pretending to be Canadian, and other Machiavellian triumphs at work

Last week, I asked about Machiavellian things you’ve seen or done at work. It turns out … there were a lot of stories. So many that I couldn’t fit my favorites in one post. Here’s part one, and part two is here.

1. The job hunting assistance

At one of my first jobs after college, the team I was on had a truly awful boss. One of my coworkers got a hold of his resume and submitted it to a bunch of recruiters. The bad boss was gone in about three months.

He ended up with a great new job, and we ended up with a great new boss.

2. Pretending to be Canadian

I pretended to be Canadian to get a day off of work.

I worked the 5 am shift in college at a local business. I could not get a day off. I could not call off sick without finding coverage. The person had to be a keyholder who could open / close the business, and willing to work at 5 am. So, that means no sick days. I worked a customer-facing front desk with no one else there. I couldn’t leave to go to the bathroom. I didn’t get breaks. I know that’s illegal, but I stayed because the schedule worked for my college classes. I requested one day off four separate times throughout the year and each day was denied. The days were not at peak times. The business had no one to cover. Well, Canadian Thanksgiving is in October. In August, I started saying “about” with a Canadian twist (abooot) – especially when I talked about Canadian Thanksgiving. My coworkers asked me what kind of food we ate for the holiday. Do Canadians celebrate with different food traditions? I told them that I didn’t know, but we serve turkey and the fixins because my a lot of my family is from the states. When I requested Canadian Thanksgiving off, it was approved. My first day off in 1 1/2 years.

I would not do that again. I was 18 at the time with no professional role models. I would handle that by discussing it with my manager.

3. The unionization help

I worked in a hospital where the nurses and maintenance engineers were union, but nobody else was. We ancillary staff were pushing a unionization effort, and every time management had an “info meeting” for all ancillary staff (ie, anti-union propaganda) a few days before photocopied fact sheets that debunked whatever they were planning on telling us would appear in the staff elevators and locker rooms, along with the most up-to-date public information about how much executives and managers were paid.

Needless to say, our unionization effort was a resounding success! Most of the hospital ancillary departments joined our union.

A few days after the results of the vote were announced, all the doctors in one of the departments announced that they were unionizing, and had already filed all the paperwork and voted, presenting *their* union to an already reeling executive team as fait accompli.

Turns out the doctors were ones posting all the stuff in the elevators and staff rooms to keep management busy dealing with our union and trying to hunt out the”‘moles” in the ancillary departments while they organized completely under the radar. (One of the main organizers for the doctors had been accidentally added to an email list for the managers working on their anti-union meetings, which is how they knew what was going to be said ahead of time in order to make the fact sheets.)

4. The boss whisperer

In my first professional job out of college, I found that my boss would randomly get upset over little things going wrong — like a vendor saying they’d be late with a delivery, a hotel not having the meeting room we wanted available on a certain date, etc. I would take these things in stride because, you know, things just happen, but when I’d tell him, he’d rant and complain and want me to fix it somehow, and it caused me a lot of stress for no real reason. One day I stumbled onto a solution: if I came to him with these situations and *I myself* acted very upset and frustrated, he would instinctively take the position that it was all no big deal and we could just roll with it. It was like magic! From then on, every time a little thing went wrong that I couldn’t fix, I would deliberately come to him with a “this is intolerable, you’ll never believe what just happened” kind of attitude, and before I knew it, he would be in the position of calming ME down with “it’s fine, don’t worry about it.” I always felt a little guilty for manipulating him this way, and I’m not sure it would’ve worked long-term (I only worked there about a year and a half), but it did make my work life a lot easier!

5. The sick days

This one is one is small potatoes compared to some but it is manipulation that worked for me. I am a very pale person and usually wear make up including lipstick. Otherwise, I look like something that was ordered and didn’t come. So some years ago, I had this boss, a nice motherly woman. Whenever I wanted an afternoon off, I’d wear a beige shirt, which washed me out, and toned down the makeup, removing the lipstick entirely. She would exclaim that I was unwell and practically force me to take off sick (paid) for the afternoon. I would say I was fine but she would insist. Worked every time.

6. The language spy

We work very closely with our hardware supplier, which is located in a different country. Most of the other company’s employees speak that country’s language (say, Klingon) natively and only rarely speak English. In meetings, they’ll debate among themselves in Klingon before giving a (usually shorter and vaguer) answer in English. One of my coworkers didn’t mention he spoke Klingon for FIVE YEARS so they’d speak freely around him. He’d go to meetings, sit there with a vague smile, and while they told us they hadn’t narrowed down the problem yet, he’d know that they were discussing which particular circuit.

7. The status window

I had a grandboss who was Very Mediocre. He deeply desired an office with windows = major status symbol. Alas, his office was in the basement and was never ever going to go any higher. Fortunately for him, he had a nice budget. Which he used to buy very very very nice wall to wall, floor to ceiling drapes. Which of course were never open.

Visitors would be confused. “Aren’t we in the basement?” “Yes [long pause], yes we are.”

8. The squeak

I was in a job where my direct supervisor had less experience than me doing the same job before he went back to school, got a degree and was promoted due only to the degree. He was very condescending and snide and whenever we interact he would constantly make digs at me for not having an advanced degree. Perhaps it’s not machiavellian, but he would nit-pick at me about small things that he would let skate by for others, so one day, I got this little noisemaker and stuck it to the back of a file cabinet in his office. It would randomly make squeaks and beeps at irregular intervals. It was rather amusing to watch him have a man-baby tantrum trying to find the source of the noise.

9. The locked drawer

There was a secretary in the department where I was temping who had to know everything, and she was desperate to find out what I had in the one drawer I kept locked in my cubicle (spoiler alert – I kept my shoes there and changed into them when I had to dress for a bad weather commute).

When I went on vacation, she manufactured an emergency – a missing document, and she’d looked everywhere – EVERYWHERE – except MY locked drawer. On the strength of that claim she got facilities to unlock it so she could search.

I’d emptied it out and taken my shoes home before I left for the holiday. ;)

She had to tell me about it when I returned because everyone had seen facilities come and unlock my desk. I asked her what had happened in the matter of her incredibly important missing document, and she mumbled something and walked away.

10. The fax machine

My very first job out of university was in the IT department of pretty large company. The department was a lot of fun, think the IT crowd.

Our network admin had been there forever (and still works there 12 odd years later). He had been trying to get rid of all the fax machines for a couple of years already when I started working there, but there was still one left. A few people insisted they still needed it.

After another meeting where this one fax machine came up and being told that the fax machine could not go, he had enough. Once everyone was gone, he unplugged it.

About half a year later, he brought up the machine again. “No,” people said, “the machine cannot go. We use it quite often.” “How is it possible then,” our network admin asked, “that none of you have plugged it back in?”

And that was the day he was finally rid of the last fax machine.

{ 306 comments… read them below }

    1. Nobby Nobbs*

      The fax machine reminds me of the old joke about the mother, the roommate, and the fancy serving tray.

        1. Starbuck*

          I found it elsewhere online:

          A Mom visits her son for dinner who lives with a girl roommate…..
          During the course of the meal, his mother couldn’t help but notice how pretty his roommate was.She had long been suspicious of a relationship between the two, and this had only made her more curious….

          Over the course of the evening, while watching the two interact, she started to wonder if there was more between him and his roommate than met the eye. Reading his mom’s thoughts, his son volunteered, “I know what you must be thinking, but I assure you,we are just roommates.”

          About a week later, his roommate came to him saying, “Ever since your mother came to dinner, I’ve been unable to find the silver plate. You don’t suppose she took it, do you?”

          He said ,”Well, I doubt it, but I’ll email her, just to be sure.” He sat down and wrote :

          Dear Mother: I’m not saying that you ‘did’ take the silver plate from my house, I’m not saying that you ‘did not’ take the silver plate But the fact remains that it has been missing ever since you were here for dinner.

          Love, your son.

          Several days later, he received an email from his Mother which read:

          Dear Son: I’m not saying that you ‘do’ sleep with your roommate, and I’m not saying that you ‘do not’ sleep with her. But the fact remains that if she was sleeping in her OWN bed, she would have found the silver plate by now, under her pillow… Love, Mom.

            1. Traffic_Spiral*

              Huh, the first time I read this one it was the priest and his housekeeper (it’s from an era when people kept a set of silver utensils, after all).

          1. LunaLena*

            Ha, that reminds me of the joke about the guy who goes on a weekend fishing trip with some business partners. He sends his wife a message to let her know about his plans, and asks her to pack his tackle box and an overnight bag, and to be sure to include his silk pajamas. When he gets back, the wife asks him how the trip went, and he says “We didn’t catch anything and you forgot to pack my silk pajamas.” She responds “No I didn’t, I put them in your tackle box.”

