Mortification Week: the terrible interview answer, the velvet bra, and more

It’s Mortification Week at AAM and all week long we’ll be revisiting ways we’ve mortified ourselves at work (pulling comments and letters from the archives). Here are 15 mortifying stories to kick off today.

1. Wrong answer

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

I did mention that I had gone out for my birthday the night before and rambled about how great my party was.
I was not hired. My placement agency stopped returning my calls and I do believe that the other agencies in town also had me on their do-not-deal-with list.
I burned a lot of bridges that day.”

2. The cup

“Imagine me … young, mid-20’s year old female, having a good day … just cheerfully walking down the hallway at work and swinging my arms a bit (I don’t remember why, but clearly I was having a good day!). My older male supervisor is walking towards me. Unfortunately my swinging, cupped hands happened to intersect with his body at the exact moment and I ended up CUPPING HIS GENITALS! I honestly think I couldn’t have done that if I was trying, but yep.. I managed to do it. He kept walking, I stopped with a look of horror on my face and he just said ‘no no’ and kept going. Yes, I now keep my hands close to my body at all times!”

3. The weakness

“In my very first interview for a post-college job, I somehow managed answer ‘what’s your biggest weakness’ with ‘I have trouble following directions.'”

4. The ganja

“I was 23 or 24, had just started my first grown-up job, working as a sales coordinator for a real estate developer at a new condo building that was under construction–this was maybe my third day of work. We were getting ready to open our sales centre and the director of marketing had traveled over from the head office in the big city nearby to help us set up. We needed to buy some light fixtures, so he invited me to go for a walk to a couple of fancy furniture stores near our office to see if we could find something.

As we’re walking down the street, this girl I didn’t recognize said, ‘Hey, Steph!’ The marketing director and I were both dressed fairly casually as we were expected to do some physical work that day and the office wasn’t open, which is to say that it wasn’t immediately obvious that I was working, she may have thought he was my partner, or something. I said, ‘Hey, how’s it going?’ while scouring my memory trying to figure out who she was and also how I would curb the interaction so we could move on with our work stuff. She’s like, ‘Good, it’s been awhile! We have to get together with Anna sometime and smoke some ganj, get fucked up!’ and she does the smoking-a-joint hand motion with her fingers to her lips. I realized that she was very briefly roommates (like maybe for three months and mostly slept at her boyfriend’s house) with my best friend Anna. I didn’t recognize her because she wasn’t wearing makeup/had her hair pulled back when we ran into her but had always had a full face/hair done when I saw her before. We had in fact smoked weed together ONE time, and Anna was the manager of a local real estate office that was working with us so was a professional contact of the marketing director as well (I wasn’t sure if he knew we were friends at that point). I just kind of panicked and said, ‘Yeah, long time no see, you should totally give Anna a call!’ and tried to make it obvious that we had to keep moving, but she goes, ‘I totally will, we can get suuuuuper baked!’ AND DOES THE SMOKING A JOINT MOTION AGAIN.

I was EXTREMELY embarrassed, I barely even knew this girl, and never heard from her or saw her again after that. The marketing director didn’t say anything until a couple of hours later when he was kind enough to say, ‘Just so you know, I consider smoking weed akin to a glass of wine after work, it’s totally not a big deal.’ So, lucky me that everyone was so chill about it, we laughed about it later once I knew him better, but I wanted to DIE.”

5. The young adult

“I was getting my master’s, fresh out of getting my bachelor’s degree. I was the youngest in my cohort at 21, and still lived with my parents. My professor was saying something about how were adults and independent, we pay our own bills, etc. and for SOME REASON I found it important to inform him that, actually, no I did not pay my own bills, and that I still very much considered myself a young adult. He just laughed and said, ‘I’ve never had someone disagree with me that they’re not an adult.’ What possessed me to do that? I still cringe.”

6. Missed message

“One of my biggest cringes from early career days is when someone was demoted from a people manager position but I was completely clueless about the way staff announcements about firings, demotions and position changes are made, or how to read between the lines on corporate memos. I can’t remember if the staff memo was in the style of ‘departmental reorg, oh by the way Jane will be doing this other thing now’ or if it was ‘Jane is moving to this exciting (but clearly lower level) position, we’ll have more on that job they used to do later’ but either way, I was totally clueless about what was really going on.

Later that day I was in the lunchroom for a coffee break and the person in question showed up too, so I decide to get chatty and ask all kinds of questions, like didn’t they like their old job any longer and what made them excited about the new thing? It sounds so interesting! (Meanwhile Jane had to smile and nod when she presumably wanted to be alone for a few minutes) Shudder.”

7. Muscle relief

“I was TA-ing for my department and one of my tasks was making the chemical solutions for various classes. A big component of the Organic Chemistry labs was synthesis for pharmacology studies (it was the ’90s, pretty much as soon as you matriculated with some kind of Organic Chemistry graduate degree, you got a job in pharma), and the chemistry closets were chock full of USP grade starting materials and reagents. So what I did was relatively tame, all things considered, but still embarrassing.

For some reason, the department decided that all us geeky, pasty nerds needed more exercise and demanded that everyone enroll in some kind of fitness classes on top of our regular curriculum. The only one that fit my schedule that semester was weight lifting. I was a scrawny little thing and lifting weights 3x weekly resulted in some serious muscle strain as the class was taught by the hockey coach. I had to go to work directly after weight lifting and could barely move my arms without pain.

But, aha! The active components in muscle rubs are menthol (from peppermint!) and eugenol (from cloves!), which we had in abundance in the chemistry stock room. And I knew these things were soluble only in organic solvent or ethanol – and we had loads of neat dry pure non-denatured ethanol in the stockroom, too, and I had the key! (Universities lock up their pure ethanol stocks religiously and only give keys to workers who are not thought to be as stupid as me, evidently.) I poured myself out about 30 mL of neat ethanol and spooned in about 1/4 tsp each of menthol and eugenol, stirred it up and wetted a paper towel with the resulting solution, then rubbed the wet paper towel all over my aching shoulders, arms and chest.

At first, it worked beautifully and a cool numbness spread over my knotted muscles. Ah. blessed relief.

15 minutes later my entire upper torso was absolutely numb and my arms were putty. I could barely hold myself upright. I sat down in the student lounge, thinking I’d just rest a few minutes and wait to get acclimated to the numbness before going back to work.

3 hours later I was blushing furiously and asking my Anatomy & Physiology professor for help because I still couldn’t feel my entire torso or arms. When she was done laughing, she back-calculated the approximate overdose and said I should give it another few hours before going to the ER, though she wasn’t sure what the ER would realistically do. By the 6.5 hour mark, I could at least feel my stomach again, and it wore off completely overnight.

And that is why 1) herbs and Natural Products aren’t harmless 2) self-medication is not the best idea ever. On the plus side, I went on to a long career in pharma, so…”

8. Doggystyle

“I was teaching an LSAT class, and one of the examples in the textbook was about Snoop Dogg’s ‘Doggystyle.’ It was the first class of a 2-month course, and I was trying to add in some light banter to get everyone more comfortable. I intended to communicate that I was not familiar with that classic Snoop Dogg jam… instead, what came out of my mouth was, ‘I don’t even know what ‘Doggystyle’ IS!'”

9. The cat

“I have a very obnoxious cat. She was very interested in my conference call, trying to climb on my laptop, meowing into my (muted) headset, and generally being an annoyingly lovable cat. My boss sends me an IM: ‘What do you think of this training?’ My cat chose this moment to walk across my keyboard – most specifically on the P, O, and Enter keys. She sent the word POOP to my boss, and stepped on the Wi-Fi off button, immediately disconnecting me. I wanted to cry. Thankfully my boss had a great sense of humor, and more importantly, we both agreed with my cat’s assessment of the training.”

