Mortification Week: the copied texts, the unamused clients, and more

It’s Mortification Week at AAM and all week long we’ll be revisiting ways we’ve mortified ourselves at work (pulling comments and letters from the archives). Here are 15 more mortifying stories people have shared here over the years.

1. The copied texts

“So this is from the time when all of IT carried text pagers. I was exchanging, shall we say, non-business texts with my boyfriend. One day I got a text asking me to please call a number and name I’d never heard of before. It turned out to be a poor guy that was getting a copy of every single text my boyfriend was sending me and the guy’s wife was convinced he was having an affair.

We called Sprint together and discovered there was an error on their server that meant he got a copy of every single text I received. And his wife had started calling the numbers I had been sent and asking if her husband was having an affair with me. Vendors, customers, and my boss had gotten calls from her! Needless to say, I was beyond mortified! I have never communicated romantic IMs or texts again!”

2. Biopic

“I was asked who would play me if my someone made a biopic about me. I sat there stupefied for a few moments before saying Johnny Depp. Well – I am a woman and happen to have nothing in common with Johnny Depp as a person or any of the characters that he has played. I simply could not think of any other celebrity names at all in the moment. Thankfully this happened at the very end of the interview (or the interviewers decided that my awkwardness would be a great time to end the interview). I somehow managed to get that job despite it all!”

3. Misanthropy

“First job interview ever, as a page in the children’s room of my local public library, with two librarians who had known me since I was a toddler. I was 13, would have turned 14 just in time for hiring me to be legal, and under a mandate from my parents to get a job.

One of the librarians asked me, ‘Can you describe any weaknesses you might have?’

I looked at her and said quite earnestly and bluntly, ‘Well, I don’t really like people very much.’

No real recovery from that. They thanked me for my time, I didn’t get the job.”

4. Conference call

“I had to be on a call for a massive company-wide customer-facing event that was coming up and it happened on a day I needed to work from home. My computer audio wasn’t working, so I called in from my cell phone and put myself on mute, since I was mostly listening to catch some key info to bring back to my team. During a long side discussion, I thought I’d pop down to the basement to swap the laundry from the washer to the dryer. Except my washing machine drained at the time into a shop sink, which decided to be plugged up and had overflowed all over my basement floor.

The obvious solution was to hang up the concall, but I was panicking so I just said to myself, okay, I’ll call my in-laws next door on the land line and see if they have any Drano to drain this shop sink, and then I can get back to the call. I take out one earbud from my cell phone thinking it’s still on mute, call my father in law, and I’m screaming about the water, and there’s the splash of all the water, etc. And then suddenly, from my remaining earbud, I hear someone shout, ‘WHOEVER IS HAVING A PLUMBING EMERGENCY CAN YOU PLEASE GO ON MUTE!’

Of course I hung up then. The good news is by not being on computer audio, I had only shown up as ‘guest’ in the general con call, but I was mortified, and for the next year I would compulsively check my mute status on any call I was on. I later checked with someone else I knew who was on the call and he assured me no one knew it was me. I now use this story as an intro to con call etiquette whenever I’m training interns. (I also called a plumber and got my washing machine drain reconfigured.)”

5. Your problem

“Once I was on the phone with someone in another department, trying to help them figure out a problem. After they thanked me, I combined ‘No problem’ and ‘You’re welcome’ into ‘Your problem.'”

6. Photoshop

“I graduated smack dab in the middle of the recession with a degree in Speech-Communications (writing and delivering speeches). Job openings weren’t exactly flowing my way so I decided to expand my job search in adjacent fields and I came across an opening for a junior editor at a local photography studio. I’d taken a single Photoshop class in college and figured I could ace the job because if I didn’t know how to do something I could use my textbook as a reminder of what button to push. Optimism of youth and whatnot.

I showed up for the interview in a full suit along with a pearl necklace that Mom insisted would make me look like a more ‘mature’ candidate. The only employees were the owner, his son, and their bookkeeper. The son and I sat down for what felt like a pretty easy interview. I showed him a few items I’d made in college and tried to sound like I knew what I was talking about it. At the end of the interview he told me there was just one last step to the interview — a quick test of my skills.

He showed me into the back office, pointed to a computer with a few high school yearbook photos on the desktop, and asked me to give them a quick edit so he could get an idea of my editing style. I felt my palms go sweaty. That Photoshop class happened freshman year and I made a B- so my confidence was not high. I sat down, he walked off for a bit, and I made my move. The first photo was a redheaded teenager with a few zits so I decided to edit those away, only somehow (and I really don’t know how) I gave the kid TWO NOSES. I pressed Control + Z but I swear nothing happened. The noses stuck. I tried the blur tool and then they were just blurry noses. I added a few color filters, changed the color of his shirt (like that was going to help) and went back to trying to get rid of the second nose when I heard a voice in the room.

It was the owner. He said, with such kindness, ‘I think you might have made a doozie out of this one. Are you sure you know Photoshop?’

I was so mortified! Why did I take this interview? Why did I even try this editing test?

I stared back, gulped, and said the first thing that came to my mind, ‘I HAVE DIARRHEA!’

Then I ran. I just ran out of the door in embarrassment. I even left my portfolio on their desk.

To this day, I have thought about that interview. They must laugh about it on the regular because now that I’ve been on the hiring side of things I know I would die of laughter if that ever happened to me. And, of course, any time something embarrassing happens in my family someone yells out, ‘I have diarrhea!’ to much laughter and cheering.

7. The song

“This was back when I was in the Air Force. I was a weather observer and my duty location was open 24/7, 365 days a year. It was a weekend, the weather was great and me and a forecaster were working the midnight shift. Great weather means very little to do so we were listening to music to pass the time. And listening to the radio and on came that old Bangles song ‘Walk like an Egyptian.’ Well, about 5:30 in the morning after the song came on, I decided to make my coworker to laugh by not only doing the dance like they do in the video but by very loudly singing a change I made in the lyrics. I changed the words to ‘Walk like an erection’ and that’s what I proudly sang as I came walking down the room and around a corner. But alas, standing at the front counter were 2 or 3 pilots who had stopped in for an early Sunday morning weather briefing! EEEEKKKK!!! They heard me and saw the whole dance. Being fighter pilots and used to living dangerously, they roared with laughter but I died of embarassment. And my coworkers just snickered.”

8. The unamused client

“22, first job out of college, I had done well enough that my boss sent me to a meeting with a client and a vendor we were proposing to work with. The client asked some question at the end of a very long meeting about something totally off topic, and I said, ‘Don’t worry your pretty little head about that.’ To a client. Who was in his 50s. And he was. not. amused.”

9. The hot dogs

“I’m an advisor for a student group (as well as a librarian) and we were supposed to have a cookout for one of the athletic teams. My fridge was packed with 50 packages of hot dogs and condiments. My counter tops were filled with hot dog buns and bags of chips. So, I’m packing everything, getting ready to head out to the field and I get a text from the head coach of the team, the game had to be moved to the opposing teams field, the cookout was canceled. She happens to be a good friend so I texted back, ‘Great … what about the f&^%ing hot dogs?’ and it was a group text…so it went to a couple of the VP’s at the college, the AD, other coaches and higher ups.

Holy crap. I just about died.

Monday morning one of the VP’s came into my office and said, ‘So, what about those f&^%ing hot dogs?” Thankfully, everyone thought it was hilarious … while I was mortified because I hadn’t even been on the job a year and the week before it was announced that I was the County Mom of the Quarter, there was a huge newspaper article about me and our family. The college president sent a congratulatory note and everyone thought I was such a sweet girl.

My cover was blown…”

10. Dudes

“When my husband and I were in college, he did a phone interview for a financial internship in his dorm room (I was sitting on the bed, reading). Suddenly, I heard him say, ‘I have no idea what your company does, that’s why I want to work for you — to learn.’ And he also kept calling their company by the wrong name, then laughed when he was corrected. My jaw dropped open and he just kept on going! I was certain he’d be rejected, but sure enough he got the job, plus a sizable signing bonus.

Thankfully, he’s now much less arrogant. But shows you how far confidence (and/or not particularly adept hiring managers) can sometimes take you when you’re young!”

11. Too comfortable

“I was fresh out of college and was unbelievably green. I had to moved to San Francisco and was hunting for a job. I interviewed with an incredibly cool advertising agency for an admin position. They loved me and invited me back for a second interview to meet the whole office. I showed up in the early 90′s version of skinny jeans tucked into soft-sided slouch cowboy boots, was chewing gum, and put my feet up on the conference table. (Gads, I’m cringing just remembering it).”

12. Hugged the CEO

“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.

I’m friendly with him, but we don’t really know each other well. He was involved in hiring me for a fairly junior position I’ve been in for six months, and few months ago we had a running joke that’s since died out, but we don’t work together day-to-day at all.”

(You can read this full letter and the answer — plus an update — here.)

13. Drunk pigeon

“I was walking into the office. Had my purse. Lunchbox. Coat. Everything. Unbeknownst to me, someone had spilled some water right in my path. It was like my own personal patch of black ice. I didn’t just slip. Oh, no. That would have been far too dignified. I flew. Not quite like an eagle. More like a drunk pigeon. FACE FIRST. My purse soared to right (still thankful it didn’t injure or kill any passersby) and my lunch went careening to the left. Once I was wheels down, I confirmed that I was uninjured and alive. My pride, however, was desperately hoping the embarrassment would kill me first. I finally gathered myself. Picked up my stuff. And faced the stunned faces of my coworkers as I limped back to my desk.”

14. Jackscrews

“I’m a female engineer, and we were recently working out a disassembly issue, where we use features called ‘jackscrews’ to push parts apart.

On a call with operators, manufacturing leads, and my own junior design engineer/mentee, I asked, ‘Will this be enough space to jack off of?’

I kept going and pretended like nothing happened but I’m so glad we had cameras off for this particular meeting. I put my head in my hands for the remaining 10 minutes.”

15. Wrong car

“Once when I was getting off work, my partner and I had an understanding that he would pick me up. I saw a red car that looked a lot like his, and without thinking or really looking at who was driving, I got into it. Yup, wrong car. But to make the best out of an awkward situation, I wordlessly handed him a fortune cookie message that I had just gotten that said, ‘Hugs are life’s rainbows’ and stepped out.”

{ 360 comments… read them below }

  1. Empress Matilda*

    Wait, there are 30 stories a day?? That is a lot of (mostly) secondhand embarrassment! Also I have actual work to do, so apologies to my boss is everything is delayed this week…

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes! Two of these posts today, two tomorrow, and one Thursday. Friday remains to be seen.

      We have 14 years of stories here. I mined them all last night.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Yes! Two of these posts today, two tomorrow, and one Thursday. Friday remains to be seen.

        Anyone with excess dignity to spare, there’s our call to action! We can’t let Friday down!

        1. Fieldpoppy*

          Alison I saw you post that you are doing this because you are so tired/ burnt out. Thank you for doing this at this time — I need this too — and please take care of you.

      2. PhyllisB*

        Please add the one about the poor lady skidding through wet cement. This is the first AAM column I read, and I never laughed so hard in my life. (Of course I was glad she wasn’t injured, but it was hilarious!!)

    1. Kyrielle*

      Honestly, 13, if that happened in front of me I would be super concerned and not at all amused.

      Reading it the way you wrote it, however, is HILARIOUS.

    2. Workerbee*

      Yes, I would hope at least one of the coworkers would have thought to act versus react and gotten up to help!

    3. JanetM*

      Oh, #13. So much sympathy, and so glad you were okay.

      March 2019, I came out of the tiny kitchen at work, turned too sharply, caught my toe on the leg of the couch, and stumble-flew about 10 feet before coming down hard. In front of witnesses. (Which turned out to be a good thing.)

      They immediately wanted to help me up; I said I needed a minute to sit and recombobulate myself. Then I let them help me up and sit me on the couch. The CISO got me a bag of ice (where he found a plastic bag and a cloth to wrap it in, I have no idea) and helped me back to my desk. The CIO’s admin called the Business Office manager and got me the number for our Worker’s Comp carrier. She also called my manager, who was in a meeting in another building.

      I called the carrier, said I’d fallen and couldn’t move my arm, and the first nurse said, “No bleeding? No bones poking through the skin? I’ll give you some stretches to do at home.”

