the document bonfire, the dragon video call, and other amazing work moments

One of my favorite things about running this site is getting to hear people’s mortifying stories from their pasts.

In lieu of any more posts today since it’s Thanksgiving, here are some of my favorites from the last 12 years.

•. •. •. •. •.

“I work from home, and since my job doesn’t require much video calls, I used to dress pretty chill when I was at home. Then, my friend bought me a Kigurumi, aka that one piece pajama shaped like an animal, with the hood that is shaped like an animal. A dragon, in my case. A sparkly dragon.

Well, it was comfortable and warm, and one day I was freezing, and I decided to wear it while completing a project. Then our server crashed, all my team panicked, and the boss called. I was panicking, trying to remember if I had made a copy of the project, I forgot what I was wearing and I accepted the video call.

His face was priceless. Still forgetful of my outfit, I asked him to wait a sec while I was going to fetch my second laptop. I stood up giving him a full view of my dragon pajama, complete with a shiny dragon tail, of course. I realized it when I heard him choking laughing. He laughed so much he almost cried. Now I keep the dragon pajama just for sleeping, but the boss still calls me ‘the dragon manager’ from time to time.” – 2019

•. •. •. •. •.

“I had a coworker named Joaquin. At the time, I spoke exactly zero Spanish, and didn’t know how to pronounce it. I didn’t make the connection when other coworkers talked about ‘Wakeen.’ For MONTHS, I honestly thought I had two different coworkers, Joaquin (pronounced JOE-a-kwin) and Wakeen. In my head, I assigned them different personalities and areas of responsibility and everything. I sent emails saying ‘we should get Wakeen to look into this’ and talked about what Joe-a-kwin had been working on, and no one said anything, including poor Joaquin. I wanted to DIE when I finally put it together.” – 2013

•. •. •. •. •.

“Listed in the ‘interests’ section of a managerial candidate’s resume: ‘shitting.’ Candidate called us shortly after applying, apologizing up one side and down the other because he’d just realized that his teenage son had made an unauthorized edit to his resume.” – 2016

•. •. •. •. •.

“I was in my early 20′s and working with a placement agency to find that perfect job that would take me out of food service. My agency contact had set up an interview for me for my dream job, the day after my birthday. Being young and not much of a responsible drinker, I partied like it was 1999. I showed up at the interview not just hung over but still drunk. The person conducting the interview asked me if I was sick, and if I was we could reschedule. I answered, ‘Nope, not sick, drunk.’ … 
I was not hired.” – 2013

•. •. •. •. •.

“My first job after college was a very straightforward clerical job, 8 am – 5 pm. Many of friends had jobs that were structured differently, with later hours or less predictable hours. So, at 5:01 pm when I was ‘off the clock,’ I would hang around at work, because I was waiting for my friends to get out of their jobs, and it seemed pointless to go home just to go out again later. AT MY DESK, which was IN THE C-SUITE, I would put my make-up on, do my hair, call all my friends (loudly) to ask important questions like ‘do you know if the hottie bartender is working tonight?’ or ‘I was going to wear my black boots but do you know if Tami is wearing her black boots because in that case I would wear my silver pumps but tell me if you think they look slutty because if so then I could wear my red sandals unless it rains in which case maybe my Mary Janes etc etc etc etc.’ I would bring projects to keep myself occupied, like plugging in a hot glue gun to work on a Halloween costume, or (this is real) frosting cupcakes that I was bringing to a party later on that night. Even though I was finished at 5 pm, there were still plenty of people still working, or wrapping up for the day, including senior leadership. I am dying thinking about it now.

Finally, the office manager started hinting that if I wasn’t actually working, I didn’t need to be at work. And I was so clueless, I earnestly wanted to know if there was a policy against it, because sometimes I saw Reginald reading a magazine at his desk while he was waiting for his ride to pick him up, or a lady who was taking an evening class one night a week would sometimes do her reading in the break room between work and class. It was a friendly, casual office and all sorts of people sometimes spent some non-work time at their desks doing some QUIET and LOW-KEY personal business, but I could not see how there was any difference between someone occasionally reading a magazine while waiting for carpool, and me turning my desk into my Own Personal Rec Room several times a week. What was I thinking?” – 2018

•. •. •. •. •.

“When I was first starting out in nonprofit fundraising, I worked at a small and dysfunctional organization that had a decent sized silent auction. One of our donors gave us a bunch of time shares for the auction. The ED asked me to handle all the legal paperwork for transferring the deeds and titles and whatnot. The process was incredibly confusing, and no one at the various county governments was helpful, only advising that we hire a real estate attorney to do the paperwork. The agency refused to do so, saying, ‘You’re smart, just figure it out!’ When I asked for help, I was ignored.

I spent about two weeks trying to figure out what to do, but each county was different, the timeshare companies were unhelpful, and I had zero knowledge about quitclaim deeds and titles and all that stuff. After a bunch of reading and studying, I mailed off the documents only to have them rejected for legal reasons I didn’t understand. I tried again, only to be rejected a second time. After about a month of intense anxiety, insomnia, and occasional stress-vomiting, I told the director I was going to the post office to mail all of the various legal packets to the counties for what should be the final approval. Instead, I drove down a dirt road, pulled over, threw all the documents in a big pile and set them on fire.

About a week later, I contacted the original donor and purchasers and explained that there must have been a snafu with the counties, because the transactions weren’t being processed correctly. I told them I would try to get their donations back, but they all graciously declined and said we could keep the money. The original donor was pleased too, surprisingly, because her new husband liked to travel and she had regretted giving away the timeshares.” – 2014

•. •. •. •. •.

“I once asked my manager if I could take the afternoon off because I was feeling hateful. Yes, those are the exact words I used.” – 2018

•. •. •. •. •.

“I had a coworker who could not tell the difference between a spam email and a real email. She was constantly getting viruses on her computer. Our IT director finally told her she had to call him before opening any new emails from people she didn’t know. Shortly after, she went to call him, but accidentally clicked the ‘all page’ button on the phones, so broadcasted to the entire office was, ‘I just got this email and I don’t know what to do. Do I want to blow the biggest load ever?’ – 2019

•. •. •. •. •.