            1. allathian*

              This is even funnier when you consider that “wedding tackle” is Yorkshire (?) slang for male genitals.

    2. MusicWithRocksIn*

      I loved it the most! Probably because I’ve worked at the place where your boss refuses to get rid of the fax and it drove me nuts. He would make us print out documents, fax them to him, then he would write corrections all over them and fax it back. Do you know how bad the resolution was at that point? Awful! I now have a deep loathing of fax machines.

      1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

        This reminds me of a story my colleague Tracey told me about 10 or 12 years ago. Her dad was struggling to get the hang of email, and when he got something by email that he wanted to share with Tracey, he’d get his secretary to print it out and then fax it to her.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        I work in a medical library. Some doctor’s office somewhere had a fax number one digit off from ours and we were constantly getting patients’ records faxed to us by accident. I guess it was fortunate they were only sending them to us and not somewhere a lot more public, but we’d have to call and tell whoever sent them that they had the wrong number.

        That was what finally pushed our boss over the edge to get rid of the fax. We only had one patron who liked faxes, anyway, and we finally told him he had to use email from now on (we’d email stuff to his wife or daughter, because some people just won’t change).

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          And the sad thing is that faxes are still commonly used for medical data. (Still more secure than any online solution. Provided you dial the right number!)

          1. Claire*

            I personally love faxes because both my name and my work email’s domain have unusual spellings, so it’s much more reliable for me to give a fax number over the phone than it is for me to give my work email address. Admittedly, it’s often easier to resolve if you get an email address wrong than a fax number.

            1. Dust Bunny*

              My office uses type emails but a few of us have emails to circumvent arcane first names. Mine is not Persephone but it’s about equal in unfamiliarity and patrons were having a hard time reaching me.

              But this was the same doctors’ offices messing up all the time. No matter how many times we corrected them they kept doing it and we finally got fed up and just pulled the plug.

              1. Kikishua*

                You know what I (don’t) like? When someone gets my unusual name correct in the email address, then spells it wrong in the actual email. People who have known me for YEARS (nay, decades!) still do this.

            2. Not A Girl Boss*

              I have an unspellable name, and convinced my work to created an email for me that was just documents at company dot com. SOOOO much easier to give out, and it meant that when I changed jobs important documents weren’t missed.

              1. Long/Complicated Named People Unite!*

                My email address is my first initial, full last name at my If you count the @ and the ., that’s 23 characters and several of them are easily misinterpreted on the phone. (Think, b or e.) I keep asking my bosses to make a second account for me that is because yes, giving it out over the phone would be infinitely easier AND if I quit/die/get Covid, the documents wouldn’t be tied to my address. (I’m still trying to convince people not to email the gal I replaced two and a half years ago, or my coworker who passed away last year.)

                To be fair, my last company had the same email conventions and that was a total of 39 characters, so I suppose I’m doing better than I used to be?

                1. kitryan*

                  My ‘real’ name’s not that bad but has a couple places where people consistently mess up the spelling. It was so nice to be able to use the ‘reception@’ email for orders instead of having to spell out the whole name at least twice.

                2. Zudz*

                  If you can’t get, try asking your IT group if they can set up an alias for you. I’ve done it, or requested it, for users for a variety of reasons over the years. I’ve found it usually doesn’t get nearly as much pushback as setting up an actual new address.

            3. Half-Caf Latte*

              I once made my admin’s week when I informed her you can transfer faxes that come in on the main line (and blow your eardrum out) to the fax extension.

          2. Dahlia*

            Earlier this year, I was seeing a specialist for an injury, but due to pandemic I had to do a test here. So my specialist’s office had to fax my doctor, who then MAILED me the fax so I could contact the hospital to get the test.

            And then because pandemic it had to be sent again… and it took several minutes to convince my specialist’s receptionist that it would be much quicker to fax it to the hospital where I would be actually getting the test.

            1. Doc in a Box*

              Nowadays, when I order, say, Physical Therapy for a patient, it goes like this:
              1. Type order in computer, print, sign, hand to patient (or mail if this was a video visit)
              2. Patient takes order slip to local physical therapist
              3. Physical therapist faxes their assessment to the clinic fax number for my counter-signature
              4. The fax gets scanned and sent to clinic staff assistant/nurse triage’s email
              5. Staff assistant/nurse triage forwards the email to me
              6. I print, counter sign each page (Medicare requirement), and put it in the fax outbox
              7. Nurse triage faxes form back to physical therapist.

              Steps 4 and 5 are new because of the pandemic — before someone would just grab the faxes off the machine every morning and sort them into your cubbies in the mail room — but it’s gotten ridiculous!

          3. JessaB*

            Which makes me crazy because they have no trouble putting all kinds of personal information in the MyChart programme, like test results and direct communication with your caregiver. There is zero reason why they can’t make a version of MyChart for medical communication. Mr B works for an insurance company and his entire job is dealing with faxes because “we can’t email this it’s not secure.”

          4. Observer*

            Faxes are totally NOT more secure than almost any system out there.

            A significant number of “faxes” these days are actually on line systems. Beyond that, there is no way to encrypt faxes, whereas you CAN encrypt data on-line and in email.

        2. TootsNYC*

          that’s particularly bad because doctors use fax machines because they’re less hackable than email.

        3. Not A Girl Boss*

          And people think faxes are more secure, hah!

          My last, fortune 500, company INSISTED on only using faxes to place orders. We had these poor little machine shops going out and buying faxes just so they could receive orders from us…
          I was kind enough to always email them and say “here is a copy of the files we just faxed you” but many buyers were not.
          And when we transitioned to WFH, people literally had to buy fax machines for their house. Like, what.

          1. Rainy*

            The only person I know with a landline is my parents, and that’s because they live in the sticks and sometimes their cell service doesn’t reach.

            1. tangerineRose*

              I’ve got a landline. It’s nice to have a phone that doesn’t suddenly cut out if I move slightly.

              1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

                Yeah, I’ve been tempted to let mine go, but I know a few people who did and regretted it and got it back, because the service is reliable and sometimes their cell service isn’t. And they are smack in town.

              2. Clisby*

                I do, too. It’s more reliable than my cell service – and I live right in the middle of Charleston, SC.

              3. LPUK*

                I need my landline to phone my mobile phone when I can’t remember where I’ve left it or if I want to check my phone is somewhere in my bag before I leave the house ( big bag, lots of organiser pockets – faster to phone and wait for ring than search it manually).This happens weekly if not daily

            1. Not So NewReader*

              I can send and receive faxes on my work computer. The sender types in a phone number as they would ordinarily. I think it goes to an off-site fax and then to a computer. The computer ships it to me. What I like about it is that the sender does not have to do anything different.

            2. EPLawyer*

              I use an online fax too. Because the courts are still using fax machines to send and receive orders. The pandemic has changed that to email somewhat. I also have clients who CANNOT email me a document to save their lives. They will take a picture of each individual page and send that to me.* It’s better if they go to Kinkos and fax me.

              * a picture of a typed document is not really readable or reproducible.

            3. Environmental Compliance*

              Yup. When I was gov’t, we faxed online. Worked very nicely. No noodling with a machine, things were easily uploaded into our digital archiving system, I could fax out without sending it through 21938 people. It was nice.

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        I don’t think anyone in my office even knows how to use the fax machines. When I got married I was supposed to fax documentation to someone to get my husband on my insurance. I am a bad procrastinator so on the day of the deadline I was frantically trying to figure out how the heck to do it, and I could not find a single person who could help me, including the office administrator. I called HR in a panic and was told I was not the first person to call them that day about not being able to fax in my paperwork. Thankfully she was very nice and said I could scan it in and email it to her and she would take care of it.

        I don’t know why that wouldn’t always be preferable anyway. I don’t like the idea of sending documents with confidential information like social security numbers to a fax machine where there is no way to be sure who picks it up off the printer or how long it just sits there out in the open.

    3. Phony Genius*

      We have the opposite problem. We still use the fax for certain documentation, but somebody converted the phone line to VOIP, and the machine is incompatible with it. And it can’t be changed back. Now we have to use another unit’s machine.

    4. Phil*

      I don’t get fax machines. I mean, I was born in the 80s and know what their purpose was, I just mean people not letting go. Like, last year, an airline f’ed up and took double the payment for my tickets. So, a couple hundred dollars, no big deal (roll eyes). Of course, they reversed it immediately but said it would take up to ten business days for the refund to appear in my account. Or I could speed that up by having my bank fax something or other to them. And it could ONLY be done by fax. This was just a year ago. What the F?

      1. Frank Doyle*

        As someone said above, it’s because they’re more secure than email. For example, if you’re working with a bank on, say, a mortgage, you don’t email documents with SSNs and other finiancial information back and forth, you both upload and download from a secure site with a password.