      I repeated that I could not move my right arm at the shoulder, and wanted to see a doctor. Now, please.

      The second nurse referred me to a occupational clinic I’d never heard of, where they x-rayed my shoulder and elbow, cleaned and bandaged the very deep scrape on my elbow, and set me up for PT. (My husband came and picked me up, since there was no way I could drive myself. He also drove me to work every day for the next week until we were all sent home for COVID, and helped me get dressed every day because I couldn’t raise my arm.)

      I still don’t have full range of motion my arm to reach behind my back, but I have enough to do pretty much everything I need to do. Fortunately, I have a desk job!

  2. Detective Amy Santiago*

    I sincerely hope #8 is a young woman because that makes this story epic in my opinion.

    1. Botanist*

      I was hoping that, too! So interesting how a middle-aged man finds it offensive to have someone say that to him :-)

    2. MEH Squared*

      In my head canon, it’s definitely a young woman with a sweet smile who has heard it one too many times herself.

      1. Botanist*

        That would be the most amazing story to tell, about a stranger who silently got into your passenger seat, then before you had time to do anything, quietly handed you a fortune and got back out. What does it meeeeaaaan . . .

        1. TiffIf*

          Actually all I can think of is “The Good Place” early in season 1 Jason hands Eleanor a metal thing and she’s trying to figure out the significance of this mysterious thing the Silent Monk handed her…and then you get his POV and…he was messing about and broke a bicycle (I think) and handed it to her as a quick escape.

        2. Artemesia*

          I love that. Would that I had had a fortune cookie when I ran across the parking lot in a rainstorm and jumped into a total strangers car when expecting my husband to pick me up.

          1. Yay, I’m a Llama Again!*

            Yup, same! My Dad was picking me up as I happened to be working near my parents town. Heavy rain, small silver car turned up and stopped next to me. Opened the door, got in, put my seat belt on, and turned to find a guy very much not my Dad looking at me silently… undid seatbelt and made a hasty retreat back to the rain.

            1. Mannequin*

              I think the most astonishing thing to me is all these people are just driving around with their doors unlocked?!

        3. MCMonkeyBean*

          That’s what I was thinking, that person has a pretty great story to tell for the rest of their life. I mean, OP does too–but I think it would be even funnier from the other side.

          1. Mary*

            Had a bunch of kids try to hop into our van once. They were horrified when they realized it was the wrong vehicle.

        1. GloWormJukebox*

          Marzipants… I’m the person that gave the driver the fortune… I do remember at the time being so mystified by that fortune and uttering the same thing as you!

  3. No Tribble At All*

    #12 (Hugged the CEO) is one of my favorites, and now I know they gave the CEO one of life’s rainbows!!

    1. Heidi*

      I’ve been pondering that fortune for the last 10 minutes. Does life not have rainbows already? I must have been surreal for the driver of that car.

  4. MerelyMe*

    Speaking of conference calls: I used to work for a university office that dealt with faculty promotions. For promotion to Professor, we had to appoint an ad hoc committee of seven faculty members, two of whom had to be from outside our school. The protocol was that the first committee meeting was always a conference call. One committee chair had his admin set up the call for him, but AT&T gave her the wrong number, so the committee called into a phone sex line. The poor admin was absolutely mortified. After that, my office got a dedicated conference call number and used that for all ad hoc committees.

    1. Rainy*

      If you’ve ever worked in higher admin you know that the worst part of that story happened to the admin when the sex line bill hit accounting.

    2. Artemesia*

      I was in the office on a Sunday after new fax machines had been set up. I needed to send my SS number and personal data to an agency in order to get a check from them. WE had a system where you used a personal number on the fax machine to call out so that the right budget could be billed for your faxes.

      I used my special number but I did it wrong because the system had changed and it sent all my personal information by fax to an adult book store which had the same fax number as my phone accounting code. Luckily the person who got it in the dildo store called our office on Monday as it was the perfect info for someone to have done an identity theft scam. I got a lot of side eye and many giggles for quite some time.

    3. Clisby*

      I worked at a place that published and sent around one of those monthly workplace newsletters. Once they printed an article – I cannot remember what it was about, but it included a number to call if you were interested. Let’s say maybe it was for a gym membership. The number was for a phone sex line. Lemme tell you, it didn’t take long for that to get around, and have people calling the line just to see what it said.

    4. PhyllisB*

      A friend of mine used to have to do a conference call every morning at 7:00 a.m. One morning she fell asleep on the phone and jerked awake when she heard her boss say, “I could swear I hear somebody snoring!?” Luckily there were about 50 people on this call so no one knew it was her.

  5. LavaLamp*

    ooof. Poor everyone in #1. When I was in highschool, Apple changed their settings and my dad got ALL MY TEXTS downloaded to his iPod touch. Thankfully my dad is not a jerk, and came to me immediately to have them deleted. It was so embarrassing.

    1. Lorilynn*

      At least it was only texts. My boss thought I said I love you to him on a phone call.
      My FIL passed away suddenly and I called my boss to let him know I would be out on bereavement leave for a few days. He knew we had to travel 7hrs in the dead of a northern Canadian winter. He kindly told me to take as much time as needed. As he is telling me this our young nephew came in to say goodnight and his standard “love you auntie.” I of course I answered “love you buddy”. My boss hesitated and said ” well thank , just trying to help you out.” I stuttered out that wasn’t meant for him but my nephew. He said” that’s a relief” I nearly died of embarrassment. His wife thought it was hilarious and often brought it up at social gatherings. I no longer work at that company but am still friends with my former boss. And now we all laugh about it.

  6. pope suburban*

    Oh my god, “I HAVE DIARRHEA!” simply undid me. And then the story about the Bangles after it…I’m dying. These are all too good!

    1. Hollywood Handshake*

      I started chuckling at the image of the two noses, but “I have diarrhea!” sent me over the edge. Actual tees streaming down my face.

    2. PennylaneTX*

      I was unfortunately on a Zoom when I read this one and it’s the closest I’ve come to guffawing out of turn. I am dead. I was already dead at the two noses and blurring but I HAVE DIARRHEA is just the cherry on top.

      1. ImGladImNotAlone*

        My son just came into the room, wondering why I was crying/laughing. I had to read the Diarrhea story to him. GOLD, Jerry, GOLD.

  7. gem*

    Oh these are all so great, but #15 hit me so hard – crying laughing, imagining the driver’s face receiving a strange fortune from someone randomly getting in their car…

      1. TypityTypeType*

        Days later, a mysterious stranger approaches the driver:

        “What are life’s rainbows?”

        “Uh … rainbows?”

        “No, you must think back! A few days ago you had a surprising encounter, and an important message was passed along to you. Concentrate — more depends on your answer than you can possibly know. Now: What. are. life’s. rainbows?”

        “Oh, right … I have it here somewhere … uh … hugs?”

        The drive is instantly swept away into a thrilling web of intrigue and adventure, and finally barely survives. But no matter: by then the driver (after initial stages of bewilderment, anger, and, of course, bickering) has fallen desperately in love with the mysterious stranger.

    1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      I can’t stop laughing at this one. I can just imagine the driver trying to explain what happened to his friends and family and ruminating on it for years.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Yes, totally! This one is killing me! I want to hear from that driver, b/c I’m sure they were like, WOWWOWWOW and I wonder if it was life-changing or something. If that had happened to me, I would have laughed for an hour straight! (I might laugh that long now just hearing about it!)

    2. Damn it, Hardison!*

      I really wish that the driver of that car is also a AAM reader, and now has an explanation for the mystery of the random stranger and the fortune cookie.

      1. GloWormJukebox*

        That was me!!! I posted this in the comments like, years ago, and was totally surprised when it popped up today!

        1. MEH Squared*

          This was my favorite by far! I’m impressed you managed to keep your cool, not say a word, and hand over a fortune cookie as you exited the car.

    3. Retired Prof*

      I was once sent to the hotel to pick up a candidate for a faculty position – she was facing a full day of interviews. As I pulled into the parking lot, a young woman got into the passenger side of a car at the hotel entrance and it drove off. I walked in and asked for Pam. “She was just here” they said. “But I was supposed to pick her up!” I said. “Are you Phyllis?” they asked. Turns out ANOTHER Phyllis came by looking for her job candidate named Pam and took mine instead. Just as I was panicking, the car with my Pam came back. They had started talking about the job and through Pam’s bewilderment came the realization she got into the wrong car. BTW we hired Pam.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        “So, of course you’ll be expected to attend the annual meetings and give a presentation about the department budget . . . ”

        “Isn’t that a bit of a stretch for a first year professor?”


    4. MEH Squared*

      This is the one that sent me over the edge. Something about wordlessly handing the driver a fortune cookie and what the actual message in the cookie was absolutely undid me.

  8. TimeTravlR*

    #13 reminds me of a very humiliating moment in my life. I was working in a very old beautiful building inhabited by the US Navy. It had these great winding staircases with marble steps. I worked on the 7th floor but had to make a stop on 2, so decided to walk down the last flight. Unfortunately, my slingback shoe slipped off my heel as I was starting down the staircase. Also unfortunately, I was wearing a rather full skirt that day. So as I went down, my shoe flew off, the skirt went somewhere up around my head, and I screamed. And a cadre of young Marines standing below got a sneak peek of my undergarments. When I landed at the bottom, someone rushed over and asked if I was hurt. Truthfully (somehow!) I answered, “Only my pride.”
    (Honestly on those marble steps I should have broken something!)

    1. quill*

      I uh, recently did something similar. Except it was digging a car out of sand and I was wearing a swimsuit cover after just changing out of my suit and the car finally moved.

      Long story short an entire beach knows the color of my underwear that day.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      A few years ago I went to the grocery store late-ish at night. They had those big cardboard watermelon bins outside and I decided I’d pick up a watermelon on my way in. Except there were only a few really big ones left in the bottom.

      I underestimated the weight of the chosen melon, lost my balance, and went in head first. In a short skirt.

      1. Okay, great!*

        I’m so sorry that happened to you, but I almost woke my daughter up laughing at that one. I had the reverse experience when I was loading bikes back onto racks after an event. I came across a carbon fiber bike (they are much much lighter than what you would expect) and would have thrown it and myself across the lot if one of the other volunteers hadn’t caught us. Physics wins.

        1. Bike Tike*

          A family friend had the opposite version of that! After an event, he was loading bikes into the trailer and almost threw his back out trying to pick up my bike because it was so much heavier than he expected! At the time, I was 8 years old and while everyone else was riding proper road bikes, I was riding a PoS kids bike made out of lead pipes or something.
          Thankfully he wasn’t hurt and everyone was even more impressed I’d managed 20 kms out of the 80 the ride consisted of.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            My dad traded a couple of family bikes for a Vitesse, which, in case you’re not into bikes, is the kind of thing that gets ridden in the Tour de France. I’m not into showy bikes so we stripped down so it looked like an anonymous ten-speed, but it still weighed almost nothing. More than once I almost knocked myself over expecting it to weigh a lot more than it did.

            (It got stolen. I usually get over losing things but it’s been almost 30 years and I’m still sorry I don’t have that bike.)

      2. Lynn*

        Really, really bad time for me to take a drink of iced coffee. Hahaha oh I’m so sorry but that’s hilarious!! I’m dying over here!

    3. EPLawyer*

      A few years ago we had a big snowstorm. Court was closed for a few days. My hearing was on the first day they reopened. Road clear, all fine. I usually park in the garage right across the street from the courthouse so I figured my 4 inch stilleto heels would be okay to wear. Except the garage was full. Oh dear. Now I am late for my hearing (court was cool EVERYONE was late that day because of the full garage, neighboorhood parking to keep the roads clear for street parking). I find a parking spot only two blocks away. Still all good. Sidewalks are cleared. Great. Until I am walking along carrying my trial bag and I see right in front of me, an ice stream right across the width of the sidewalk too big for me to step over. Without a thought, I took off my heels and walked the rest of the way to the courthouse in my stocking feet. People were like “ummm???” I was all “better than wiping out” (remember this line). No my feet were not cold as long as I kept moving. Made it to courthouse, put my shoes back on. My stocking footed run to the courthouse had preceded me. Judge was impressed at my dedication at getting there. Have the hearing. Client happy at outcome.

