Mortification Week: the county lock-up, the disrupted town hall, 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 10 stories of other people’s mortifying moments that have been shared here over the years.

1. County lock-up

“A while back, we had a huge visit from our friends up in the C levels. One of my coworkers asked a VP if they had met before … at the county lock-up … in front of our CEO. Our boss looked like he was torn between strangling him or just crawling into a dark dark hole to die.”

2. The pep talk

“While sitting in the corner of a room, prepping for a client meeting, my friend witnessed the owner of the business pace into the room and begin a passionate self motivation ritual (i.e., ‘you can do this sh**, you’re the f***ing best, now get out there and win!’). And then he left – my friend froze as if he was hiding from a T-rex. Thankfully he lived to tell the tale.”

3. The spit cup

“My boss was in a meeting where the general made a big gesture and knocked his chewing tobacco spit cup into the lap of the admin assigned to take notes. My boss didn’t know generals could apologize that much! The general gave her the rest of the day and the next day off and he would clear it with her boss. And she was to send him the cleaning bill and if the outfit couldn’t be cleaned to send him the receipts for any replacement items.”

4. Not that

“I was in a departmental meeting once when our CFO said something about being really anal retentive and an older coworker piped up from across the room, ‘Oh, anal’s great! I love anal!’ It’s been at least a decade but every time I think about it I laugh so hard I see spots. Bless her heart.”

5. The technique

“I was 19 years old and working as the manager of a spa. Part of the massage therapist interview process is giving the management team a massage to demonstrate their techniques. This super buff, blond, surfer-dude type is practicing on me and I ask for my glutes to be worked on, as they are a problem area for me. He proceeds to take the sheet, pull it back to fully expose one cheek, and uses his hand to wedge it down my crack. Needless to say, that is not a normal draping technique and clients would have definitely come to me over that… We hired him, but he got a lot of draping training before he was allowed to work on clients. Definitely the most awkward day of work ever.”

6. We can’t date

“When I was 23 I was promoted into a leadership position. My then boyfriend (now husband) had been on that team for several years. To be up-front, I asked my boss if my relationship would cause problems with my new role. He paused and thought a bit before telling me that no, it’s still okay because we don’t supervise the same department or work together in a way that would be impacted by a relationship. He went on to explain that really in this role, I could date anyone at the location I wanted to except for him. He and I would just never work. I think he saw me start to laugh at the thought (he’s considerably older and I was 23!). Seeing my almost reaction, he made a comment about having a very busy dating life anyway. He’s still my boss several years later.”

7. The fire

“A coworker of mine was heating up a microwave meal and walked away while it was cooking since she could hear the ding from her desk (small office with a kitchenette). Well apparently she accidentally hit an extra zero on the time (think 50:00 minutes instead of 5:00) and after a while smoke ended up pouring out into the entire office. We all had to evacuate while the fire department showed up, but the real kicker was that our office was attached to a hotel and the entire hotel had to evacuate as well.”

8. The town hall

“The head of HR for a 16,000 employee company has a ‘town hall’ for all of HR – about 250 people. (I was one of them.) People dutifully call in and the meeting goes like this:

HR head: ‘So we’re really happy with our recruiting numbers—’


248 people on call: ‘Could everyone please mute themselves??!!!’

HR head: ‘…so as I was saying—’


(Now everybody is filling the chat with, ‘PLEASE everyone mute your phone!!!’ Literally a frantic avalanche of chat messages.)


HR Head: (tries to be funny) ‘Ummmm…sounds like someone is having some medical issues – could you please mute all phones…hahaha…’

This went on for a few minutes until someone figured out how to mute all callers. We figured that someone was on their cell phone talking to their doctor’s office while also having an open line into the call.

Most people knew who the voice was, and it was a really cranky person who was not well liked. Funniest part – some of the men were traumatized – same ones who constantly told dirty jokes.

We never had another HR town hall.”

9. The overshare

“A new coworker was introducing herself during a web conference. She went into great detail about her son’s relationship with his wife, how they had courted instead of dating, and went into great detail about what that meant in terms of intimate activity. I never found out exactly what others’ reactions were, but I was cringing all over.”

10. The pizza thief

“I used to work at a place that had more volunteers than employees, so parts of the building were open to the public. One day a coworker’s lunch was stolen from the kitchen, and it was some kind of specialty pizza that she was really craving. When she realized it was stolen, she was furious and asked the building supervisor to look at the security cameras. He agreed and then word went around the office at lightning speed that someone was about to get busted, so we all gathered around his computer to watch the footage.

At first we saw multiple volunteers in the kitchen. We all recognized all of them because they’re regulars. Then one by one they left until one guy remained, and at this point I started getting nervous because I knew the guy veeerrrrry well. But I thought surely he would never steal food. No way. He disappeared from the camera lens for a few minutes and I thought, oh thank god it wasn’t him. But then he juuuuuuust leaned back into the frame for a few seconds – just enough that you could clearly see him stuffing his face with a piece of pizza. And I wanted the floor to swallow me whole, because the culprit was MY DAD.

I just stood there in shock while all the other employees around me busted out laughing (except the pizza victim. she was still pissed). I took a lot of ribbing over this. The building supervisor took a screenshot of my dad’s face stuffed with pizza and people made all kinds of work-related memes with it. It was hilarious/mortifying. I’ve never had the courage to bring it up to my dad though. One day I will… Pizza victim confronted him though. I didn’t have to witness that, thankfully.”

{ 360 comments… read them below }

        1. GammaGirl1908*

          NEVER! I just covered my mouth and screamed reading this, but once I recovered from the embarrassment, he would NEVER hear the end of it.

          This is doubly funny to me because my dad had no compunction about taking whatever food was in the fridge when I was growing up. My sister (she and I are well into our 40s) is still beside herself about a slice of cake she hid in the freezer sometime in her teens. Sis had given up sweets for Lent, and was saving a special piece of cake as a big treat after the Lenten fast. Dad came home for lunch one day, wolfed down the cake and left, and Sis came home and spotted the wrapper in the trash. She lit into Dad when he got home, and he just shrugged and said, “Think of the calories I saved you!”

          1. Le Sigh*

            My SO isn’t so blasé about taking food, but one time he brought home a mushroom and onion tart to share. I was so looking forward to it…until he ate it all himself before I got home from work. He teased me and told me to calm down (I wasn’t yelling or anything but I was pretty put out), he’d get me another one.

            And before he did, the bakery closed. CLOSED. Oh I still give him crap about it.

              1. Le Sigh*

                Forever. FOREVER.

                He promised for several weeks he’d go get one and like, a month or two later they just closed.

            1. Kelly White*

              When I was a kid, on vacation, I loved one particular ice cream place. One year we didn’t go, and my parents PROMISED that we could go the next year.

              The next year it was closed. For good. 45 years later, it still stings!

              1. E.N.*

                My favorite story of this sort is when my parents put me on weight watchers in high school. A new place opened at the mall that served dessert crepes and they expressly forbid me from having one until I reached my goal weight. It closed permanently the same week I hit the magic number. I’m mad about it to this day!

              2. LadyL*

                Stories like this from my own childhood are exactly why I think the kids who immediately ate the marshmallow in Mischel’s test were the smart ones.

                1. Jackalope*

                  I’ve always thought I would have passed that test with flying colors…. because I’ve always hated marshmallows. Would not feel tempted, at all.

                2. DataSci*

                  The marshmallow test, incidentally, is very problematic. Kids who (a) have reason not to trust adults or (b) have experienced food insecurity are more likely to fail for reasons other than the ‘impulse control’ that the test is allegedly measuring. (And, of course, kids with ADHD are likely to fail spectacularly.)

                3. TinLizi*

                  I wonder about this too. I could see myself figuring out that if I eat the marshmallow now, then I’m allowed to go and don’t have to wait in this boring room anymore. So I would fail.

            2. wittyrepartee*

              I cried when my now fiancee ate my leftovers once. I was so hungry, and I’d been excited about them all day.

          2. Foofoo*

            My dad would also eat things I would save in the fridge that were clearly mine. I’d buy a 12″ sub at Subway and put half in the fridge for later and he’d eat it. It had double mustard and double pickles, which he didn’t like but HE’D STILL STEAL IT. Food was food, even if it he didn’t like the taste of it.

            1. SheLooksFamiliar*

              My parents grew up during the Depression and weren’t very fussy about food. Even so, my father didn’t like Swiss cheese because it smelled and tasted funny. But he would eat my ham and Swiss sandwiches from my favorite deli because, hey, if it’s in the fridge, it’s fair game.

              Adding insult to injury, he ‘killed the taste’ by paving the sandwich in Hellman’s Sandwich Spread, that awful stuff with pickle relish in it. 45 years later, and I still gag.

          3. MGW*

            The joke in my family is that my dads diet doesn’t count if it’s someone else’s food. He won’t buy himself potato chips but if you buy a bag he’ll eat them all.

          4. Environmental Compliance*

            My younger sister once purchased a kringle, and left it on the counter for about 2 weeks untouched (she still lived at my parents house). Did not label it at all. (also, ew?)

            My husband and I visited and were told by my parents anything on the counter was fair game. Husband asked about the kringle, was told it had been there for a while so if he wanted it, it’s his. Husband proceeded to eat the entire thing over the 3 day weekend. Finally at the end, there was a scrap of it left, and my sister *finally* noticed the kringle was pretty much gone, and threw a huge temper tantrum that someone ate her kringle. Again, the kringle that was unlabeled (a rule in that house, label your stuff) and sat there for 2. flippin’. weeks. totally untouched. Not even unwrapped.

            We still chuckle about the Kringle Fiasco.

              1. Environmental Compliance*

                The rest of the family hadn’t eaten it because it was a weird flavor and they had their own kringle.

                (I’m the weirdo who just…doesn’t like kringle, so tbh I forget which flavor it was as I refused to eat any of it.)

            1. Non-Profiteer*

              I had never heard of a kringle, so I initially assumed you mistyped “Pringle”. Then I was picturing a single, stale Pringle sitting on the counter for two weeks, somehow tempting everyone in the house with its siren song . . .

              1. Beth*

                I had the same reaction. But the image of a stale pastry sitting on the counter for two weeks was almost at pathetic.

              1. Liz*

                I love them. Trader Joe’s sells O&H, but only a few flavors, and each in a different time of year. Cheesecake is my fave. I can chow down on one compeltely in a day. which is why I try really hard NOT to buy them

                1. RabbitRabbit*

                  My sister recently visited me (first time we’d seen each other in a year and a half) from Wisconsin, and brought me kringle, New Glarus beer, and cheese curds. My husband isn’t even fond of sweets but he ate half that kringle and it was gone in a day.

          5. Amaranth*

            My brain wants to explain it in a rational way, like, could he have thought the pizza was there for volunteers and he was just lucky there was some left?