        1. Sleepless*

          Urgh…we were in the middle of closing on a refinance when we went to Yosemite National Park for the weekend. They were in the middle of changing to a different company to manage their hospitality services, and everything was in chaos. The hotel absolutely, positively could not send a fax for me. We had to text our closing broker and let him know that we were apparently in the only place in North America that could not send or receive a fax.

        2. FloralWraith*

          Yeah, I used to work in the customer service centre of a major Canadian transit agency and we used to fax the human rights complaints to the appropriate office in the building, even if people had emailed them in (they were supposed to mail them in because it required a signature, and yes, I know you can photo and scan, but the mailing was meant to be another secure step in the process). I hope they’ve taken that process out of the customer service centre, as after I left, the centre was joined with the operators’ union, which invariably drew the most complaints….

        3. GammaGirl1908*

          And not for nothing, I am old enough to have used faxes plenty of times in the 80s and 90s, and I used to be an admin, such that I faxed documents all the time.

          I purchased a condo in 2017, and there was something I needed to do by fax. We did a lot of things by DocuSign, but there was some non-negotiable fax thing.

          A very lovely admin at my office found me sobbing with an armload of papers at the extremely confusing print / copy / scan / fax machine 45 minutes before the deadline, and she took the number and the papers and gently shooed me away and … made it happen.

          Seriously, that was three+ years ago, and I donated $100 to the GoFundMe for her dog’s cancer treatment earlier this year at least in part because of that moment. She eventually had to put the dog down instead of completing treatment (the dog was, like, 17 and the treatment would have been debilitating. She also had just been diagnosed with COVID-19 herself. It was the right choice), and tried to give the money back. I told her to keep the money and buy him the best treats she could find, from me.

          I will continue to bend over backward for her for whatever she needs from me in the future.

          So. Faxes? Not my friend.

        4. Observer*

          You upload and download – you DO NOT fax!

          The idea that fax is secure is just silly. It’s not. It never was. Now that so many “fax” lines are just on line repositories sending to people’s emails, it’s even worse. It’s the worst of both worlds.

      2. Aggretsuko*

        Yeah, my work finally got rid of charging people $10 to fax (usually to the Far East) because it wasn’t making enough money to do so. Also, half the time it didn’t work because well, Far East. (We have endless problems with Far East never receiving any kind of mail or communications.)

      3. Not So NewReader*

        Here high speed internet is spotty at best. Our dependence on phone lines is high. Many people can fax but they cannot email.

        Of the places that have high speed internet, the internet goes out frequently. Think: 5 pounds of stuff into a 4 pound bag. There’s just more usage than there is capacity.

        I have found that I need to ask each individual if it is okay to email. Before I started specifically asking each person there was a general assumption to just use fax. I am now able to fax a lot less, but it was a one person at a time thing to get there.

    5. nobadcats*

      My former boss was a wiz at creating desktop tools. Put a pin in that.

      When he worked for GE there were constant complaints throughout the year about the temperature in the office, either too hot or too cold (I’m a woman, I know both sides of this). Everything thermostat set to about 72 degrees all year round. But if someone messed with even one thermostat, it’d set off a chain reaction for the rest of the offices.

      So finally, my ex boss in his ex job, set up a little desktop tool. It was an analog thermostat. If you were too cold you could reset the thermostat to your desire and vice versa.

      You know what’s coming right? It was just a GUI, it didn’t do anything to affect the temperature in the office. And… never was there a complaint about the temp in the office again.

      I still vehemently disagreed with him on the entire matter, shivering in my shawl, but agreed it was a clever solution.

      1. tangerineRose*

        I’m surprised it worked. At one point, I kept a thermometer in my office so I could complain more knowledgably about the temperature :)

        1. FreezerBurn*

          *Looking at digital thermometer on the desk displaying 66F*

          I’ve complained to “management” (aka: the spouse) to no avail. I now use a heated blanket.

        2. MCMonkeyBean*

          Same. There was apparently a weird problem on our floor where one side of the building ran cold and the other side ran warm. Someone on the cold side complained so they brought in a giant heater. They were heating my cube to *85* degrees nearly every day that winter. I honestly almost quit over it I was so hot and uncomfortable every day. I had to buy more sleeveless blouses in December! It was madness!

          Thankfully we ended up moving to a newly renovated office where the thermostat was much more even.

    6. COBOL Dinosaur*

      We do something similar to the fax machine with unused reports that come off of the mainframe system. We had a few that were always populated with all zeros in the amount fields yet the business area insisted that they needed them and looked at them everyday. So we will just stop the job that loads their report into the report system and see how long it takes for someone to notice. If nobody says anything for awhile then we stop the job that creates the report.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I missed Canada Thanksgiving somehow – when I saw the headline, I thought it was going to be the person who affected Canadian spellings in order to not be detected (on an evaluation or something).

    2. Totally Minnie*

      I’m not saying I’ve never altered my use of makeup to convince my boss I wasn’t feeling well, but I’m not *not* saying that.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        As a pale person who was bullied in middle school, I got out of gym class just by looking like myself. (I probably did look a bit sick when I went to the nurse’s office, because I felt sick.)

        Also, Machiavelli could’ve learned a thing or two from middle school girls.

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        Same, it seems like a fair trade-off for being expected to wear makeup regularly haha

        I’ve only done it a couple of times, usually when I genuinely wasn’t feeling great and thought I might need to go home later if I didn’t feel better. I honestly don’t even think it was necessary as I have been lucky to have bosses that would trust me to manage my own time and health and wouldn’t really question it. So it’s mostly for the benefit of the little voice in the back of my head that is worried they might think I’m faking I guess…

    3. Chinook*

      OP #2 – as a Canadian, I approve your message. You could have also kicked in a) Canada Day (July 1st), and Victoria Day (3rd Monday in May), and Boxing Day (December 26th) as very important holidays to celebrate. If you could pull off a French accent, adding in June 24th for Fete d’Nationale would also have been acceptable.

    4. Zombeyonce*

      All I have to do to look sick is just leave off the mascara. Bonus is to wear it the day before > don’t wash it off at night > then wash it off the next morning but only off the lashes. It will leave behind a nice darkened undereye that makes me look 10x sicker.

  1. Atalanta Sans Apples*

    I absolutely love the doctor union one. That’s SO conniving and convoluted! And everyone won (except management, who didn’t deserve to win).

    The fax machine one is great, too.

    1. Uldi*

      Yeah, that was brilliant. The docs did use the ancillary staff as cover, but did it in a way that benefited that staff, too. Very well played.

  2. ian*

    Long-time IT guy here – I’ve done several variations of the fax machine story at different workplaces. My old co-worker used to call it “the scream test” – if you want to find out how important something is, unplug it, and see who screams ;)

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      As a point of information, I use the fax machine routinely. This is common in both law and medicine.

      1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

        I’m a UX designer and I was working on payment screens for a large bank. When we got to the “payment notification” (sending a proof of payment), the whole team wanted to remove the fax option – on the basis that not one of them would want to receive a faxed notification. When I pointed out that some of the people they *paid* might accept notifications only by fax, they agreed to leave it in.

      2. kittymommy*

        Yeah, this would be bad where I work – government. Granted we hardly ever get faxes but once in a great while we do, typically public records request. If it was found out a method of request for that was being denied when it was technically available….somebody would probably get fired. Also, surprisingly I have to send payment authorizations prior to stay via fax as some hotels will not receive them any other way.

        1. Yorick*

          As a government employee, I never choose to send faxes when there is another method available (and there usually is). But sometimes members of the public will send in requests via fax. So I would insist that the fax machine needs to stay (because it really just does) but I would never notice that it had been unplugged.

        2. mdv*

          This might be where having one of those multi-function devices (a.k.a. office printer with fax and scan functions) is nice… Our fax number has been connected to it, and we do get faxes from dr offices (insist on fax, otherwise we have no way to verify it wasn’t a fake note (doctored, lol) to get around our regulations.

      3. Faxer*

        I wouldn’t say I use it routinely, but the IRS only accepts forms by snail mail or fax. Faxing is preferable than having to wait on line at the PO and pay for certified return receipt if I have to submit a Form 8233.

      4. Nanani*

        So does the Japanese government, and by extension, anyone who has to deal with any of its agencies.

      5. Me*

        And libraries! While we almost never use our fax machine for our own work, we get someone paying to use it (because whoever they’re sending something to requires a fax) anywhere between, oh, 2 and 10 times a month. It’s a nice source of income since so few businesses have them anymore.

    2. KimmyBear*

      Yup. Unfortunately my old boss never listened to the minions telling him when things would be a problem. He unplugged it and then we just forwarded all the screams to him.