“When I as an intern, the HR people responsible for orienting us and organizing events and all that jazz constantly bragged about how much the company values its perks like yoga classes, Spanish classes, all of the onsite ‘work-life balance’ stuff that they use to make sure you never have a reason to go home. At the time, I didn’t know that those HR people were basically responsible for marketing the company as a workplace – I wasn’t technical but it was a tech company and those love to coddle their engineering interns.

So I would freely sign up for those classes or skip off to a lecture or presentation without asking my bosses if it was okay. I would just tell them I was going to be at an event today from 2-3 or from now on I’m going to have 2-hour lunches on Mondays and Wednesdays for Spanish class or hey, I’m going to yoga this afternoon. I thought this was GOOD because look, I was showing interest in all of these things that the company really values! I’m such a great fit for the culture! (I did get rehired there for 4 internships but I didn’t get a FT job – they weren’t exactly handing out functional entry-level jobs in 2010.)” – 2015

•. •. •. •. •.

“Our bank was in the process of merging with another bank. During the merger process, all the teller managers had to attend meetings with people from other banks going through the same process. During the first meeting, I did my best to get to know the other teller managers and branch managers (I’m an introvert and was very shy at the time).

I started talking to the woman who was running the meeting. She was the equivalent of a district manager and was around my age (early 20s). I was really impressed with the fact that she was at this stage of her career at such a young age, because I was aspiring to rise to the same level. I asked her how she got started, what were her responsibilities, etc. During our talk, she mentioned how she was thinking of going back to finish up school (she said ‘school’ not ‘degree’). Stupid me asks, ‘Oh? High school or college?’

Thankfully she just said ‘college’ and moved the conversation to another topic. Even though she didn’t acknowledge my gaffe with so much as a blink, I still was praying a sinkhole would open up below me.” – 2012

•. •. •. •. •.

“This was quite a few years ago. I was working in a call center at the time. I needed to ask a senior member of my team for some clarification on what a caller was calling about and for some reason instead of saying ‘let me place you on hold,’ I said ‘let me hold you.'” – 2019

•. •. •. •. •.

“At my first job after college, I knew nothing but was full of enthusiasm. I attended a meeting where the sales team spoke in a slew of acronyms and things I didn’t understand, but I was too shy to ask anyone for clarification. The CEO then stops me in the break room after the meeting, and asked, ‘Get some great ideas at the meeting?’ and I responded with an enthusiastic ‘Yes!’ As he waited for me to elaborate on what those ideas actually were, I froze. The voice in my head kept saying ‘say SOMETHING’ but I couldn’t think of a thing. He waited a few minutes, then sighed and shuffled out of the break room. I ran into him a few years later, after I’d long left that job, and he said ‘Hey, have any ideas from that meeting?!’ Yes, it really was as bad as I had remembered.” – 2013

•. •. •. •. •.

“Today as I was arriving at work, I got to the door of the building just before the CEO. I was holding the door for him, and he reached over me — I assume to take the door and hold it open for me. I’m a woman, and I don’t know … chivalry? Anyway, my brain interpreted this as him going in for a hug. The reflex to hug back came quicker than the realization that greeting coworkers with a hug in the morning is not something people do. We both just pretended it hadn’t happened and made small talk as we walked towards the elevator.” – 2016

{ 215 comments… read them below }

    1. Lena Clare*

      I laughed out loud in the queue at the supermarket (got funny looks) at the call centre one, and every time I think of it now I start giggling.

  1. Fieldpoppy*

    These are all amazing but for some reason I resonate the most with the person who was feeling hateful. I feel you!!

    1. Kramerica Industries*

      Right? Like on one hand, I feel that second-hand embarrassment. But on the other, hateful OP is my hero.

    2. Susie To Go*

      When I retail, I once asked if I could leave early. My boss asked if I was sick and I said, “Yeah, sick of being here.”

      To be be fair, I said it humorously, but it was accurate and he knew it.

    3. Hedgehug*

      The hateful OP is my spirit animal, haha. Many a day I have wanted to take the afternoon off for feeling like, “I can no longer interact with other humans in a socially acceptable manner”.

      1. Cafe au Lait*

        Hey there, instead of saying “Spirit Animal” try “Patronus.” Indigenous tribes use spirit animals as part of their belief and worship culture.

        It’s something I still catch myself saying. I’m trying to be more sensitive to first nations and not co-op their language for my own.

        1. Goldfinch*

          That term is not limited to indigenous tribes, though “totem” usually is. Spirt animals as a concept existed concurrently in multiple cultures, including shamanic and pagan. What you’re saying here is Woke Internet Groupthink. Telling people how to talk is bad enough when you have your facts straight, which you don’t.

        2. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

          Spirit animals are in numerous cultures. No culture gets to claim it any more than claiming ghosts.

    4. Persephone Underground*

      I think it’s the best summary of “I really want to send emails/say things I will regret later. Definitely time to go home.” Or at least, this resonates so much with me because I totally felt that way last week. Like, ok anything else I do today will be counterproductive, trust me … Thank God/FSM for flex time.

    5. Flash Bristow*

      I’ve done similar, called my team lead and said I really don’t think I can come in because I’m depressed, angry, and don’t think I should get out of bed.

      It threw him, but he said he’d square it with boss, and he did.

      Nowadays taking a day off for mental health rather than physical health issues is a lot more commonplace, but it wasn’t back in ’99, or at least I must’ve been the first to do it in our company. Hey ho.

    6. Helvetica*

      I have done this, saying “I have to leave before I say anything mean to someone and everybody’s testing my nerve today.” Tbf, I was filling three people’s positions simultaneously at the time and my boss was very understanding, and I don’t consider it cringeworthy as such. Sometimes you just…feel hateful.

    7. Minocho*

      I had an afternoon, about 15 minutes before the end of my day, where a coworker told me they didn’t want to do the administrative part of their job, and they were a week behind, and I could just do it for them because I was good at it. I opened my mouth, realized that if ANYTHING came out of it, I would regret it, turned around with my mouth still open, and walked to my desk, grabbed my keys and left for the day.