10. The velvet bra

“I was about 25 and in a meeting with two very senior people: my boss, the VP, and the CEO of the company. My boss and I were sitting in chairs in the CEO’s office facing his desk. I was explaining something and didn’t really notice, until later, that the CEO was hunched over his desk staring down at the spreadsheet I had prepared. My boss started talking and looked at me and his eyes grew wide and he looked down and then back up and kept talking. I was like ‘that was weird’ and so I looked down and my v-neck shirt, which would normally be completely appropriate had gotten stuck on my fuzzy bra and a whole boob was sticking out of my shirt. Luckily, I was wearing a sweater I could pull around without having to adjust my shirt. That made me realize why the CEO wasn’t looking at me. I never wore the velvet bra to work again.”

11. Stall invader

“A few months ago, I had an unexplained incident in the bathroom at work in which I passed out and fell under the divider and INTO THE STALL of the woman next to me, who was innocently doing her business until I came sliding in. I came to to EMS standing over me and everyone in the office crowded around outside the doors to the bathroom to watch me stretchered out. A lot of ‘are you okay to go to the bathroom alone … do you need a buddy?’ jokes followed.”

12. Not my child

“I have four kids and I was a little overtired (one of them was a baby at the time), so I spend a lot of time taking care of small children and being ‘mom.’ This is my only excuse for what follows.

I was talking to a colleague at the end of a meeting, noticed he had schmutz on his cheek, and I LICKED MY THUMB AND WIPED IT OFF HIS CHEEK without even registering what I was doing.

We both jumped back in horror and I apologized profusely. Fortunately he was a pretty good friend (our families hang out socially outside of work) so we were able to laugh about it afterwards, but I wanted to DIE ON THE SPOT.”

13. The tablecloth

“I was working at a job (this was my first job out of college) that had some odd issues about rules–not that the rules were odd, but that you might be yelled at publicly for breaking one (about dress code, etc.). I was getting ready for work at my boyfriend’s house, and realized that I hadn’t remembered to pack work pants/skirt. I only had jeans, which I had worn there the night before. I freaked out, and as I had to be at work at 8:30, no stores would be open … so I wore a tablecloth wrapped as a sarong. I was scared it would fall off, so I had my boyfriend wrap me up really tightly and I just … shuffled around all day.”

14. Whoops

“I spent many years working customer service for a newspaper, and one of my duties was to make service checks on customers starting or restarting their subscription. A short, simple call I’d made hundreds of times: ‘Hi, it’s Scrooge from the Herald. Just calling to make sure you got your paper today. Great, thanks! Have a good day.’

And then one day it happened. My mouth revolted against me, and what came out instead was: ‘Hi, it’s Scrooge from the Herald. Just calling to make sure you got your pooper today.’ There was an interminable 30 second pause, then the poor lady on the other end of the line burst into uncontrolled gales of laughter. She laughed so hard she couldn’t answer my (incredibly mangled) question. I guess it’s good I got a customer with a good sense of humor?”

15. Language barrier

“I speak another language at work and these are some of the things I’ve said accidentally:

‘When I don’t understand, sometimes I just smile and throw my head.’
‘Sophia brought us all little skulls back from vacation.’
‘I’m going to go pee at my desk now.'”

{ 432 comments… read them below }

    1. Eeyore is my spirit animal*

      That was so funny and I know to many chem students that would have done that if they had access to the materials.

      1. quill*

        I was an envisci student and I know that chem students, unsupervised, will do this. I roomed with chemists. I used lab materials to get a sharpie stain out of my shirt on the advice of said chemists. I threw out the shirt when it became obvious that the material had NOT reacted well to the reagent.

        TLDR undergrads shouldn’t have chem closet keys, ever.

            1. quill*

              It looked fine until I washed it, and then the shirt looked like a moth buffet. Apparently solvents and shirts that are high rayon percentage are not good friends.

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          *waves in envsci who worked as a chem TA*

          Yeah, we’re good at shenanigans. The number of times I had to transport fish via Jiffy jar and nearly left it in the library….

          I was the Biology lead assigned to clean out & inventory all the rooms when the building was getting redone, too. The sheer amount of weird crap I found still gives me the giggles (and probably still traumatizes my old advising professor).

          1. quill*

            OMG we had the best fish stories.

            I got a participation pass for part of stream science, since I couldn’t walk well at the time and CERTAINLY not in waders, so I was on shore crew bottling up invasives for transport to our (pushover) professor’s personal office tank.

            Nalgene bottles were big then so, uh… some people had to really sterilize their water bottles after they were temporary homes for round gobies.

      2. anonymous 5*

        In our organic 2 lab course, we have the students synthesize lidocaine. I will very likely trot out #7’s story in class sometime as an example of why the lab is for instructional purposes only: even when you can completely trust the synthesis *and* the purification, self-prepped remedies are not necessarily a wise call!

        1. A Genuine Scientician*

          In one of my organic chem courses, the synthesis problem on one of the exams was phenobarbital. Which can easily be used to synthesize many, um, recreational barbituates.

          I showed the steps of synthesis from the available reagents, and then wrote “Is this to provide an alternate revenue scheme for those who don’t go to medical school?”

          When I got the exam back, there was a “+1” next to my question.

          1. anonymous 5*

            I would have laughed (and probably also given the +1) if I’d seen someone include that with a correct synthesis!

            You would have probably gotten on famously with one of my all-time superstar students: generally quite reserved in class, even with a group that was pretty lively overall. Toward the end of the term I made the offhand comment about certain amines having properties that can make them (ahem) appealing synthetic targets…and superstar immediately got wide-eyed and said, “WHOA, so is this basically how you set up a meth lab??” We all were stunned. I don’t actually remember how I responded, beyond covering my face and laughing.

            1. TardyTardis*

              That leads me to story about one of my husband’s science students; he taught a course that was nicknamed Practically Science and some of the students did fairly (learned how to write lab reports with actual conclusions which put them ahead of some of the regular chemistry students, and so on). One student went missing for some reason, but my husband caught sight of him later on.

              “So, whatcha been doing?”

              “3 to 5 with time off for good behavior”

              “Doing what?”

              “Running a meth lab.”

              “I never taught you how to do that!”

              “I know, but Mr. Tardis, I never blew anything up and I always wore my goggles!”

        2. Where's the Orchestra?*

          LOL – in one of the comments down below I mentioned my dad’s high school revenge on a high school science teacher that hated him for some reason – he “accidentally” made nitrous oxide in the school chemistry lab.

          Later in college – as a double chemistry and engineering major he made the liquid formulation of the filing in “pop-its” and painted in on the door knobs and key holes of all the rival fraternities on campus.

          Yes, never upset the chemists – and also always keep the supplies locked up, they will come up with not happy creations. . .

          1. TardyTardis*

            My husband got his first job because his predecessor accidentally made chlorine gas in the sink trap (he also was a losing football coach, and I leave it as an exercise for the reader which sin was the worst).

      3. KoiFeeder*

        Having heard of what happens when chem students get unsupervised access to liquid nitrogen…

        1. MissCoco*

          My PI once walked into lab meeting a few minutes late and found us having boisterous discussion, including a spreadsheet and some invoices being shared on the TV screen, of course she was excited to hear what problem her students and staff were tackling with such enthusiasm.
          She was both befuddled and impressed when we wrapped up the discussion by announcing to her that our brand new liquid nitrogen Dewar could store *at least* 8000 hot dogs

    2. Free Meerkats*

      As a US Navy Nuclear Machinist Mate, we had bottles of methyl salicylate for dissolving rust when working on equipment. That’s also known as oil of wintergreen and is the active ingredient is many OTC pain ointments and patches, which max out at about 30%. But more is better, right?

      Wrong. So very, very wrong. I escaped chemical burns, others weren’t so fortunate. But it did a bang up job relieving stiff muscles!