    3. LadyByTheLake*

      I worked somewhere once (massive corporation) where someone in IT decided that if fewer than 20 people used particular software, they would get rid of it. Yeah. It turns out that a lot of the critical corporate functions (like payroll) use software that only a couple of people use.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        The whole “Faxes: What is this, the 1990s?” shtick is the tech equivalent of “No one I know voted for [candidate], so how did he win the election?”

        1. AllerDerm*

          I feel this is my soul. I hear it multiple times a day working in a clinic. “Can’t I just send this to you via email?” Nope not secure. Your options are fax, snail mail, or bring to the office. “But this is 2020.” Yes, and this is a doctor’s office. Shall I repeat your options?

            1. Another health care worker*

              And then recipients complain about all the security steps they have to complete to access the communication. HIPAA compliance just is not convenient, no matter how you slice it.

              1. Richard Hershberger*

                My primary care provider’s portal is unusable. At first it was merely difficult. Then it stopped recognizing my login, while also denying knowledge of the email address I have been using for decades. Back when it sort of worked, I would get an email telling me I had an email. About three out of four times, it would turn out to be a blather email. This is not the sign of a serious attempt at communication. So while, once it stopped working entirely, I’m sure I could spend an over-long time on the phone getting it sorted out, in practice I ask the office to fax me stuff, which will get it to me quickly and with no fuss. Sometimes they aren’t willing to do this, because reasons, and they mail it to me instead. Either way, I don’t get a response of surprise that I find the portal unusable.

                1. Observer*

                  That’s because your primary care provider is being sloppy ore careless.

                  When I hear a doctor talk to me about how email is insecure, while having a fax machine that is in a share area – and that is visible to the public, I simply don’t take them seriously.

              2. Not So NewReader*

                Yep. I guess financial people have gone with portals also. I am not a stranger to computers, but a system that takes a half hour or longer to get into is not of value to me. Especially if it is just to click yes or say okay. I see my financial person has gone back to regular email. I am not surprised especially since he is dealing with an older population.

          1. Robin Sparkles*

            I work in health care -major hospital – you absolutely can send things securely over portals if the health system is willing to pay for it (which granted many are not). Emails also can be encrypted. It is unusual for me to ever not be able to electronically send things. Although you can now also send and receive fax electronically too – so that it no longer matters!

            1. Emma*

              Encryption solves part of the problem with email, but another part is that you can’t know if a client (or patient’s) email account is secure or if anyone else has access to it, with or without the owner’s knowledge.

              Of course that is also true of a fax machine, which is why we only send sensitive information by post, secure portal or disclose it over the phone.

          2. Who Plays sBackgammon?*

            Same for our office, in financial services. People are so leery of using the fax until I explain that it’s our dedicated line straight into the office, whereas email can be hacked and we are restricted in what we can send out via email.

            1. Observer*

              Dedicated lines can be hacked – and it’s happened. And because faxes cannot be encrypted, if someone does manage to tap your line, you are toast.

          3. CorvidTester*

            We do covid testing and nobody touches a fax machine. Medicine at scale (hello future pandemics) is going to need to find some better solutions. Our lab is never going to accept faxing protected info for the thousands of samples we receive per day.

      2. Drifter*

        This is an ongoing cold war between my group and IT. Yes actually, there are critical business functions being run by only 1 person and their backup.

        Solving for the 80% is fine, but pretending that 80%=100% is not. In a 10,000 person company, solving for the 80% means 2,000 people not getting their needs met. Handwaving that “they can’t be doing anything important” is asinine.

    4. Generic Name*

      The scream factor. I’ve done something similar with weird and random files on our server. Our server organization is…..not great. There are things on the top-level folder that have no business being there. Like a news video from 12 years ago. So occasionally, if I find a file that seems totally useless, I’ll move it and see if anyone misses it. If no one complains after about 6 months, I’ll delete it. (Note, I would never do this for project files, only for outdated references or articles and nothing that my company has created)

        1. IT worker*

          My group was on the wrong end of a scream test. We were too small to scream loudly enough so it took longer for us to track down the source of the problem. By the time we figured out what was wrong and who to contact about it, the scream tested server was destroyed.

    5. managing cats*

      One of the daily things I checked at my first ‘real’ job out of university was just to make sure that daily software product builds did not break, every morning first email I checked. We referenced files from all sorts of other groups. If it wasn’t followed up in a timely way, no one would recall they removed some directory of source files they considered unimportant. The people I chased down were truly surprised to find what was inconsequential to them mattered for some other product to still work with their product.

    6. How many templates did you say?*

      I have recently implemented the scream test at my work place. I determined that one of our systems had over 400 different templates and at least 70 (I stopped counting at 70) were for products or processes that we haven’t had in 2 or more years. So I created a backup of everything and once a week I delete 2-3. I’ve been doing this for 2 months and no one has screamed yet.

    7. SarahKay*

      My Mum did something similar when I was about six. I don’t personally remember all the details, but it’s a popular family story whenever pet-care comes up. My sister and I had a pair of gerbils, and feeding and watering them was (theoretically) our responsibility. Since we were young, naturally my parents kept an eye on the levels of food and water.
      One day six year-old me marched up to Mum and announced “The gerbils are gone!”
      “Yes”, said Mum calmly, “you weren’t looking after them”.
      Indignantly: “Yes we were”
      “Well, I gave them away a month ago”.

    8. JustaTech*

      My company (mid-sized biotech) ordered stuff from a very large medical instrument manufacturer. Had been ordering from them for years. One day I get an email from my person in purchasing that my stuff from the medical instrument manufacturer would be late because the fax machine at MIM (the only way to submit an order for consumables) had broken and no one there had noticed for a WEEK.

      How do you not notice that you haven’t gotten a single order for a week?

  3. JohnFreemanWhoWasGordonFreemansBrother*

    “Otherwise, I look like something that was ordered and didn’t come” – I’m not sure I understand this phrase. Is this a regional idiom or something?

        1. Toasted Souls of the Damned*

          As someone who is closer clear than pale I got a huge kick out of this phrase.

      1. The Starsong Princess*

        That was me. We’ve always used that phrase. I’m Canadian, btw. It means something that’s abandoned and sickly looking, like a cake or flowers that was ordered and didn’t get delivered so after a few days it doesn’t look nice any more.

              1. Marna*

                South-Western Ontario and I thought it was “like something that was sent for and couldn’t come” but I did parse it right away.

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      I wondered about this too! I guessed at the meaning from the context (missing, not visible), but wondered if this is was a common expression.

    2. lobsterbot*

      I’ve never heard it before, but i instantly got the impression of something half baked or half finished.

    3. Aldabra*

      I took it as something that didn’t come on time – as in a food delivery that sat on the truck too long and had gone bad.

    4. lazy intellectual*

      I was also confused by this – glad I’m not the only one! I’ve never heard this phrase before.

  4. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

    They’re all hilarious but for me, the first one (sending your boss’s CV to recruiters) and #3 (the doctors’ union) show true Machiavellian spirit.

      1. Mitford*

        I mean the sending the boss’s resume to recruiters was my story. The doctors union is awesome as well.

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yes, those were great because they were very sneaky but also everyone wins! Except for the bad boss’ new coworkers I guess…

  5. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I was busy the day this post called for stories so I’ll submit mine now. (Although I’ve posted it before, it has been awhile.)

    When I worked on Capitol Hill, my male coworker, Pete*, was a terrible credit stealer with women and only women. If something went right, he’d take credit, and if something went wrong, he’d point to the woman he stole the credit from. On a related note, no one liked him in the office but my Boss.

    When I interacted with Pete I’d only give him 15-20% of the actual information that I had on hand. Then in all staff meetings, Pete would bring up my idea along with some carefully constructed context: “I just learned about X” or “Information X came to my attention” or “There was a possibility of Idea X.” I calmly waited until he was done talking, and then I would say, “Boss, Pete is referring to my idea/my contact/my project. Thank you for reminding me, Pete.” Then I would launch into the remainder of the information and my work to date. The best parts were when outside people were involved, and I could say, “Ah, yes, Pete. That’s Cersei Lannister. Boss, you remember her? I introduced you to her last week. I’ve known her for years.” The conversation would proceed as normal, and Pete would stop talking altogether.

    You would THINK Pete would take the hint after the first three times, but nope! He fell for my trick EVERY SINGLE TIME, including the times I wasn’t trying to get him. You’d also think my big Boss picked up on it, but she never did or she chose not to because he was her favorite.

    It got to the point that I’d tip off the district staff so they could wait for my bombshell on the conference call. I’d be getting texts from them, asking me about the current look on Pete’s face because they hated him so much.

    *Oh I’m not changing his name. He deserves all the shame.