            1. Edwina*

              My guess is he is just used to opening the fridge at home and eating whatever he wants, and he just translated that over to the work fridge.

        2. Zuzu*

          I’m DYING over this one. My dad was known food stealer, and one night I got Thai food takeout that I really wanted the next day. My dad worked nights, so I knew he’d be prowling the fridge when he got home. On the styrofoam container I wrote in Sharpie “DAD do NOT eat this!!” I woke up the next morning, and my food was still there, but my note had been crossed out and my dad had written “F*** YOU!” in huge letters. He still thinks I was just being mean lol.

          1. Environmental Compliance*

            My coworkers are still incredibly entertained at the time I brought in cookies labelled ” NOT FOR [Husband’s name]”. Unlabeled desserts get eaten quickly in my house.

        1. BTDT*

          He said he thought the pizza “had been there for a while” and claimed he was going to throw it away for health/safety reasons so it didn’t matter if he ate it. (he volunteered in the building’s kitchen and part of his duties related to Heath Dept codes so it wasn’t a completely batshitcrazy excuse.) But if the pizza was spoiled, that just made what he did wrong on 2 levels instead of just 1 so…

          Pizza victim demanded he apologize. He did, but with the above excuse, which meant his apology did not suffice in her opinion. She quit about a year afterwards.

          1. Panda Bandit*

            I need to eat a slice of this pizza to see if it’s gone bad… ends up eating entire pizza!

    1. Aiani*

      When I was little I once snapped a picture of my dad right as he was sneaking some candy out of my grandmother’s candy jar. It was my favorite pic and I liked to bring it up to him all the time. If my dad was “Pizza Thief Dad” I would have teased him mercilessly.

      For the record I don’t know why he was being sneaky about the candy, maybe my mom didn’t want him to eat it, unclear. But he was sneaking and I caught it on camera.

    2. Sleepless*

      Everybody in my house (me and my two young adult kids) hides food from my husband because he is so bad about getting the late night munchies. Or drinkies. He guzzled the last of my Pinot Grigio night before last, when he’s not even that much of a wine fan. I was looking forward to that glass of wine all the way home. I was so incensed at him he did go to the store and get me more.

      1. SarahKay*

        My Dad was prone to late night munchies as well, and was starting to put on weight. I was away at university and when I came back at the end of term he was noticeably slimmer. I asked how he’d done it and he said that my step-mum had got rid of every snack in the house except for cheese-and-onion crisps (chips in the US). Cheese makes him throw up, and amount of disgust he managed to put into the words “cheese-and-onion crisps” still makes me laugh.

    3. BTDT*

      I’m pizza thief’s kid. I haven’t brought up to him (yet) because (1) I’m still mortified that I’m related to the thief and (2) I know he was super embarrassed when he was caught so I’m not sure he could handle me joking about it yet. He can get touchy about certain topics… but one day, one day. I told my sister a nanosecond after I found out and we laugh about it all the time

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        If you were my family, your dad would be getting pizza gift certificates and other pizza related items for Christmas.

        1. Rainy*

          Pizza socks. Pizza tees. Pizza kits. Pizza accoutrements. Pizza gummy candies. Every meal would be pizza, with apple pizza for dessert.

  1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

    Re: massage

    I guess I don’t know the norms of the massage industry but I don’t think an interviewee should be asked by a potential boss for a glute massage. The request seems inappropriate regardless of any draping issues and probably interviewees should only demonstrate massaging on neutral areas like shoulders if at all.

    1. Lynn*

      I had the same thought. Seems like draping should be demonstrated on a dummy (you can get them after Halloween for like $20) and technique should be mimed and described and then demonstrated on neutral, clothed areas.

      1. Cat Lover*

        Hard disagree, a dummy is not a person and technique needs to be demonstrated in full.

        Hair stylists need documented hours practicing on real people before they can get their license. Same with people that do waxes. I wouldn’t want someone touching me that was only screened through using a manikin.

        1. Amaranth*

          I know a massage is nonsexual but think that there is an odd dynamic for a manager to be naked and in close contact with a *potential* hire. I’d have asked another staff member if they were willing to receive a full massage and give feedback while I observed technique.

    2. ampersand*

      I disagree—if you’re interviewing for a position doing full body massage, they need to know whether you know how to give a massage or not. Working on someone’s glutes isn’t a big deal—it’s a muscle that also gets massaged. You want your massage therapist to be professional, and the issue here is really that he draped completely incorrectly, not that she asked for him to work on her glutes. I’m more surprised they hired him after that than anything else about this story!

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        This was my take too, as someone who routinely gets massages to deal with muscle problems. Including tight hip flexors.

    3. MissFinance*

      My friend is a massage therapist – she absolutely does demonstrations on a live person, be it a boss or a coworker, when interviewing. After hiring, she can also do “swaps” with coworkers, so she can get a haircut from a coworker and a coworker can get a massage. I think her boss can also get massages as long as the boss pays.

    4. GammaGirl1908*

      This is one of those things where it’s normally true, but there are a few notable exceptions that are totally job-dependent. Like, no one should EVER see your underwear at work … unless you’re Gisele Bundchen on the runway for Victoria’s Secret.

      No one should touch your glutes at work … unless they’re a masseur or proctocologist or tailor? A masseur should be able to massage even more private areas with complete professionalism and a straight face, and whether they can is a thing the business needs to know.

      That said, I audibly gasped at the crack-wedging. Nooooooooooo.

      1. Littorally*

        +1 very well put. It seems to me like this kind of story is exactly why you would ask for a demonstration of technique including sensitive areas before you turn a new employee loose on your clients!

        1. Uranus Wars*

          Yes! Could you imagine if they learned of this AFTER he shoved the sheet in someone else’s crack?

          1. TooTiredToThink*

            Thank you for this comment. I was misreading the “…it…” as HIS HAND itself and I couldn’t understand how he got hired and it was just a draping concern. Now that I realize it was the sheet…. I’ve got the giggles.

              1. allathian*

                Yeah, me too. I thought the idea of massaging someones glutes for an interview was completely appropriate, but I had a hard time understanding that they’d hire someone who showed his hand in someone else’s crack, even if it was completely unintentional…

            1. Allypopx*

              Oh. Well, while that does make it better…he still kind stuck his hand there to wedge it, right? Still a no from me.

            2. Environmental Compliance*

              That’s 10000% how I read it and I audibly gasped and then gasped again when I read he was hired.

              Sheet wedging makes SO much more sense than hand wedging.

              1. INFJedi*

                That’s 10000% how I read it and I audibly gasped and then gasped again when I read he was hired.

                Same. I was like: “…whut?… he was hired after putting is hand there?”

        2. UKDancer*

          Definitely. It’s better for the manager to know before the new employee starts, rather than afterwards when a customer complains. If you’re recruiting a hairdresser or beautician you absolutely need to check they can do a decent job with a more sensitive area. It’s why my beautician always tests new staff by making them do a Brazilian wax because she needs to know they can do that professionally and effectively.

          1. Emily*

            Out of curiosity, what does your beautician do if all the other employees/herself are freshly waxed and can’t sit for a Brazilian? Or does she just make sure their first service is a Brazilian and hope for the best?

            1. UKDancer*

              I’ve no idea what she’d do if nobody needed one. I was just discussing recruitment with her once and she said that was what she used to check people for ability and manner with customers. It amused me as a contrast to the way I recruit people for an office job.

              Next time I’m having a manicure I’ll ask her.

            2. Panda Bandit*

              They might ask the new hire to bring in someone who wants a Brazilian wax. When I was interviewing at a hair salon they asked me to bring in someone who wanted their (head) hair done, so I cut my sister’s hair.

        1. Mental Lentil*

          “civilian norms”

          Now I’m imagining the massage army, going out to de-stress everybody and make the world a more chill place! I am definitely up for this kind of military intervention!

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            “I can’t believe how many glass bowls we deal with,” said the Corning sales rep.

        2. Flower*

          I remember seeing something like “you should NEVER be talking about genitals or anything related to them at work” that showed up on this site and I went “okay This doesn’t apply to me.” I ended up deciding that is actually “you shouldn’t be talking about your own, your partner’s/partners’, or your coworkers’ genitals at work.” I had a similar response to someone saying something about not talking about drugs (and ended up deciding that it was more about your own/your coworkers’ drug use)

          “But we just extracted a rat testicle to use in tissue analysis the other day. And to test estrus phrase you do vaginal swabs. And I study sex differences, so we talk testicles and ovaries etc all the time.” (Also I dare you to look at a male rat for the first time and not go “whoa why do rat balls need to be so big?”) I don’t remember how I got there, but I once ended up on a paper about penile musculature. That one had some weird figures.

          Plus lab work means you occasionally have to work with (and therefore buy, handle, talk about, request keys for, etc) controlled substances–I mostly dealt with fentanyl and ketamine (plus other opiates for post surgical rodent pain relief), but I had friends who studied addiction and so worked with heroin, cocaine, LSD… Not to mention friends who’d vaporize alcohol to get rodents VERY DRUNK, and if the box isn’t sealed right, the researcher is also going to get very drunk very fast, which they often first noticed the first time they stood up.

          And now I work in a much more “normal” job, but it’s SciComm, so it’s still true that sometimes we have to talk about STIs, cancers of genitals/gonads/etc (HPV-related cancers, anyone?), childbirth and pregnancy, things related to partner violence (which can include sexual violence), etc etc. And of course drugs still come up for some projects.

          1. April*

            There is an entire facebook group that is just for photos of people’s pet rats’ balls. Because rat balls are inherently ridiculous and funny. (They’re just comically big for such small animals!)

            It’s often photos of like, a rat asleep in a hammock with his balls and tail just hanging off, or his balls on top of the head of a cagemate.

            1. Raunchy Rodents*

              Me too! And also mouse testicles for comparison purposes. Seems like a totally different scale.

    5. Daisy-dog*

      I have been the manager in this situation. It really is necessary to ensure they are able to do the entire massage well including professionalism and taking instructions.

      1. Wisteria*

        But shouldn’t the interviewee massage someone who is not going to be their boss? If there is an experienced future co-worker, you can learn all the same things by having the interviewee work on them. I see the need for a skills test, but this is somewhat akin to having a graphic designer mock up a design for their potential boss’s own personal use rather than a design for the business (disclaimer that the analogy is not perfect).

        1. Blarg*

          No cause if there are problems, like this one, the manager should be the one to address it. Not a peer.

          It’s just a weird quirk of some fields.

          1. Wisteria*

            No cause if there are problems, like this one, the manager should be the one to address it. Not a peer.

            Of course the future manager would be the one to address any problems after the person is hired. If they are hired. Are you seeing something that would prevent the manager from being the person to address the problems? I mean, peers going to the manager to report work problems so the manager can address them is pretty normal.