      1. Just Another Admin*

        That’s my son’s rate! He’s in Power School now! The real question is…do I warn him before he goes to his first sub? Or do I just laugh knowingly if he ever brings a story home?

        1. Free Meerkats*

          I was on the Enterprise, so I have no knowledge regarding what the subs have available. But if he’s currently at NPS, there’s no way to know if he’ll be surface or sub fleet.

          But you might want to send him this link, could save him some pain in the future.

    3. NotARacoonKeeper*

      I had a similar instance as a food science intern at a small, organic juice company. I was helping to formulate an ‘energy juice shot’ (think: natural 5-hour Energy), so had access to powdered caffeine. Rather than walk the 50 steps to the kitchen and make myself a shot of espresso at our fancy machine, or make some drip coffee, I had the genius idea to dissolve an appropriate dose of caffeine (like 50-100mg) in some of our juice, and down it. BUT, my job was also taste-testing juice all day, so I wanted to ingest the tiniest small amount of juice. I’m still not sure whether I dropped a decimal or it was just that the caffeine was much more concentrated than a usual dose – but my body did. not. handle. it. well. I was anxious and paranoid, used the bathroom every 3 minutes for a while (this meant walking past every other employee each time), and definitely thought I was going to die for a bit (and if not, get fired).
      My lesson: don’t self-medicate when there’s a $5000 Italian machine down the hall.

    4. MassChick*

      Came here just to say that! Loved it! The journey to becoming a good scientist requires surviving your own experiments.

    5. Zelda*

      I have been a lab manager, in charge of, among other things, the paperwork for the alcohol and the safety of my students, and I would have taken a pretty hard line on this. Things in the lab do not go on your body or in your mouth. A TA taking alcohol for personal use without authorization would have been very fired. (I get it that LW was not partying, but it’s still a matter of luck rather than skill that they weren’t seriously injured. I see the humor because it wasn’t my lab, but if it were my lab, all I’d be able to see is the terrible, terrible risk.)

  1. The Original K.*

    I think the accidental genital cupping and the muscle relief are the worst of these, for different reasons. The tablecloth is actually pretty inventive!

      1. Phony Genius*

        I really hope this was one of those red and white checkered ones from a cheap Italian restaurant.

      1. AnotherSarah*

        Hahaha it was a nice tablecloth, dark purple–not bad for a skirt, but just very big and heavy for a sarong….

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      In one of my favorite Stone Soup cartoons, Val is having a rough week and puts a suit jacket over her pajamas (loose check pants, loose shirt) to come to work. When her boss looks askance she doubles down on blaming that young sales clerk at the boutique who told her this was the au courant modern business woman look, and gets away with it.

    1. Amber T*

      I think my cat is an evil genius… he’s the laziest thing ever, but HE KNOWS five minutes before I have to start a zoom meeting or something, because he will wake up, take the stinkiest poop ever (the litter is in my office), and proceed to howl at me because now his litter box is dirty. If I have multiple calls (and even he can’t poop that much), he’ll just sit by my feet and meow incredibly loudly. If I’m on a call with someone new, I’ll apologize if they can hear him, but at this point some of my coworkers ask if my cat has an opinion on the teapot report, or what Bob said in the meeting this morning, and they’ll get a “MEOW” in return. Cats, man. Adorable buttheads.

      1. Clewgarnet*

        My cat likes to sit on my shoulder like a fluffy parrot, and dig her claws in so hard that I can’t remove her. My coworkers are used to her by now.

        1. Damn it, Hardison!*

          Mine likes to drape over my shoulder, butt to the camera, and raise her tail. She’s a bit salty.

      2. Code Monkey, the SQL*

        Mine knows exactly when I’m due to get on a call with my Canadian co-worker, to the point where she (co-worker) has asked if she (cat) would like to emigrate, because Opinions are Voiced when we get on calls together.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        I always enjoy when people’s pets join in calls or on Zoom, so no apologies necessary if you’re talking to me, haha.

        Not work-related, but my meditation group is still doing Zooms and this past weekend a member who is usually there in person logged on briefly, holding a newborn. I had no idea they were expecting—nobody had said a word. I was like, “Do I see Wakeen with A BABY????” Happily, he adjusted the camera so we could all see her. :)

        1. BubbleTea*

          I required an introduction to all the dogs in the vicinity at the Zoom meet-the-midwives event I attended in late pregnancy. A major advantage of doing that remotely! It seems a lot of midwives have dogs.

      4. Rainy*

        Without fail, if I forget to mute in a meeting, my dachshund will be Offended By People Existing and break out into his best belling alarm bark. He’s so loud for something that weighs 14 pounds.

      5. InsufficientlySubordinate*

        Guilty glance over shoulder: Sometimes I “accidentally” take myself off mute if the cat is yelling at me to let him into the office if the meeting is running long. Then I say, Oh, I think it’s time to feed the cats, listen to him! (Readers: It is not time to feed the cats.)

    2. Oryx*

      Early in the pandemic I was in a Zoom call with a bunch of coworkers and turned my camera off for a brief second to say goodbye to my husband, who was leaving for work. I stepped away from my desk and in the meantime, my one cat hopped up on my desk and managed to step on the keys in a way to turn my camera back on.

      I came back to my desk with chat messages like “Did Oryx turn into a cat?”

      1. Jackalope*

        I was playing a Zoom RPG in which my character was a shapeshifter. One evening I got up to go take care of something during the game, and when I came back into the room my cat had taken my spot and was sitting right in front of the camera (the “takes up the entire screen” sort of shot). Everyone else said they’d just figured I was finally successful with shapeshifting in real life too.

      2. Splendid Colors*

        That reminds me of an episode of ST:Discovery last season… a character’s ship returned, apparently commanded by the ship’s cat, Grudge. The ship was on autopilot to return if he didn’t get back by a certain time. OF COURSE Grudge stepped on the comm button and was staring into the camera when the ship returned.

    3. MechanicalPencil*

      I’ve had cats randomly mute/unmute me mid-conversation. Also had one send an email with a bunch of gibberish to a boss to levels above me. I hope at this point it’s known that, you know, cats. I also hope I’ve gotten much faster at turning off my keyboard when they’re on my desk, but I can’t account for everything.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      My cat figured out how to mark all emails from my boss as spam. To this day I don’t know how. (Eventually I had to make him a vip so they would show up.)

    5. SheLooksFamiliar*

      I love cats more than I love some people. I love their independence, their beauty, and their ability to wreak havoc yet look innocent. Or unconcerned. Potayto, potahto.

      We always had them when I was a kid but now I’m terribly allergic. And OP 9’s cat is the kind of cat I would try to adopt if I could.

      1. Jenny Standy*

        One of my cats exploits the fact that I’m trapped for hours in front of the laptop while WFH, so he jumps on my lap at the beginning of my work day ( I swear Stripe has memorized my working hours!) and takes advantage of the fact that my hands are mostly free, so obviously I have to pet him. He also has opinions and seems to know the perfect timing for a long, yodelling meow. My co-workers either love my cats or are very good at pretending to love my cats, because everybody pauses to say “hello” to them. And inquire about their day, their fluffiness level and their opinion on our work.

        Obviously, I haven’t told my co-workers I definitely like their their pets (someone has a hedgehog!!) and their kids more than them. :)

    6. Miss Betty*

      I used to know someone whose cat walked over her keyboard as she was reviewing her business taxes and filed them for her. I think it worked out ok….

      1. Splendid Colors*

        A friend of mine had typed a long essay on something or other (I don’t think it was work) and came back from the loo to find his cat CONFIRMING he wanted to delete it. Gone forever.

    7. PT*

      My cat’s favorite button on the computer is Airplane Mode. No matter what angle she hits the keyboard from, she always gets airplane mode.