    1. Quinalla*

      This is amazing! Good for you for this. I’ve done the redirect the person being interrupted/stolen from in a meeting many times “Hey Bob, that’s great that you agree with Kristen’s idea she brought up a few minutes ago!” “Hey Jeff, I appreciate the enthusiasm, but let’s get back to what Mary was saying.” but nothing like this :)

      1. Snarkus Aurelius*

        I’m pretty impressed that he kept falling for it.

        At some point, wouldn’t one give up?

    2. Cautionary tail*

      Snarkus, I had the same thing. A person, Thiefus Rex, who always stole credit got her grubby paws on a PowerPoint plan I worked long and hard on because her boss shared it with her, grrrr. I, however, had a second document with all the detail in high-level, mid level and excruciating detail. I shared it with nobody, not even my own boss. I referred to it when talking to my boss so he knew I had it but he never saw it. There was no way I was going to allow this to leak. I then had a meeting with Big VP and presented the first document. When I was done Big VP asked why I was presenting this because Thiefus Rex gave the same presentation yesterday and was following up some some questions that she didn’t know the answers to. I calmly explained that she didn’t know the answers because she did not do the presentation and did not have access to the data, the formulas, the logic or the sources behind all of this. I then handed out folders with all the detail and we had a very productive conversation. Thiefus Rex left the company not long after and got a major promotion into her new company.

    3. Another health care worker*

      This reminds me of something I hear celebrities do when they have an unknown info leak on their staff or among friends/family. They tell each of the suspects a different juicy tidbit of information (probably none of them true). Whichever tidbit shows up in the tabloids indicates who the leak is.

      1. Bryce*

        Need to be careful with this though, if it’s something people would talk to each other about then the trap’s detected and the leak can use somebody else’s version of events.

        Various advance copies of movies and games do the same trick, each version has a watermark to ID the leaker when it shows up on torrent sites.

    4. Des*

      I had a variation of this happen to me and I let my “Pete” take credit for the idea because I had realized there was a problem with it since I told him about it.

      He went on and on in front of upper management about how he could implement this Plan A solution alone (to get the glory), and spent the next 4 weeks in a rut, trying to figure it out. Meanwhile I implemented a working solution in a better Plan B way in 2 days, and silently continued with my other work.

      When the 4 week deadline passed he asked for an extension, then when the extension time ran out, he turned to the Boss at the meeting and had the balls to say that “I always said this Plan A wouldn’t work! Don’t you remember [Des] — I kept telling you it wouldn’t work?” And I calmly turned to the Boss and said “Yes, I did say it wouldn’t work, which is why I implemented Plan B in my spare time.”

      My “Pete” never did it again. He left the company shortly after, and for some reason kept sending me open jobs from his new workplace hoping I’d join him. I don’t know what he expected.

    5. Mallory Janis Ian*

      I love the part where you gathered an audience on standby, gleefully waiting for the comeuppances you would regularly give him.

  6. Ross*

    In a previous job I was on a quest to reduce our communications costs by eliminating unneeded landlines. We had a rural office that was primarily a vehicle garage about an hour drive from where I worked. Most of the supervisors had company issued cell phones and I had discussions with the management on site as to whether they still needed the landline (the office only had a single line) which showed almost no usage. They agreed they did not use it and I could get rid of it. I canceled the service and the next Monday they called me to tell me the fax machine had stopped working and could I come out and fix it? Turns out having a fax machine was critical for their payroll process (they had no internet on site so they were faxing timesheets to HQ each week) It was a real surprise to them that a fax machine required telephone service to operate!

    1. TiffIf*

      Wait someone looked and determined there was “almost no usage” but didn’t notice, presumably, that the same number was being used almost all the time (the fax number for HQ)? That seems like a research before implementation fail.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        If it’s only used once a week–and never receives anything that might show as ‘almost no usage’. And if they think only about how many times they pick up the landline phone and dial–well, there we are.

  7. saby*

    lol @ LW2! That is amazing. As a Canadian, we do indeed traditionally eat turkey on Thanksgiving! We call our Thanksgiving just Thanksgiving and your thanksgiving “American Thanksgiving”. Other holidays you can try: Canada Day, Victoria Day, Boxing Day, Family Day…

    Although a PSA that if anyone does want to emulate this make sure there aren’t real Canadians around because it would be very easy to spot. Not just the fake accent, but also they are very likely to ask you where in Canada you’re from and try to figure out if they know people from your hometown or you know people from theirs!

    1. Elenna*

      Also Canadian, and +1 to all of this! (Although my family tends to do duck, and sometimes fish, because none of us particularly like turkey. The tradition here is still turkey though.)

    2. Emmie*

      Thank you! That was me, and I was surprised to see mine on AAM’s list. I wouldn’t pull the Canadian card again, but it’s a fun story. I regret never taking advantage of Boxing Day when I lived closer to the boarder.

      1. CM*

        I felt so bad for you! You shouldn’t have to scheme for months to take a single day off in a year and a half.

      2. Personal Best In Consecutive Days Lived*

        I’m also Canadian and have no problem with your scheme. It’s absolutely ridiculous that you never got a day off.
        If you ever need to use this again though, we don’t actually say “abooot”. Otherwise consider yourself an honourary Canadian. (If someone asks where you’re from, say Toronto. No one would expect you know their friends from our largest city.)

        1. Chinook*

          I concur. The only way to shutdown the “who do you know form there” game is to say you are from Toronto. The population is too large for it to work.

      3. Emmie*

        Thank you! I’m so grateful for my college education because it helped me get much better jobs. But I know people working those jobs now are stuck with those same conditions, and that bothers me.

    3. Rainy*

      I lived in Canada for six years and have added roasted roots and butter tarts to my holiday traditions as a result. :)

    4. Chaordic One*

      I’ve told this story before but I’m going to repeat it. I moved to L.A. from Montana and when I told people where I was from, they had no idea where Montana was. I was met with, “That’s up near Seattle, isn’t it?,” “Oh, that’s by Detroit, right?,” “Isn’t that on Long Island?” (I think that person might have been thinking of Montauk.), and finally, “Isn’t that in Canada?” to which I replied, “Yes, that’s right. I’m a Canadian.”

      I was then informed, “Joyce the bookkeeper is Canadian, too. Next week is Canadian Thanksgiving and we always celebrate by having a special potluck lunch. Joyce is bringing the turkey. You can bring the mashed potatoes!” So I did.

  8. Jaybeetee*

    I have yet to encounter a Canadian who actually says “aboot” – but I also believe saying “aboot” would fool a lot of Americans . Also Canuck Thanksgiving food isn’t dramatically different from US Thanksgiving food, but we don’t do mac and cheese. Turkey, taters, cranberry sauce, stuffing, veg, pie.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I don’t know any Canadians IRL, but I hear “aboot” and “soory” on TV (non-fictional TV, that is) so I assume it’s really a thing somewhere. And it would definitely fool me!

      1. KD*

        As a Canadian who lives in Canada I can tell you that I have never met a Canadian that says ‘aboot’. That non-fictional TV was probably making fun of it, which is a fun game I have played with Americans (see how far you can take the stereo-type before they realize it).

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          If it exists, it has to be regional within Canada. None of the Quebecois or denizens of Ontario that I’ve known speak that way.

        2. Cobol*

          As an American who lives near Canada (Vancouver), I can tell you that I hear aboot and soury a lot, even from people who’ve lived here for a decade.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            If you go to some places in the upper Midwest of the US, you’ll hear it, too. But it’s definitely regional.

              1. Environmental Compliance*

                *waves in northern WI* What we affectionately call the Yooper accent also has vowel sounds like “aboot”.

        3. Chinook*

          I agree. Now, if you could fit in a well placed “eh,” that might peak a Canuck’s interest, but be warned that we will ask where you or your family is from. And picking a random location on the map is not foolproof. I have been in the middle of northern Japan, started chatting with a random Canadian and found out we had family or friends that the other knew about. It becomes a game that we enjoy playing.

          1. Morning reader*

            Alex Trebek says it. He’s a stickler for correct pronunciation. I have heard it (and other Canadian-accented words) in Michigan especially farther north. See also “sauna.”

      2. Elenna*

        I’m from Toronto, and I don’t hear people saying “aboot” ever. I could believe it being a thing in BC, though.

        And I did mac and cheese last Thanksgiving, but only because we had leftover milk and my sister and I like mac and cheese. We also did duck instead of turkey, so it wasn’t exactly traditional anyways… (I was probably inspired to make mac and cheese by an American vlogger I watch.)

        1. Fieldpoppy*

          In Toronto it’s a bit more like aboat, light touch on the o, not aboot. But not dramatically :-). Try saying process and niche.