      You know the phrase “seeing red”? That can be a real thing. I have done this thing. It’s a sign I need some time away from people and annoying things.

    1. Stormfeather*

      I can only hope somewhere Wak – excuse me, Joaquin realizes he will now live forever in the various name substitutions for stories on Ask a Manager.

      1. LGC*

        Like, I read that and it was like a lightbulb lit up! I never realized that there was a story behind it.

        We should send him a bowl of Hanukkah balls.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Just not the cheap ass rolls
          (I’m now wondering exactly what was meant…were they cheap-ass? Or ass-rolls, which might mean those split-top ones. But then again I slept poorly in a strange bed and woke up at 4:30am and I’m too far into the country to consider Black Friday as an option for the early waking.)

      2. Flash Bristow*

        Exactly! I just went “oh THAT’S where it’s from!” out loud, and disturbed the sleeping dog. Oops!

        I’d assumed it was from Star Wars or something.

        Fwiw, I assumed the pronunciation was “Yo-A-kim” (A as in apple) so that’s two things I’ve learnt today already!

    2. Bryan A*

      I had a similar experience in an apartment building I lived in shortly after college. I needed a building staff member for an issue and found the person on the list, but when I kept asking for “George” nobody knew whew I wanted. Eventually I tried the last name and they said, oh, “You mean Hoar-hay?”

      1. whingedrinking*

        Tangential, but: Jeffrey and Geoffrey are *not* the same name, and a pox on people who pronounce them the same.

        1. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

          British person here. You’ve lost me. Here, Jeffrey and Geoffrey (or Jeff and Geoff) would be pronounced identically.

            1. PollyQ*

              American person chiming in: I’ve never heard any difference in pronunciation between them, including from the holders of said names.

          1. Amber Rose*

            In some places and at it’s origin, Geoffrey is pronounce Jaw-Free.

            But I don’t think that’s the common usage in current times.

          2. Snuck*

            Jeffrey and Geoffrey are the same in Australia too…

            G followed by E makes a hard G sound … George… So here (with the Queen’s own English :P ) it’s is J (as in jug) effrey regardless of spelling.

          3. Quill*

            You also probably pronounce Gareth and Jared in a way that I personally cannot distinguish, so… why is England so full of G and J names to begin with?

        2. spock*

          I’m sure some people pronounce one of them differently but they commonly are identical. Saying them the same is very different from saying George and Jorge the same.

        3. LawBee*

          The Geoffrey I knew in high school pronounced it Jeffrey. How else do you say it, Joffrey? Gee-offrey?

            1. Mimi Me*

              Little turd spelled his name Joffrey. LOL! His mother may have been truly awful, but at least she spelled her son’s name like it should sound. LOL!

        4. I heart Paul Buchman*

          Hhhhm, I’m curious now because here they are the same (and one is the slightly dumbed down version cough cough).

          Living in a country with very few Spanish speakers I embarrassed myself terribly the first time I met a Javier – or as I called across the waiting room “Jay-vee-uh”. Cringe.

        5. Ruth (UK)*

          Jeffrey and Geoffrey are definitely pronounced the same whenever I’ve heard them in the UK and one of my first cousins is called Geoffrey… (Wikipedia also gives their pronunciations as the same when I looked them up separately).

      2. Quoth the Raven*

        From Mexico here. We often joke that there’s no point in naming anyone Jorge down here; everyone’s going to end up calling them “George” anyway (for some reason it became a popular nickname for Jorge).

        1. GilaMonster*

          Southern Arizona here. That is so funny, I’ve met a few Jorge-Georges and thought they were anglicizing their name.

      3. Ace in the Hole*

        I had a similar experience in elementary school when I had a class where I couldn’t figure out which kid was named “Jesus.” I kept seeing his name on papers and assigned to groups… took me half the year to realize that Hey-zeus and Jesus were one and the same.

        Even more embarrassing since I grew up in a heavily hispanic area. But I somehow made it to fifth grade without ever seeing the name spelled out.

        1. Liz*

          I had a similar experience in elementary school with a classmate named Sean. I couldn’t figure out who that was, because in MY mind, that particular spelling was pronounced “say an” Duh.

        2. Rebecca in Dallas*

          I had a similar experience with “Jaime”, not realizing that it was the same as “Hai-me.” I wondered who “Jame-y” was that I always saw on the schedule.

    3. Pennalynn Lott*

      I am active in my neighborhood’s community activities, which includes a lively Google Group as well as in-person social events. It took me 15 years to realize that the “Juanita” I spoke to at every in-person event was the same as “Wanetta”, a woman I corresponded frequently with on the Google Group.

      (She spells her name Wanetta but pronounces it the same as Juanita; so, the exact opposite of Wakeen).

      1. NotTheSameAaron*

        I knew someone like that. Everyone called her Juanita and yet her gravestone says Wanetta…

      2. Mephyle*

        Long, long ago, when my daughter was in elementary school her classmates had parents from more than a dozen different countries. So the way those names were spelled were normal to her, since she was learning to read and write. One time she took down a message for me from a classmate’s mother about the PTA meeting. I had a call from, as she spelled it, Jo Anh (who was, however, of Irish background).

        1. Mary*

          My 5yo daughter is at this stage right now–she started school in September and she’s learning the names of kids in a dozen different languages, but they’re all equally easy/difficult to her because she’s 5 and she’s learning new words all the time. I love it. She gets so baffled that me and her other mum have to be reminded how to say Jhuri or Madihah because they’re as normal to her as Charlotte or Simon.

      3. Carlie*

        I have the opposite. My aunt had two friends, one Juanita and one Wanita. I only heard about them secondhand and verbally, and thought they were the same person until I was in my 30s.