      Thankfully she’s been busted before she’s sent most of her IMs and emails to coworkers, and the rest of the time, people think she is funny, so she gets away with it.

    8. Uranus Wars*

      My cat likes to play fetch with one of her favorite stuffed animals, which is a bright pink flamingo. Sometimes when I am on a long call she will toss it up in the air next to me over and over until I toss it a few times. Which usually no one can notice. Until I was talking to a couple of our VPs about a project and got smacked in the face by a flying flamingo.

      1. Jenny Standy*

        That’s adorable!! My cats always find the nosiest toys to play with when I’m working from home. And by toys, I mean bottle caps, pencils they’ve stolen from my desk, or charging cables. You haven’t truly worked from home until you’ve had a cat try to chew on the cable connecting your precariously placed camera to the actual laptop.

        My-coworkers have never commented on me adjusting the camera, but they have expressed concern that maybe the cat (s) are hungry, hence the chewing on cables.

        Dear Ask A Manager, my cats are exceptionally well-fed. They just like nibbling on stuff. And attention.

      2. Where's the Orchestra?*

        Reminds me of my brother’s late cat Eennie (don’t blame him, she was a rescue who already answered to that name when he got her). Eennie was convinced every night that bedtime was the perfect time to play fetch – and would bring you every single cat toy in the house and drop it on your head (while sleeping) to get you to play. One night brother told me he had 20 different cat toys on his head.

        He still misses her too….

        1. Cat Feeder*

          My cat once decided that he was starving and he knocked over the garbage can and dragged all the empty tins of cat food into my bed. I couldn’t understand where the smell was coming from when I woke up.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Lol – one my brother’s other cats, Louie (who was actually another female rescue) would bring you the can opener when she thought it was time to eat. She would get into the kitchen drawers, and pull only that out as well.

            Then there is Huey (name changed to protect the innocents this time, this one is still alive and kicking). Huey is terrified of vacuums, brooms, mops, and any other floor cleaning implement. So a friend got them a roomba robot vacuum, which mysteriously flipped over and died one day about three weeks after getting it. Robot vacuum number two lasted about 10 days before suffering a similar fate. The third time, they caught Huey in the act. Huey was stalking the vacuums from the top of a bookshelf – pouncing on an edge to flip it over, and then pulling out the guts of the motor with his mouth. They have since declined all further offers of roomba-like vacuums.

    9. DT-C*

      I usually read the good ones out loud to my boyfriend, but with #9 I just had to say “I cant–just–number nine” in between peals of laughter which resulted in tears streaming down both of our faces for a solid minute or two

  2. EPLawyer*

    I … kinda like the tablecloth one. It apparently worked.

    But what’s up with the yelling at people publicly for violating the dress code. that is not a professional way to handle expecting people to dress professionally.

    DYING at the muscle relaxer one. So glad it wasn’t serious.

    1. MelonHelen*

      I’m trying and failing to imagine a dress code that the LW would violate by wearing what they wore the day before (even if casual), but a tablecloth is a-ok.

      1. Elenna*

        Presumably it was not patterned in an “obviously a tablecloth” way, and LW’s coworkers assumed they were actually wearing a sarong?

      2. Former Retail Lifer*

        Most of my jobs have not allowed jeans. I guess I don’t know what the policy on tablecloth skirts is.

        1. Botanist*

          I’m kind of reminded of an article I read on Slate once about an employee who found a cute sundress in her mother’s closet (maybe while house sitting?) and wore it to work several times before her mother saw her and asked why she was wearing the mother’s nightgown to work. Clothing lines have blurred a lot over the last couple decades!

          1. Kesnit*

            About a year ago, my wife was looking online for a dress to wear as part of a costume. She found an article of clothing on sale on some Web site. When she went back later, she could not find the dress on the site.

            After much searching, she found the “dress” in sleepwear. But it looked like a dress and fit the costume perfectly, so she got it.

        2. Mockingjay*

          If Scarlett O’Hara can get away with wearing drapes, a tablecloth should be fine.

          (Nothing is funnier than the Carol Burnett sketch of Gone With The Wind when she comes in wearing the curtain rod.)

      3. AnotherSarah*

        Oh, it wasn’t that I was wearing jeans the day before–it was that I had gone home to change, put on jeans, gone to boyfriend’s, and then had nothing but jeans to wear the next day. I figured tablecloth>jeans, and I think I was right? But definitely got LOOKS.

        1. Eye roll*

          Reading this I’m reminded of wardrobe malfunctions, pet interruptions, and two medical mishaps. My entire career has apparently been plagued with regular cringe.

          I am only the embarrassed bystander in my best story though.

          When I started my current job, there was no physical space to put me in, but management realized attorneys needed office space to handle the confidential work they were assigned. So, the Big Boss decided to divide up the storage room, planning to put in a wall and create a private office in the back. Of course, that required taking bids and doing construction, so the interim solution was to build a six-foot wall out of reams of paper, storage boxes, and cabinets. It served the role of providing visual privacy and made everyone forget I was back there, but it barely absorbed sound, and did nothing for the open space above the wall of stacked-up stuff.

          For whatever reason, there was a weekly visit by a massage therapist to the office to provide massages (mainly to more important people) and they always set up in the storage room. Every week, I had to listen to certain people moaning and groaning and making practically orgasmic sounds throughout their massages. This continued for months, until the Big Boss happened to stop in for a meeting during massage day. She turned a color I had never seen before and scurried off. Massage day was canceled thereafter as an inappropriate use of resources. I left for a business trip the next week, and returned two weeks later to a real wall.

  3. EmKay*

    “we both agreed with my cat’s assessment of the training”

    oh my god I can’t breathe help XD

      1. J.B.*

        My kid would totally do this! Because she loves messing with the zoom camera and potty humor in equal measure!

    1. Kyrielle*

      That one just about killed me. I’d just catch my breath and then…nope, back to laughing.

  4. Chocolate Teapot*

    My first proper business travel was on a fairly full flight, and I got the gate and seat numbers mixed up. I was also nervous as my boss was on board.

    The businessmen in whose seats I was sitting were not sympathetic to my explanation.

        1. Chocolate Teapot*

          My local airport is very small, with only 10 or so gates, and I got onto the plane no problem. It was when I was reading the boarding pass I got the gate and seat numbers mixed up.

          1. Parcae*

            I did that once! Got on the correct plane, but then sat in the seat corresponding to the gate number. Fortunately the gentleman whose seat I’d stolen was very nice about it.

      1. Mme Pince*

        I was allowed to board the wrong flight post 9/11. It was the same destination, but I was early and the previous flight was delayed. I didn’t pay much attention to the flight number when the flight at my gate boarded, and I just got in line and got on the plane. I didn’t figure out anything was wrong until the person with the same seat on the delayed flight boarded. Weirdly, instead of having me get off the plane and take my real flight, they just updated my ticket and found me an empty seat.

  5. Save the Hellbender*

    #11 – Vasovagal syncope? It happened to a friend of mine (luckily she did not end up in someone else’s stall.

    1. Butterfly Counter*

      That’s my guess. It’s happened to me once (and again where I only ALMOST passed out) and I woke up with a split lip from landing on my face. A vasovagal reaction is no joke.

      1. PeanutButter*

        It happened to me once at a college event – I took just a bit too big of a mouthful and the act of swallowing the bolus of food was enough to put pressure on the right spot and down I went!

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            When this happened to George Bush, the trigger was a pretzel.
            That incident made vasovagal syncope much easier to explain for a few years.

              1. PT*

                W choked on a pretzel and passed out. HW had food poisoning and threw up at a state dinner in Japan. Both had legitimate medical excuses but they got made fun of nevertheless because that’s what happens when you’re President.