      Client offers to drive me to my car since she HAD found parking in the garage. So I leave my shoes on to walk to her car. And promptly wipe out while crossing the snow mound between sidewalk and street. I came up and said “see why I went barefoot before?”

      1. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

        I once went to court as an observer (I was watching a coworker’s order of protection trial as part of training) wearing my brand-new fancy floral boots, because it was raining and I wanted to look cute without looking like A Lawyer. The courtrooms are upstairs above the lobby. I got to the top of the stairs and started walking to the courtroom. The bottoms of my shoes did not have grips, and the floor was wet. My legs went COMPLETELY out from under me – full sideways, like in a slapstick comedy – and I went down HARD.

        I did so in front of the opposing party, who was waiting outside the courtroom . And I must say, for a guy who is a genuinely awful person who routinely beat his ex and called her horrible sexual slurs, he was really concerned for me and wanted to make sure I was okay!

        1. EPLawyer*

          Oh yeah. The courthouse that is trying to kill me. I kid you not. there is a district court house that LITERALLY every time I go there something happens. I have tangled my legs and tripped over a bench in front of me. So next time, I sat at the very back where there is a walkway from the door, so no bench in front of me. I tangled my legs and slammed into the wall instead. Then the last time I was there, I was just walking along and all of a sudden my feet went out from under me. The floor wasn’t wet, my shoes weren’t slick, just down I went. The other attorneys were quite concerned, I was fine.

          Apparently that courthouse is known because when I posted the wipe out story online, a friend knew EXACTLY what courthouse I was talking about. Others have wiped out at that spot.

          1. Nanani*

            You’d think a courthouse of all places would have a lot of people who know about liability and how to enforce it to get hazards taken care of o.o

          2. Elizabeth West*

            There was a spot in the ice rink in OldCity that we started to avoid because people kept having accidents right there. It was opposite the Lutz corner on the north end. For a few weeks, every time someone got on that same spot, they would fall or hit the boards or something stupid would happen. We looked at the ice there and saw no bumps or divots. It was just briefly cursed.

            I mean, sometimes buildings just have bad vibes, but I also suspect there is such a thing as wandering bad vibes.

            (Off-topic, but there was another spot where, by a trick of acoustics, you could stand and whisper and be heard clear across the rink on the other end. Not the place to be if you were going to talk trash about someone!)

    4. Butterfly Counter*

      Something similar happened to my roommate in college. We were both travelling on the soccer team and we were hotel roommates, too. We’re expected to travel in nice clothes (skirt and blouses) to “best represent our university.” Our room was down some stairs from the main level. I went down first and then hear a clatter as her suitcase tumbles down the stairs right before she had her own fall.

      She was unhurt, thankfully. By the time we were in the hotel room though, I was howling with laughter. First, she had managed to keep her ankle-length skirt perfectly straight all the way down which seemed to defy physics in a hilarious way. Also, her exclamation as she fell was, “Ooooooh deeeeeeeeear.” I still laugh when I think about it (again, she was unhurt!!!).

    5. Dream Jobbed*

      I worked in Oklahoma. Well, there’s a couple of things Oklahoma is famous for. One day I was attending an out of town meeting with other people from my college. As I was walking through the parking lot a huge gust of wind blew my very full skirt over my head. Just in time for the President of the college to see my tidy whities.

  9. Cassiopeia117*

    As a new faculty member, I was given the role of greeting families during the freshman orientation BBQ. This involved giving them a school spirit t-shirt, their orientation guide, and pointing them in the direction to the first activity. Many people would be enthusiastic and happy, saying, “Thank you so much!” to which I (more than once) replied enthusiastically back, “No welcome!!!” instead of either “No problem!” or “You’re welcome”.

    As a greeter, I told people “No welcome”.

    1. TiffIf*

      I once explained to a friend of mine “No freaking cow!”

      I was trying to say either “No freaking way!” or “Holy Cow” and got “no freaking cow!”

        1. LemonLime*

          I rarely swear and even more rarely say the F word but at work I had just tipped over a very unstable but very very expensive laboratory machine. A split second before I exclaimed “F**K” my brain switches it to SUGAR so I don’t say a bad word at work….. but then it was like the F word refused to not be said. So my coworkers hear *CRASH* “Ohhh SUGARFU**KER.”

    2. MCMonkeyBean*

      I do always love reading about these.

      But if it helps at all I feel like the brain relies so much on context that I imagine if someone accidentally said “you’re problem” or “no welcome” to me–as long as their tone was pleasant, I doubt I would even notice they hadn’t said the correct thing!

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Must have been the special kind; when I prepare sausages, they just lie there on the bun waiting for mustard.

  10. Maggie*

    Four years ago I hastily did my nails before an interview. These were the “DIY french” type. When I went to shake my (now boss’ hand) we got stuck together with my runaway & yet un-dried and glue. It was super painful to peel ourselves apart!!

    Ugh! I got the job and we have never talked about it. He is a wonderful person.

  11. Charlotte Lucas*

    I’m curious, too! That’s a lot of processed meat to be stuck with.

    And what’s a County Mom?

  12. quill*

    #15 I think you just nominated yourself the weird inciting incident for a magical realism novel.

    1. Bee Eye Ill*

      I’d love to hear the driver’s side of that story. Can you imagine some random person getting into your car then handing you a fortune?

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Yes! I just made the same comment on another thread! I want that driver’s side of the story!!

  13. selfie fail*

    The worst thing that I’ve ever done was sending my boss (A ONE STAR GENERAL) a selfie. I had been talking to my mom about a horrible haircut/color I had gotten and she was asking for a visual. I blithely took a picture and sent it to the last person I had messaged – which usually was her. Nope, I had just messaged my boss confirming a meeting on his schedule. I just about died. Luckily he laughed it off and even made a joke about it later saying that all he needed for the next day was the calendar and not another picture.

    1. Alexander Graham Yell*

      A friend had finally hooked up with a guy she worked with (but who was in a different department) that she’d been crushing on for over a year. She snapped a quick selfie in bed the next morning while he was visible to send to her close friend group chat….and sent it to the big chat that included her boss instead.

        1. Alexander Graham Yell*

          She wanted to die of embarrassment and her friends at work teased her relentlessly. The boss didn’t say anything to her about it until 9 months later when she requested a transfer to the now-BF’s office. He called her into his office to discuss it and said something along the lines of, “We all know how excited you were when the relationship started, I’m happy to help you move out there to be with him.”

      1. Virginia Plain*

        Acquaintance of mine intended to send a pic of herself to a friend with whom she was due to attend a dressy event, showing the spanx she had got and was trying on, to show the effect and how it would make her posh frock look great.
        She actually sent it to the the entire Trumpton Village* Ladies 2nd XV WhatsApp group.
        *village name changed to protect innocent knickers
        I assume she counted her blessings it wasn’t to the men’s side. I can’t decide whether, being rugby players, they would have papered the club house with printouts or carried her on their shoulders and worshipped her as their queen.

    2. No Sleep Till Hippo*

      Omg I’ve done a similar thing… I was working in-house as a receptionist at a tiny temp agency, when they got a request for a temp position that looked like a really good fit for me. Everyone I worked with was super supportive of me going for it, and was only too happy to give me tips on how to prep for the interview, what to wear, updating my resume, etc.

      So a couple days before the interview I was trying to decide between two different outfits, and snapped a couple pictures to send to the group text we were all in so my coworkers could give me advice. Immediately after sending 3-4 selfies and a *paragraph* of “With the blazer or without? What about this shirt with that skirt? Earrings?” and so on, I get a message from one of my coworkers: “Did you mean to send that to [Big Boss/Company Owner] too?” All I could respond was “Aaaaaaahhhhhhhhf***.”

      Fortunately he was super chill about it – and so was his wife, who was in the car with him looking at his phone when the texts came in. (And, bonus, I got the job!)

  14. Imaginary Number*

    The jackscrews one isn’t that embarrassing. This is a common and well-known hazard of working with jackscrews and it’s the sort of thing that everyone just kind of snickers and and moves on, fully understanding.

    1. Threeve*

      I worked in a hardware store and I make wire jewelry, and I still can’t talk about ball-peen hammers without absolutely losing it.

      1. Filosofickle*

        My first job out of college I worked in the marketing department of a hardware importer. Had a couple of coworkers who positively reveled in saying nipple, ball, and c*ck as often as possible, and quite a bit more suggestively than I was comfortable with. (Not afraid of the c word here, just not sure about comment filtering!) Then one year for the big national trade show our booth mascot was a beaver. >.<

    2. this is ka*

      I am a woman working in construction project management and have had a couple of detailed discussions about caulk. The right way to apply the caulk, the color of the caulk, if we should perhaps get a caulk specialist involved because it’s such a hard (ha!) caulking job…..I will never be so mature that it’s not funny!

  15. TiredMama*

    I interviewed at Starbucks as a teen and when they asked me to describe my favorite coffee, I said I do not like coffee. … I was not hired.

    1. Workerbee*

      You wouldn’t have drunk any of the profits, though! One doesn’t have to like something to know how to serve it.

    2. Admin of Sys*

      That’s not fair, one of my favorite barristas didn’t drink coffee! Mind you, that was because they’d been mainlining the stuff for years to self-treat adhd before finally getting proper meds, so she knew tons about it, even if she didn’t drink it. But still – you don’t have to like something to be good at making it.

  16. raktajino*

    welp this is making me feel much better about the time I interviewed for a science museum job and had an absolute brainfart at the “make up a demo with these random objects” portion. I had prepped some general themes I could riff on, and could just not come up with a way to make those themes work with the objects. So I talked about the barnacle life cycle…and used a (small!) pool noodle as the barnacle penis. Halfway through I thought to point out that this was for the grownups-only nights, and the room burst into relieved, pent-up laughter.

    Never got a call back, though I did volunteer for them years later and got accolades on that work, so at least I redeemed myself partially.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      Oh my god, this is too funny. (And now I can’t stop thinking of that Danny DeVito tweet! — Double bonus!)

    1. Alexander Graham Yell*

      “Hugs are life’s rainbows” has me completely undone. I cannot stop laughing. Sooooo good!

    2. Sigrid*

      I just COMPLETELY LOVE imagining being the guy driving that car. There you are, just idling by the curb, when a complete stranger gets in your car, hands you a peice of paper that says “hugs are life’s rainbows”, and gets out. Did the visit change your life? Are you still talking about it decades later? Is it a story to tell your grandchildren? I love it.

  17. More Awkward Than You*

    #5 reminds me of the time I went to FedEx to mail a package, and the employee said, “Good morning, how are you doing today?” Apparently this question was sufficient to confuse my brain and mouth, because what came out was a very cheery, “Not good!” (“Not bad” and “Pretty good” clearly had a fight on which one was going to be said in response!) I scrambled my face into some kind of expression and the employee burst out laughing and teased me. I wanted to melt into the floor LOL.

    1. BadWolf*

      My friends and I use “Take Luck!” from the Brian Regan sketch of messing up Take Care and Good Luck.

    2. hayling*

      These all remind me of stories from The Bloggess’s twitter feed (which ended up in her most recent book, and I always go to that chapter when I need a giggle)

  18. Mephyle*

    I want to congratulate #2 (Biopic, played by Johnny Depp) for an excellent answer that shouldn’t mortify her. Any hiring process (unless it was for a job in casting films) that would ask that question got an answer they deserved.

    1. BadWolf*

      I think it’s a great answer (maybe not today, but definitely a couple years ago). I am sure my brain would also blank on every actor name ever.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Nowadays, I’d say The Rock. It would be a hit no matter what!

        FTR, I am a small woman who bears no resemblance to The Rock, aside from us both being human. And loved by my mom.

    2. Le Sigh*

      Yeah I was thinking…what is they’re trying to learn with that question? What is the point?

      1. Lana Kane*

        It might just be considered a little ice breaker, or a way to get a peek into someone’s personality. I had a coworker who liked to ask what people brought to pot lucks. We got everything from homeade baked goods to “chips and napkins” (which I always made sure to back up because I, too, am that person). Candidates seemed to be lighthearted about it and it gave us a chance to lighten things up a bit.

