any roads on foot unless I had do!

      1. Jesca*

        Yeah, bad Polish drivers wasn’t on the list of things to look for when we traveled there.

        Oh and I forgot! The woman with our group suffered a fractured foot, but was otherwise fine (and very lucky!)

        1. CMart*

          Your story, combined with my experience as a passenger in cars during my trip to Poland, has really brought a lot of clarity to why the only outings we went on were to towns that were exclusively pedestrian-only in the city centers.

          1. Jesca*

            You mean, like, the last-minute-slam-on-your-breaks-going-from-60-to-0mph? Terrible drivers. Haha so bad. We also did have down-time to do some walking tours in the one city we stayed in. Is was not a high-traffic area at all.

            Another time when we walked to a mall near by, I freaking RAN across roads. I mean they wouldn’t even look at pedestrians!

        2. Joan*

          I knew immediately from your story that this took place in Poland. I had countless close calls when I visited Poland for several weeks as a teenager. My second cousin hit my mom with his car (lightly) while he was leaving. Depending on where you are in the country, driving instruction is very, very spotty.

        3. SarahKay*

          Ah, Poland. I had been wondering if this was in Prague, as the drivers there are pretty scary too.
          I got sent there on business and got a taxi from the airport to my city centre hotel. Cue taxi driver speeding down tiny historic city centre streets (many of which had pedestrians walking on the street as well as the pavements) while texting! I just sat in the back, trying not to look, and not liking to say anything because what if that was the final distraction that created a crash?
          The day I was due to fly back Qantas (previously renowned as super safe) had had some sort of crash or incident, which started Australian-but-locally-based slightly-scared-of-flying co-worker saying “oh, Qantas, even you! Even you! SarahKay, aren’t you scared to fly back?”
          “No” I said. ” No I am not. What’s scaring the cr*p out of me is the taxi-ride back to the airport!”

        4. Sanctuary*

          Never go to Georgia then (as in country, not state). Polish drivers are terrified to drive there! (And cars routinely have no bumpers due to previous accidents.)

  29. Magenta Sky*

    I had a modest web business with a friend years ago. We were at a convention in Atlanta, having a good time, not making any money, and it was time to go home. He was on a stricter schedule, so I got him to the airport and headed back to the hotel to pack everything up and check out. And found his wallet, with his ID, on the dresser. A few minutes after his flight was scheduled to leave. And we didn’t both have mobile phones.

    Fortunately, he had spent his entire life working in the movie industry, and traveled constantly, so he smooth-talked his way through security without any ID. (They apparently had a procedure for this, and he wasn’t traveling with any power tools or fake guns – that time – but this was pre-9/11. I have no idea if he could pull that off now.)

    When we got home, he was glad he hadn’t actually *lost* his wallet, but at no point was there any indication that he’d been concerned that he didn’t have ID at the airport. Working in Hollywood gives you a very odd view of the world.