        2. Daisy-dog*

          I worked in residential healthcare and we would only have 1 massage therapist on staff at a time. In addition to the comment by Blarg.

        3. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Y’all, please trust that people who work in the industry know their industry practices and the reasons for them better than people who don’t — this kind of thing is really annoying to people sharing info about their fields here.

    6. JB*

      They’re going to have to massage customer’s glutes and be professional while doing it, just like with ‘neutral’ areas of the body. It’s part of the job, and (as demonstrated in exactly this story) a very important task to have interviewees demonstrate, so that they can be aware of issues like Mr. Sheet Wedgie here, or that the candidate can’t help giggling every time she touches a butt, for example.

      I’m just not sure how you think an effective interview for a massage therapist should go, if there’s no or only limited demonstration of massage skills.

      1. wittyrepartee*

        Imagine becoming a masseuse, and you can’t stop giggling about butts. What if you had it mostly beat, but then one day you were extra tired and let out a giggle?!

        1. allathian*

          If you do that, then you’re just not cut out to do the job. Better find out early rather than late. For a professional, there’s no difference between massaging glutes and massaging shoulders, except that more clients are likely to be uncomfortable with another person touching their glutes vs. shoulders.

    7. SJ*

      I have family in the industry and this is super super normal for exactly the reason the letter illustrates!

      1. Wisteria*

        By having a different person undergo the massage and give their evaluation to the manager? If there is an appropriate person available, that is.

        1. Anonymous pineapple*

          Why is it more appropriate for a more junior employee to be the victim of a potential sheet wedgie or groping by an interviewee than the hiring manager?

        2. onco fonco*

          Well, I can imagine that the manager will get a much better idea of the candidate’s skills by receiving the massage directly – just like the hiring manager would ideally want to conduct an interview themselves, instead of delegating to someone junior and then getting their opinion afterwards. And it’s better that the hiring manager receive any weird/poor/awkward massage techniques than that they inflict THAT on a junior staff member who isn’t in a good position to say no. I mean, this is nowhere near my field either and I can’t imagine touching my boss’s glutes, but I’m sure that the practitioners posting here know what they’re talking about.

          1. Plant*

            Yeah, “my manager watched me get groped by an inexperienced massage therapist” sounds like an AAM letter to me.

    8. Rose*

      The fact that the guy shoved a sheet into her ass crack example of why this isn’t true.

      In 99% of all jobs your coworkers shouldn’t strip down in-front of you, or rub you. Message interviews are obviously going to deviate considerably from almost any other interview in terms of what’s appropriate. What if he couldn’t message her glutes without giggling? Or made a gross comment? They need to know that kind of thing.

    9. OP*

      OP here- the thing is, massage therapists work on glutes. We consider it no different than any other muscle. I’d rather he mess up on me than on a client who then sues the company- which is a thing!

  2. Cara*

    Good for the general in #3, spilling a spit cup is realllllly gross but he also seemed to be good about addressing it

    1. T. Boone Pickens*

      Oh goodness I just shook and gagged a bit reading that one. Lots of friends that used to dip back in the day and I tried to block those days out after seeing some just disgusting stuff haha!

      1. Perfectly Particular*

        OMG – this just brought up blocked memories from my days at a donut shop as a teenager. The guys would dip into a foam
        coffee cup with the lid tab pulled back, and put them on the shelf with everyone’s sodas. More than once I took a swig of someone’s dip cup, mistaking it for my Coke! Happened to everyone occasionally, and also happened at other restaurants I worked at! Thinking about it now, I am gagging, but back then the attitude was more that you should have double checked to make sure it was your cup.

    2. Sara without an H*

      Yes, it’s a disgusting habit, but at least he took responsibility for what happened.

    3. Web of Pies*

      I hope he quit the habit over it, there is little more foul in the world than being next to someone constantly spitting smelly brown goo into a cup. Why in the world did he think this was OK at work??? *infinity barf emojis*

      1. Teapot, Groomer of Llamas*

        Dip is apparently ultra common in the military. I agree it’s a disgusting habit, but they just have different standards I guess.

  3. Snarkastic*

    I have so many questions for the people in several of these stories. Mainly, is it normal for someone to chew at work? I know he was a General, so the workplace is different, but you would think that would mean he’d have MORE decorum. Something tells me a cup fill of chew spit doesn’t meet OSHA standards. Haha.

    1. The Original K.*

      I used to work with a guy who had worked somewhere prior where dipping was common and he said there were cups everywhere! I was pretty shocked, as it’s very much not a thing anywhere I’ve lived.

      1. UKDancer*

        Not a thing anywhere I’ve lived either. I don’t think chewing tobacco is very popular in the UK or if it is I’ve never seen it. People from Yemen and some parts of Africa chew khat (now illegal but allowed for quite a while) but tobacco is usually smoked in cigarettes or (more rarely cigars or pipes).

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          It’s pretty common in parts of the US, & before tobacco-free workplaces were the norm, you would see it more.

          I think he handled it well. Spit cups are… Just disgusting.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          You know all those wild west movies with spitoons in the frontier bars? That wasn’t saliva in there.

          1. allathian*

            I pity the people who had to clean those out… Yuck! But still, better in a spittoon than on the floor, which would’ve been the alternative.

    2. Nope, not today*

      I worked for a CPA firm in Nashville and we had an intern who did this… I was a bit shocked and thought the bosses would have a chat about professionalism. Nope, no one cared.

      Well, not totally true – he was initially using the garbage can I believe? And I think someone said something. So he switched, and didnt use a cup but rather an empty soda bottle. So at least no risk of spilling (though it was clear so….a cup might have been a better option?)

      1. GammaGirl1908*

        Eh. Once in college I was in a cute football player’s room, and I went to perch flirtily on the desk. That worked until I shifted and knocked over his roommate’s formerly empty Mountain Dew bottle, spilling Roommate’s chew spit all over the desk. I gagged and fled.

    3. Gravatar*

      I was in the Navy and dipping was really common. A lot easier to do in a job where you can’t always get to an area where smoking is permitted on the time schedule required by a nicotine habit. (Not that smoking wasn’t common, too.) Was less common with officers, though.

    4. Person from the Resume*

      Not too long ago in the military, yes.

      It was particularly a special forces habit. IDK smoking cigarettes have a burning butt (visible at night) and smoky smell (when smoking and left on clothes) that could give away someone trying to hide and so chewing tobacco was fairly common.

      But also smoking was banned except in designated areas but that didn’t include chewing tobacco at the beginning. I think there are now tobacco use areas and that includes chewing so you can’t get away with chewing in the office any longer.

      1. allathian*

        Mmm. I’ve honestly never seen the point of that, because chewing tobacco doesn’t affect anyone else except the user (even if the effects can be nasty, like cancer in the mouth and stomach), and anyone they’re in an intimate relationship with, while tobacco smoke’s a nasty carcinogen even with second-hand exposure.

        That said, chewing nicotine gum is no doubt a healthier alternative if you’re truly addicted.

        1. RabbitRabbit*

          I’m assuming the problem is the spitting, which is gross as hell and can result in issues (besides spitting around other people) like spit in garbage cans, spit cups/bottles being spilled (or worse) or forgotten about and allowed to ‘age,’ and so on.

    5. Le Sigh*

      I hate smoking in general but despise chewing tobacco. Even reading about spit cups makes me nauseated. If I were that poor admin I might have thrown up involuntarily.

    6. Wisteria*

      Depends on the office and the area. Chew is most common in some places than others. I couldn’t see it happening in MA, but in TX? Wouldn’t be out of place at all.

    7. New Job So Much Better*

      My former boss did at work all the time. Wiped his hands between his legs on the chair… no one else would sit in his chair.

    8. Anonymous Hippo*

      Yeah, it’s pretty common where I work (offices at a steel mill). Grosses me out completely, but they are pretty good with keeping their cups/bottles to themselves. But the sound of the spitting :shudders:

    9. Bubbly*

      I had to have a TALK with a professional grad student who was chewing during clinics! She didn’t think it was a big deal to have her vile spit bottle on display where clients could walk through.
      I also witnessed a veterinarian spit right in an aisle at a rehab barn where the vets were considered gods. I was blown away, but it was Kentucky.

    10. Texan In Exile*

      Not only did my high school (in San Antonio, Texas) have a smoking section outside, it also had the chew section. The bark was gone from the poor tree in the middle of that part of the yard – so many guys (I don’t think I ever saw girls there) spitting their chaw at the tree.

      You could tell who the chewers were – their Skoal tin had worn a faded circle in the back pocket of their Wranglers.

      1. pope suburban*

        We didn’t have a lot of kids who did this at my high school, but we did have a few, and yep, the circles on the jeans were a dead giveaway. Mostly they were fine about it and kept the spit confined to bottles, but some of them would just leave a wad of chew in the drinking fountains. That was always an unpleasant surprise, though blessedly rare. I understand that you need to spit when you’re doing this, but…the drinking fountain? Not one of the plentiful trash cans scattered around the halls and in the restrooms?!

        I suppose it could be worse, though. My husband went to an ag school where a lot of the students chewed. He told me about one house party he attended where a guy took a shot, then took a big old swig of what he thought was Coke from a can as a chaser. It was not, in fact, Coke- it was someone’s spit can. I guess the guy absolutely lost his lunch all over the house’s backyard, which is gross but fair.

    11. Clisby*

      Years and years ago, I was a reporter at a small-town newspaper and occasionally covered court sessions. An assistant prosecutor carried a Dixie cup with him into court so he could keep on chewing and spitting. It was disgusting. And kind of riveting, at the same time.

    1. Bostonian*

      I definitely didn’t see that coming! I laughed SO HARD. The part about making memes with his pizza-stuffed face put me over the edge.

  4. I should really pick a name*

    What it said:
    ‘Oh, anal’s great! I love anal!’ It’s been at least a decade but every time I think about it I laugh so hard I see spots.

    What I read (note the position of the quote marks):
    ‘Oh, anal’s great! I love anal! It’s been at least a decade but every time I think about it I laugh so hard I see spots.’

    1. KiwiLib*

      I hadn’t realised I could laugh even harder at this one, but you made me! Thank you for brightening my bus ride.

    2. Rose*

      What does this mean???? Did she think they were just… suddenly talking about anal sex? I’m so confused/concerned.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I wonder if it’s the same co-worker someone mentioned earlier this year, the one who abbreviated words in conversation. Including “analysis”.

          1. fhqwhgads*

            That’s how I read it. She meant she’s appreciative of that sort of person, but phrased it in a way that sounded like she meant something NSFW.