        1. Le Sigh*

          That’s fair. I think I’m naturally wary of these due to some past experiences. But I can see it was an icebreaker, as long as no one tries to read too much into the answer.

        2. Mephyle*

          Icebreaker… and yet in this case, OP mentioned, “this happened at the very end of the interview (or the interviewers decided that my awkwardness would be a great time to end the interview)”. So…

          And the potluck question could be relevant for a workplace that regularly holds potlucks and gets judgy about people’s contributions!

          1. Lana Kane*

            You don’t have to break the ice only at the beginning :) Sometimes it’s a nice relief to end a serious interview with something light. And no, no one gets judgy about the pot lock thing. I think way too much is being assumed here – almost like people are looking for red flags in simple human interactions.

            If candidates want to judge us for a lighthearted question at the end of the interview, then ok.

            1. Mephyle*

              Unfortunately, the ‘cheap-ass rolls’ anecdote was a living, breathing counterexample to the “no one gets judgy about potlucks” assertion. Does anyone have the date? – it was fairly recent. And delightfully, in this case it was actually the person who wrote to AAM who was doing the judging.

    3. Alexis Rosay*

      I’m a white woman and I once almost answered “Donald Glover” to this question because he was the most amazing actor I could think of at the moment. This was in a weird group interview for a grant on Zoom so I frantically googled actresses before it was my turn.

  19. Dust Bunny*

    My supervisor was emailing us links to office supplies that we might want to order. One thing she forwarded was a battery-powered eraser (we sometimes have a lot of erasing to do so this isn’t as absurd as it sounds).

    I barely caught myself before I replied, “So, a tiny vibrator?”

    I might actually have gotten away with it, but I’m glad I didn’t have to find out.

    1. Threeve*

      When we had an all-hands-on-deck envelope stuffing project, my workplace offered those little rubber fingertip guards to prevent papercuts.

      In a conference room full of coworkers, many of them senior to me, I politely asked someone to pass me “a couple of those little finger condoms.”

      1. The Rural Juror*

        We used to use those when I worked in a restaurant if we cut our fingers. Imagine walking up to a table to take their order while wearing a bright blue finger condom.

      2. raktajino*

        I mean, what ARE they if not finger condoms?
        I think supposedly “finger cot” is the more professional term but wtf is a cot really.

    2. Threeve*

      When we had an all-hands-on-deck envelope stuffing project, my workplace offered those rubber fingertip guards to prevent papercuts.

      In a conference room full of coworkers, many of them senior to me, I politely asked someone to pass me “a couple of those little finger condoms.”

  20. BadWolf*

    In the embarrassment lite version of 15, another employee had the same make/model and color car to me and we parked in a similar area. At the end of one long day, I walked up to the passenger door and opened it to put in my bag and then for what seemed like a really long time, stood there staring with the door open until I finally put the pieces together that it was not my car (dark vs light interior). Then I casually closed the door and casually walked to my car. Not sure if anyone saw.

    Later, I wondered how I opened the door in the first place! Did my key fob open their car?? On another day, I specifically tried beeping their car lock/unlock with my key and nothing happened, so I guess their car was unlocked.

    1. The Rural Juror*

      This has happened to me twice in my lifetime. The first time was in a HUGE parking lot at a convention center while it was raining. I couldn’t find the car, so I just kept hitting the unlock button on the key fob to hear the beep beep. I ran up to the car to get in, but realized I had been hitting the lock button to make it beep and it was still locked. Unlocked it, got in…then realized it was NOT my car. Same make, model, AND color, but not my car. I guess it just happened to have the same frequency as my key fob. I got out, locked it back, then went looking for mine (which was 3 aisles over).

      The second time was at the local market/grocery store that has a tiny parking lot. Same make, model, and color again, but this time the other car was unlocked. I just thought I had forgotten to lock it, but it had a black interior instead of my tan. My car was in the next parking spot over. So out of like 6 cars that could fit in the lot, I managed to get into the wrong one!

      Luckily, both of those times the cars were empty and I don’t think anyone saw me do it…

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I rented a house with 2 other people after college. One key opened two of the Civics. Luckily did not start them both, or I might have driven off to MY job with HER company ID.

      1. Mannequin*

        In the mid 80s, my brother & I both had Toyota Coronas from the early 70s. A couple years apart, and slightly different models (mine was a mini station wagon.) We discovered quite by accident that the key to his car could unlock my door (though not start it), but the reverse was not true.

    3. Wisteria*

      I don’t know about fobs, but with real keys, it’s not unheard of for keys to work in cars of the same make model. Maybe the same thing happens with fobs? Dunno.

      I once deliberately parked next to a car that way my (unusual) year/make/model/color bc I thought it was cool that there were two in the same parking lot. Then I came out of the store and unlocked the wrong one. It felt double-doofusy since I parked there deliberately.

      1. Tessie Mae*

        Yes, it worked with real keys. Decades ago, when I was in college (went to a commuter school), one of my friends, after a night class, headed to his car in one of the school parking lots. He drove a really common model. Found “his” car, unlocked it, got in, dropped his books, etc. on the front seat, and started heading home. At some point along the drive, he happened to glance in the back seat and saw . . . a bunch of stuff that was totally unfamiliar. After looking around, it dawned on him that, um, wait, this was NOT his car. He turned around and went back to school, re-entered the parking lot, parked The Car That Was Not His, found and entered his car (after checking carefully), and again headed for home, hoping that car’s owner had not yet gotten out of class and discovered their car was missing. Whew! He considered it only a minor annoyance that he had to pay to exit the parking lot twice.

    4. old biddy*

      I did this on an interview. I had a really random rental car – def. not a common model) and someone with the same color and type of car had parked near me and left their car unlocked. I opened the hatchback before I realized my mistake.
      I have no clue if anyone saw me or not. I had gotten a better offer shortly before the interview so I withdrew my application a few days later

    5. Elizabeth West*

      My old red Buick had a twin that often appeared in the Walmart parking lot near where I used to live. They parked in the same section of the lot, too. More than once I walked up to their car instead of mine. The fob didn’t work so I was spared that awkwardness!

    6. Jackalope*

      Once my husband and I were at the grocery store. We’d put our purchases in the car, gotten in, and were getting seatbelts fastened and all of that when suddenly this guy opened the back door and slid in. I had a moment of panic thinking someone was trying to hijack our car, then looked at his face and saw confusion followed by horror. He quickly jumped out and ran over to the car next to us, where he then got into what I hope was the right car.

    7. MCMonkeyBean*

      I think it was on this site that I once read someone share a story about a time they started driving away in a coworkers car because apparently their keys worked on each other’s cars. I had no idea until then that could happen!

  21. Iris West-Allen*

    The “I HAVE DIARRHEA!!” story is now in my top 5 favorite things I have read on this site.

    1. Marizane*

      It was in the comments from yesterday, they must’ve posted it earlier as well and Alison found that one – I actually thought yesterday’s version was a *slightly* better telling, but I got to read both, so I’m happy.

      Also, incredibly impressed, I know Alison works fast, but that in the Monday comments, she said she should make mortification week and then, bam, next day, it IS mortification week.

        1. Commentertainer*

          Yes! I read the original post earlier in the day, pulled it up later to show to my husband, and it was already Mortification Week! I’m honestly surprised Alison can keep track of any of this, let alone all of it! Rockstar!

  22. Casey*

    #14 (jackscrews), engineering really generates some doozies. We had a big test stand that we were rotating upwards and one of the techs asked me to “hold the base in place as it’s erected”, followed by a look of panic as he realized how that sounded. Later I was climbing under said test stand, looking for a female BNC adapter and unthinkingly shouted over “has anyone seen a female around here?” (Which, good question, since engineering.)

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      My dad was a lithographer, but the trade term was “film stripper.” As kids, we found it hilarious when he’d peruse the “STRIPPERS WANTED” ads in the classifieds.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Alison – my juvenile brain now wants examples of “normal” jargon from workplaces that sounds off to the rest of the world.

        1. Elenna*

          Not sure if this is really “the rest of the world”, but: My workplace shortens “non-conventional assets” (i.e. assets, like stocks and bonds, that can’t be modelled in our usual way) to “non-con [assets]”. Which means that we have files labelled stuff like “NonCon_[date]”.

          I’ve never been quite sure if anyone else at my workplace is aware that AO3 uses “non-con” as a short form for “non-consensual [sex]”.

        2. The Rural Juror*

          We use female and male parts for fasteners in construction. I mean, I get why they’re called that…but I’m sometimes immature about it. I can admit that.

          1. Lady Oscar*

            And when connecting computers, too, leading to the existence of male/male and female/female adapters called “gender benders” or “gender menders”…very fanfic!

        3. Mr. Cajun2core*

          We can always go with wire-strippers “strippers” and wire cutters – which have another name which I won’t use since it is very derogatory. So you have strippers and (something else).

        4. Mr. Cajun2core*

          I have a cousin who is a professional newscaster and has to hold in a giggle everytime she mentions the name of the president of Russia.

            1. Mr. Cajun2core*

              No. Because the way it is pronounced sounds like a euphemism for expelling gas out of the lower end of the body.

        5. Mental Lentil*

          We use a lot of cumulative data in my line of work. And it gets abbreviated to the just the first three letter or the plural version of that all the time.

          It’s pronounced “cyooms”, but in an email it’s just sitting there as those four letters. We hired a new person to deal with this data and when she saw that, she just couldn’t even.

        6. Casey*

          One beam on a truss/bridge is called a “member”, which we were not mature enough to handle in structural engineering 101. Like, “calculate the elongation of the member” was a real homework problem.

        7. Jesse*

          One of our vendors is abbreviated “F.A.P.” but you can’t put periods in an item name, so every single item is named something inappropriate, like the uncensored version of “FAP SPRING A-S HAT C–K FASCINATOR”.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I’ll always see that as piece of shite, tbh.

            Whenever we write WFH for work from home here, my brain always reads it as WTF.

        8. Auntie Pru's nibling*

          “Does anyone know where we can get felt around here?”
          (We were repairing a dormitory piano. Really.)

        9. Hope this helps*

          Glass blowing has some real doozies – glory hole, jack, blow, suck, blow partner, marver slut – :-D

        10. Jiminy Cricket*

          I find it odd to use f/u to mean follow-up. My colleague like’s to put “Jiminy f/u” for a meeting invite and I don’t like it. I know this is a normal abbreviation, but am I the only one to react negatively?

          1. Deanna Troi*

            We use it regularly in my job, and my last job as well. Everyone sends out emails full of F/Us.

            1. YuliaC*

              Huh, I barely ever see it used anywhere at my work. And I do totally read is as “f$@k you” when I do…

        11. NotRealAnonForThis*

          Any trade within construction has more than a couple, each. Even the unedited CSI MasterSpec is rife with giggle-worthy references. (Erection of steel members? Jacking of pipe? There are subsections dedicated to these topics…and if I recall properly, they’re titled that. And there are more.)

          Strap on sensors are fun to discuss in mixed company though.

    2. quill*

      Building anything leads to variations on “screw it in straight” and “quit screwing around” and general immaturity.

    3. snack queen*

      When I worked for home depot my favorite was “ball cock shank washer” followed up by a “dam corner”. We also got a few of prank calls in the paint department asking for black caulk…

  23. IT project manager*

    These are great. Earlier this summer my teenager had a similar response as #3. He was in an interview for a summer job, a group interview as they were interviewing him and two other candidates at the same time.

    They asked “what’s your biggest weakness “. The other two both said “I work too hard”. He was thrown by the question and gave an honest answer that as he was saying it he realized it was a mistake, “I’m bad with people”

    He didn’t get that job ;)

    It was a learning experience anyway and he did get a different summer job which is a better job with full time hours.

  24. Le Sigh*

    “I looked at her and said quite earnestly and bluntly, ‘Well, I don’t really like people very much.'”

    #3, I relate to 14yo you very, very much. But as we have both learned, there is a time and place to share it.

      1. Workerbee*

        It didn’t sound condescending, at least not over here! It is indeed a skill to learn (unfortunately).

        1. Le Sigh*

          Well, I’m glad! It was truly a commiseration. I still don’t much like people and have blundered my way into awkward situations a lot over the years.