    4. Director of Alpaca Exams*

      I grew up in a very multicultural city, so I encountered a lot of names as a kid without connecting them to the languages (and spellings) they originated in. There was a Latino kid in my class named Felipe, and my parents had French friends with the last name Philippe, and as far as I knew those were the same… right up until I wrote “Mr. Felipe” and “Mrs. Felipe” on the place cards for a formal dinner. The Philippes were very nice about it but I will be quietly cringing for the rest of my life.

    5. Venus*

      A former colleague once commented “We kept looking for La-hoy-a but the signs in that direction all said ‘La-Joll-a'”

        1. curly sue*

          Anglo pronounciations of Spanish words in Quebec will never not be funny to me. Except for the time I drove in circles trying to find “Donkey Shot” street (as per my future-MIL), only to eventually learn she meant “Don Quichotte” which was, of course, named for Don Quixote…

          1. GilaMonster*

            I live in Southern Arizona where there is a large Hispanic population. Most people pronounce Spanish names and words correctly here, so when I travel to other places it is always really funny to see how they pronounce them, e.g. “Martinez, GA” as MARTihnEHz and YES, Jorge as George (although that may not apply per Quoth the Raven above).

            1. PlainJane*

              I live in New Mexico, and yeah… you get so used to Spanish words being pronounced in Spanish (even by monolingual anglophones) that it’s jarring. The worst was in an audiobook, one of the Tony Hillermans. Someone had carefully learned the local accent to read in, but read right through a scene where the characters interview a witness named “Mr. Vigil”… pronounced like the English word instead of the Spanish surname. And apparently nowhere in the editorial process did anyone stop to check on it.

          2. Pomona Sprout*

            I once lived in a medium sized city in central Illinois (Decatur) where one of the main streets was named El Dorado. The catch? It was pronounced “El Doraydo.” Having taken 2 years of Spanish in college, it drove me crazy.

            1. Zelda*

              The fair state of Ohio is chock full of these. LIE-ma. MAN-chew-ay. Bell FOUN-ten. Many more. At least with Worcester they pronounce it properly, but they’ve given in and spelled it Wooster.

              1. Platypus Enthusiast*

                I was so confused when I moved to Ohio because of Lima! And Versailles threw me off as well. The first few months there I used every trick in the book to avoid saying city names because I had no idea what to say.

  2. LGC*

    I want to know if the dragon manager has any openings. I would 1000% work for her (or him, because tbqh I would wear the hell out of a kigurumi if I could find one I could wear)

    1. Harper the Other One*

      From a kigurumi fan – is height the issue? If so, Sazac makes an adult extra large size that fits people 6’ and taller!

      1. Amber Rose*

        Yes! I have one that fits if I hunch and endure the wedgie to end all wedgies, and I’m only 5’6. :<

      2. Inefficient Cat Herder*

        I needed this!

        Was reading about the dragon suit and thinking how much I needed one but thinking I would never find one in tall.

        You made my day!

      3. LGC*

        I’m 6’5″ so yes – that’s the issue!

        Also, sorry not sorry to my bosses who are going to have the “LGC, we need you to dress professionally” talk with me in a couple of weeks.

    2. Folklorist*

      I actually have one of these! It’s a purple Spiro knockoff and I love it. So comfy! I’m dying to know where to get a sparkly one though!

    3. Zelda*

      Seconded. I can see how it might be a little awkward in the moment, but ultimately it is completely FABULOUS, and I would absolutely want to work for or with a person who hangs out in a dragon getup.

    4. Isabelle*

      They have a wide range of kigurumis on Etsy and most sellers have a decent choice of heights or will make one to fit your measurements. I got one made of thick fleece which came in very handy when the heating broke down.

      1. LGC*

        Replying late, but I was at least half serious about that job request…;)

        (But seriously, you sound like a delight.)

  3. Bibliovore*

    Oh, there is much to be grateful for this Thanksgiving but I think this recap tops the list. Thank you!

  4. Elly*

    To the last OP: This exact thing happened to Peter Parker in Spider-Man Homecoming, so you’re not alone…

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Maybe the Marvel screenwriters read AAM for awkward work moments?

      And speaking of that, can anyone think of a more awkward situation than Pepper and Tony Stark? Dating your boss is not a great idea, even if he is Iron Man.

  5. anony*

    I worked at a furniture store during college and my colleague’s role included notifying customers that items were ready for delivery. She once left a message letting a customer know their sectional sofa was ready, but, fortunately for everyone, called it a “sexual sofa”. On their voicemail.

    This was also the place where once, while rattling through the laundry list of products that a customer had ordered, accidentally called their “Big Dipper” lamp the “big dicker”. To their face.

    1. Anonny*

      If it makes you feel any better, a similar gaffe was made by Patrick Troughton for an episode of Doctor Who. He was meant to say they had to switch over to “sectional air supply” and, well…

      Of course, this was before they could do retakes for anything short of willful crotch-grabbing or swearing or possibly the near-death of an actor, so it got broadcast on national television.

    2. LGC*

      but, fortunately for everyone, called it a “sexual sofa”. On their voicemail.

      Sounds like this story had a happy ending.

      …I’ll show myself out.

    3. Bizhiki*

      I previously held the title of engagement coordinator and once accidentally left a voice message for a government counterpart, calling myself the “engorgement coordinator”. At least my co-workers thought it was hysterical.

  6. phc jr.*

    Just want to say I was 40 years old and well versed in professional workplace conduct, but the day Tom Petty died I still asked my boss if I could go home and smoke a bowl in tribute. She said no. :-(

  7. Amber Rose*

    The bonfire is and will always be my favorite. Not only because setting all my work on fire is something I daydream about, but because it actually worked out for the best in this case.

    1. iglwif*

      I *love* that story.

      Because honestly what was this person supposed to do? One hires a real-estate lawyer to handle this sort of thing for a very good reason!

      And also, as you say, because it worked out for the best in the end.

      1. GilaMonster*

        For real, how much did her time spent on this, which sounds like many many hours, actually cost the company as opposed to a few hundred dollars, especially taking into account her mental stress?

        Penny wise, pound poor.

        1. Sally*

          I’d like to know who in their right mind bids FOR a time share? Maybe this was before everyone was trying and failing to sell theirs. Or maybe that’s just an issue where I live…?