      2. Cheerfully Polite Grey Rock*

        I think she was actually referring to ‘anal retentive’ rather than anal sex, but just.. didn’t say the whole phrase. As in, “Yes, it’s great that you’re anal retentive because I love it when everything is in its place and every document has been checked for errors 14 times and I don’t need to worry that things haven’t been done properly”.

        1. linger*

          You’re probably right — but for most of us, the other interpretation will have been primed by the “Oh that’s my favourite kind! No, really, I mean it!” story earlier in the week (from an interviewee responding to an interviewer’s erotic fiction).

  5. TPS reporter*

    How have we not all learned the mute all participants steps for video meetings at this point? Or used other platforms where only the speaker can be heard?

    1. Code Monkey, the SQL*

      That story reminds me of one that I was witness to.

      My coworker Dan came racing into an office I shared with three other people with a thrilled look on his face: “Come QUICK,” he whispered. This man was not one to be terribly excitable, so we were intrigued. We trooped out behind him and up to his own office, where a conference call was in progress. Dan had put it on speaker, but it was “Business business business” type chat. Nothing unusual. We looked askance… “Um, Dan… what?”
      Then we heard it. On a conference call with at LEAST 115 people, and all of C-Suite for this particular client, some poor soul was sawing logs into his mic. Loudly. The rest of the team, CEO, CFO etc. was valiantly carrying on while someone was searching for the Global Mute and not finding it, so every few moments between statistical projections there was a loud “HOrKkkkKK snort” like a congested bear. Dan and the rest of us silently died laughing on the carpet. The admin couldn’t even put out the polite “please mute your phones” because of course, the culprit was in dreamland.

      Best conference call ever.

      1. Liz*

        this happened during one of my first conference calls after the pandemic began. VERY loud snoring. I suspect though it may have been a dog, as as soon as the leader politely asked everyone to make sure they were on mute, it stopped. Had it been a person, i don’t think it would have quieted down as quickly as it did. I was trying SO hard not to laugh.

    2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      We still haven’t mastered “Reply” vs “Reply All” so no, probably not

      1. Lacey*

        My office is terrible about “reply all” because a large subset of my coworkers think they’re being *friendly* by hitting reply all and that those of us who don’t like it are bitter and mean!

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Alas I tried that once, and many people replied to me telling me that I’d only sent it to myself. Many more forwarded my boring announcement to everyone who’d received it last month, so the manager who had suggested I send the list bcc received it at least a half dozen times. We reverted to original procedure.

            1. Wisteria*

              “many people replied to me telling me that I’d only sent it to myself”


              How did they think they had received it if you only sent it to yourself?

      2. Mockingjay*

        This morning we got an irate email from IT. Somebody replied all to an autogenerated server notice sent to the group and the rest of the team kept the thread going. “Is there a particular reason you have the admin mailbox on this thread?”

      3. AKA*

        Yesterday some poor junior enlisted hospital corpsman sent an email to the Surgeon General, several medical admirals, several senior civilian medical personnel, and a couple hundred other corpsmen, contractors, etc. People went wild with the reply all, between “please take me off this chain” “please stop replying all” and “did you know you can save 15% by switching to Geico” and other assorted clowning. That poor kid is going to mast.

        1. Berkeleyfarm*

          I’m an email administrator (so have had to clean up after reply-alls, etc.) and *I* feel sorry for that kid.

    3. He's just this guy, you know?*

      This post is actually a compilation of older stories – I just Googled a phrase from that particular entry and found that it was originally posted in April 2019:

      I don’t know about everyone else, but video meetings were still a novelty for me at that point, and usually riddled with so many technical problems (“Oh, so the microphone and speaker settings that worked last time are not working this time – if I select the SECOND mic option and then mute the first set of speakers, I can hear the audio through the internal speaker”, etc. – repeat with a different permutation the next time) that worrying about how to mute participants was not a concern.

    4. Uranus Wars*

      So I did this for a meeting, where I muted everyone as host. And the person kept unmuting herself. I had to finally private message her and tell her to leave it on mute.

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        I ran a meeting where one of the participants had the smoke detector “low battery” chirp going on in the background. I kept muting him and messaging to tell him why, and he kept un-muting himself since he didn’t want to un-mute each time he wanted to speak (this is on a small enough call where usually this would be fine). He was load-bearing enough for the meeting that I couldn’t perma-mute him or kick him from the call (although I was tempted). This was over a year into the pandemic when we should have all figured out video conferencing norms by now.

        Then he did it again on another call a few days later.

        Some people just lack self-awareness. Or awareness of others. Or awareness in general.

        1. Mitzii*

          A few days later??? How was it that he, himself, was not being driven insane by the chirp of his own smoke detector?

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Smoke detector piezos are a pretty pure tone — he may have a partial hearing loss.
            Many years ago my elderly mother called me worrying about her elderly dog having seizures but the vet could find nothing wrong.
            I visited, and within an hour, I heard the smoke detector chirp — and our poor dog started barking at the ceiling, valiantly trying to warn her.
            I changed her batteries & put the next change-by date on the calendar.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              Also, that’s when she finally relented and made an appointment with an audiologist.

          2. Paperdill*

            I used to be a community nurse – some people happily live with that low-battery chirp for MONTHS (like, quite sane, able bodied, professional, functioning in the world people). I had even been to places where I have said “Oo – I bet that’s annoying. Some one will have to change the battery”. And there response has been “Oh, is that what that is? We didn’t know, items just been like that since we moved in”.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              One of mine malfunctioned during an ice storm—it was hardwired into the ceiling and the power was out, but it would not stop chirping. I tried to ignore it for a couple of hours before I finally ripped it off the ceiling.

              1. kitryan*

                I was being driven spare by one, I’d changed the battery twice, pushed the reset, ect.
                Could not get it to stop. I didn’t know how to totally disconnect them at the time so I’d then rubber banded a hand towel to it. It kept chirping and wasn’t even muffled. I called maintenance and someone came by and took a look. While they were looking at it I suddenly noticed the carbon monoxide detector in the wall outlet just below the ceiling smoke detector.
                Yes, that was the culprit all along.
                I so hate the fact that the beeps are so difficult to triangulate! I can normally tell if a sound is coming from above or below me, but with smoke detectors it’s like the beeping is everywhere. Even in my current place it’s tough to tell whether it’s the utility room or the bedroom one and there’s a door and 20 feet between them.

          3. Jackalope*

            So I have a family member that I’ve started doing Marco Polo videos with this last year. Once I was watching one of her videos when I all of a sudden heard the smoke alarm. Put the video on pause, grabbed my housemate, and we investigated. Couldn’t find what the problem was, and it went away so I thought maybe it was better (trace of smoke from outside or something). Turned the MP video back on and the smoke alarm started going off again! Housemate and I hunt around ben more concerned, but nothing. Eventually I figured out that my family member’s smoke alarm was beeping nonstop and I was hearing it in her videos. It’s been MONTHS now and it’s still in the video background. I mentioned it to her once bcs I was afraid she couldn’t hear it, but she could; just didn’t bother her.

          4. Mockingjay*

            Have you ever tried to figure out which one of those damn sensors is chirping? Stand under one, wait for the chirp, then run to the next…

            You’d think the manufacturers would add a blinking light or something.

            1. Uranus Wars*

              And then you find the right one and change the battery…but it turns out it wasn’t actually the chirping one.

    5. fish*

      Here’s my story: The rabbi did not mute his mic while going to the bathroom during a special Holocaust commemoration program. It is unusual, to say the least, for the congregation to giggle during Holocaust commemoration. Everyone felt very conflicted about doing so but also couldn’t help it.

    6. Blarg*

      Last spring my org had our first conference virtually. For round table sessions we used the conference platform’s meeting feature. Like Zoom. But not Zoom. My first session, there was a person vacuuming. Literally. Not on video. Just audio. We could all see who it was (her box was “highlighted” as though she were speaking). But the platform didn’t allow muting all participants or booting people entirely.

      Subsequent sessions were moved to Zoom.

    7. Anonymous Hippo*

      lol, some are more savvy than others. We have an issue where people are getting horrible echo feedback, and they will literally argue with you when you ask them to mute, they are so sure it isn’t them. Funny how it stops when I mute them from my end.

    8. Jesse*

      Before we switched to a system that let us mute everyone, every week was a roulette wheel of ridiculousness. Sometimes it was just mildly funny, like people having personal conversations or complaining about unrelated stuff, but once our CEO said something innocuous, and in the pause afterwards, someone on the call just YELLED “THAT IS THE BIGGEST BUNCH OF BULLSHIT!!!” and we got to hear a whole company struggle not to laugh.

    9. Seeking Second Childhood*

      These are old stories from the archives — this could be from any time since the introduction of video calls.

    10. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

      A former boss of mine was leading a 30+ person program status call and one lady forgot to mute her phone. So the program call got to hear quite a few details about her poor baby’s explosive diarrhea before she got muted.

      The former boss continued on with the call but at the end of the call, paused and said, “alright, only one last question for today – how’s that itty bitty baby’s bottom doing?”

      He got a joking “I hate you” message from the lady who forgot to mute.

  6. TimeTravlR*

    Reading these stories just reminds me why I don’t share much about my private life at work, keep my home office door closed, and am “anal” (LOL) about making sure my calls are on mute except when necessary!

  7. Abbey Rhodes*

    I sincerely hope that I’m not the only one who read #2 and immediately thought of Jack Donaghy’s bathroom pep talk (while he was still mic-ed) on “30 Rock”.

    1. it's me*

      I was thinking of Bruce Willis psyching himself up during his guest run on “Friends”, with Ross overhearing.

    2. Mallory Janis Ian*

      I was thinking of Dwight Shrute and the heavy metal air guitar sales-call pump-up.

      1. Arts Akimbo*

        I always loved that Dwight was completely unashamed of his pre-sales pump-up ritual! He just owned it.

    3. wendelenn*

      I was thinking of “I Believe in You” from “How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying”. (That one doesn’t have the profanity, though.)

  8. it's me*

    Lol, I’m reminded now of the time I was on a call with quite a few others, probably at least a dozen, maybe two dozen? and someone I’m not terribly fond of was doing a demo. Someone ELSE I’m not terribly fond of took a call during the demo, and we could all hear her say to whoever was calling, “Oh, I’m just in this REALLY boring meeting.” Rather minor, but still, oh the schadenfreude!

    1. not always right but this time I am*

      Off topic kind of, but I always wondered how to pronounce schadenfreude. It is Shaa den Froyd a with the emphasis on the Shaa part. Your are welcome

    2. nonethefewer*

      I did this by accident once. I had muted myself, but the mute button was still in focus. My 5yo wanted to watch the video (the Zoom call), but I said no baby, this is a work call, it’s pretty boring. Not realizing that my goddamn BOOB had hit the spacebar and unmuted my mic.

      I told my coworkers that yeah, meetings are boring for 5-year-olds, but inside I was dying.