    1. The Rural Juror*

      My favorite teacher in high school always said, “You can think whatever you want, but you shouldn’t say everything you think.” This is a great example of that!

  25. pleaset cheap rolls*

    I’ve heard milder versions of #3 in intro classes in library school. Not as bad as saying it in a job interview, but librarianship is not just about paper!!!!

  26. alligatorseverywhere*

    #5 I was on the phone with my boss, and we’d just about wrapped up, and mentally I’d moved on to the “please get off the phone now” mode, and accidentally just said the thing I’m most used to saying in that mode – you know, when I talk to my husband. So I said, “Okay, love you”.

    #8 I don’t know that I would feel too bad in your shoes. As a young woman, this was often said to me unironically by 50 year old men in the workplace, so it feels like turnaround is fair play here.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Don’t feel bad. Over the years I’ve “love you, bye!” to two different bosses.
      One called me back cackling.
      The other I heard what I said has it came out of my mouth. Both times it was because an email from my husband just came in. I have since switched to exclusively using my cell phone to communicate with my husband even at work. Much safer that way.

      1. TiffIf*

        Many years ago when I was a child my family was sitting down to dinner and I was asked to say Grace. The phone rang right at that moment, so I picked it up and said “Dear Heavenly Father” to the caller.

        Luckily it was my Dad and he thought it was hilarious, and so did the rest of the family.

    2. Sleepless*

      I think a great many people have done that. My husband said it to a client once. He was in his 30s at the time and the client was a woman in her 50s. He was mortified. She just laughed, didn’t think it was too shocking.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        I’ve almost done it a couple of times but I think I’ve managed to catch myself–at work at least.

        I’m still a little scarred from the time I said it to my 5th grade teacher…

  27. Ana Gram*

    Omg these are hilarious! Can I add one?

    Many, many years ago, I was a brand new police officer and I went to court for my first juvenile case. I’d only been to the building one before when we did a tour while in the academy. Still, I tried to act confident and I made it to the right place. We could wear our uniform or a suit and I opted for a suit. My mom had bought it for me and I did all my job interviews in it so it seemed like a solid choice… The bailiff stopped me before I entered the courtroom (since it was juvenile court, only the required parties could enter) and asked where my parents where. Hmm, I thought, maybe he knows them? So I said my dad was at work and my mom was probably at home. Then he told me I could only enter with a parent. I told him my suspect’s parents were already inside… Then it dawned on us both. We both turned bright red, he apologized, I showed him my badge, and we ignored each other for the foreseeable future.

    I stuck with wearing uniforms to court until I turned 30 or so…

    1. Mental Lentil*

      I love this!

      When I was student teaching, the lunch ladies thought I was a new, and very well-dressed, student. All the other teachers were complaining about the cost of a hot lunch, and I could figure out why they were paying so much more than me. Then it dawned on all of us.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Same thing happened to me when I was a long-term sub at a high school, my first year out of school. They asked if I was a student and I asked why they wanted to know, then told me about the lunch discount for students. So I said I was. I’m 99% sure they knew I wasn’t a student but they charged me the student rate after that. Now that it’s…years…later, I feel a small twinge of guilt about that, but did I mention it was my first year out of school? I was flat broke, so I only feel slightly guilty. I try to pay it forward now.

        1. Ana Gram*

          When I was in college, I lived near a hospital. You better believe I hit up the cafeteria for $2 lunches! The food was decent and the price was incredible.

        2. Mental Lentil*

          I felt bad at first too, but I spent ten years buying so many kids breakfast and lunch (and on a teacher’s salary) that I stopped feeling bad about it.

        3. Lady Oscar*

          After graduate school I went back to work at the place I did my undergraduate degree. I went to buy tickets to a play being performed on campus and the familiar guy working the box office recognized me, and said, “oh, you’re a student”, to which I said, “ha ha, yeah, I was a student”, but he insisted I must be a student to give me the (much) cheaper rate. As an underpaid postdoc, I felt a bit guilty, but I really appreciated it!

        1. Mental Lentil*

          Oh yes. Teachers were charged quite a bit more. (A lot of our students got free or reduced lunch, as well.)

          1. KateM*

            I mean, our students got free lunch so you could say that teachers did pay rather a lot more (something like 2 euros per main course, and if you went after all students had had their lunch breaks and the kitchen had soup or desserts over, they’d put them out for grabs for everyone, studetns or teachers).

      2. Flower necklace*

        I got mistaken for a student my first year teaching. It was the end of the year and we had to collect our signatures to check out. Another teacher and I went down to see the cafeteria manager so she could verify we didn’t owe any money. We got stopped and told that the cafeteria was closed and students weren’t allowed in.

        I was 30 at the time :D

  28. Rusty*

    #14 I once said geotestical instead of geotechnical to a contractor so you’re in good (or bad) company.

  29. Workerbee*

    Bravo to #8; it had probably been a long time since somebody hadn’t just enabled Mr. Rambly Off Topic. :)

  30. Foofoo*

    I got a call for an interview many years ago, and it was scheduled for a few days after I was just getting over a cold. I didn’t want to reschedule it cause I was desperate at the time, so I filled myself up full of cold meds and decongestants, etc. The worst part of the cold was basically just a stuffed up nose, so I figured I could muddle my way through it.

    Part way through the interview, my nose starts to get a bit runny. I’m sniffling a bit, but nothing major. Then I can feel a bit of leaking at my nose. I think it’s not a big deal, and reach up to touch the underside of my nose and lightly rub it, thinking I could get rid of whatever was leaking.

    When I pulled my hand away, a long goober comes with it (still attached to my nose btw).

    I almost died right there.

    The interviewers kindly got me a tissue and let me run to the bathroom to deal with it. I don’t think that was the reason I didn’t get a second interview, but I’m positive it did not help.

    1. Squirrel Nutkin*

      I can totally relate! Back in the day, I was a student with a very runny nose at an interview around a small table for a part-time research gig, and there were no tissues anywhere in sight. I lacked the adult social skills to say, “Excuse me for a moment” or “Would any of you happen to have a tissue?” but just sat there with snot running down my face, occasionally wiped away by my sleeve or my hand. It got pretty disgusting, at least to me! I can’t tell you how surprised I was that I got the job anyway — go figure.

      On another bodily fluids note, when I was in my late 30s and interviewing for a faculty position on campus, I got a nasty case of food poisoning from the restaurant the hiring committee took me out to dinner at the first night, while I still had a whole day of campus interviewing/sample teaching left to go the next day. I was more of an adult then, though, so I was able to tell the committee what was up instead of trying to fake it through suffering silently. Reader, those hiring committee members were SO kind to me, getting me jello for lunch and making sure I was able to get a bathroom break whenever I needed. I didn’t get the job, but apparently, I was the #2 candidate, and they sent me the loveliest rejection letter. If I had gotten an offer, I would DEFINITELY have taken the job: Their compassionate response to my illness let me know that anyone who worked there would be assured of having wonderful colleagues!

  31. Euphony*

    My (much older, male) director once needed some help with extracting files from a compressed folder, but had another meeting to go to first. When he returned I loudly asked the entire office if he was ready for me to show him how to unzip…. I still go bright red thinking about that one!

    1. BadWolf*

      I (female) was working on something with my team lead (male) over the phone and he sent a zip file and accidentally said, “Let me know you get unzipped” and then made an “oh no” strangled noise. I resisted laughing and pretended nothing strange had been said.

    2. BadWolf*

      I (female) was working on something with my team lead (male) over the phone and he sent a zip file and accidentally said, “Let me know when you get unzipped” and then made an “oh no” strangled noise. I resisted laughing and pretended nothing strange had been said.

  32. Elenna*

    My mortifying story (hopefully less mortifying than several of these, at least): I was moving from my hometown to a city a few hours’ drive away, for a co-op position. My parents decided to drive me there, book a hotel room for themselves, and spend a few days playing tourist. The day before my work was due to start, they drove me to the grocery store (since they had a car and I didn’t) and then drove home. I paid for the groceries, obviously, and I guess I didn’t put my wallet back in my purse afterwards.

    The day before my work was due to start, I was getting all my stuff together for the first day of work, feeling really good about how I was preparing ahead of time. That’s when I discovered that my wallet, including all my money, my bus pass, and my ID, had made the trip back to [home town] in my parents’ car!

    So the next day, I had to meet my new boss and explain that my wallet was going to arrive in the post in a couple days, and in the meantime I had to go through the security checks (it was a government job) with photocopies of my ID. And then I fell asleep as he was explaining stuff, due to staying up late discussing the issue and then waking up early to walk an hour to work. *dies*
    Fortunately he was nice enough to lend me $20 for the bus and then never speak of it again. Still, not exactly the start I was hoping for!

  33. WantonSeedStitch*

    Re: #7, given what I know about fighter pilots and the songs they sing, they probably considered that fairly tame! Look up a band called Dos Gringos.

    1. Been There Seen That*

      #7 Reminded me of my own singing catastrophe at work! I had forgotten it until I read the story above.
      Teenage job with a very good friend, I sang with much enthusiasm and dancing a song I had done for high school theater class. It was the slightly off color song from the movie “Beaches” called “Otto Tit-sling”. As I was finishing the song ( I may have been jumping over some clean dishes as an especially nice flourish) I heard clapping from above. Yes, my boss had come into the back room and saw at least the end.
      Thirty years later and I almost still blush.

  34. Lily*

    I was a teaching assistant for music classes at a university. I was trying to explain to my students, who were pretty new to music studies, that a piece in 3/4 time had a section that was temporarily in duple time. Rather than using “technical” language like: “so, as you see in these measures, Stravinsky creates a pattern of a quarter note followed by a quarter rest,” I said “so, as you can see here, Stravinsky writes beat, off, beat, off, beat, off….” Then I realised I’d been repeatedly saying “beat off” in front of my class. I could not compose myself. I turned beet red and laughed uncontrollably for about two minutes. The rest of the class was punctuated by me periodically sputtering, laughing, and struggling to regain my dignity.

    1. Jiminy Cricket*

      During chemistry class the professor wanted to discuss orbitals and the extent of the s-ness and p-ness of electron orbitals. He went on repeating it until all the students were laughing, and he clearly did not understand why.

      1. Squirrel Nutkin*

        I like to feature my students’ names in grammar examples on the board, and I want to make sure everyone in the classroom feels included. I’d totally forgotten one student’s name one time, but I was too embarrassed to say that, so I tried to play it off: “How do you spell your last name again?” Unfortunately, his last name was Fu.

  35. KiwiLib*

    The combined phrases reminds me of my boss asking if I would do something for him. I combined “if you want” with “if you wish” . Yes, indeed, I told my boss I’d do this task if “he would wash”

  36. thatoneoverthere*

    One time I came down with the stomach bug around 3pm at work. The walk to the bathroom from where I sat was pretty long, especially for someone that had to puke. Unfortunately I couldn’t make it and puked at someones desk trash can (they were not there). I peeled myself off the floor and got to the bathroom where I puked more. I spiked a fever and stumbled my way back to the desk. I probably looked wasted. In a feverish stupor I told my co-worker I puked at someone’s desk and she looked at me in horror. I was mortified. I didn’t know who to tell about it and it did’nt occur to me in my feverish state to just go take the bag to bathroom or something. I am still embarrassed to this day about it. Also not sure who actually cleaned it up!

  37. ophelia*

    Not quite as bad as the plumbing emergency, but I recently logged onto a company-wide conference call (so, like 200 people), slightly late because the kids were home that day, and I needed to get them set up with a show so I could join and be left alone for 30 minutes. Well, I couldn’t get my bluetooth headphones to connect, but I didn’t realize that the audio had ALREADY connected, so the ENTIRE company was treated to the opening strains of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse (hot DOG hot DOG hot diggity dog…) right as someone was giving a presentation about gender discrimination. THANKFULLY whoever was managing the call found a mute button after a minute but it was not my finest moment.

  38. not a doctor*

    I developed a chronic illness in my late 20s and had to leave my teaching job. After a while, I was able to get back to part-time work, and ended up working with kids at a family rec center. Think camp counselor or swim teacher: the kind of job that’s mostly done by younger people working seasonally or part-time around school. Most of my coworkers were in their late teens or early 20s, and I have a bit of a baby face, so I think they all just naturally assumed I was around the same age. I never bothered to say anything about it one way or the other.