    2. PeanutButter*

      That was my immediate thought. It can happen to anyone, any age, in any level of health. Just one of those landmines evolution has left us with that a whole host of normal daily activities (especially related to the muscle strain/relaxation/fluid shifts that happen during elimination) can trigger.

    3. SaffyTaffy*

      It happened to me once drinking cold chai! Just tipped my head back to glug and BLOOP!
      It’s so comforting to read other stories that sound exactly like mine.

    4. Spreadsheets and Books*

      Hey, that’s my story!

      And nope, not what it was. It was a tonic-clonic seizure. My first. I’ve since had several more and have been formally diagnosed with epilepsy. Soooo not the greatest end to that story.

      Luckily, I was fully clothed and have a bladder of absolute steel, so no other embarrassments.

      1. biobotb*

        Sorry to hear about the end to your story! Not that this is a comfort, but you have a wonderful way with words.

      2. Deanna Troi*

        Thank you for clarifying! I was envisioning you on the floor with your pants down and poop smeared everywhere (because that would be my luck). It is still mortifying, however.

    5. bishbah*

      Came to say the same thing. I routinely suffer from syncope when I experience, uh, abdominal distress, so fainting in public toilets is a thing that has happened to me on multiple occasions, including at work. I haven’t collapsed into another stall, but once I was too delirious to open the door lock and my poor father had to slide under to help me out as EMS arrived. I spent $1,500 to be told there was nothing they could do about either the food poisoning OR the syncope. Fun times.

    6. Pool Lounger*

      Happens to me getting blood drawn (even though I’m not afraid of needles or blood). The worst is when I’m meditating early in the morning. Even if I eat something my blood pressure hard drops. Once I passed out face-first (from a sitting position!) at a Buddhist retreat and got a bloody nose.

    7. RJ*

      I feel so less alone hearing that other people have gone through this. Years ago, I was going through a very stressful time in my personal and professional life. Stress has always led me to have stomach disorders. I woke up in the middle of the night and completely passed out on my way to use bathroom. Luckily, I landed on my very plush and large bathroom rug and the thud woke my husband. After going through the ER, they confirmed the diagnosis of vasovagal syncope – something I had never, ever heard of.

      1. Silly Rat*

        You are definitely not alone! I had it happen to me in mortifying fashion in my 20s. I am a doctor in one of the surgical specialties and during my first year of training, at the end of a several hour long surgery where my job was basically to hold instruments so the more senior doctors could see to operate, I took one step away from the table when we finally finished up and…I woke up on the floor with the senior surgeon calling my name over and over and one of the nurses holding my feet in the air. I hadn’t had time to eat, drink or sleep much the last few days (which is basically expected when you’re a resident) and apparently my body hit a breaking point. Thankfully it never happened to me again but it took several months before I got over my fear that it would happen again every time I scrubbed into a surgery.

    8. Bee*

      Both times this has happened to me were in crowded public spaces – once on the subway! There’s nothing quite like waking up on the sticky floor of the train with everyone staring at you. (Fortunately they were all very nice – the guy who’d been standing next to me handed me his water bottle before booking it off the train, and a nurse helped me off and then insisted on walking me the ten blocks to my office.)

      1. Spreadsheets and Books*

        I’m the poster from #11.

        This is my GREATEST FEAR. I commute via subway and my office is going to have us start coming in again next month. I’m epileptic (my stall intrusion was my first seizure) and having a seizure on the streets of New York terrifies me. Injury risk is a big concern, but also the postictal confusion. It takes me 10 minutes or so to regain conscious awareness and another 10-20 to stop being wildly confused. And having to shoo EMS away.

        I’m glad everyone was nice to you!

        1. mooncake*

          My niece has epilepsy and it’s so scary. She had a seizure driving down the interstate at top speed once. We are lucky she’s alive.

        2. Amaranth*

          Is this something you can request accommodation for, since you’ve already demonstrated you can WFH? Best of luck to you!

    9. Loredena Frisealach*

      My second day at my first post-college job I was persuaded to give blood in the place of someone who was ill. At the time I tended both towards low blood pressure and low iron so usually I didn’t qualify. This time I did. Shortly afterward I passed out in the bathroom (fortunately while still waiting for a stall) and came to with my very worried manager saying that the coworker already there said I had a seizure. I got pushed around on a chair because I was still dizzy, fed lunch and orange juice, and called my mother to come pick me up to go home sick as everyone wanted me to leave for the day.

      As best as I can tell it was a combo of low blood pressure and blood sugar at the time.

      1. Zephy*

        An old coworker of mine was similar, usually not eligible to donate – she was a tiny thing and tended toward anemia. But she really wanted to donate blood, so one day when the Big Red Bus came to work she went out to see if her iron levels were OK for donation, and they approved her that day. She was so proud of herself when she came back, showing off her bandage (and the little bowtie they made out of the k-tape for decoration). Ten minutes later she’d gotten sick in her office, all over the desk. I helped her clean it up and got her some water and chips. I don’t know if she ever tried again.

        1. Loredena Frisealach*

          Oof, yes, that’s usually enough to put an end to trying! I can think of multiple failed attempts (including once where blood flow was so slow they had to stop because it wouldn’t be usable) and after a while one just accepts that blood donation is not in the cards.

  6. Princess Deviant*

    I am absolutely HOWLING at these. They’re just so brilliant. Well done to all involved XD

    1. Where's the Orchestra?*

      Would be howling, but not appropriate for where I am reading this. I think the people around me are very amused at my attempts not to laugh out loud though.

  7. many bells down*

    #11 I have vasovagal syncope (a specific thing triggers fainting) and it’s not uncommon for a trigger to be urination or defecation. My trigger is medical stuff like needles, which mostly people are sympathetic to. But I did know another woman whose was set off by morning urination. Fun!

    1. Butterfly Counter*

      Oof. Mine have only been set off by extreme abdominal cramps in the past. Unfortunately, my vasovagal response has gotten more sensitive over time.

      1. bishbah*

        I have the same trigger. Happens to me now maybe twice a year. I’ve gotten better at recognizing the onset and positioning myself to minimize the likelihood of a full faint or a fall. Lie down if I can or else head between the knees!

    2. DataGirl*

      Interesting, I will have to look more into this. I used to faint pretty much every time I got blood taken even though I am not afraid of needles or blood. I have also fainted after/because of panic attacks, and had several episodes at work. The worst was about 20 years ago on a city bus- instead of calling for help the driver just kicked me off the bus in the middle of downtown. For better or worse I was in front of a federal building that had an employee medical clinic in it and the security guards were kind enough to take me in and call someone from my workplace to come get me. I imagine that wouldn’t be allowed with today’s security measures.

      1. quill*

        Oof, I passed out in my college advisor’s office after a panic attack. I still think it’s a factor in why I got a B on my thesis instead of the C it probably deserved.

    3. Spreadsheets and Books*

      I just posted in response to another comment but that’s my story. I’m the unfortunate bathroom intruder. And nope, not what it was. It was a tonic-clonic seizure. My first. I’ve since had several more and have been formally diagnosed with epilepsy.

      Luckily, I was fully clothed and have a bladder of absolute steel, so no other embarrassments.

  8. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #1 – and also #4 – reminds me of posts and threads of the past — almost any employer will now go to social media to see what you’ve posted about yourself. Many a job applicant’s CV/resume has hit the ashcan or “thanks for your interest in Acme Chocolate Teapots, however….” based on descriptions of drunken or stoned-out escapades on Facebook or Instagram.

    So – Before you play on your smart phone, play it smart.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I agree. That’s why I call LinkedIn “Facebook for the employed” and do my best to have zero social media footprint. If only I could convince my relatives…

      1. Mobius 1*

        Related, I honestly cannot manage to keep up with my LinkedIn. Deleting it altogether is so tempting and I know it would be incredibly relieving. But I don’t dare.