          1. Glitsy Gus*

            That’s the Canadian/Northern Midwestern I’m used too. It doesn’t sound like they are talking about a shoe, but more a roundness to the vowels that take them closer to an ‘oo’ sound rather than an ‘ow’ sound. Not all the way to a double ‘o’ but more that richer, back of the mouth sound.

      3. Astor*

        I’ll put the link in another reply, but one explanation I’ve heard that sounds right to me is that it’s actually an aural illusion. People who hear “aboot” do so because the unfamiliar slight raising of the vowel is interpreted by your brain into the more familiar strong raising of the vowel.

        It’s a similar thing to how it’s hard not just to pronounce some sounds in some unfamiliar languages, but it can also be hard to differentiate them!

        1. Astor*

          Because the more familiar pronunciation of /aw/ is articulated with the tongue in a low position, and because it raises to a mid position in Canadian English when the vowel precedes the voiceless obstruents listed above, speakers of other varieties of English will immediately detect the vowel raising, but will sometimes think that the vowel has raised farther than it actually does, all the way to /u/, which is a high vowel–hence the mishearing (and not-quite-right imitation) of this pronunciation as aboot.

          1. Two Dog Night*

            Thanks for the link–that’s really interesting! I hear the Canadian ‘about’ closer to ‘aboat’ than ‘aboot’, but it’s definitely different from what I hear in the US.

          2. Recent Repat.*

            I recently moved back to Canada after 20+ years in England regularly being told I said “aboot”. This always confused me, because to me it’s a very different mouth shape from “about”. Now 20 years of confusion is cleared up. :)

        2. FloralWraith*

          The raising of vowels is apparently what distinguishes the Canadian accent versus the American accent, enough that most people can say that you’re not American when abroad.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      Really? I work with many Canadian transplants and my son has a Canadian roommate. I hear “aboot” all the time. It may not be as exaggerated as Americans make it sound on TV, but it’s definitely a different pronunciation than the Midland speech area.

          1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            I was gonna say, I’m from Michigan and I say “aboat” a lot when I get tired :)

          2. Some Lady*

            I took a brief training course in Nova Scotia where most participants were Canadians from around the Eastern part of the country, and I heard lots of “aboats.” Not exactly a representative example of the whole of Canada, of course.

      1. Coffee Cup*

        I also think it almost always a giveaway for Canadians! It is not an exaggerated cartoonish “aboot” but it is definitely there! See also: “out”and “bag”

        1. Nectaryne*

          We lived in Wisconsin for 10 years. My children and former husband constantly tease me about (aboat?) my tired bags, banks, and benches.

    3. Elaine*

      None of the Canadians I know from BC say “aboot” (that isn’t quite right, but pretty close). However, all the Canadians from Manitoba and Saskatchewan do. I don’t know about other provinces. I think it must depend on where you’re from. And maybe how old you are.

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        Yes, it’s regional. I had a previous boss from Banff, Alberta, who said “aboot.” Actually, it’s more like “aboat” or even “a-bow-ooht.”

      2. Pretzelgirl*

        Yes, I have heard a lot of BC Canadians say “aboat” more then “aboot”. They also pronounce avocado strangely. At least for this mid-west gal.

    4. Nessun*

      I’ve never heard “aboot” in talking with my fellow Canucks – but I’ve heard Americans talk about it, so I guess it would fool the required audience!

      And my bestie makes mac & cheese for Thanksgiving, along with all the other trimmings. I don’t think the foods are much different, just the date! (For which I am always grateful – having that Monday off in October is always a nice break early in the fall.)

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        Americans butcher it. We don’t really have a comparable sound, so we overemphasize the “ooh.”

        Does not surprise me at all if Canadians are like, “Why do Americans think we’re saying ‘aboot;’ we don’t say it like that.”

    5. Zona the Great*

      Eh, you need to leave a long while to come back and really hear someone say, “roond aboot the hoose”

    6. Drag0nfly*

      What part of Canada are the Canadians you’re meeting coming from? It’s a very common pronunciation with Canadians from Windsor and that general area. They’re literally the only people I’ve ever heard who say “oot” and “aboot.” They also wear “toques.” What do *you* call that item clothing?

      1. grassideas*

        The phenomenon you’re talking about is called “Canadian Raising” ( Canadians don’t actually say “aboot”, but the diphthong (vowel) in that word is raised enough (usually before voiceless consonants) that Americans have misinterpreted it as the vowel [u]. It’s now a joke amongst Americans.

        In American English, the vowels in words like “house” (before a voiceless [s]) versus “housing” (before a voiced [z]) are also different in many dialects, but the difference has to do with how long the vowel is, not a difference in vowel quality.


      2. esra*

        People from the UK call toques ‘beanies’. I was like, then what do you call actual Jughead Jones-style beanies?

          1. Liz*

            I’m also from the UK and I’ve never heard of a toque. So I googled it and got pictures of type of hat imaginable: bobble hats, pillar hats, plain beanies, flat caps, and even a fez and a chef’s hat. I am none the wiser…

        1. TechWorker*

          I think the baggier ones are more likely to be referred to as ‘beanies’ but agree they are/were generally popular with 90s/noughties teenagers so the pics that come up of ‘toques’ look a bit different. Had also never heard of jughead Jones but from google I would call that just a ‘woolly hat’.

      3. Jaybeetee*

        I mean, I live in Canada, and most Canadians I interact with live in and around the Ottawa Valley and Outaouais regions. I did grow up saying “toque”, and I could tell stories about the Ottawa Valley accent (I’ve had people think I’m from Wisconsin and South Carolina). I perceive it as a bit of an extra “ah” sound on some words, like “abaout”, but I could be wrong.

    7. Quinalla*

      Folks from Northern Minnesota and Wisconsin definitely say “aboot” for real – most have heard imitations of this (some good, some terrible) on Fargo. I agree I haven’t actually heard Canadians say it quite like that myself either, though I only know a few Canadians personally and only have been there 3 times, but I find Canadian accents I’ve heard more subtle. You notice it, but it isn’t jarringly obviously like a Southern drawl, etc.

    8. John*

      I don’t think Mac and cheese is very common in the states either (or if it is, it’s a regional thing in either the south or the midwest – I grew up in New England and never heard of anyone having m&c for Thanksgiving dinner)

      1. Kimmy Schmidt*

        I think it’s definitely more common in the south, but it’s slowly spreading to other parts of the country because it’s so darn tasty. And who doesn’t want another excuse to eat mac n’ cheese! And it complements all those other Thanksgiving foods so well! And cheese mmmmmmmmm.

        1. Elenna*

          That explains it! I’m Canadian, but I made mac and cheese (among other things) for Thanksgiving last month because we had milk and I wanted it. I was vaguely under the impression that it was sometimes a Thanksgiving food – I must have picked it up from a vlogger I watch who lives in South Carolina.

      2. Berkeleyfarm*

        Yes, I was a very grown-up adult before I learned that a lot of people like mac cheese as a side. It would have been Dinner and had sides of its own if it had been served in my house.

        Californian family, no Southerners married in :-)

        I will totally get some at the fried chicken or bbq joint, but I’ll eat it later.

        1. Heather Ludd*

          And it’s a vegetarian main dish-for me that is the main reason it’s become more popular

          Definitely not childhood tradition though (northern New England US)

      3. NapkinThief*

        Big in Southern culture and Black American culture, for sure. My thanksgiving isn’t complete without baked Mac n cheese!

    9. Lepidoptera*

      I’ve heard “aboot” from NS, SW Ontario (Middlesex to Winsor-Essex counties have it rural populations) and in SK.

    10. HBJ*

      I have. I also know Canadians who noticeably say a couple other words differently. “uh-gay-nst” rather than “against” is a big one.

        1. Some Lady*

          Many Americans pronounce the “ai” in “against” as an “eh” sound; kind rhymes with “fenced.”

    11. A Teacher*

      I’m a Canadian who’s lived abroad (not in the US, but in two other English-speaking countries) for many many years and I can kind of hear what Americans are talking about when I go home now. There is a sort of…round quality to Canadian ‘o’s sometimes compared to American ones. However it’s nothing like the exaggerated (and frankly eyerolly) ‘aboot’ that Americans do when they attempt a ‘Canadian’ accent.

    12. Some Lady*

      When I was younger I thought kid actors on TV shows were trained to speak in some weird “acting” voice where words were overly enunciated and a few words were said weirdly, namely sorry (as sore-y instead of my familiar sahr-y). Turns out my fav shows were all Canadian and they just, you know, spoke clearly.

    13. Amy*

      I remember first noticing the “aboot” thing as a kid watching the wonderful CBC / PBS version of “Anne of Green Gables,” specifically the actor playing Gilbert Blythe. (The actor is Canadian and it was a Canadian production so I don’t think it was an exaggeration for American audiences.)