    Until, that is, one of the kids asked. I wasn’t interested in LYING about it, so I told the kid the truth… and the nearest counselor immediately whipped around and boomed, loud enough for basically everyone present to hear: “NOT A DOCTOR, YOU’RE **30**???”

    I ducked my head, tried to sheepishly laugh it off, and told him: “Yes, Fergus, I was old *the whole time*.”

    (Funnily enough, the other embarrassing moment that came to mind was the time I heard about a coworker’s birthday, assumed she was turning 40, and later found out *she* was 30… but since I never actually told anyone, I count it as a near miss.)

    1. Tafadhali*

      The last time I was at a college party a few years ago, I dropped that I was 29 into the conversation late in the evening and I guess I had been passing up until that point, because I just got gobsmacked looks and one loud “WHAT are you DOING here?”

      I was there to see my little sister in a late-night play and I HAD been feeling a bit ancient being dragged to the cast party, but was still amused by the shock. I guess I’d always been part of pretty mixed age groups (friends finishing college in their mid-20s, mixed undergrad/graduate student clubs) in my late teens/early 20s, so I don’t think I’d have been so taken aback by someone being nearly 30 (gasp!).

      I started working in middle and high school education at 21, so if anything I’ve always rounded my age up — I wasn’t trying deliberately to pass as one of the kids, lol.

    2. TechWriter*

      Ooohh you remind me of my job as a library clerk. It was the ‘step up’ from a page who shelved books; I worked behind the counter doing customer service or checking in books from the book drop.

      It was a great job that I landed after my master’s, while working ona post-grad certificate that lead to my career. As such, I was always talking in a self-deprecating way about when I would get my “real person job” after this one. To people for whom this *was* their real career job. Retrospective criiiiinge. (They were all full-time, of course, and it was a pretty well-paid union job with upward mobility, so it was a perfectly reasonable job for a real adult to hold. But it just didn’t occur to me that they might take offense to my framing!)

      1. YuliaC*

        I’ve done similar. I was so excited about finally getting the “real” job that I spent my entire last 2 weeks at a book warehouse gleefully telling the short-staffed, underpaid, overworked team all about how great my new job was going to be. They did not take offence exactly, but they were responding with a markedly low enthusiasm. Which, naturally, did not stop me one bit. Sigh.

  39. Brett*

    #9 “what about the f&^%ing hot dogs?”
    Knowing the mentality of many college athletics departments, I bet you the AD was thinking right there and then, “How do we hire this woman away from that library?”

  40. Janet*

    Is it a bad sign that I can think of several mortifying moments related to work? One that still makes me cringe is the time I applied for an industry sabbatical program, allowing mid-career people to go back to university for a year while having their salary paid by the program. I got lots of coaching from former participants about how to impress the judging panel, including advice to stress how much I wanted to be part of the college community and attend events and help mentor graduate students, which was supposed to address worries that busy professionals get chosen for the program and then never show up for anything. So the interview begins and I’m so keen to make this point that I start babbling about how excited I am to get to know the grad student community and go to their formal dinners, and how I have so much free time in my life to participate in college events. And then I just somehow can’t stop and I start explaining that I live alone and I don’t have kids so I am really available, and then I tell them that I don’t even have a boyfriend, so I have LOTS of free time to devote to this — pretty much all my time. They literally made no response when I said that — they just looked at me and then they asked me about something else. I’m sure I sounded so desperate. Afterward I kept thinking about how much more maturely and elegantly I could have conveyed my enthusiasm without seeming like the saddest human ever. Still, even though I still cringe at the memory, I did get chosen, somehow, and all went well. I even met my now-husband on the program, so I guess I won’t be able to make that specific blathering mistake again.

  41. anon for this*

    Okay I laughed pretty hard at the fighter pilot one, one of my good friends is a fighter pilot and I guarantee they made their next new guy sing that version of the song at some squadron function.

  42. Oryx*

    Re: #3, I was interviewing for a tech services/cataloging job at a large public library and in the interview was asked something about librarians often being customer service focused, but this job would be in the back and have very limited contact with the public and would I be okay with that.

    And I also did say “I don’t really like people.”

    I didn’t get the job but I WAS called back for a second interview and ended up being one of two finalists for the position, so there are some instances where that kind of answer helps.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      Actually, if it’s a job where you’re going to be solo for long periods of time, that’s not necessarily a bad answer. Social butterflies would probably find that job draining (and would be elsewhere, seeking out the company of fellow humans), whereas someone who doesn’t enjoy other people’s company would excel because they wouldn’t have all those other people in their head all the time.

  43. Like, Totally Anonymous, Man*

    I hate to be a bummer on this, but number 10 rubs me the wrong way. I have a very difficult time imagining a woman getting hired after such a gaffe.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      It was LW’s husband who got the job, so I’m not sure where you are coming from or where you are going.

          1. Like, Totally Anonymous, Man*

            Ah, yep, totally see how that comment could read EXACTLY opposite of what I intended to say. Yikes!

        1. Like, Totally Anonymous, Man*

          Sorry, I didn’t actually expand at all. It sounds like the now-husband admitted that he had little idea what he was applying for and also couldn’t get the company’s name right and still got hired in with a sizeable financial incentive. While I do think that employers should extend some grace to applicants, especially those just out of college (“I want to learn what you do” seems like something that could/should potentially fly when applying for an entry-level internship), I couldn’t help but wonder whether a woman doing the same things would get the same benefit of the doubt. Maybe that is unnecessary projection; after all, we don’t know anything about the rest of the interview or about the company. But it still gave me pause while I was reading it, because it felt to me like one of those “old boys club” kind of things.

          1. Artemesia*

            I used to place interns for a professional program; clean up and put a suit on the usual white male good looking doofus and he was hired; the bright hard working young women had a much harder time getting a job. There are plenty of places where the decent looking white guys just walk right in. (not that your husband is or was a doofus, but it sounds like he got the full white male privilege)

    2. Filosofickle*

      I have a hard time imagining how a man was hired!

      As a young woman this happened to me and it didn’t go my way. While in college I applied for a scholarship to study abroad given by Rotary, and in my interview the lead man asked me what I could tell him about Rotary. I didn’t know anything. He asked me if I didn’t think it was a good idea to learn about the organization you’re asking for money. Predictably, I did not move onto the next round. It was a super cringe moment for me, but it was an important lesson and I have never gone into a conversation without doing some background again!

      1. banoffee pie*

        Oh dear. I don’t think he needed to be so harsh. I’m not sure it would have occurred to me at that age that you were supposed to look into the background of the organisation. Also I think Rotary is one of those things where you think you know what it is, but when someone asks, you find you don’t actually know!

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Adding I am sure there are Rotary Club members reading here and really bothered that you, Filosofickle, got treated that way. A friend is in a Rotary Club and this sounds so far removed from what he talks about his group doing.

    3. JT*

      I was scrolling through the comments specifically waiting for someone to say this. I found #10 infuriating.

  44. Nora*

    First day of my current job. After years of trying to work for the state government I finally got in. Basically a dream job, for certain definitions of dream. I was taking a medication that really messed with my digestive tract and often resulted in, shall we say, extremely urgent trips to the restroom.

    So, I’m in the middle of HR orientation, nervous as all get out, in this tiny sweaty conference room with a total stranger, and all of a sudden I need to go. NOW. I politely ask for a restroom break and get one. This is when I learn the HR person has to escort me because the bathrooms are on the public side of the access door. So, I’m kind of embarrassed already.

    Unfortunately, as often happened with that medication, I had to go again about 30 minutes later. I was also a shade of green usually ascribed to people with acute food poisoning. The HR rep was VERY worried about me and tried to buy me a ginger ale. I assured her I was fine and spent the next couple hours praying I wasn’t a liar. Thankfully I made it to lunch (and after I got my ID badge) before I needed to go again.

    The upside is, as soon as my insurance kicked in, I went to the doctor and got switched off that drug. Now I only get stomach aches when I actually have food poisoning.

  45. CW*

    OP #6’s situation sounded a lot like mine I had to deal with 2 years ago, except it was not with photoshop. This was for an accounting position and they wanted to test my accounts payable Excel skills. This was the second round. This round? They had an employee sitting behind me, literally within half a foot of my shoulder and watching me like a hawk (this was pre-COVID, so no social distancing) as I was supposed to perform separate hypothetical tasks with Excel using actual company data. My mind went blank and I start sweating. I didn’t know what they wanted me to do, and I was just getting click happy, lost and confused, clicking aimlessly like lost soul. I couldn’t even get the first step started. The employee told me to stop and said it was okay. I could NOT complete any of the tasks. I knew that I totally failed. By the end, I was sweating like a waterfall and my anxiety was through the roof. To my chagrin, I had to do the AR portion of the interview with another employee.

    Before they could begin the AR portion, I asked to go to the bathroom. In reality, I was just wanted to get the hell out of there. I ran downstairs and out the door, went into my car, and drove off, never to return. I was so red in the face with embarrassment that I just wanted to hide. Surprisingly, they called me back, left a voicemail asking me to come back. I made no reply. I still get the shivers just thinking about it.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I can’t do math so I would probably just start crying. But this happens to me when people watch me type.

        I feel your pain, CW. Thank GAW the last time I had to do a test like that, they left me alone in the room and I just called the HR person’s extension when I was through.

  46. H*

    These word mix-up’s remind me of my own horrible experience:

    One of my first job’s I was a canvasser for a company that does on-the-ground fundraising work for various large advocacy organizations. You know, the people with clipboards asking for money outside Starbucks who you avoid. (In fact, Alison, you should put out a call for canvasser stories. The working conditions are horrible and people say truly bananas stuff to you).

    I still get a feeling of dread thinking about this one misunderstanding I had with a woman who had just donated to the organization I was raising money for. After taking her donation she said something like “good luck fundraising” and I automatically said back “you too” before stumbling over my words to correct myself saying, “uh, or rather, I guess one should say thank you.” She looked at me with disgust and immediately turned to leave. As she was walking away I realized that I hadn’t spoken clearly and had given her the impression that I was telling HER to thank ME. So, this woman’s experience of the interaction was that she donated to a cause and was immediately chastised by the young fundraiser for not expressing thanks. Later that morning she came out of the store and my stomach dropped as she beelined for me to tell me how insulted she was. I’m sure I would have handled it better now, but I still feel a little queasy thinking about it.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      It appears to me that she donated money just to be profoundly thanked.
      I remember doing retail in my early work years it took a bit to get used to accepting money from people “so much” older than me. It was awkward and took a bit to get used to. I know I have done similar things as what you did here. The woman was a jerk.

    2. MeowMixers*

      My roommate and I volunteered to set up a book sale at the local library. I have no clue why, but my roommate asked the lady what happens to the books that don’t sell and if they were burned instead. I think it was an interesting question, minus the “burn instead” part. My roommate romanticized things like that and found symbolism everywhere. It didn’t bother me, but the lady got so offended. I jokingly said, “I think she means she has a burning passion for books” to try to help her recover. The offended lady told us to “watch ourselves”. She proceeded to bring it up to others we knew for the next year I lived there.

      I always died of embarrassment when I think of that event, but now I think it’s just silly. It wasn’t a bad question. We were obviously young and haven’t finished college yet. She was just a crotchety old lady. I don’t think your situation was bad either. Everyone can tell when someone trips on their words. She sounds bitter.

  47. ProductionFail*

    I was working in film production and had been calling around all day trying to find a nice conference room space to rent out for a meeting anywhere in LA. It was down to the wire and I was having no luck. I called one of the last leads on my list and got their voicemail. The message I left went something like this “Hi this is FirstName with Production Company. We’re looking…well, we’re shooting on your stages so we thought, it’s this week, the shoot is, but the conference room we need sooner and uhhh……*click*”. I hung up the receiver.

    Despite calling dozens of locations successfully, my brain peaced out mid-message on that one. I thought no one would notice since I’d been making calls all day and my co-workers had likely tuned me out, but my boss working across the table from me looked up and said “Did you REALLY just hang up on our shooting location in the middle of a message?”. I don’t remember where we ended up holding the meeting, but at least we didn’t lose our shooting location because of my terrible message.