    2. Junior Assistant Peon*

      I deliberately avoid Facebook stalking as a hiring manager. If I accidentally discover that a candidate is a member of a protected group, such as a different race than they appear, I can’t un-see it.

      1. Mannequin*

        Aside from the fact that I fully believe that employers have ZERO reason to delve into people’s personal lives, since not only does it have ZERO to do with how that person will be at work, it makes companies think they have to comply with the views of pearl clutching bigots, prudes, and busybodies- this right here is the perfect reason that NO employer should go FB diving on current or prospective employees. It could reveal a person’s age, marital status, health issues/disabilities, if they have kids/how many or are pregnant/planning to be, if they are LGBTQIA or outside the gender binary…so many ways this could go wrong.
        I’d love to see a few high profile lawsuits where some big corporations lose HARD because they fired or refused to hire someone because they saw something about that person being in a protected class on social media, maybe employers would think twice about pulling this BS.

    3. Nanani*

      Ugh, I hate that.
      What they do on their own time isn’t a prospective employer’s business!
      I don’t even partake and I think it’s absurd.

    4. Thursday Next*

      I’m a manager and I do look at potential candidate’s Facebook – not because I care if they party like it’s 1999 on the weekends (I couldn’t care less) but I do want to see the types of things they post. If someone appears to be racist or homophobic I pass on them without a qualm.

    5. CoveredInBees*

      Oh, I feel for ya, velvet bra wearer. I had something similar happen with a weird combo of the way my top was constructed and how I sat down or something. Nothing popped out, but the term “heaving bosoms” was clearly illustrated. It was my second day on the job and I was in a day-long training with another new colleague and my boss. I had to sit with a folder over my chest while also taking notes until bathroom break time. I thought I’d fixed the problem but it happened twice more. Despite my attempts to cover it, my boss saw and I was subjected to a thoroughly humiliating meeting about “professional attire” later that week.

      1. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

        That’s awesome. Cats are chaos.

        I was once presenting to my grandboss and sharing my computer screen when our kittens came home from their neutering appointment. They were doped up and one of them got panicked by his cone of shame, sprinted across my keyboard, and somehow hit the key combination to flip the monitor being presented. That was fun to explain to the grandboss.

    1. Amber T*

      I’m sorry if I missed this in the last year, but can we do a dedicated post some time to just ridiculous stories of the antics of our pets from people who worked from home (especially for the first time)? Pet stories in general are always too funny, but I have a feeling that the last year and a half would have given us some great ones.

      1. Mental Lentil*

        Oh, yes, this would be wonderful! I wish I could participate, but I live in a no-pets building. (*gives serious side-eye to my houseplant*)

  9. Toodaloo*

    Please please please please can we get a tag/category for this? I know I am going to want to pull this up repeatedly over the years.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Please include “Jane has lost her mind” which remains the letter I most want an update for.

        1. Where's the Orchestra?*

          Yes, I felt so bad for Jane’s co-workers, and always hoped that the situation resolved itself (without any coworkers being harmed in the process).

      2. DistinctiveGait*

        If letter writers might feel bad being put into a “mortification” category you could consider something a little less explicit but used consistently, like “oh no”. Though it’s definitely a bit less legible to readers.

      3. Ray Gillette*

        Please do! This gave me a much-needed laugh today and I hope to revisit it from time to time when I need it.

  10. TypityTypeType*

    OMG, the velvet bra! When I was younger I used to wear fancy underwear to comfort myself for the pathologically stuffy dress code where I worked, and I can totally imagine something like that! Or maybe some mishap involving the garter belt and stockings I wore for a while because of my hatred of pantyhose.

    (I later worked for a magazine where the dress code was “Try, as a general rule, to wear some sort of clothes.” I loved that job.)

    1. Amber T*

      Wardrobe malfunctions are some of my biggest scares at work… I have walked out of the bathroom with my skirt tucked into my underwear… more than once. For whatever reason, it doesn’t occur to me to check until I’m already in the hallway. Two of those times leggings were involved, so I looked silly but nothing was showing. One time though…

      My pants ripped at the seam right between the legs at 9:30 a week ago, and I had a day of back to back meetings so I couldn’t run home. Thank god I wore neutral underwear instead of the ridiculous MeUndies prints I have. No one noticed but that was a scary day of walking around.

      1. Wine Not Whine*

        For a while I worked as an admin supporting a brilliant, wonderful, but sometimes off-the-wall (I privately referred to her as my “daffy princess”) brand manager. One day she came to my desk looking horrified and embarrassed: she’d managed somehow to blow out a pants seam, she lived over an hour away, and she had a meeting with the company ownership coming up fast. Fortunately she knew that I not only sew, but keep a repair kit in my purse. So she hid out in our (one-person) restroom while I placidly sat at my desk stitching away at her pants…

        1. Where's the Orchestra?*

          Okay, that one is just awesome.

          Signed as the person in my office who is the unofficial go to because I have the “mommy purse” in my work bag – meaning I almost always have: bandaids, tylenol, ibuprofen, and some sort of mending kit.

        2. quill*

          I was on emergency pants repair for a play I was in once… some pants have much greater crotch integrity than others!

        3. Employee of the Bearimy*

          I once attended a very small wedding on a boat off the coast of Maine, and had to repair the groom’s pants when his whole inseam split 30 minutes before the ceremony. It was a great adventure!

        4. 'Tis Me*

          I started off my publishing career by being sent on a 3 day course. I popped to the loo after the last day finished, before we were all going to go out for a drink or 3 – and the zip on my trousers went… Luckily somebody had a safety pin! I think that was probably my worst “workplace” wardrobe malfunction (well, a tendency to slouch and a top slipping means I might have flashed a fair bit of bra at my grandboss once; I only realised when I stood up from the desk I’d been leaning on to talk to him about something and went back to my desk. But since he maintained eye contact he may not have noticed! In fact, I tell myself he probably didn’t…).

          Now, when I was at school and we had a field trip to a historical re-enactment village and I handsewed my own skirt and bodice out of a pair of old curtains – and snapped the hem stitching up the side running for the coach in the morning..? That was not great. Somebody lent me a safety pin; the skirt fabric bent it. We stopped by the sewing hall and I borrowed another one during the trip, it bent too… I only had to scream at my male teacher to turn around because my skirt literally fell apart and down once..? Managed to get it tucked around my belt more or less. Then spent part of the trip back to school punching holes in the side of the skirt with the belt buckle and using the lace from my bodice to tie it up so I could safely walk home. (Thankfully I had a Tshirt under the bodice; I looked odd – possibly even odder than I had done in mocked up Tudor garb first thing – but could concentrate on things other than “is my skirt going to fall down?”)

      2. eshrai*

        Once I forgot to wear a bra to work. I had to present all day with the projector lights pointing right at me. I wore a button up with a tank top underneath so I am so hoping it wasn’t too obvious. Normally I am an active speaker and use my hands a lot but I think I hid behind the podium that day as much as possible lol.

      3. Jessica Ganschen*

        A few years ago, I had a long distance girlfriend, who I was able to visit twice. Both times I was there, I went to Shabbat morning services at a local synagogue. The first time was lovely so I was really looking forward to going again the next time I visited. Unfortunately, that next time, I walked out of the bathroom with my skirt tucked into my underpants, and a very kind older gentleman who I was talking to had to quietly inform me before services started. At this point, I don’t even remember which shul it was but I dearly hope that if I ever have a reason to be in that general area again that they don’t remember me, either.

      4. Humble Schoolmarm*

        After years of being scared of wardrobe malfunctions (I teach middle school and those darlings do not forget moments of public embarrassment), it actually happened this year. It was a small tear around the back pocket, but my lovely blue underpants were pretty obvious through the hole in the black pants. One of my students, not sure how exactly you tell a teacher that you can see her underthings, ended up telling my colleague, who told me. Thank goodness the kid was a young human of discretion and it was never mentioned again.