    2. FabJob Tag*

      This was my first time reading this story and my heart goes out to the poor employee who got put in this impossible situation. What kind of a boss expects a junior employee to do work that needs to be done by a lawyer? And not just any lawyer, but a specialist! I’m glad it worked out for her.

    3. RB*

      Yes, I can’t really pinpoint the reason but there is something intensely satisfying about that story. Maybe it is the visual imagery that it conjures up.

  8. Folklorist*

    I actually gasped and breathed “noooooooooo” out loud during the “crafting at desk while optimizing time” one. Mostly because this sounds close to something I would have done in my early 20s. Actually, I used to get up and have mini dance parties at my desk when I was feeling tired. I would also close my door and takes naps on the floor during lunch (this stopped at my second job when my boss walked in to get something from my desk while I was “away at lunch”). I also liked to sit on the floor of my office as an intern to…I dunno, show how hard I was working while researching? Uggghhhh. Luckily my first boss was very understanding and for some reason found me charming (more likely, happy to have “let me tell you what my absurd report did this time!” Stories to tell. I also asked him to forge documents saying I was moving for my job to get me out of a scam dating club that was sucking all my money. He said no.) I don’t care what people say, I wouldn’t go back to my 20’s for any amount of money!

    1. Ann O.*

      The naps thing doesn’t seem like a problem to me if it was your own office with a closed door. It’s your lunch break time! What’s the issue with a power nap during a break?

      1. Kat in VA*

        One day, not too long ago, I walked into BossMan’s office to see the toes of his brown wingtips angled toward the ceiling and the upper part of his body laid out on the floor, out of sight around the corner of his desk.

        Now, I’m pretty good at the OODA* loop, so based on the information at hand (late 40-something, well dressed executive flat on the floor in his office, not making any noise) it only took a second to decide he’d likely passed out or had a heart attack, I now needed to see if he was breathing, and then I would call 911, loosen collar, etc. I came around the corner intent on doing all those things and was met by an amused set of bright blue eyes in a very awake, very oriented face (still flat on the floor, of course).

        “What’s up?”

        (I later discovered) he was on the floor because sometimes his knees hurt him and lying on the floor makes them feel better.

        I swiftly recovered, with a sizable left eye twitch, took a shaky breath, and then absolutely.lit.him.up at the highest volume I could manage for scaring me half to death.

        He now has a leather chaise in his office for the days that his creaky knees bother him, and I no longer have that frisson of Ooohhh SHIIIIIIIIIIIT when I walk into his office and see his body on the floor.

        Because, naturally, even getting hollered at by your near-tears assistant over your very odd behavior of lying supine on a dirty office carpet wasn’t enough to deter him from doing it at least three or four times more before the chaise showed up.

        *Observe, Orient, Decide, Act

        1. SusanIvanova*

          He needs a sign like Granny Weatherwax uses when her mind is literally elsewhere: “I aten’t dead”

    2. An Elephant Never Baguettes*

      Iirc, desk crafting OP said she was now in a senior role at that exact company, which to me made the story even better!

    3. Dealtwiththis*

      At my first job I totally thought that once I hit my 7.5 hour work day, I could just, leave. I got in early and then left around 3:30 for the first week or so until it occurred to me that everyone else stayed until at least 5 pm and there was probably a reason for that.

  9. Jessen*

    I think several of these are also illustrations of the “be direct” principle, especially with younger workers. What’s obvious to an experienced manager may very much not be to a 20-something!

    1. 911 where's your emergency? Someone stole my refrigerator*

      I’m a dispatcher. We send each other calls with a computer program with a space for the address, location, description, and caller information, and a scrolling list of various call types.
      My coworker sent me one for “motor vehicle complaints” for an EROTIC driver with VAGINA plates. Autocorrect didn’t work out for him. I didn’t look to closely at the description he filled out until I was actively speaking on the radio to my officers and on the state network radio. I emphasized “erA(hahahaha)tic driver (location/general direction) with vIRGINAhhhhhhhh plates” I had an officer call in and ask if I was okay so I assigned her to the call so she could see it himself. Told that story to my sister and she said she would have called 911 if someone was driving erotically too because it sounds terrifying.

      I also had someone send me a car crash involving a volkswagen (abbreviated to vw) JEDI. It was a very serious accident so I couldn’t truly appreciate its value, but I’m hoping whoever read this can.

      There’s lots of hilarious stories in this line of work, but there’s also some horrific nightmares and lots of liability. I enjoy the work but it isn’t for everyone.

      (Yes the name I filled out was a real call)

    1. TwoCents*

      Yup. Same here. I am cracking up right now. That poor poor kid. He tried so damn hard to figure it out!

  10. rudster*

    Most time shares have negative resale value – usually you have to pay someone to take if off your hands and assume the perpetual maintenance payments.

    1. WellRed*

      There is actually a company that just started advertising in my area whose sole purpose is to get you out of a timeshare.

      1. SusanIvanova*

        I think there have been ads for those on late-night TV for as long as late-night TV has existed.

      1. Beth Jacobs*

        Eh, many charities solicit them. Not to auction off really, but rather just as regular real estate – either as a benefit for employee use or for events.
        Timeshares are a scam to buy. But for free, an org can get the fees’ worth.

  11. Quake Johnson*

    Wait is THAT why everyone says ‘Wakeen’ all the time on this site? Here I thought this normally tolerant community was being low-key racist and I was so confused but didn’t want to bring it up.

    1. knead me seymour*

      Weirdly, it wasn’t until I first read the origin story that I understood that “Wakeen” was a phonetic spelling of “Joaquin.” I am familiar with the name Joaquin and how it’s pronounced, but I never made the connection somehow. Then again, it took me decades to figure out that “segue” and “segway” are the same word, so maybe I’m on the same wavelength.

      1. Perpal*

        I… learned something new today. (I thought a segue was pronounced “see-guh” and segway was a slightly-absurd 2 wheeled vehicle. Until now!)