    My co-workers (who I am still good friends with) laugh about it to this day. They even relayed the story to my husband and now “uhhhh….click” is something we say to each other when we’re just done talking about a subject or don’t know what to say.

    1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      As someone who leaves a lot of voicemails, I can’t stop laughing at this. Sometimes you’re on your 10th call in a row and your mind goes completely blank!

      1. Rainy*

        I used to have to call down a list to tell people (more accurately, to tell people’s machines) their dogs were done at the groomer’s every afternoon, and every now and again I’d get a live person and be like “UH BUH DUH” before I could reset the spiel from machine to human.

  48. NK*

    #2. If I’m ever asked who would play me in a movie, it’s increasingly likely I’ll answer something like “lilsimsie” or “Safiya Nygaard”.

  49. Lesley McCullough*

    THe story about the “f@#%$ing hot dogs was funny but what is a “County Mom”?

    1. D3*

      Some places have turned motherhood into a contest. So probably something like that on the county level.

    2. Mallory Janis Ian*

      We have something like county farm family of the year; maybe it’s like that? Usually it’s a family that runs a successful farm and have kids in the local school and the family have a lot of community involvement. It seems like usually the kids are in athletics and the family love to attend the local high-school or college sports events.

    3. Sky*

      Yeah, it was a cheesy thing my small rural county did for a while in the local newspaper. I’m pretty active in the community, including in my kiddos activities. Volunteering and just busy, so they recognized that. I declined it at first, but then they called and called and called. Rural life, so grand.

  50. Jeb's Friend*

    These opened up the sealed box of my past embarrassing moments. Back in about 1980, I worked for a bank as a loan officer. Our recommendations to approve had to be typed into long forms – several paragraphs of why it should be approved. No computers or word processors then – just electric typewriters. Being 21, I was quite impressed with my typing skills and figured I was not only fast but made few mistakes – so why spend a lot of time checking! (What a terrible ego I must have had!) We would share our grand dissertations with a co-worker to proof that we hit the highlights before sending them off. Well I typed up what I thought was a compelling list of reasons why Mr. Penix (his real name) should be given a $100k mortgage for a new condominium. I handed it off to my partner – who to my mortification burst out laughing loudly (our desks were in the middle of the bank lobby). Seems I repeatedly misspelled the borrower’s name as the male body part and as further degradation had shortened condominium to “condom”. Certainly gave me a desire to crawl under my desk – I considered paying her a bribe to never tell anyone. I’m still embarrassed 40 years later.

  51. patricia*

    My story:
    Some years ago I gained a fair amount of weight over a fairly short period of time. This is relevant because professionally, I very much favored very high heels. As I gained weight, because none of my clothes fit, I started wearing the same two pairs of khaki pants and flat shoes to work. The weight gain meant my center of gravity was very different, but because I had stopped wearing the heels, I didn’t notice so much, until the fateful day of a client meeting.

    I had to travel to the meeting, but wore flats on the plane. Heels at lunch…to which I took a taxi. After lunch, my client suggested we walk to his office, which was just a couple blocks away. Having figured out that heels were much harder than I remembered, I tried to figure how I could change into the flats, but what I had brought with me were flip flops and really inappropriate for my suit with skirt and jacket. Apprehensively, I said yes, praying I’d just…be okay, if a little wobbly.

    We’re walking…well, I’m, like, mincing along, concentrating fiercely on both my balance and the sidewalk, which had somehow become an American Gladiator style obstacle course. I’m trying to keep up my end of the conversation (not gonna lie, by then it was mostly both of us just conmenting on how I was struggling in the shoes by then- the memory of that conversation alone is cringeworthy).

    We get to a corner, and we have to stop for traffic. I step into the curb cut…and then time slows to a crawl, as I realize I have badly overplayed my already meager hand. I feel myself overbalance, try to course correct, fail miserably, have time to observe the cars going by and the dawning look of horror on my client’s face as I crash to the pavement, with my head ending up actually in the street.

    I have never confirmed how much of my, ahem, support garment under my skirt ended up being exposed to my client, the street and all passersby, because I steadfastly REFUSED TO LOOK as I popped to my feet as quickly as possible. I had hit my head hard enough to see stars, but was not deterred from getting upright as fast as I could. My client was lovely and concerned and brought me to his office and gave me ice and ibuprofen until it was time for me to go to the airport (after I changed into my flip flops). I’d love to say we never spoke of it again, but no. In the remaining 4 years I worked in that role, he brought it up at least twice a year.

    Just awful.

  52. Elizabeth West*

    I’ve posted about this one before. This was not my gaffe, mind you, but I think you’ll agree it was pretty legendary.

    Long ago, I worked at one of those penny saver advertising papers and my coworkers told me about an incident prior to my employment. Seems an older lady had a small home organ (the musical instrument) to sell, one of the ones with the pre-set rhythms that were popular back in the day. The person who took down her ad misspelled “organ” as “orgasm.” So the ad read, “ORGASM FOR SALE,” and the lady’s phone number. The paper had to run the corrected ad for free until the item sold.

  53. Yikes Stripes*

    This happened fairly recently, within the last year. I’d like to preface by saying that I am not new to con calls. Prior to COVID I regularly worked with folks on the other side of the country and therefor have consistently used Webex as a meeting tool. The last year brought the introduction of Teams. What we don’t use in my organization is Zoom. Myself, and most of my boss hierarchy had a con call with another org that we partner with on a lot of things and they scheduled the call using zoom. This team is located in the south of the USA and many of them have deep southern accents. As one of the bigwigs was speaking he mentioned that they would have a deliverable to us by Tuesday, but because of his accent it sounded like “Tuesdee.” I immediately giggled and repeated “tuesdee” out loud. Silence. I was not on mute. Did you know that Zoom doesn’t automatically mute you when you log in? Because Webex and Teams both do. The conversation resumed and moved forward and no one ever said anything but I NEVER just assume I’m muted anymore. Also, way to be caught being a total asshole. I blame the delirium of working 60 hour weeks for a year straight due to Covid. YIKES.

  54. For the love of decency*

    I’m a dental hygienist. Coming into the working world I was pretty young and looked it. I was always getting comments about if I was old enough to be cleaning teeth. I really strived to be as professional as possible to put patients at ease. One patient was a rather large male with a thick neck. I was making small talk as I suddenly realized the bib clips weren’t long enough to clip the dental bib around his neck. I briefly considered Macgyvering two together but decided against it. Giving up I just draped the bib across his chest. As I was trying to smooth it out I realized I was just rubbing his b cup sized man boobs. My brain just kinda short circuited and looking the patient in the eye I winked at him. I was so embarrassed I asked the receptionist to put him in the other hygienist schedule for his 6 month recall.

  55. Anongineer*

    Oh I have one story from my internship that makes me cringe every time…

    In college, I was an engineering intern for a semester at a mid-size office, with mostly male engineers. I had bought these 6″ wedge heels for a party that weekend, and decided that the best way to break them in was by wearing them to work. I had never worn heels higher than 4″, and was limping / wobbling everywhere. Best part was when I fell in front of a VP’s office and hurt my ankle right at the end of the day. Never. Again.

  56. Chels*

    My very first job interview after graduating college was also my most embarrassing. It was 2013, and I didn’t have a smartphone or a car. I had to take the bus to the interview, and it was in a part of town I had never been to before. I looked up directions on my computer before leaving, and wrote down detailed instructions for myself. There were three different buses I could take, and I figured that they all took the same route. Unfortunately I ended up getting on a bus that went to a different stop near the interview, and my directions were useless. The office was in the suburbs near a mall, and so I couldn’t really navigate based on street numbers. I called one of my roommates, who tried to give me directions over the phone by looking at their computer. Unfortunately they are pretty bad with directions, and we both just ended up really confused.

    So I’m lost, and it’s almost time for the interview to start. Luckily I had written down the phone number for the office, so I just called them and admitted I was lost. The (really really kind) office manager actually came and picked me up, and drove me to their office. She was so nice about the whole thing that I thought I might still have a chance at the job. And then her boss, an older man that was a former Treasurer of our state, came in to interview me. The first thing he asked me was how I planned to get to work, since “clearly the bus would not work.” I tried to convince him that I was normally capable of taking the bus, but that isn’t really a great way to start a job interview! I did not get the job.

  57. Dwight Schrute*

    Oh man I really needed this today! My partner is out of town and I generally don’t do well alone for long periods of time (anxiety and paranoia), I have an ear infection and my childhood dog is at the Emergency Vet right now and not doing so hot. Thank you Alison for putting this together to keep my mind occupied during this crappy day

  58. me*

    ugh i feel the conference call mute issue so much. i had a call last week, am 95% sure i was on mute when i wasnt speaking, and now am paranoid that me talking to myself while on mute in reaction to what other people said was heard by everyone.

  59. Needs Caffeine*

    The library page one reminded me of my own first interview at a library around a similar age. It was my first ever interview, and my Mom had actually given me a mock interview so that I’d know what to expect. I walked in as prepared as I felt I could be. And the person who is going to interview me walks across a large room and she goes Hi….. Sarah. And I shake her hand and wait for her to say her name or somehow start the interview. And she’s staring at me and not saying anything so I just keep shaking her hand. Finally she goes “I just said Hi I’m Sarah! And then normally you’d introduce yourself”. The issue was that I was also named Sarah, so when she was walking across the room introducing herself I thought she was greeting me. The interview never recovered from that 30 second handshake.

    1. Alexis Rosay*

      Oh no!! I also have a common name and could totally see this happening to me at a young age.

  60. Liz*

    Thank you so much for this, Alison (and all who shared your stories). Been having a tough time lately and really appreciated the hearty laughs!

  61. CatMeow*

    One time I was trying to ask my colleague “Can you fill me in?” But i got confused with “Can you catch me up?” And it came out “Can you fill me up?” So embarrassing lol

  62. MakingAMurderer*

    First ever comment to share this mortifying moment. I’ll not use the mans real name but you’ll get the idea.

    I had repeated meetings and interactions with a client, we’ll call him James Brady, in which I would always get his name wrong… and I’d call him Ian everytime. I’d call him Ian on the phone, I’d send emails addressed to Ian, I couldn’t get Ian out my head.

    Eventually after the millionth time of being corrected I say something like “I just can’t stop thinking of Ian when I look at you!”

    And he points out that I am in fact getting him confused with notable serial killer, Ian Brady – the moors murder. He was not impressed.

  63. Anonymoose*

    Oh jeez this reminds me of the time the director of the daycare I see a client at was checking my temperature and for some reason it wouldn’t read and she was saying wow must be cold! And my awkward self said yeah well I am dead inside and she did not think that was funny and actually seemed concerned and to this day still like acts like I’m a little unstable so there’s that.

  64. Uranus Wars*

    15 pushed me over the edge with the fortune cookie. Imagine that drivers thoughts…its got to be his go-to “you’ll never believe this” story

  65. Rainy Day*

    Ahh #13, you have my sympathy! I have a similar story about falling over-

    It was a very icy February day, and I’d just pulled into the car park at work. I avoid parking in my usual spot as I could see it was thick with ice, but little did I know, the bay I’d selected was too.

    As soon as I put my foot down to get out the car, I slipped, and I fell out of the car completely! I tried to put my hand down to get up, but it kept slipping too. Then I tried to grab hold of the car to pull myself up, but couldn’t seem to get a good enough grip to pull myself up with that either! I wasn’t hurt, thankfully, but I had no idea how to get myself back up again.

    Thankfully a colleague had seen me fall, and she came over to- carefully- help me up. It was a bit of a struggle since it was so icy, and I was worried she would slip too! I got up in the end, thanks to my colleague, and was able to get on with my day with just my pride wounded.

    We both still remember this, and laugh about it now, but it was pretty embarassing at the time.

  66. BossKat*

    Incoming mortification.

    I started my first career role as an operations assistant (nearly 10 years ago) in an artsy but fairly conservative organisation. Think very well-educated senior management teams who are well known in their fields.

    One of the first tasks set by my manager was to replace some of the signage around the office – do the washing up, restock the printer if it’s needed etc. I had newly discovered Reddit, so thought the best thing to do would be to replace all the signage with Boss Cat memes… they lasted an hour or so before my manager told me to take them down.