      1. TiffIf*

        That’s where I first encountered the “sore-y”–Gilbert Blythe saying “I’m sore-y Anne!”!
        (Absolutely love that version of Anne of Green Gables/Anne of Avonlea.)

    14. old curmudgeon*

      We work with a contractor who originally hails from St. Johns, Newfoundland, and he is “oot and aboot” all over the place.

      On the other hand, I grew up just across the Detroit River from Windsor, Ontario, and there was no difference at all in the accents of the Windsor natives I knew.

      So I tend to suspect that the farther from the US border that a Canadian grew up, the likelier they are to be “oot and aboot” in their speech patterns.

      1. Chinook*

        Newfoundlanders speak another English dialect completely and it can vary from region to region. I have been around enough of them now to able to tell the approximate part of the island they are from, which amazes them and automatically makes me a friend. :) Then again, I also can play the “do you know game – Newfoundlander in Alberta edition,” so that helps.

    15. nnn*

      For Canadians who can’t hear the Canadian raising, say aloud the word “house” as a verb and then as a noun. “We need to house these people. Let’s put them in a house.”

      Americans say “about” with the same vowel sound as the verb. “We need to house these people.”

      Canadians say “about” with the same vowel sound as the noun. “Let’s put them in a house.”

    16. Mouse*

      I’ve known two Canadians that definitely said “aboot”–one from around Vancouver, and one from around Toronto! The Toronto guy also said “eh” after about 70% of his sentences.

      1. boop the first*

        Thing is, aren’t Vancouver and Toronto tourist/migrant magnets? Seems fruitless to point here and there as being the potential source of a dialect when most of the people you’d run into likely originated someplace else…

    17. Hlyssande*

      I met one, once! In high school I did a choir tour trip where we went to Toronto and hung out with people from the hosting church. More than one of them said ‘aboot’.

    18. A Genuine Scientician*

      I grew up in the suburbs of Buffalo (~15 minutes from the Canadian border), and have lived in Michigan for the past 15 years. I’ve known *many* Canadians who say aboot. I’ve also known about 5 Canadians who were surprised when I asked where in Canada they were from based solely on their accent — they didn’t hear a difference in how they spoke compared to the Americans, so they didn’t see how I knew they were from Canada.

      1. Chinook*

        I always laugh at Canadians who don’t hear the accents. Living abroad, I learned that I had an ear for them and have even been able to pick up ones from different regions. No one believed me that there were at least 3 in Alberta until I could point out who was raised in Northern Alberta, southern Alberta or one of the big cities.

        They are starting to get more homogenized, unfortunately, as we start to watch more American tv shows.

  9. phira*

    I also used to use the no make-up trick! I have a chronic illness that was not well managed when I was in graduate school, and it wasn’t very well understood by a lot of people (most people would sort of assume it was more of an inconvenience for me to have my disease, whereas in reality it was debilitating and nearly life-ruining at times). Even when I am extremely ill, I often don’t “look sick.”* So on bad days, I just wouldn’t wear make-up, and my boss would comment on how sick I looked! Not very flattering, but hey, it worked.

    I didn’t exactly use this to get time off, it was more just my way of making an invisible illness visible.

    * When I say that I don’t look sick even when I’m extremely ill, I mean that at the worst point in my illness, when I had lost 30lbs and had been hospitalized, people still didn’t think I looked sick. Including the doctors at the hospital!!

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I’m very pale. If I called in sick the day before, or am starting to feel puny and think I might not make it through the day (pre-plague, obviously), I skip the blush.

        1. Jean (just Jean)*

          >…end up looking like 20 miles of bad road.
          Great expression! Wish I could give you credit beyond “commenter on AAM!”

    2. Chaordic One*

      I have a pale complexion and in addition to not wearing makeup, I have this awful ugly sort of orangy-brown outfit that accentuates my paleness. If I would wear it to work everyone comments that I look sick and I usually end up going home early.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      #3 is indeed a thing of beauty. Helping the staff unionize while covertly forming your own union? Genius.

  10. Ms Job Search*

    I used to do the language one when I was teaching internationally. I’d let the students talk crap about me, sometimes for quite a long time, and then casually respond in their language when they were least expecting it. The looks on their faces!

    1. Jackalope*

      When working overseas we had a co-worker whose name sounded like a word in the local language, and for the first several months she thought we were talking about her. Which when we actually did we wouldn’t use her name (and never in a mean way, just things like, “Is so-and-so around for dinner tonight or was she going out?”, that type of thing), so she was 100% wrong the whole time but I could never convince her. Finally she got the language down enough that she could tell for herself.

      (For those wondering, we had many nationals working with us, several of whom didn’t speak English, and since we were in that country it just made the most sense to speak the other language.)

  11. CommanderBanana*

    Re: #5: the sick days; I would do that in college. I’d show up to class without makeup and say I had the flu. Always worked. Apparently my no-makeup face is a normal person’s very-sick-face.

    A few years later I had LASIK and couldn’t wear eye makeup for two weeks beforehand. I got told EVERY DAY how tired I looked.

  12. Redundantified*

    Worked for a company A that wrote specialist software. They had two contracts with organisation B. The main s/w contract, and the tech/server support I was on. I was the only one left on that contract, and their only employee in my country.
    This was fine for some months. B then decided that they no longer needed the support contract so didn’t renew. A, being in another country really had no choice but to make me redundant, cest la vie.
    Two different senior managers from B, separately approached me to come and contract direct with B.
    Ie. They got me removed from A, who I quite liked working for, so they could pick me up, on the cheap I guess.
    B was a pretty toxic place to work anyway – as may be obvious – so I politely declined their “generosity”.

  13. IrishEm*

    I once worked in a place with a fax machine. My job at the time was mostly as a go-fer and answering phones, etc. I thought the fax machine was a printer/scanner. I once answered the ringing phone only to have the fax machine velociraptor shrieks piercing my eardrums.

    Queue all the others having a good giggle as I wail “why is the phone screaming at me?!”

      1. IrishEm*

        It’s one of the few funny things that I can enjoy about that particular job, so giggle away XD

  14. La Triviata*

    The horrible place I worked years ago had a highly competitive culture, very much a zero-sum situation. The head guy had set it up so that all the managers were aware that if someone else’s pet program was funded, theirs might not be. As a result, there was continual sabotage, usually on a small scale.

    This was long enough ago that the fax machines were a significant part of the communications plan. One person would, as a routine matter, when they needed to send a fax, if it was in use, they would stop the fax machine (so the current fax wasn’t sent/received) and then send their fax, standing over it to make sure no one else could do the same thing. (I was very glad to leave that place.)

  15. WFH with Cat*

    Oh, golly, you picked so many of my favorites — and a couple that I had somehow missed!

    #3 is not only brilliantly played, it’s a double-whammy, getting desired results for two entirely different group. Kudos!

    #7, however, doesn’t feel like a Machiavellian triumph to me, since the VP didn’t really achieve his dreams … just sort of … adjusted in his own way to the situation.

    We do need to make this discussion an annual event. I LOVED the stories people shared.

  16. RedinSC*

    Wow, all just fun to read.

    I once pretended to be Dutch while traveling to an area that wasn’t all that pro-USA.

    Sick days – Yeah, if I don’t wear eye make up I look like I might be dead. But one day I actually darkened under my eyes a bit more with some black eyeshadow to really show that I “wasn’t well”

    How do you even know if a coworker has a locked drawer at their desk. I would NEVER know that! Who cares?

    1. TimeTravlR*

      I think I’d be tempted to put something in the drawer that could be interpreted in different ways just to mess with her.

      1. BubbleTea*

        A single onion. Three socks of different colours and sizes. Seven pen lids. A packet of cat treats. I could have fun with this.

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          I once had a coworker digging through my desk (for a pen, not that they looked at the pen jar that was on top, mind you) and found a drawer full of snail specimens in tiny jars. They were very confused. I was confused that they were confused, given that I was one of the aquatic invasives team members and usually had some weird nonsense on my desk, including the 10ft long invasive reed plant that the Pen Searcher in particular had left draped across several monitors. Preserved snails were better too than the unpreserved jar of lamprey.

        2. AKchic*

          A single square of toilet tissue with a sticky note that says “for emergency use only”.
          A rubber duck
          A rubber glove (but only one)
          half a stick of gum
          a beautifully wrapped brick, complete with bow

            1. AKchic*

              I had a filing system on my desk. Top basket “To Be Filed Tomorrow”, lower basket “To Be Filed Today”. The trash can under my desk directly below the baskets? “To Be Filed Yesterday”.
              One boss never got it and was very insistent that I must be throwing things away or misfiling things. He was also irritated that he couldn’t find *my* take-out menus in my filing system (they were listed under “consumables” so they’d be right up front), so I changed it to “gastronomical delights”. It was my personal drawer, not where we actually stored any work. I just had menus and my certificates that I might need for work purposes (I never did).