      5. Loredena Frisealach*

        Early in my career as a consultant skirted suits and pantyhose were still required wearing. My least favorite memories are the days the pantyhose waistband died and they started falling down while I was walking…

      6. Laney Boggs*

        This is completely unrelated, but in my previous position I had a late start, so I would pack the office clothes, and leave the house in gym clothes and change & freshen up there.

        About 20 minutes after I sat down, I discovered my jeans smelled terribly of cat pee.

        My manager was kind enough to let me wear my yoga pants for the day, but she offered to let me run home.

      7. Collarbone High*

        On my second day at a job, I alerted a stranger in the restroom that her skirt was tucked into her pantyhose. She turned out to be a VP, and I accidentally made a powerful ally.

      8. WFH Canadian*

        I used to dream that I’dend up at work either partly dressed or naked. Luckily wfh without cameras has stopped this nightmare mostly.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I once worked for a nonprofit where the dress code was, in my manager’s exact words, “Cover your tits.”

    3. SarahKay*

      I once managed to gather up my skirt along with a rug that I was taking to the checkout for a very pleasant older couple. That was the day I’d grabbed the red suspender belt to go with the black stockings…

      (I was working in retail: dress-code for women was black or neutral tights (pantyhose for the US) or equivalent, and at that time all tights available in my price bracket would sag around the gusset which I loathed, hence the choice to wear stockings.)

    4. an infinite number of monkeys*

      I worked at a small, very (maybe TOO) informal marketing company for a couple of years where whenever we scheduled a client visit, we’d send out an email to let everyone know, with jokes about how employees should wear clothes without holes and no pajama bottoms and maybe put on clean underwear.

      Got a reply-all from the VP, “Wait, you guys wear underwear??”

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        So glad I’m muted for this conference call or quite a few of management would have heard me absolutely cackling!

      2. tangerineRose*

        LOL! In a job I used to work, people would walk around barefoot, and I think at least one co-worker sometimes was wearing what might have been shorts but also could have been bathing suit trunks.

        When we had clients coming by, they’d ask us to clean up our desk areas a bit, and I remember them regularly saying something to the clients about the casual dress of the employees. They made the casualness sound like a good thing – normally clients don’t see us, so why not wear whatever?

      3. Wisteria*

        employees should wear clothes without holes and no pajama bottoms and maybe put on clean underwear

        That practically begs for a literal interpretation.

    5. yala*

      my current bra is not even slightly velvet, but for some reason it keeps fighting my camisole for a starring role in my decolletage. Driving me up a wall.

    6. Ama*

      I never had that problem with a bra, but in my twenties, I had one work skirt made from very slippery rayon that didn’t quite fit around my waist, so it would twist around my hips throughout the day. Which was a particular problem if I was wearing a particular brand of underwear that unfortunately made up about half my collection back then — something about where the cut sat on my hips and the texture of the cotton meant as the skirt turned it would slowly start tugging my underwear in a downward direction.

      I survived the day I discovered this with some luck and carefully timed bathroom visits for wardrobe correction (thankfully at the time I was in a job where once I got to work I didn’t usually have to walk around a lot) and after that I just tried to be extra careful to wear only the non problem underwear when I wanted to wear that skirt.

  11. Empress Matilda*

    Let me tell you about the time I got high at work.

    I had just started a new antidepressant – it was the middle of August, and ragweed season came along as it always does, so I popped my usual antihistamine and went off to work. I was feeling pretty good by the time I got there, and then I just kept feeling better and better, to the point that I was giggling to myself at my desk. It took me a while to realize that this was not exactly normal behaviour for me – I mean, I like my job and all, but not usually to the point of laughing out loud about it! Fortunately there was a pharmacy nearby, so I went across the street to ask the pharmacist to help me figure out what was going on.

    It turned out that the decongestant component of the antihistamine was reacting badly with the antidepressant (or reacting very well, depending on how you want to look at it!). Nothing to worry about, but I should probably go home and sleep it off – clearly I wasn’t going to get any work done that day anyway. And obviously, in my current state, I found this whole thing HILARIOUS. So I went back to my office, still laughing, and told my boss I was accidentally high and apparently you should not mix sinus meds and antidepressants and I was leaving for the day and wasn’t that just the funniest thing she had ever heard???

    Spoiler – my boss did not find it nearly as funny as I did. But she did agree with me that I probably shouldn’t be in the office that day!

    1. DataGirl*

      Twice I’ve accidently taken my sleeping meds in the morning instead of whatever I was supposed to be taking. The first time I made it to work but then fell asleep on my desk and a friend had to take me home. The second time I guess I took it long enough before leaving the house that it kicked in while driving (I was only a couple blocks away from home thankfully) and I was able to realize what happened, turn around to go home and call off for the day. Meds be serious yo.

    2. JG Obscura*

      Read the first sentence, saw “antidepressant” and “antihistamine” and went “Oh no”

      There are actually A LOT of standard over-the-counter meds that can interact with antidepressants. Like Tylenol. Seriously, TYLENOL.
      Always check your drug interactions, kids!

      1. Hazel*

        Yeah, I found out the hard way that you don’t take prozac and zyrtec at the same time unless you want to be tired all. the. time. I was constantly exhausted for about a year before I figured it out. Fortunately, my office had several private rooms for pumping, or in my case, napping.

      2. Where's the Orchestra?*

        Especially “fun” is the fairly rare side effect of brand name Benadryl for certain people. Instead of making them sleepy (the fairly normal reaction – to the point some hospitals use it as a mild sleep aid) it hypes them up like they’ve had 20 espressos (this is Mini Orchestra – I now buy different allergy medication). I have an almost 50 year old coworker that reacts to it in exactly the same way, and well, its not good.

    3. EmKay*

      Oh, this reminds me of that Christmas I spent glued to my couch, giggling helplessly at cartoons. Good times.

      1. quill*

        New meds + christmas strawberry wine with a significantly higher alcohol presence than the hard lemonade or hard cider I usually stick to if I have a drink = A very tipsy Quill trying to teach the baby cousins to count cards.

    4. HalloweenCat*

      My first bad head cold at an office job with hardly any PTO stocked up. I did not know Theraflu tea had cold medicine in it. So I was taking nasal decongestants AND drinking theraflu every 4 hours. I felt great! My hands felt like they were vibrating but I’ve never been so productive….

    5. The Rural Juror*

      I had to wake up very early once to go out of town for work. I had pre-made some very strong coffee the night before with the intention of sipping on it while I was driving at like 5am to get to my site. It was definitely stronger than what I usually drank at the office. Well, apparently my 24-hour allergy medication and the caffeine didn’t go well together. I had taken the allergy pill (Zyrtec maybe? I can’t remember) before going to bed, but I guess I was drinking my coffee a lot earlier than usual and it hit me about 6am that I did NOT feel right. I had to pull over because I was feeling loopy and impaired to drive. Luckily, some other folks were running late that day and I got an email about 7am that they needed to push back the start time. I had stopped at a travel stop and was sitting in the cafe on the end of a gas station until I felt better, so the delay really helped me out! Either way…that wasn’t a great trip.

    6. Nea*

      I know someone who got high from Dristan and Dr. Pepper on an empty stomach. Like you, she was having a great time!

    7. LC*

      When I was maybe 19 or so, I was working at Macy’s (ugh do not recommend) and on my way to work, I’d grabbed a brownie that my roommate had made to eat on the drive. He baked stuff all the time and was very good at it, so it was a completely normal thing to do.