    I die with mortification whenever I remember.

  67. JG Obscura*

    2 things:

    #5 reminds me of the classic internet story about a guy playing soccer and he accidentally kicks the ball in a guy’s face. He meant to say “ARE YOU OKAY?!” or “I’M SO F***ING SORRY!” but accidentally combined them to be “ARE YOU F***ING SORRY?!”

    And my own story:
    First job out of college. Desk job. Our office is pretty laid back. We work hours billable (and lunch is not included) so it’s not uncommon for people to take long lunches or do stuff around lunch time, as long as we don’t charge the hours.
    One day I was dead tired, couldn’t even keep my eyes open. So I decided I’d take a nap. At my desk. I folded my arms in front of me on my desk and put my head down and quickly fell asleep.
    I thought it’d be okay because I put up a sign (I think I even taped it to my back or something) that said “Don’t worry; I’m not charging hours”.
    Needless to say, my manager told me the next day, “Yeah, don’t do that. You can nap in your car, but just… not at your desk.”

  68. Purple Cat*

    Oh my gosh #6 did me in. Crying, laughing. I love that “I have diarrhea!” has become a family joke. That’s awesome.

  69. jamjari37*

    #6 reminded me of a mortifying interview of my own
    Back in my late twenties, I was job searching, desperate to get away from the low-paying, go-nowhere job I was in. So I applied for a job with the government doing some sort of communications work (can’t remember exactly … late-twenties was a long time ago). I ticked all the boxes except the requirement for strong powerpoint skills. But I’d used powerpoint a few times, and learned new software quickly, so during the phone screen I said ‘yeah, I know powerpoint’. 
    I was determined to get this job – I prepared for the interview with flashcards. I ace the in-person panel interview – they were beaming and actually said that it was their best interview so far. 
    Then they said ‘now we’re just going to test your powerpoint skills’….
    Yeah, apparently my determination to get the job didn’t include asking what shape the interview would take, otherwise I would have done a crash course on powerpoint. I fumbled with powerpoint for 45 minutes then was shown the door. 
    Funny thing is, when I think back on it, I think of all the things I wouldn’t have done if I’d gotten that job.

  70. Liz*

    Not mine, but a brand new summer associate at the law firm I worked at years ago. I was a paralegal, and I forget WHY but we had a meeting with all the SAs. At the firm, one of the founding name partners was an older gentleman, married to another one of the partners, who was quite a bit younger than he was. It didn’t help that he looked older than he was, and she much younger than she was.

    One of the SAs made a comment about the partner and his DAUGHTER. to which I politely corrected him that no it was his WIFE. i have never been thanked so profusely in my life! since i saved him from making a GIANT faux pas.

  71. Soanon*

    I have one. Warning: it involves bodily functions that normally are very private.
    Shortly after my company pivoted to all work from home in March 2020, I was on one of many, many conference/Zoom calls that I had scheduled that day. Unfortunately, there was something seriously awry with my digestive system that day, and in the middle of the call I had to make an urgent run to the bathroom. Yes, you guessed it, I thought I was on mute but I…was not. I can only imagine what the other attendees of the meeting must have thought. Fortunately, I had dialed in using my cell phone and just appeared as “Call-In User” so I don’t think anyone knew it was me, but I just wanted to die, especially after the leader of the meeting very politely said, “Hey, everyone, just a reminder that you should put yourself on mute if you’re not speaking.”
    I obsessively check at least 50 times during every meeting that I am on mute now.

  72. SpicySpice*

    I was living in Sacramento, and in the summer it gets HOT. I was walking/taking the light rail to work, and I didn’t want to arrive at work with my work clothes soaked in sweat. So I would wear random junk clothes and bring my real office clothes in a bag and change in the bathroom when I got there. One day, I’m changing when a couple of guys knock on the bathroom door and then come in, and ask me if I’m doing OK and let me know I need to leave. I was just finishing so I left, walked down the hall, and badged into my department. I just figured they were maybe doing maintenance on the bathroom…?
    A couple days later my boss calls me in and lets me know that some ladies from another department saw me walking through the lobby in my sweaty, holey, comfy clothes and decided I was a homeless person who had somehow gotten into our (badge only!) building and called security. The nice maintenance men were actually security ready to escort me out of the building. I can only imagine their confusion when they saw me leave and go into my job! My boss said I had to stop dressing like that when I showed up or find somewhere else to change before coming into the building.
    The cherry on top was that I was having a fragile day, and when he told me all of this, I was so embarrassed that I started crying. So that was awesome.

  73. Urdnot Bakara*

    Just had a mortifying event happen to me yesterday. I was on a video call with the head of my department, a few other colleagues, and an important outside contractor. My husband came down the hall (I am WFH in the living room of our small apartment) and made kissy faces at me as he passed and I reflexively made kissy faces back. On camera in front of everyone. I was thankfully on mute so hopefully some people didn’t notice but oh man was I embarrassed.

  74. Anonforthis*

    I’ve got two.

    1 – when I was fresh out of college interviewing for jobs. Someone in my hometown network got me an interview w/ a local PR firm (I’d known the owner for several years as an acquaintance). When the owner asked me where I wanted to be in five years, I thought she was asking me about my dreams, not…ya know…my five year career plan. So I said “learning to cook at the Cordon Bleu in Paris.” I didn’t get the job. Neither did I become a chef with the cordon bleu.

    2. More recently I had to fill out a form for a class for work. What I didn’t realize was that it wasn’t a sign up form where you swipe a card at the end to pay, it was an application and they were taking a limited number of applicants. So when it got to the field that said “why should you take this class?” I entered “because I’m pretty cool.” And then I was mortified when I clicked submit, and it said “we’ll let you know if you’re selected.” I didn’t get selected. *facepalm*

  75. kicking_k*

    This is a job interview mortification. I was 25 and had applied for a great-sounding job at a prestigious art gallery. I’d always loved art, and often attended the gallery. The interview invitation arrived by post when I was away on my honeymoon. My parents were collecting my post, and my dad opened it and saw that the interview was really soon – I think it was just the day after.

    As it happened, I was staying on an island a few hours’ drive and a ferry ride away from where I lived. It didn’t occur to me to call them and reschedule. So I left my husband at our holiday house, my dad drove across country, and I got the ferry back to the mainland and he collected me and drove me home just in time to climb into interview clothes and attend.

    When I got there, my name _wasn’t on the list of interviewees_. By some chance I had brought the letter with me. I waved it at them, explained how far I’d come to be there… and they agreed that yes, I’d clearly been invited… and in the circumstances… would I just wait while they tried to find out what had gone wrong?

    Eventually someone came out and said they could interview me at the end of the afternoon if I could wait. By this time my dad had come in and was sitting with me – no, not great optics, but I’d had to call him in to let him know what was happening.

    I stuck around and did the interview, but by now my concentration was shot. It went mostly OK, until they asked me “What exhibitions have you enjoyed recently?”

    My mind went completely blank. Exhibitions? What’s an exhibition? Eventually I did manage to remember one or two, but there was a loooong silence first.

    I’ve never been so glad to get out… and then drive back across the country with my dad (who was simmering with righteous indignation), catch the ferry again and rejoin my husband!

    I didn’t get the job. I never did find out what happened with the interview schedule, but I don’t think it was meant to be!

  76. Jack Russell Terrier*

    Love the accidental passenger story. Mine is while waiting for my mum outside her condo. A young guy sat in the passenger seat. We both looked at each other in consternation. He said ‘you’re not my girlfriend’. We both shared a chuckle as he got out of the car!

  77. HotSauce*

    #15 – That happened to me as well. Except the car belonged to my boss’s boss. I got in & said “God, what a sh*t day, I’m glad to get the F out of there!”. Thankfully he replied, “I couldn’t agree more”. I don’t even remember getting out of the car & scampering back to the building.

  78. BeeWoman*

    I have a couple mortification stories!

    1. I’m a youngish woman in engineering. My middle aged male coworker was trying to explain to me how pressure-sensitive EMI gaskets work, and he kept saying how the soft rubber material is full of conductive “fuzzy balls.” For some reason that phrase hit me extra hard, and he just kept using it, while I tried to hide behind my mug and keep a straight face. I was doing OK until he explained that if the material is compressed, “then the balls touch.”

    Reader, I laughed. I tried to pass it off as a cough but I’m sure I was not successful. I was already worried about seeming young or immature and for the rest of that week I wanted to hide under my desk.

    2. Not funny, just mortifying: I purchased a $10k+ piece of equipment that wasn’t *actually* approved in the budget yet. We needed it, I had discussed it with my boss, we put it in the budget proposal, months went by. Between some combination of assuming it would be approved, time passing, and not thinking to double check, I bought it. Of course, it was nonreturnable. I apologized profusely to my boss, and after both of us briefly freaking out, he “worked it out” with one of the budget people. I don’t know how and didn’t dare ask.

  79. Hannah*

    #10 reminds me of the quote, “Carry yourself with the confidence of a mediocre white man.”

  80. Jingle all the way*

    I’m laughing so hard because I shared this post with my interns before reading all the way through… and dang. There is my story in at #4!

  81. tinyhipsterboy*

    Oh my god, the fortune cookie message had me chortling!

    “your problem,” though, reminded me of when I worked at Starbucks. I embarrassed myself pretty routinely, like not picking up on when a guy I thought was cute was blatantly hitting on me, the time I knocked over an entire stand of cold cups, the time the cup rinser got stuck and shot water up to the ceiling and soaked me…

    A few stand out, though.

    1. I’ve always tripped over my words, but when I got to college, it developed into a full-blown stammer. It doesn’t happen so much nowadays, mostly just when I’m anxious or overwhelmed, but it used to give me trouble regularly. Repetitive syllables trigger it the worst, but luckily, most drinks are easy enough for me. “Caramel macchiato”: easy peasy. “Iced grande cinnamon dolce latte”: great. But then Starbucks decided to name a drink the “Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappuccino.”

    Most of the time, I’d manage to get just the first word out. “I have a grande mocha cok–mokie cokie–cookie drink for Darlene!”

    One day, I managed to get what I thought was the whole thing out. It was a busy shift, I was running around trying to get everything prepped properly, and… well, it definitely wasn’t a mocha cookie crumble. At the top of my lungs, I proudly announced “Darryl, I have your grande Mokie Cokie Fuckaccino!”

    2. The stammer would get worse when I found someone incredibly good-looking. I didn’t even have to find them attractive. Male or female, if they were ridiculously pretty, I’d lose all ability to string words together. There was a point in time where we had a lot of trouble with people getting water cups, throwing them away, and then coming back to request another, and we were blowing through our cup stock way faster than normal.

    So we started telling people that if they bring their cup back, we’d be happy to refill it for them.

    It had been a busy day, I think during a major event that overlapped with another event nearby, so I was exhausted by the time things slowed down. My 21-year-old brain was completely addled already, so when a really cute guy came in, I was out of brainpower. He asked for a cup of water, so I filled one up and handed it off with a smile. I *tried* to say “If you need more water, just bring it back and I’ll be happy to fill it up again.”

    I made it as far as “if.” Stammered a few times. I figured, maybe I could hand signal a bit, make what I was trying to say clearer, so I held up one hand, palm up, like I was holding something. What eventually made it out of my mouth, though, as I was making that motion? “More water? Cup me!”

    With *that* hand motion.

    To this day, I have no clue what his reaction was. The instant the words left my mouth, I turned and ran to the back like some cartoon character.

    3. Not stammer-related, surprisingly. I’m a big ol’ comic book, video game, and cartoon nerd, and so was one of my shift supervisors. We got along really well just being ridiculous on shift, to the point that we would quote Dexter’s Lab and eventually started shouting random phrases in Dexter’s accent, which morphed into an over-the-top German accent at some point.

    My location closed late, at nearly midnight, so by the end of closing shifts, we were always a little loopy. My supervisor and I ended up locking the doors, and as she was closing the tills in back and I was cleaning up front, we got to literally shouting “VE ARE KLOSED!” in the most ridiculous fake-German voices possible.

    At the top of our lungs.

    And then I went to go sweep and mop the lobby, again shouting “VE ARE KLOSED!”

    There was still a customer inside.

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