  9. Mary the Paralegal*

    Omg #8! I did something very similar to this once, though luckily no one had to evacuate. When I was a young paralegal working 80 hours a week, I had these instant Thai noodles that I loved because they came with a yummy packet of spicy chili oil. Well, I’m not exactly a gourmet chef at the best of times (hence the instant noodles), so I don’t have great instincts about what a normal combination of ingredients looks like, and I was exhausted from the punishing hours I was working… Long story short, I doused the noodles in the chili oil packet, FORGOT TO ADD WATER, set them to cook in the microwave and dashed off to my desk to try to get a couple minutes of work done while they cooked.

    Obviously the results were terrible, the noodles got like fried by the chili oil, burned to a spicy crisp, and the whole place smelled awful for the rest of the day. The worst part is that I could hear everyone talking about it — not even in a mean way, but I would hear people pass by, do a kind of double take at the smell, and one of my fellow paralegals would start explaining, “Well, Mary was microwaving noodles…” And it just kept happening over and over for the rest of the day! I was very shy at the time and the humiliation was excruciating. It’s been 12 years and I still remember how hot my neck felt from blushing.

    (Using a different pseudonym for this in case anyone I worked with still remembers that.)

      1. Mary the Paralegal*

        Yes! I know I should probably find that episode offensive for a multitude of reasons, but I literally shed tears laughing every time I watch it. I’m giggling uncontrollably just thinking about it.

      2. Mary the Paralegal*

        Yes! Every time I watch that episode I literally cry laughing. I’m giggling uncontrollably to myself just thinking about it.

    1. Esmeralda*

      Our associate director walked away from their microwave popcorn. Usually it got a bit burnt and everyone was p.o.’d about the smell. We could not make them hang around and wait for the popcorn. We asked nicely. We asked not so nicely. No dice.

      Until the day that the popcorn well and truly burned. As did the microwave.

      When the new microwave appeared, it had a small sign taped to it, with the AD’s face in a circle-and-slash.

      AD just bought pre-made popcorn after that.

      1. Bibliovore*

        A top-tier person in my last company — someone who wrote science articles involving things not to try at home — stuck his entire unopened carry-out bag in the break-room microwave once, having not looked in it at all to realize that his food was wrapped in foil. There was a fire.

        1. Lucretia*

          In one of my first jobs at 18, I put a sandwich wrapped in tinfoil in the microwave. I’d never had a microwave at home, so I didn’t realise the foil would catch and there was a tiny fire. I got made fun of for a week for not knowing, and two of the “mean girls” I worked with asked why I hadn’t learned to use a microwave at school. (I was homeschooled.) I was shy and pretty embarrassed about it for a while, but honestly it was an easy mistake to make for a sheltered kid!

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            A former coworker once put a frozen 3 Musketeers’ ice cream in the microwave to soften it, wrapper and all. I’m not sure exactly what the sequence of events was that happened next, but it ended with the main on the circuit breaker tripped and the entire building losing power.

          2. BubbleTea*

            I mean, I didn’t learn how to use a microwave at school and I was not home schooled.

            I did, however, blow up a casserole dish of scrambled eggs by cooking them on a gas hob. Turns out that wasn’t what my mum had meant when she said “use the casserole dish”. But my frame of reference for how to cook eggs was Susan cooking over the fire in Swallows and Amazons. SUSAN didn’t use a microwave!

            1. SarahKay*

              Trying to light a camp fire when I was about ten, and struggling, I remember my Dad saying “Susan would have your guts for garters if she saw how many matches you needed”.
              We were all big fans of the Swallows and Amazons books when I was growing up.

          3. Sleepless*

            Microwaves were just starting to appear in most people’s houses when I was in high school, and there was a collective learning curve about what you could and couldn’t put in the microwave. Almost everybody had a story about microwaving metal, overcooking popcorn, or trying to boil eggs. My mother did not realize until a couple of years ago that you could in fact defrost bread in the microwave if you were very careful; after we ruined several batches of dinner rolls she had just never tried it again.

        2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          my ex put a paperboard takeout container in the toaster oven to reheat leftovers once, and I didn’t notice until behind me I heard a *fwump* and turned around to see flames in the thing. I screamed and unplugged it, and he came running and dumped the contents into the sink, and I saw what it was and yelled WHY ON GOD’S GREEN EARTH WOULD YOU PUT A PAPER CONTAINER INTO THE TOASTER OVEN THAT CLOSE TO THE HEATING ELEMENT??

          He yelled back, “I read that book, paper isn’t supposed to burn until 451 degrees and I only had it on 425!!”

          I, uh, declined to replace the toaster oven, since I never used the stupid thing in the first place.

          1. No Tribble At All*

            I’m WHEEZING

            The combined logic (425 < 451) and lack of common sense (don't risk it?? The heating element will be hotter than the air temperature??? Just what. Are you doing) is AMAZING

            1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

              I have used that story a couple times in gaming groups to identify the distinction between intelligence and wisdom. :-P

            2. Seeking Second Childhood*

              Me too.
              I suddenly feel less sheepish about my 19yo “croissant flambé.”

          2. Light it up*

            My neighbor growing up was a brilliant business woman but NOT a cook at all. I remember going over for a dinner party where she was going to make a frozen pizza for the kids. She turned on the oven, and put the unopened pizza box straight in the oven- box, plastic wrapping, everything… couldn’t figure out what went wrong when the cardboard burned, plastic melted into the food, and created a huge mess (and smell!) in the kitchen. As a kid watching this go down I thought it was hilarious but got in trouble for laughing when she opened the oven! Lol… Honestly I still think it’s hilarious! Such a smart woman outsmarted by a frozen pizza!

          3. Elenna*

            Anyone follow the StephenVlog youtube channel by any chance? At one point, shortly after Stephen and Mal were married, Mal came home to find a greasy puddle under their toaster. Some questioning revealed that Stephen (who, mind you, had lived away from home for all of his college years, so it’s not like this was his first time not living with his parents) had buttered the toast *before* putting it in the toaster. Apparently he was just under the vague impression that everyone did it that way.

            Fortunately, no fires were started. Nevertheless, it’s been almost a decade since then and he still hasn’t lived it down.

            1. Loredena Frisealach*

              I do that with the toaster oven. Honestly one of the reasons I prefer the oven to a toaster!

            1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

              I was dumb in my 20s. :-P no, we were still together for a good while after that.

          4. SwiftSunrise*

            One of the dining halls when I was in undergrad had one of those industrial size toaster ovens with the mesh/grille conveyor belt doodads rotating through it. It was prone to setting off the fire alarm, being constantly full of crumbs and such.

            One night, a little piece of bread or something got stuck in the conveyor belt and caught on fire; you could VERY CLEARLY see the little gout of flame inside the toaster oven, rotating merrily on its way.

            Everyone took it as a sign from on high that the smoke detector didn’t go off, and left the toaster oven alone.

            Until my swim teammate Mike put a bagel in there, while it was still burning. The fire alarm went off, and we had to evacuate the building mid-dinner, in a Massachusetts winter. With our hair still wet from swim practice.

            When we reproached Mike for tempting the wrath of the whatever from high atop the thing, he looked at us with this utterly bewildered and confused expression, “But I had to toast MY thing!”

            We never let him live it down.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          One year my entire dorm tower was evacuated because some idiots set fire to a microwave trying to cook popcorn. In the middle of the night. During finals week. In the winter. In the Midwest. Oh, and I lived on the twelfth floor.

          The fire happened on an all-male floor lower in the building. They were all told to find different living situations the next year. I think they had to close the floor for repairs. (Because popcorn fires weren’t their only way of causing trouble.)

      2. Doug Judy*

        I worked with someone who burnt her popcorn every flipping time. We asked her about it and she said “well it says to microwave for 3 minutes, and that’s what I do” It went on for a while. She never thought to adjust the time or take it out early and there was no convincing her that she was incorrect. This was about 15 years ago so I don’t know how long that went on as she was still doing it when I left.

        1. AFac*

          Was she not disturbed by the fact her popcorn was burnt? I realize some people don’t mind, but as a person who doesn’t even like the dark lines on grilled hamburgers…

      3. GoryDetails*

        “When the new microwave appeared, it had a small sign taped to it, with the AD’s face in a circle-and-slash.”

        Well played, to whoever posted that sign; well played indeed!

      4. ggg*

        I burnt popcorn in the microwave in my office. I was in the room right next to it, on the phone (on mute thank God), listening to a meeting, until someone else walked in and was like, “OMG YOUR OFFICE IS ON FIRE.” Smoke was literally coming out of the microwave. I just…hadn’t noticed.

      5. Lady Oscar*

        Normally I consider food theft to be completely unforgivable, but in this case I’d have condoned waiting for his popcorn for him, and then when it was done, taking it and sharing it with the rest of the office.

  10. MissFinance*

    The HR Town Hall one reminds me of when we had a finance team meeting during the height of covid. Everyone was remote, and the CEO was on the call with us. In the middle of the CFO speaking, someone not on mute says, “Well, this really sucks.”

    No idea who it was, but the CFO went on like nothing happened.

    1. Foofoo*

      we had an all hands a few weeks ago and there was constant noise going on in the background, and I finally typed into the chat “whoever’s making all the noise, can you please mute? It’s distracting”.

      The CEO, who’s delivering the all hands meeting, reads it and says “oops, my wife is in the kitchen behind me doing chores, I’ll move rooms”.

      I wanted to die.

      1. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

        I’m a college Librarian, and in the spring I had popped into a zoom class to teach the students how to research.
        The professor’s wife was watching Fox News in the background. Everytime he unmuted to comment or add to something I said–which was frequently–we got Fox News loudly in the background, and he was terrible at remembering to mute himself.

      2. TPS reporter*

        why are people in CEO level positions not in a private space for work? It just wreaks of callousness to me. They more than certainly have places to go in their house for privacy but choose distracting environments. Are they even paying attention?

        1. Hapless Bureaucrat*

          Maybe they do have spaces and just aren’t thinking, but maybe their kids or other family are also home in those spaces. Or maybe they don’t HAVE many spaces beyond bedrooms. Open-plan living, be it McMansion or loft, has been a scourge of higher-end housing for years now. Then there’s the whole “wireless router doesn’t reach to all corners of the house” issue. All stuff that wasn’t really an issue until wfh, after all they had nice private offices at work.
          I think most of the leadership team at my work has private spaces now but at the beginning we’d sometimes see them in kitchens, etc.

          1. Cindy*

            My husband is pretty senior but we live in NYC apartment and have 3 people working from home. Not a lot of private space, and a lot of negotiation over who had meetings when.