      2. Red 5*

        No joke, I once sent something to a classmate in grad school talking about a “segue way” and they were like “Um, a what now?”

        It was just one of those cases where I’d reached my thirties never having seen it written out and spoken at the same time so I didn’t connect the words and assumed when people just wrote “segue” they were making it into a slang word and just saying “seg.”

        If it had happened to me when I was younger I would have been super embarrassed but at that point I was like “man, English is weird, learn something new every day, let’s finish this group project.”

        1. Np*

          I had the same feelings of embarrassment when I was younger. Although English is my first language, it wasn’t my parents’ and as a result there were many words I mispronounced as a child at school. It didn’t help that all of these kids who spoke English at home would make fun of me for mispronouncing words.

          It wasn’t until I got to university and a guy who had been home-schooled until the age of 16 said he had had similar experiences. And he gave me the best nugget of wisdom ever: “People who mispronounce words should never be made fun of. It just means that they learned that word through reading, and there is nothing embarrassing about that!” And I thought that was absolutely lovely (and so, so accurate).

          1. Daniel Atter*

            Apparently Harry Truman decided he wanted to study the classics as an adult, and some people in the administration mocked him for his pronunciation of the Greek names. When I heard that it made me so sad – he obviously hadn’t had the chance when he was younger to study them, made the effort as an adult, and his reward was…mocking? Some people are just nasty.

            There are people whose criticism should be taken on board. Then there are people whose criticism is just useful to understand that they are not people whose opinion is to be regarded. Those who make fun of people’s pronunciation just because they didn’t have the opportunity to hear the pronunciation when they were children fall firmly into the second category.

            1. Pomona Sprout*

              Omg, that could have happened to me. I read some Greek myths as a kid, without ever having heard the names pronounced. I finally learned some of them when I took a theater history class in college that included ancient Greece, but I’m not sure how old I was before I found out that Achilles was pronounced “Akilleez.” I could have told you what the phrase “Achilles heel” meant and the story behind it when I was 10 years old, but I would have probably pronounced his name “Acheels” or something. I was (and am) a bookworm, but I did not come from a very literate family.

              1. OyHiOh*

                I come from a highly literate family and I still have a “reader’s vocabulary.” That is, I recognize a vast array of words, know their meaning, do not necessarily know how to pronounce them out loud. A touch of dyslexia in the range of bad speller and not the best sense of phonics that is also very common in my family.

          2. Lx in Canada*

            OH MY GOD. This matches my experience so exactly!!! I was born in Canada but my parents weren’t, and I am still sometimes mispronouncing words (and I’m 23!). People ALWAYS make fun of me for it, and I’m like, “But that’s how my parents say it!”

            1. iglwif*

              And listen, that happens to me too, despite being raised by native English speakers, because my parents grew up in two different regions of the United States! (Neither of which talks like people in the region of Canada where I grew up, or the one where I now live.)

        2. Loz*

          I didn’t realise hyperbole wasn’t pronounced “high per bowl” until I was about 40. I learned the correct way (“high purr bowl ee” – you’re welcome ) from an episode of the Simpsons!

        1. Indigo a la mode*

          Not as far as I know. It follows the Spanish phonetic principles of “j” being pronounced like an English “h,” “qu” like English “k,” and “i” like “ee.” So it’s “hoa-KEEN.” That said, positioning the “h” sound naturally turns the “o” into a “w” because the “h” is orated back in your throat while the “o –> a” happens up front with your lips, so you kinda slide the sound forward while you make it. Thus, “hwa-KEEN.”

          English speakers do tend to drop Spanish J sounds entirely, so that’s how we get to “wa-KEEN” or “wan” instead of orating the “h” sound in Joaquin or Juan.

          1. MissDisplaced*

            That is a great explanation!
            I do know the correct pronunciation is “hwa-KEEN” but I have trouble articulating that soft “h” in many Spanish words, thus it comes out as “wa-KEEN.” And if you’re not sure, and you’re hearing various coworkers pronounce it, I can see getting confused.

            But I do wonder why the real Joaquin didn’t pull aside the OP and say something sooner instead of letting OP continue to believe there were two separate people?

            1. Close Bracket*

              I work with a guy whose last name is an English word, but it is not pronounced the way the word is. Think, Teapot, but pronounced Tay-pot. Someone commented to me once, after I pronounced his name correctly while talking to them, “Joe is too polite to correct people.” Maybe something like that is what was going on? Although “polite” is not the word I would use since there is nothing rude about telling someone how to pronounce your name.

      3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        I went to San Diego on vacation once and we took a day trip to La Jolla. I had taken Spanish in school so I knew how to pronounce most things, but spent the drive seeing the signs for La Jolla and pronouncing it in my head phonetically, and then realizing what I had done once we got there.

      4. kaz*

        haha i did not know either of these! I have a fb friend called Wiebke, no idea how to pronounce her name!

  12. Hedgehug*

    Having worked in a call centre, that would have been a great way to de-escalate an angry customer. “You sound super angry. You sound like you could use a hug. Let me hold you.”

    1. whingedrinking*

      I worked briefly in a call centre before I went back to teaching, and the most frustrating thing wasn’t customers getting mad at me. It was that if my students are clearly having a bad day, I’m allowed to say to them, “Hey, are you all right? Because your behavior isn’t acceptable and we need to deal with that” or something similar. You’re not allowed to say to a customer, “Are you really this mad over your package being a day late, or is there something else going on?”

      1. Lkr209*

        I worked as a CSR for Ashley Furniture for about a year. Terrible management, terrible policies, delivery staff, etc. But I genuinely care about people and I was usually upset on their behalf and did what I could to help the young military couples (we were right across from a huge Marine base) and elderly folks that had been screwed over. A TON of it was just listening, including letting them rant about completely unrelated things. Strangers have always vented to me, at work or no. Guess I just have that presence or whatnot. After I’d listened, they’d usually calm down and thank me for at least trying. They knew I couldn’t do anything. Most people just need someone to listen!

        1. Red 5*

          Seriously, I worked in customer service for YEARS, and I had several managers that were like “how are you so good at this when the company won’t let us really do much to help them?”