      2. Traffic_Spiral*

        I’d just leave a note that said “[name], your snooping is getting creepy. Cut it out.”

        But I’m humorless like that.

  17. Ali*

    #2 is probably funny to Canadians because we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving nearly to do the degree that Americans do… I don’t know many Canadians who would have requested that day off LOL

    1. Personal Best In Consecutive Days Lived*

      We don’t have to because it’s a statutory holiday here. However I don’t know if I’d ask for the day off if I lived abroad… It just wouldn’t be the same without a lot of people celebrating.

      1. Jackalope*

        When I lived abroad we generally celebrated on a Saturday, either the week before or after, whichever worked best.

  18. BadWolf*

    For #9 — At the risk of being dense…Was the emptied/locked drawer on purpose? Or did OP bring home their shoes and lock the drawer by habit?

    Either way, love the visual of facilities coming to open the drawer and everyone discovering…it’s just empty.

    I am pretty sure someone once posted here that they stopped an office drawer snoop by putting a bunch of tampons in their drawer.

  19. TimeTravlR*

    #5 – I happened upon that trick too! Quite by accident. I tend to get dark circles under my eyes pretty easily and if I don’t cover them with make up people sometimes think I’m not well. I definitely used that to my advantage in the past!

  20. Stella Louise*

    My Machiavellian “triumphs” were mostly with the same insecure, nightmare supervisor.

    I had to get allergy shots on a weekly basis–specifically for animal dander because as much as I love furry creatures, I can’t live with one due to allergies. Well, after a year or so of the shots, I finally gave up because they weren’t working at all. But I never told my supervisor and once a week I’d leave early and go catch a matinee.

    I also learned that being quick and super productive was of no benefit to me whatsoever. I did technical work and my supervisor was not very technically adept. So when she’d ask me how long a task or project would take, I’d generously pad the estimate. “Oh, shouldn’t take more than 1-2 days,” I’d tell her for a task I could whip out in 15 minutes.

  21. hayling*

    I once had the unfortunate luck of sitting next to the fax machine even though I was not in an administrative position (this was around 10 years ago, and it was still used regularly). People would constantly ask me questions like “which way does the paper go?” and “did my fax go through” and “did a fax come in for me?” I just completely played dumb and said I didn’t know how to use the thing!

    1. cosmicgorilla*

      That didn’t nest the way I wanted. It was in response to a discussion on what to put in the locked drawer.

  22. Free Meerkats*

    I somehow missed that post.

    Similar to #8, we had a cow-orker who was a royal pain to work with, even to the point of suing at least two of us in small claims court for things totally made up. He hated, I mean HATED the smell of canned tuna. So someone had it for lunch at lest once or twice a week. He went to management and got tuna banned in the office, so someone who shall remain nameless opened up his computer tower and put the lid to a can of the cheapest, most foul-smelling tuna on top of the power supply so it was kept warm. Every couple of weeks, the unnamed person would change the lid for a new one. They never ate the tuna, but fed it to the opossums who lived under the office.

    That went on for the last year of cow-orker’s tenure there.

      1. Free Meerkats*

        I’ve been in that office (actually a double-wide trailer that was originally the construction trailer for the plant construction) for almost 30 years. For about the first decade, we had a rotating family of opossums that lived under there. They weren’t a problem for us, at all and we hardly knew they existed. Until one died on top of the main HVAC air return duct in the middle of winter. Once that was cleaned up, they didn’t return. Then the cats moved in. We get feral and dumped cats out on our island, and the living is good under our trailer. The dumping problem has gotten worse since the animal shelter moved out near us.

        We feed them and do TNR. We don’t have the rodent problem the rest of the plant has. In the two decades since, about 6 of the cats have gone home with various people. Right now, we have 3 we know about. A tuxedo named Butler who is relatively tame, he has his favorite person and regularly sleeps on his desk. He was born under the trailer, mom disappeared about 6 months later, and his sister about a year later. Another tuxedo cat with a white Groucho mustache and what appears to be an older orange tabby. We know they are there, and they come in to the feeder in the enclosed porch – we’ve seen them on the game camera – but they have been resistant to trapping.

  23. Mainly Lurking (UK)*

    Re #9, did any fellow Brits also immediately think of Alan Partridge and his motel-room drawer?

  24. nnn*

    I’m surprised a company that wouldn’t let you take bathroom breaks would let you take Canadian Thanksgiving! (Although I’m glad it worked out)

    Quick, someone make an authoritative-looking website (or, perhaps, a wikipedia page) about Canadian bathroom breaks!

    1. lazy intellectual*

      Yeah that one was so WTF. Like, they don’t give sick days but you can take work off for another country’s holiday???

      Someone needs to sort out their priorities.

      1. Rainy*

        My sister once took up “smoking” because she was a manager at a chain restaurant that let the smokers have fifteen minutes every two hours and an extra fifteen at lunch, but non smokers got one fifteen minute break and a half hour lunch for every six hour shift.

  25. FreakFlag*

    I don’t get how any of these are Machiavellian. I don’t really get how any of them are anything really… What am I missing?

  26. anon for this*

    Not sure if this exactly fits the bill, and it’s super inconsequential, but I have a small one: Back in my early graduate days, I was having trouble landing a full time job and could only get odd gigs here and there. I wanted a writing-intensive job, so I did both paid and unpaid freelance writing and research for various organizations to build up my resume.

    One day, I saw my grad school career counselor advertise what I thought was a paid internship with a nonprofit org in a field I was interested in. They needed people to help them research topics for their blogs. I did this for a solid month, and listed the role as “research intern” on my LinkedIn account. When I connected with one of the people at the organization, they e-mailed me saying I wasn’t allowed to call myself an intern, and to take the “internship” listing off of my LinkedIn. I could only call myself a volunteer.

    Well, I quit immediately. I also used all my research to write my own blog posts on the same topics (I was unpaid and didn’t sign anything, so it wasn’t stealing), and even submitted one to a semi-known blog in the field, where it got published! For some reason, some of my blog posts got more hits than the ones the nonprofit eventually published on their blog months later. Until this day, if you search the topic, my blog post is one of the first listings. It even got cited by other sources.

    I mean, it didn’t hurt the organization in any way and helped me immensely with my job search. So win-win I guess.

    1. anon for this*

      Urgh I made a mistake – it’s supposed to say “what I thought was an UNpaid internship” – not paid!

  27. Sebastian*

    Thank you everyone who shared their stories! This has really cheered me up on a grey day. My personal favourite is the doctors debunking the anti-union crowd >:D

  28. OkapiFeels*

    I have my own version of the outfit for calling out sick. I always wake up with a raspy voice. Always. And it only goes away once I drink something. So if I want to call in (usually cause I’m not feeling well), I just make sure not to drink anything before it’s time to call in, and I sound like I’ve got one foot in the grave.

  29. maple-flavored untruths!*

    Sorry- or “soh-ree,” as the case may be- but the Canadian Thanksgiving one is pure fabrication. Canadian Thanksgiving is always on Columbus Day.

    1. Attack Cat*

      Businesses regularly have sales on labor day, a much bigger deal than Columbus Day. I would be shocked if a local business closed for either holiday, and imagine similar throughout the country. Claiming to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving, seems perfectly logical if you can pull it off. US thanksgiving is one of the few holidays most businesses close early/completely for, so the similar name implies importance. For other holidays, if your employer has no familiarity with it, it’s easier to convince them it’s a big enough deal to warrant a day off. People are so used to working through US holidays like independence day, that it’s difficult to convince them of the fact that having the day off is genuinely important to you.

    2. lazy intellectual*

      Businesses in the U.S. don’t usually close for Columbus Day. Many don’t even close for U.S. Thanksgiving.

  30. yala*

    I think # 3 is my favorite because what a happy ending! Everyone gets unions! But also so deliciously canaille!

    Also I always wondered if anyone ever actually used those Annoy-o-trons. Was always kinda tempted…

  31. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

    #7 reminds me of my high school math teacher. He had the basement level interior room, so he brought in a painting of a window with scenery outside of it. He hung it on the wall. He never assigned anyone to sit at the desk closest to it, but if someone came in to take a test, or the more likely, if administration came in to observe, he would tell them to sit by the window. People were always initially confused about how they could sit by the window, and I recall getting to laugh at one of the assistant principals who didn’t get it.

  32. Foxgloves*

    The locked drawer is ABSOLUTELY something I would do. It’s amazing. So harmless, so hilarious. Bravo OP!

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