        2. California Dreamin’*

          My husband is at a relatively senior level and we have a decent-sized house, but all extra bedrooms are lived in by our children. My type of work requires privacy and quiet when I’m in a deposition, so I have to use our office space and husband very often does meetings in the kitchen. I can usually tell if he’s in a high-level meeting and try to be quiet if I must go in there, but the kids (teens and 20-something) are not sensitive to that and will go n for a glass of water and be banging around in the fridge. If I’m aware, I’ll run in whispering “Shhhhh, Dad’s in a meeting!” Their ability to be quiet is limited. It drives my husband crazy.

      3. allathian*

        Well, at least your CEO took it well and was considerate enough to do something about it. No harm, no foul, IMO.

    2. thatoneoverthere*

      I worked at a small non-profit, where we had to sit in on board meetings. Once a board member was dropping her dog off at the vet. She called into the meeting, rather than video calling in. You could hear in the background asking the people express their anal glands.

      Someone went uuuh Judy you might want to mute. She was mortified.

  11. Esmeralda*

    OP #1. I can’t be the only person who wants to know the answer…DID they know each other from the county lockup?

        1. DiscoCat*

          Oooooohhh! I thought it was some fun but very adult party with lots of booze, potential adultery, etc. etc., like a pub lock-in in the UK.

      1. Wendy*

        Low-level jail :-) It’s not impossible – plenty of otherwise successful people have spent the night in jail for drunk driving, drunken fistfights, err… I’m having trouble coming up with anything not alcohol-based, honestly, but it’s usually where you end up when the police don’t know what else to do with you until the courts open in the morning.

        1. NotRealAnonForThis*

          Only thing I can think of is maybe domestic (and I don’t know for certain if that’s accurate) so we’ll stick with alcohol based.

    1. Anonymous Hippo*

      The level of embarrassment sounds like they did…otherwise just say no and move on.

      1. Kyrielle*

        Nah, it was the boss of the employee asking who was embarrassed. Obviously that employee has been in the lockup or they wouldn’t ask that – which is embarrassing enough all by itself. (In fact, I think it’s more embarrassing if you assume that probably the person being asked had never been there, but it’s pretty embarrassing even if they had – and not a professional question to ask in that context.)

  12. Jennifer*

    Omg! On what planet does “tell us a little about yourself, Jane” turn into “let me tell you about how my son and his wife saved themselves for marraige.”

    1. allathian*

      I was wondering the same thing! I would flag that as an unhealthy relationship between mother and son and I’d be worried about her ability to maintain professional boundaries.

  13. Just @ me next time*

    Re #6:
    “he’s considerably older and shorter, and less active than I am and I was 23!”
    His being considerably older and being your boss are reasonable, obvious factors why you wouldn’t pursue a relationship. But do you really have to bring body-shaming into this? It’s okay for you to have personal preferences about who you date, but please don’t state those preferences as though they are an obvious reason that a person is unsuitable as a partner. It normalizes harmful stereotypes about people’s bodies. Just say “I wasn’t attracted to him” and keep the specifics of your aesthetic and athletic preferences to yourself.

    1. aseyssel*

      I don’t know about the height difference, but assumed the bit about being less active was more along the lines of having different lifestyles and interests.

      1. A Girl Named Fred*

        That was how I read it too, although I can see how folks could also interpret it the other way. Editing it out like Alison did is probably the safest bet.

      2. Just @ me next time*

        But there’s a difference between saying “Can you believe Greg would think I liked him? He doesn’t even work out” and “I’m really looking for a partner who’s willing to cycle across Europe with me, and Greg isn’t interested in learning to ride a bike, so we’re not compatible.” Unless you specify the context of why a certain trait makes someone the wrong partner for you, it reads like you’re just insulting everyone with that trait.

    2. Social Commentator*

      If body-shaming is objectionable, ageism should be too… “considerably older” is not necessarily an obvious reason to not pursue a relationship. I agree that “I didn’t find him remotely attractive” would have done the job.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It’s pretty reasonable for people not to want to date people significantly older or younger than they are. Move on please. And with that, I am closing this thread since it derailed despite my efforts.

  14. MimiO*

    In the early 200s, when I was in my early 30s, I worked as the chief of staff / senior advisor to a very senior government official. At the time, the department we worked for was involved in big, high-profile international trade dispute. One day, my boss was hosting a VERY. IMPORTANT. CONFERENCE. CALL that involved lawyers, diplomats, a whole lot of very important people. The speaker phone was set up in my boss’s boardroom with about 10 other people in attendance. My boss always sat in the same spot, at the head of the conference table, near the door.

    Before going into the late afternoon call, he tells me that he and his wife are going to a show that evening, that his wife will be coming to the office to meet him and could I let him know when she arrives. Mrs. Very Senior Government Official arrives as planned and I get ready to enter the boardroom, during the conference call, to let him know that she’s here.

    All goes to plan as I open the boardroom door. No one is looking at me as they are all concentrating on the speaker phone or on their notes. I lean forward to whisper in my boss’s ear: “She’s here”. Unbeknownst to me, the door knob has slipped between the buttons of my silk blouse. Message delivered, I stand up straight to leave the room….except that the growing tension between the door knob and the fabric of my blouse results in a tearing sound wiith buttons bursting forth and me flashing the only person who happened to be looking up at the time: a very flustered senior legal counsel. Time stopped briefly as I grabbed the jagged edges of my blouse, turned on my heels and went back to my office. I used the office stapler to fix my blouse before going to back to tell his wife that he would be out shortly. I think I wore sweaters for 6 months after that incident.

    1. Office sweater lady*

      Oh my gosh! This one is so funny and random. I can just imagine the poor man’s face. I actually had something like this happen to me in a non-work context. I was a young teenager (think 14, 15) at the beach. I was wearing a fairly modest bikini top and out swimming with a friend. Suddenly a wave came and hit me just wrong, taking my entire top off! I emerged from the water and it took me a few seconds to realize what had happened. The only one to see was a random nearby swimmer, a dad type middle aged guy who clearly got a full frontal, realized I was way way underage, and immediately got a horrified look on his face and turned his entire body around in the water. I was mortified and ducked under the water to put my top back on. Somehow my friend missed the whole thing.

      1. Her anonymous friend*

        Remember the 1980s fad for women’s tops with a very few very large buttons? They didn’t always perform well. A friend’s shirt came completely open on a rare visit to the manufacturing shop floor. She had no clue until she got to the machinery waiting for next round QA tests.
        “They were so friendly and I was so happy they were welcoming me back!”

    2. WantonSeedStitch*

      OMG. I once was wearing a skirt with a side zipper at work that was getting really old. It was kind of hippie-ish–think tiered corduroy, rather than a pencil skirt of suiting-type material–but that was reasonable for my office. I went to the bathroom at one point and went to pull up my zipper after I finished up…and the zipper tab just kept going, coming up off the zipper entirely. The zipper proceeded to split. I could not get the tab back on to repair it. Well, I couldn’t walk around all day with my skirt falling down! I didn’t think of a stapler, but I did have my knitting bag with me to occupy myself during my train commute. I used a darning needle and a length of thin yarn to sew my zipper closed. It was a very colorful sock yarn against a plain black skirt, but the hem of my top JUST managed to cover it up! It lasted the rest of that day (though further bathroom trips necessitated lifting the whole skirt up rather than undoing it), and I was never happier to be a knitter than on that day!

    3. ecnaseener*

      That is a mortifying story, but your typo of setting it in the 200’s was very entertaining. I pictured the whole thing happening in ancient times.

      1. MimiO*

        Good catch ecnaseener!

        In the early 200s, when I was in my early 30s, I worked as a serving wench to a very senior Visigoth official (apologies if my historical reference is wonky!)

    1. TPS reporter*

      seriously- it’s more traumatizing to relive the pain of a period. Get over yourselves Dudes!

      1. Karo*

        I mean, they are the same men who “constantly told dirty jokes” so I wouldn’t be surprised to find out they’re the same ones who refuse to buy tampons for loved ones/plug their ears if someone mentions periods.

        1. Mental Lentil*

          This always bugs me. Tampons are a health product. Just throw the box in the damn cart and get over yourself and on with life.

          1. kitryan*

            My dad did/does all the grocery shopping in the family and my sister and I loved going w/him. Menstrual supplies didn’t bother him at all. We’d go down the health and beauty isle and it’d be – ‘need any shampoo?’, ‘need any toothpaste’, ‘need any pads or anything?’, and whatever you said yes to, he’d say, ‘go grab it and toss it in the cart’- same volume, no issue. If he was going on his own and you asked him to pick something up for you, no problem there either, just write down the kind you want. He’s not perfect but he’s set a high bar in many respects.

      2. Anonny*

        At least she didn’t have to bring out the big guns, like the vaginal tearing during birth.

        Hearing about that was definitely horrifying. I’m gonna stick to baby goats, thanks…

        1. Redd*

          I don’t normally give the gory details of my labor and delivery experience, but my brother-in-law’s 18 year old girlfriend keeps telling him they need to have a baby. I told her everything.

          She’s decided they can wait a while.

          1. Anonny*

            I mean, I am of the opinion people who are thinking of having children – especially the ones who will be getting pregnant, but to be fair, everyone involved* – needs to know about this.

            Maybe not on a mass Zoom call.

            *Any decent partner would want to know that their co-parent is very likely going to be sitting with an absorbant pad and generally recovering for at least a week, even with an ‘easy’ birth, I think.

    2. Insert Clever Name Here*

      I think that was #8’s point…there were men who told nasty jokes and now they’re traumatized by the natural workings of a woman’s body. Sweet, sweet, justice!

    3. Nanani*

      Right?? I kinda wonder if the overshare was an intentional revenge at some of these dudes for their “”jokes””

    4. Berkeleyfarm*

      Back when I was younger I was on the periphery of a Usenet group that specialized in tasteless/gross stories/anecdotes. I wasn’t a subscriber, but a lot of my friends were active in it.

      The guys got really grossed and weirded out when the women started swapping childbirth/menstruation stories. (Whereas the other women were not at all surprised/weirded out to hear.)

      That would be really bad news on a conference call though.

  15. Zoom Boom*

    A few months ago, still during covid, my grand boss was having a remote meeting with me and I heard strange noises from his side. It went on, paused, and on again. It was loud and distracting and I asked him if he could hear the noise and should we try to disconnect / reconnect but he ignored me. I finally realized he must be farting, and maybe the microphone was positioned in such a way that it amplified it somehow? But just so many times… He must have assumed I couldn’t hear it? I started to get really embarrassed for him, because I was probably not the only person he did this with.

    Come to think of it, I also had a direct report who was very oblivious how his camera was turned. Once it was turned directly at his crotch and he just wouldn’t move it, so after a few minutes I had to politely ask him to reposition the camera (I am sure he wasn’t doing this on purpose, he was just careless). How do people not notice this stuff.