          It was easy. I let them rant, and when they said something was an annoying policy I said “yeah, this situation is really frustrating, I can see why you’re mad” and I still couldn’t fix it but having somebody listen and then agree with them usually deflated the anger enough that they were willing to work within the confines I had to work with.

        2. FabJob Tag*

          I had a really awful experience with Overstock. com recently and the CSR couldn’t help me. When I later filled out a customer satisfaction survey and responded there was a zero out of 10 chance of me every again buying from Overstock or recommending it to anyone I also added that it wasn’t the CSR’s fault and I thought she did fine and had a difficult job.

          1. Dr Wizard, PhD*

            Unfortunately many places penalise the CSR anyway.

            An infamous place I used to work had surveys with the following two questions:

            – Please rate the CSR on a 1-5 scale.
            – Was your issue resolved? Yes/No

            The latter was worth five or zero points, giving a ‘grade’ out of ten.

            To be clear, below an 8 was unacceptable.

            So if someone called up with a request I was forbidden/legally unable from complying with (‘let me out of my contract’ usually), and scored me 5/5 I would still get a 5/10 and be at risk of being fired.

      2. Anon today*

        I actually did something similar once. I had offered a couple of solutions, and the caller was having none of it. Finally, in a mixture of irritation and desperation, I asked, “Sir, do you need help, or do you just need to vent?” I did keep my tone very mild, but I was horrified after I realized what I’d done. He kind of stopped, half-chuckled and said, “Well, both, I guess.” After that, though, he was much calmer.

  13. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

    I feel for the dragon video call person, I was called to an emergency meeting while working from home… with a beauty mask on . Thankfully my coworkers and I don’t like webcams.

    1. Magpie*

      Related but less mortifying, I accidentally went to work yesterday with my fluffy unicorn slippers on. I live in my van and had a weird late shift for an event and just… walked between my parking spot and the door without noticing. I was working cash, so nobody noticed for a couple hours and then my boss looks down and goes “…interesting choice of footwear.”

      I ran out and swapped into my boots but DAMN it was funny.

      1. SusanIvanova*

        My usually well-behaved dog tried to go out the door with me as I left for work, and it wasn’t until I got there and propped my feet up that I realized I was wearing my dog-walking white sneakers instead of my usual black shoes.

        1. Zelda*

          Yup, my usual routine involves 1) take dog into backyard, 2) pick up what dog deposits, 3) bring dog inside, 4) change out of gardening shoes, which are prudent to wear during step 2, and into loafers, 5) go to work. I have missed step 4 more than once– in my defense, the gardening shoes and the loafers are both black, and just maybe nobody else noticed much either…

      2. Oh So Very Anon*

        I once got half way through a work day before I realized I had two different shoes on — a blue flat, and a black high heel. Never even noticed that I was walking funny. It was the week my father was dying, so other things on my mind, but you’d think the odd gait would have tipped me off.

  14. Sabina*

    I’ve never set fire to work documents, but I’ve (inadvertently) cast them to the wind. I was working a temp job in college that involved trying to bring order to a one-man office where nothing had ever been filed or archived. Every surface in the office was covered with paper– old correspondence, invoices, abandoned projects, etc. The office was in an old, downtown, 8-story building. One afternoon I was working alone and the office seemed a little stuffy. With great effort I was able to force open a window. Half a second later I realized there were no screens as multiple 2 foot high stacks of papers were sucked from the window sill and cast into the void. I ran down 8 flights of stairs (the elevator was really old and scary) out in to the street to see what looked like the end of a poorly planned ticker-tape parade. Documents were in the gutter, under busses, being puzzled over by random homeless people. I was able to gather up about 2 % of what was lost. I spent the rest of the day praying the returning boss wouldn’t trip over papers with his letterhead or other identifying features. I never confessed, hoping that stuff left around in piles for months and years wasn’t really important.

    1. Lkr209*

      I just LOL’ed for a good five minutes, very loudly. My in laws are probably downstairs wondering what the hell, LOL.

    2. Fikly*

      I once got a free A on a homework assignment in high school because my teacher dropped the pile of papers on the subway tracks.

    3. Bagpuss*

      At a former job, a coworker told a simailr story on himself. He had been to court, and mut (he sadi) have put on of the many fileshe was carrying on the roof of his car while he got hiskeys out to unlock the car.

      And then forgot to pick it up, and drove off with it on the roof, where is gradually disintigrated and started shedding pages as he drove along the motorway…

      That involved some long conversations with the Law Society as scattering your client’s file along 10 miles of urban motorway raises all sorts of conidentiality issues.

      (He told me the story in orderto comfort me when, as a very junior lawyer I was stressing out as I had missed a hearing due to having suffered an anxiety attack and having an ambulance called for me at the court, so he was sahring stories of all the things he and other collegues had done )

      1. New Job So Much Better*

        In high school I left my books on the roof of my car, and didn’t realize it until I got to school. What was really fun was my art history teacher, who biked to school, starting off by lecturing the class on how we didn’t take care of our books. He had found my textbook on his ride to school that morning. Sheesh.

      2. Gidget*

        Someone I knew in high school lost their notebook. We couldn’t find it, until we took my car to the community fundraising car wash. It had been sitting on the roof of our car for over a week and was not found until a high school student washing the top of our car found it. It was throughly soaked and in terrible condition but still there.

  15. Sir Freelancelot - Aka The Dragon Kigurumi*

    WOW, I made it in this selection. I’m equally flatter and embarrassed :-)))!!!

    1. AGD*

      Your story absolutely made my day today. And it’s been a rough day at work (I’m not in the U.S.), so I needed it!

      1. Sir Freelancelot - Aka The Dragon Kigurumi*

        Oh, thanks so much! I hope you’ll have a wonderful rest of the week!

      1. Sir Freelancelot - Aka The Dragon Kigurumi*

        Ahahah, Friday Kigurumis would surely become famous in our field. I can see my team doing one!

      1. Sir Freelancelot - Aka The Dragon Kigurumi*

        Your story is LEGEND! I mean, you created Wakeen! I thought it was fantastic!