    1. WantonSeedStitch*

      Re: the camera, there is a setting on Zoom that allows you to hide your own image. I know some people who do that because they dislike seeing themselves on screen and find it distracting. But if you’re going to do that, you should at least check to make sure things are properly positioned first.

      1. Koalafied*

        I’m pretty sure one of the circles of Hell involves being forced to watch yourself on camera all the time.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          This! And other people! I don’t look that deeply into the eyes of people I love on a regular basis. I sure as heck don’t enjoy it with coworkers.

  16. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    I actually have a story that #6 reminded me of. But in my defense, I felt bad the moment the words came out of my mouth. I was also 23. My first job was in Russia, where it was customary (at least back then) for a workplace to put on entertainment for the employees’ kids around New Year. Specifically two people would dress up as Father Frost and the Snow Maiden, and go to employees’ homes bearing gifts for the kids. Someone suggested me and a guy from another team, who was standing right there. Father Frost is supposed to be an older, big, tall man with a beard, like Santa. The Snow Maiden is his granddaughter, and is supposed to be young and slim and tiny compared to Father Frost. I was a whole head taller than the guy they’d suggested as my partner though. I blurted out something like “people will talk about this for years” and the guy immediately said he wasn’t going to do it. I felt awful. But in reality he and I would really have made a horrible Father Frost/Snow Maiden pair, and it was a small town and people did talk.

  17. Anon for this*

    This is not my mortifying moment, but: several years ago, I was on a trip with an executive at my company. At dinner one night, the executive was telling us about some interesting moments they’d had in previous jobs at the company (and this was not a case of the boring, over-important exec droning on and on while we all slowly died inside — the stories were legitimately interesting). Many years prior, there had been an incident at one of the company’s facilities that tragically caused the death of several employees — the executive we were with was at the time in HR at the facility. As they’re trying to deal with all the things that one has to deal with after a tragic accident, the executive decides they will set up a 1-800 number that any employee or impacted family member can call to receive information on benefits, assistance finding counseling, etc. This is the early days of that type of thing, and they print up posters with the number, post information all over the facility, mail information to people’s homes.

    Two days later, someone in the executive’s office calls the number on the poster and discovers two numbers had been transposed.

    It was a phone sex line.

    1. ecnaseener*

      Ohhhhhhh my god…”Our deepest sympathies for your loss, we’ve set up this number you can call for help in these trying times…” horrifying but so, so funny.

  18. A Simple Narwhal*

    #7 was mine! I still laugh when I think about the firefighter carrying the smoldering microwave through a crowd of hotel guests.

  19. BlueWolf*

    I experienced an incident sort of similar to #8. I was on a supplier call for a client demoing their new invoicing system (so it was a bunch of people from different companies who didn’t know each other). We’re in the middle of the demo and all of a sudden a woman is on the call and she is sobbing and speaking in Spanish. It was a bit hard to understand with the crying, but I understand enough Spanish that it sounded like she was praying or something. She was clearly in distress like maybe she had just received some bad news or something. She also clearly was not listening to or aware of the call because the host kept asking people to mute and then eventually specifically calling her by name. Still no response. The host couldn’t figure out how to mute everyone, so we ended up having to end the call and they had to send a new invite. Fortunately, the woman was not on the new call. I still have no idea if she was supposed to be on the call or what the deal was, but it was super awkward.

  20. Rara Avis*

    #7 made me think of my very first job experience. I had moved 3000 miles across the US to take a job at a boarding school. A college friend drove with me. The morning after we arrived, we set out to make French toast in a communal kitchen. The smoke detector was directly over the stove; putting the first piece of bread in the pan sent up a cloud of steam that triggered the smoke detector. So that’s how I met all my new colleagues! (We didn’t even burn the toast.)

    1. Cheerfully Polite Grey Rock*

      I feel like having the smoke detector directly over the stove is exceptionally poor design. Did you at least get to enjoy the french toast?

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Poor but common. When I bought our home, literally the only smoke detector in the entire home was directly above the oven… so the previous owner just disconnected it.

    2. Daisy Avalin*

      The upstairs smoke detector in the last house we were in was directly outside the bathroom door, and every time I had a shower and opened the bathroom door to leave… the shower steam set the smoke detector off. Thankfully, the battery died about three months after we moved in, and we decided not to bother putting a new one in.
      We did make sure that the downstairs smoke detector and the CO detector always had good batteries in, though, because of not having the upstairs one working.

  21. Bartimaeus*

    The microwave story reminded me of something that happened at my workplace.

    Jim (name changed to protect the guilty) had brought cup noodles for lunch, so he decided to boil them in the microwave. Unfortunately, he forgot to add the water first.
    No fire, but there was a huge plume of smoke that reached to the ceiling! We had to air out the area with fans – and the microwave had to be replaced, because it smelled like smoke thereafter.
    On the new microwave, someone posted a sign, with a picture of the charred contents of the cup and the words ‘NO DRY NOODLES’.

    Oh, and Jim is our safety officer.

    1. Environmental Compliance*

      The number of times I have witnessed Safety doing something incredibly ironic/dumb….

      Our safety officer at one plant is not allowed to have blades of any kind. We were testing box cutters – the ‘safe’ kind – to see what we could reissue to our shipping department. I left for literally thirty seconds to grab something from my office next door. I walked back into their office and they had managed to cut themselves and was bleeding profusely from their thumb. We could not replicate how they managed this.

      Another safety officer was demoing a lift-assist skeleton and stated they had found a design flaw to show us. Sure, cool, let’s see. So they put it on, pretend to pick up an invisible box, and the skeleton locks to provide support. Problem being now it’s locked and you can’t set the box down. So yes, they ran around the office like a demented t-rex with their arms stuck in a ‘I’m holding a box’ position for at least 5 minutes because we were all laughing too hard.

      HSE is a party, y’all. And it’s the H&S staff that find the most ridiculous way to injure themselves.

      1. Pam*

        My favorite was the time our safety officer stood on a chair to change a lightbulb. An office chair- with WHEELS. (A stepladder was about 10 feet away)

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          We won’t discuss the time Safety caught me putting fairy lights up in my office walking/crawling on top of file cabinets / my desk / another table.

          (Apparently I can’t use the excuse that I’m only the E of HSE.)

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          Sadly someone took away the lift assist skeleton. It was a sad day when we figured that out.

      2. Rainy Day*

        No kiddin’, the team I work in joined forces with HSE earliet this year and they are a *riot*.
        Our security person told us, in detail, how to break into a car if we needed to. It was absolutely hilarious.

  22. anonx*

    Just got some hard news about my (military) SO and this is what I need to distract me/stop from crying. Thanks for bringing me joy through your misfortunes at work. :)

    1. Enter_the_Dragonfly*

      I’m so sorry. I don’t want to pry, but know that I’m hoping everything is going as well as possible .

  23. Hiding Under My Desk*

    About a month into a new job, I decided to participate in the company-wide blood drive. Made my donation, sat around for a few minutes enjoying the free juice and cookies, and headed back into the office building. I felt fine until the elevator started up, and my innards did not—at least that’s how it felt. I passed out somewhere between floors 1 and 3, then came to on the floor of another department with my feet propped up on a chair and the head of HR explaining that I needed to stay put until the paramedics arrived—I’d hit my head when I went down in the elevator. So yeah, my introduction to this particular department involved laying on their floor for half the morning while several coworkers came down to find out what happened to me and the paramedics verified that I hadn’t done any serious damage. After that, I was on HR’s list of employees banned from the blood drive.

  24. CW*

    #8 – I did something similar, but not during a town hall meeting. It was a three-person meeting with my boss and the CEO. This was in early 2020 before virtual meeting became the norm for obvious reasons. At the beginning of the meeting, my computer started to misbehave. My boss had already joined, and since nobody was around in the office at that moment, I started getting frustrated, whispering thing under gritted teeth, including curse words, while I was trying to get my computer to stop acting weird. This went on for about a minute before my boss politely asked me to mute because there “were too many sounds”. I was mortified, I forgot to mute myself and I said curse words in the process. Luckily, the CEO wasn’t on or else it would have been worse.

    I kept my cool for the entire meeting but I was so mortified and embarrassed that my boss heard my whispers. After the meeting ended, I sent him an apology on Google Chat. Luckily, my boss, who is really easygoing, thought nothing about it and understood that not everything would run smoothly. We both quickly moved on from that. And no, I didn’t get in trouble and I am still happily employed here.

    But that was a lesson for me. Double check if I am on mute – which was a great lesson after what we had to go through in the past year and a half. I hadn’t had any incidents like this since, thankfully. And yes, I have learned to keep my mouth shut, even if things get frustrating.

  25. eons*

    #7 – Weeeeeeell, I guess they don’t teach how to operate a toaster oven in BUSINESS SCHOOL! NUMBER 7 STARTED THE FIIIIREEEE, IT WAS ALWAYS BURNING SINCE THE WORLD’S BEEN TURNING *dancing and pointing* LOL

  26. Moths*

    I posted this in the comments a while ago, but my mortification story is one that didn’t really hit me until I learned office norms.

    Just out of high school, I accepted a position at a real estate office doing their filing. It just wasn’t a great fit for me — I was bored to tears within a couple of hours each day — and after a few days, I could tell that I probably shouldn’t have taken the job. I had an interview at another company and ended up getting an offer, which I accepted on the spot, starting in a couple of days. This was still after I had been at the first job for less than a week and while I hated the position, I didn’t want to burn a bridge. So I did what I thought would be the greatest kindness — the next day, I showed up at work and brought one of my good friends with me who I knew would enjoy the position more! I didn’t bring them as a potential interviewee, I presented it to my boss as, “I’ve accepted another job, but to not put you out, I’ve found my own replacement as well!” I don’t think my manager knew what to do, so let her stay and shadow me all day. It ended up kind of working out as they did officially hire her, but I still look back and am blown away by my own gumption. I can’t imagine showing up at my current job with a random person that no one has ever met and declaring them to be my replacement!

    1. Wisteria*

      Re: Finding your own replacement before leaving

      My first professional job in industry (outside of academia, that is) was a graduate internship that was 20 hrs/week for over a year. So, it was basically almost a real job, except that it had an end date when I graduated. My boss told me that I couldn’t leave until I found my replacement. A combination of my extremely literal autistic brain and inexperience caused me to take him at his word.

      We did find someone in the usual way, posting a job and interviewing people, but I was stressed wondering what would happen if we didn’t find anyone.

  27. Retired Lady*

    I worked in the corporate office of a department store, back in the days when they were usually in a downtown area and the buildings were many floors tall. Eventually the store itself was only the two lowest floors, then three floors of office above it, and three floors were converted to apartments.
    Well every time a resident accidentally set off the smoke alarm in their apartment, or some little kid discovered the fire alarm on the wall while mom was busy shopping and not paying attention to them, the fire department was called and the entire building evacuated. Once the fire department was notified it couldn’t be reversed with a quick phone call. Imagine 600 employees and any customers filing out of the building and waiting across the street for permission to go back in! (Added bonus, we couldn’t use the elevators in case it was a real fire, we had to go down five flights of rickety old wooden stairs.)

  28. Super Anon*

    Years ago, as a new employee, I was working in a foreign country with international colleagues for a couple weeks. At the close-out dinner, everyone was chatting, except me, the lone, introverted woman in a male-dominated field. A Swedish colleague was discussing how their national animal, Caribou, was a pest and therefore hunted as food. Two Americans counter with the fact that their national animal, the Bald Eagle, is a protected species thus not hunted or eaten. Wanting to participate in the conversation, but not too aware of certain types of slang, I, as a Canadian, added, “We don’t eat our national animal either – Beaver.” Everyone stopped cold. The Swedish guy looked at me with a certain glint in his eye, and said, “Well, maybe YOU don’t!” All the other men were laughing hysterically, and one said, “I can’t believe you just said that!” Thank goodness for dark rooms, I was blushing so hard and wanted to die. Definitely my most embarrassing moment in the workplace. Double that when several months later my Canadian colleagues heard about it on a European training trip from one of the people present at the dinner. I could have died. Easy to laugh at now, but at the time, just the worst.

    1. MortifiedIntern*

      I had a similar experience at my first internship! I was working with medically fragile children and a child asked me why adults don’t play with toys. Without thinking, I said that they do but they’re different kinds (I was thinking of cars and boats and the like). My older, male coworker burst out laughing with an entirely different connotation and called me “toy girl” the rest of the internship.

  29. EvilQueenRegina*

    We recently had a directorate wide Teams conference call regarding a serious court judgement, and at the start while people were starting to join, someone was heard to say “My arse!” This one guy thought he was private messaging his friend to ask “@So and so, did someone just say my arse?” – yes, of course it went to the entire group. Senior management didn’t acknowledge it at the time, but someone else replied all saying “V is the culprit “.

  30. JustKnope*

    My function has started having town halls on Teams and the amount of people who don’t mute (18 fricken months into this pandemic!) is wild. My favorite from the last event is a woman who yelled, loudly, “are you guys still serving breakfast burritos???” … presumably having just unmuted herself right before ordering in the drive through! Even at today’s event I assigned myself the job of muting anyone who shouldn’t be unmuted. I felt like I was playing whack-a-mole with how many peoples mics I had to turn off the entire session!!

  31. Persephone Mongoose*

    Back when I worked in sales I had a client that had made numerous visits over multiple weeks to look at and test the products repeatedly as she was worried about making the wrong choices. When she called to place the order, she expressed concern and said that she really hoped she was doing the right thing. I, of course, wanted to reassure her that she was making a well informed decision and had not rushed the process.

    What actually came out of my mouth was an earnest “Well, you’ve *certainly* taken your time deciding!”

    My boss was within earshot and spun around to stare at me incredulously. I’d realised my mistake instantly and fell over myself trying to recover from this gaffe and blurted out “I meant that in the nicest possible way!” in a rather panicked tone. There was a moment of silence before the client responded “…quite.” and then, to my relief, she did still go ahead and complete the order with me. I facepalmed so hard afterwards for nearly blowing the sale spectacularly after weeks of work, right in front of my boss, and got some good natured teasing about it too.

  32. Phoenix*

    I was #7 and was just as mortified. I put a slice of toast into the toaster oven, then went back to my office and lost track of time. There was no fire, but it created enough smoke to set off the fire alarm, causing the entire building to be evacuated. That also resulted in the toaster oven being banned from the office kitchen, which made one particularly prickly coworker very unhappy with me.

    1. SarahKay*

      Console yourself that it could have been worse. I once asked our HSE leader if we could have a toaster in the break room. She said that she wasn’t willing to approve it, after an incident at her previous company where someone had burnt the toast so badly the entire building had had to evacuate – including the team of senior (including one VP) HSE specialists that were visiting that day!

  33. Anonymous Badger*

    I was working in a research lab in Brazil through a sort of exchange program. My Portuguese was definitely not great, but I could somewhat get by. One day at lunch a coworker commented that she wasn’t eating beans (a staple in the cafeteria, and I guess Brazil in general) in order to lose weight. I had just learned a new word for “bean” and thought I should put it to use, so I said “Oh, I thought all Brazilians eat beans” and the women I was sitting with exploded into semi-horrified laughter. Apparently I had said “Oh, I thought all Brazilians eat [crude word for male genitals]”.

    1. LemonLime*

      I’m sorry but that made me laugh out loud! I can just imagine that gut reaction laughter your coworker felt!
      We had a non-native English speaking coworker. She had read an article where a guy had been jumped by some thugs and wasn’t clear on what jumped meant. A group of us tried to explain it was like they mobbed him, messed with him, hit him… etc. Not doing a great job but she got the gist. Or so we thought.
      Until a few days later she came back wanting to know how she had used the word wrong. Apparently her (English speaking husband) was in the kitchen while she was cooking, teasing her and being a nuisance and she told him. “If you don’t get out of this kitchen, I’m going to jump you!” Which got an entirely different reaction from her husband.
      We gut laughed even as she stared at us dumbfounded….

  34. Anonymousse*

    A tractor trailer truck ran into part of our building and on the news my manager jumped behind an anchorperson and yelled “Baba booey!”

  35. Penny Parker*

    As for #1: This reminded me of back in 2007 when my partner ‘s dept head disappeared and was not seen at work for a while. Eventually, the news traveled that he was away from the office due to a death in his family. At this same time, my step-son (my ex-wife’s son, not my current partner’s son) ended up in jail due to a fight. He called us and was telling us about his roommate in his jail cell. Turned out that was my partner’s dept head. We all got a good laugh and my partner said, “I’m not telling *anyone* at work.” And, he never did; it was only our family’s info.

  36. Mami21*

    When I was working at my first ‘real’ job as a receptionist/general assistant, I developed a friendly bond with an older male manager who I assisted often, kind of a fatherly mentor figure. He was very kindly and we got along great.
    It was my 21st birthday and the other staff were all giving me hugs and gifts throughout the day. Manager guy stopped by my desk to give me a card and offer his best wishes. He went to peck my cheek just as I ducked my head, and got the back of my neck instead. I looked up to see the dawning look of horror on his face when he realised he’d just kissed his young co-worker’s neck! I knew he meant nothing inappropriate and just laughed it off but I’ll always remember the horrified oh-shit-what-have-I-done look when he realised how bad it might sound out of context.

  37. Bowserkitty*

    #4 reminds me of one I had happen here well over a year ago, before the pandemic. This conversation was all in Japanese.

    We were trying to figure out where to have a small work dinner at and my Boss at the time (a friend/colleague, not really boss level but he was the one who gave me most of my work) asked what I would want to eat and I said sushi. He asked if I was fine with raw fish, which in Japanese meant he asked if I am fine with “nama” – which just means raw, basically, but it can also mean unprotected intercourse. I enthusiastically replied back that I LOVE nama!!!!!

    and within a split second realized what I had said and brought my hands up to my mouth as I gasped loudly. My best friend (and coworker) to the left of me started sniggering. Somehow, Boss had completely airheaded on the double meaning and it went over his head but I’ve never forgotten.

  38. The Two Way Radio*

    I worked for a music festival that held performances across the city, and staff primarily communicated with each other with two-way radios. These radios had a “push-to-talk” feature – you could hold down on a button near the microphone to broadcast to the main channel (which we all used by default). Importantly, you literally cannot interrupt someone while they’re broadcasting – the technology doesn’t allow it.

    Many of us pinned our microphones to our collars/lanyards. But it was annoying to have a thick microphone cord dangling in front of your torso, and some people would occasionally pin their microphone to the radio antenna, near their waist.

    Two employees were at a remote location. Person #1 had silenced their radio (which wasn’t uncommon – it was headache inducing to hear about every problem), and person #2 had their microphone pinned near their waist. They decided to recline on a couch, and person #2 had accidentally pressed the microphone button against the couch.

    Well, they decided to trash talk some of their colleagues, WHILE ACCIDENTALLY BROADCASTING TO EVERYONE. I missed the whole event (I was using the bathroom) and returned to find that my office mate in absolute shock. (It was the most vivid example of “jaw on the floor” that I’ve ever seen). She filled me in, and I gathered that the conversation lasted a couple of minutes before someone successfully reached them (I bet they each has tons of missed calls).

    It ultimately ended well. People were surprisingly forgiving, and the festival was so fast-paced that we all quickly moved on.

    1. NotRealAnonForThis*

      Two way radio story part ii

      Had a boss who was a functioning alcoholic and womanizer who frequented male entertainment bars. (I was not old enough to know better when I took this job, didn’t really see it as red flags flashing. And my age at the time does feature in the story.)

      My two way radio was almost the same as his corporate-partner-in-crime, just the last two digits were flipped.

      I’m attempting to lead a project meeting, which is difficult enough as I look about twelve and am a woman in a very male dominated industry. My two-way blares. Its boss. He’s belligerently yelling at corporate-partner-in-crime to, and I quote, “get your sorry @$$ to the t!t bar dude, they’ve got a new girl and she is HAWWWT”. Mercifully, one of our senior field superintendents grabbed my two way and brusquely said “Not corporate-partner-in-crime”. (Functional drunk boss would have likely made my life a living heck, if not fired me, for saying it. Because he was that irrational and couldn’t deal with a reasonably smart woman.)

  39. HailRobonia*

    Why, oh why, do microwaves allow for anything longer than 10 minutes! I never nuke anything more than 5 minutes anyways. There could be an override to allow longer times or something. And don’t even get me started on all the useless buttons… popcorn… reheat…defrost…ham.

    1. Mental Lentil*


      Every microwave: “Here’s a convenient button for making popcorn!”

      Every bag of microwave popcorn: “Do NOT use the popcorn button!”


  40. lex talionis*

    Re #8 Town Hall
    Small biotech, we were trying to submit to FDA with a VERY tight timeline. Our boss scheduled 30 minute meetings first thing every day for all members. Always reminded people to mute. Inevitably, on occasion, there would be the sound of a toilet flushing. What did not always follow was the sound of hand washing….and there people were all medical professionals.

  41. Miss Curmudgeonly*

    “The building supervisor took a screenshot of my dad’s face stuffed with pizza and people made all kinds of work-related memes with it.”

    I can’t stop snorting at this. Just when I think the internet is a hopeless cesspool, something like this is so funny and delightful that I change my mind. For a while.

  42. Turtlewings*

    Pizza thief dad should be shamed within the full extent of the social contract. I cannot freaking stand food thieves!!

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