      2. Indigo a la mode*

        If it helps, I have a similar story. When I was a senior in high school, I helped out at freshman orientation and there was this girl named Eileen who I could do it – my friend could do it – we could put our hands over hers and do it…but it refused to work for her. Weird.

        Anyway, there was also a girl named Eileen in the school orchestra with me. She played violin, I played viola, we didn’t interact much but I was the orchestra president, so I knew everybody there. I also captained the spring badminton team, and there was also an Eileen there. Then, one day in April or May, Badminton Eileen came up to me and made some comment about orchestra that day. Befuddled, I was like, “How do you kn–NOOOOO.”

        Yes, all three Eileens were the same girl, and it took me most of the school year to realize it.

    2. The Other Dawn*

      Hahaha I made it, too! Mine is the one where I asked if the manager was wanting to finish high school. LOL

      1. Sir Freelancelot - Aka The Dragon Kigurumi*

        Look, it’s something that I can easily see myself doing! Your story was so charming. Also, pros for pushing yourself out of your comfort zone!

    3. iglwif*

      I honestly think you are pretty great, and I now sort of want to take a Skype video call from work (I also work at home) while dressed as a dragon. Or possibly a dinosaur.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I’m thinking when I’m CEO of the world I’ll wear one, just as a setup for someone to have to ask “but what does the fox say?”

    4. Maladyvaccine*

      All the others are cringe but your dragon story is magnificent.

      I once watched a colleague sitting poker straight and elegantly stroking his cat like goldfinger for 30 minutes on a conference call blissfully unaware that he was on video.

  16. You bet I'm anon for this*

    Oooooh boy embarrassing work stories.

    Probably the worst was when I was dating a coworker (we were at a computer store, I was in customer service, he was in tech support, we thought this was sufficient professional distance to accommodate a personal relationship, we were… not correct) and also had a mad crush on his primary girlfriend, but she went back and forth on whether she wanted to be dating me. One day my coworker/boyfriend brought me a gift from her: a CD with a song that she thought was romantic. I was so excited that I sat right down under one of the checkout counters to pop it into my Discman and play it. But the song turned out to be a wistful “If only we could be together, baby” sort of thing. I took it as the last nail in the coffin of my hopes, burst into noisy sobs, and had to go hide in the stockroom to compose myself while my coworker/boyfriend stood there, absolutely baffled that I wasn’t happier about the gift.

    We were not the messiest or most dramatic couple at that workplace. In the running, though!

    1. FabJob Tag*

      That’s amazing! If there were messier or more dramatic couples (throuples?) than you, it sounds like it would have made a good reality show.

  17. Asenath*

    My second summer job, the first job I ever had that didn’t require me to be outdoors and supervise small children, involved, among other things, some basic office work. One thing I had to do was use an enormous and (to modern eyes) ancient machine for copying maps. I still don’t know the type of technology it used, but even I could tell that it was connected somehow to the type of paper. One day, I was given a large map to copy that had a label pasted on it, and with the extra thickness in that area , either the map was legible in the copy, or the legend on the label was. I tried all kinds of settings, but couldn’t get a good result, and didn’t have the common sense to ask for help. The very kindly person for whom the copy was intended explained soooooo patiently why it was wrong, and I was so embarrassed. That’s one of the things I guess I had to grow out of – being too shy to ask reasonable questions and, now that I think of, being unnecessarily embarrassed and tongue tied. I also hand-coloured a map with at least one wrong colour, and two of us student workers were alone in the office when someone called on the radio – we didn’t know how to use it (that is, pick up the microphone, press the button, and talk), and were too scared to try until the person at the other end said in an exasperated tone “Asenath and Ermintrude! Would one of you please answer and tell me…..”. So we did, and nothing exploded and we didn’t break anything.

      1. GilaMonster*

        People are very very quick to censure now, and to react with strawman arguments. It was much more respectful, reasonable and productive in years past.

        1. CM*

          It’s still one of the more respectful and reasonable commenting sites I’ve seen!

          Also, I have read that “shitting” story multiple times over the year but I still cannot stop laughing every time.

  18. Ruth (UK)*

    I’m pleased to see the Joaquin/’Wakeen’ one shared again! I’ve been a regular reader of this site since about 2012 and I remember for a while ‘Wakeen’ became a common placeholder name in the open thread comments section etc due to that story but it seems to have become less common recently.

    I’d like to share a short work story, though it happened to my colleague and not me – when going on leave for a week, she accidentally set her out of office auto reply on her email to state she was on ‘anal leave’ (she meant to type ‘annual leave’). The manager in the department actually got IT services to get into her account and alter it. She was quite mortified when she came back and found out.

  19. Ewesername*

    As someone who has just spent twelve hours at work today prepping for the hell fire that will erupt tomorrow, I would like to thank you, Alison, from the bottom of my heart, for the much needed laugh.
    Off to find a sparkly dragon suit to wear to the office tomorrow….

  20. Regretting yesterday's desserts*

    These are amazing; I almost spit my coffee out reading the one about the dragon jammies

  21. Three owls in a trench coat*

    Did…did the person who asked to leave early because they “were feeling hateful” get their request granted?

    I would love to see photos of that dragon kigurumi. Even though one time I did see two young adults each wearing a dragon and a unicorn kigurumi at Trader’s Joes. It wasn’t even that close to Halloween. Just proof that TJ’s is a magical place.

    1. Queer Earthling*

      This reminds me of the fact that I’ve seen some guy wandering around my town dressed and groomed to look almost exactly like Jack Black as he appears in Jumanji, including hat and various Hawaiian shirt. Seeing him once, I assumed he was going to a Halloween party and had just stopped at Walmart, but I’ve seen him multiple times now, just going about his normal daily errands in excellent cosplay. He brings me joy.

      1. Three owls in a trench coat*

        That’s awesome, he would definitely bring a smile to my face too. I wonder if he’s even aware he looks like Jack Black in Jumanji? If not he gets brownie points for Excellent Accidental Cosplay.

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