      Well, as you can probably guess, that brownie had weed in it. When I got to work, I sat in the parking lot for a bit, just trying to figure out what was going on with my head. Eventually called my roommate who, before I asked about it, was very excited to share that he’d finally perfected his weed butter recipe, “It’s super potent, and I swear, you can’t even taste it!”

      I was young and broke and couldn’t afford to skip a shift, let alone spend what goodwill I’d had to bail last minute, so I worked. Told my boss I’d taken too much allergy medicine (apparently that was more realistic than I’d thought!) and that’s why I was a little loopy.

      Thankfully, she wasn’t on the floor much so she bought it, and my coworker thought it was hilarious and helped me get through the day.

    8. Thursday Next*

      I had no idea this was a thing. I’ve taken antihistamines and antidepressants for years and this hasn’t happened to me. Is it the decongestion component that causes it? Or, possibly, I’ve been high this whole time and didn’t know it LOL

      1. Empress Matilda*

        It was the decongestant specifically, rather than the antihistamine.

        Also, hello to a fellow Thursday Next fan! I have that as my username on another site as well!

      2. Hazel*

        For me, it was an interaction specifically with prozac and zyrtec. I switched to Claritin, and it’s not an issue anymore.

  12. DK*

    I’ve got one mortification:
    It was my first job out of college. I was in the restroom when layoffs were announced. All the people to be laid off were told to go one room and all the people staying were told to go to another. I got out of the restroom, saw the people about to be laid off, and figured it was an impromptu meeting, so I joined them in time to hear the announcement. It was all awkward and sad and then a senior manager came in and told me to go to the other room with the survivors. It was both the best and worst feeling being led out of there.

    1. Mimmy*

      Reminds me of American Idol where, in one of the later rounds, they separated everyone into 3 rooms – 2 rooms were moving on, the remaining room were going home.

  13. Detective Amy Santiago*

    OMG #11 is literal panic attack fodder for me.

    If I ever felt slightly dizzy/faint, it would spiral into a full blown panic attack out of fear that something like this was going to happen. The fact that my panic attacks then made me feel even dizzier led to a vicious cycle.

    I am so, so grateful my docs finally got me on the right combo of psych meds to get my panic disorder under control.

    1. DataGirl*

      For years my fear of having a panic attack lead me into a panic attack, which usually culminated in fainting, so I sympathize. What finally helped me (besides meds, which were necessary at the time but I don’t take any more for a variety of health reasons) was recognizing when the sick/dizzy feeling in my body was coming from anxiety/panic and then telling myself I wasn’t actually on the verge of getting sick/passing out- it was just anxiety. For whatever reason that tricks my brain into not proceeding with the full blown panic attack and calms me down.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I never actually passed out from a panic attack, though I felt like I was going to many times. In fact, when I was in therapy, I was assured that I *couldn’t* pass out from a panic attack.

        Now that my brain chemicals are regulated, I can do the “okay, you probably need to eat something” thing when I feel a bit dizzy/faint (it’s usually low blood sugar). It is nice to know I’m not alone though. It was always very embarrassing when I couldn’t do something as simple as crossing the street or walking down the hall to the bathroom on my own.

        1. DataGirl*

          I agree it’s nice to know I’m not the only one. I don’t know if for sure my panic attacks caused me to pass out, or if it was an issue of anxiety triggering some sort of vasovagal response, but I did end up on the ground a bunch of times. Thankfully that hasn’t happened in about 8 years since I had intensive therapy, now if I get the dizzy/faint feeling usually laying down/drinking water/eating something will stop it. But I could give at least half a dozen mortifying work stories if I didn’t think it was inherently depressing that my mental physical health have caused so many embarrassing situations.

  14. Stephen!*

    I can relate to #12. I had been unemoyed for awhile, having moved to a new state with my boyfriend. After starting a new job, I noticed that my coworker had a large sticker stuck to his rear, and, as I would with my boyfriend, automatically reached out to take it off. Luckily, I realized in time to take my mind of off autopilot and just mentioned he had something on his rear.

    And if it had ended there, it would have been fine- but then my brain decided that I needed to mention that I had almost removed the sticker because I was on autopilot, and “wouldn’t that be a bad a bad way to start a new job? Touching your butt, I mean?”

    Fortunately, he was a nice dude and mostly seemed amused, but… (or should I say butt…) I was horrified with myself.

  15. Scrooge McDunk*

    Oh God, #14 is me, and I’m blushing furiously just remembering it. I was the butt (heh heh) of poop jokes for YEARS after that.

    1. knitcrazybooknut*

      Yes, but you brought much joy into the life of someone random. Isn’t that our purpose in life? Only she knows what kind of day she was having before she picked up the phone.

    2. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      You, sir or ma’am or friend, are my hero for today, and have given great joy unto the land.

    3. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

      Look, all of these are funny, but that’s the one where I just lost it and started giggling uncontrollably at my desk. Thank you!

  16. Anonymouse*

    I love all these! It makes mine seem tame — my boss inadvertently said “love you!” at the end of a phone call to me and *I* then inadvertently said “love you too!”. I subsequently died of cringe.

    1. SaffyTaffy*

      When I moved out to go to school, and was talking to my poor Dad mostly over the phone, he suddenly started ending work calls with, “love ya, babe.”

    2. Cat Tree*

      Prior to the pandemic, the only times I ever talked on the phone were with my mom or oldest brother, so it was habit to end calls with “love you”. I was so worried about doing that with every work call from home, but fortunately I managed to never do it. But I can relate!

    3. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      I was once looking at my husband and talking on the phone to my boss, and said “Love you!” They both DIED LAUGHING while I turned beet red apologizing.

    4. heynonyanon*

      A boss once said “love you” on a call but must not have realized it right away. I responded with a confused “…thank you?” and that made her realize she was talking to me and not her daughter who also worked at the same company.

  17. MPerera*

    Here’s my mortification :

    I once volunteered at a thrift store where a lot of the customers were South Asian. Once I saw a woman taking clothes off hangers, looking at them and discarding them on the floor. I could tell she was Sri Lankan, and I speak a little of the language, so I asked her, “Please pick up those clothes.” Or at least, I meant to. In my rusty Sinhalese, I said, “Please lift your skirt.”

    The manager suggested I speak to the customers in English from then on.

    1. Jackalope*

      Oh my gosh; that totally just sparked a memory for me! I worked in another country for about half a decade and most of my work there was in the local language. One day I was at a lab where I was teaching, and was having a conversation with my colleague/housemate. She was being overprotective (she was a national from that country so knew her way around both literally and culturally better than me) and I was getting a bit annoyed. So I announced to her loudly (see:annoyed) that I was fine and could handle it. Only I used a colloquialism translated literally from English. And in the local language what I had just announced loudly in front of our students was, “Leave me alone; I’m a VIRGIN!” She tried not to laugh and said calmly, “I’m sure you are, but do you know how to get to [Location] by yourself?”

  18. Violet Rose*

    These all had me howling, but the last one sparked a memory I may have posted here before –

    A year or two ago, I was working on a piece of commissioned quasi-fanart for a client, and we were writing back and forth in German. Now, my German is not great, and was even worse back then, so very often this meant I would as my partner (a native German speaker) how to say what I wanted to say, the pen wrote it down and asked him to proofread.

    Well, one time he read what I’d handed him and burst out laughing, then called over our (also German) roommate who *also* burst out laughing, and then together they explained what I’d written. I’d wanted to ask, “Before I send the final version, would you like anything changed?” Except, I’d misheard ‘geändert’ (changed) as ‘geentert’, and was moments away from asking my client something along the lines of if she’d like anything boarded by pirates.

      1. Violet Rose*

        Teeeeeeeeechnically, it just means someone boarded a ship or similar vessel… against the owner’s will… probably illegally… and likely either taking it over or ransacking it for loot and leaving…

        So it generally connotes “by pirates” :D

      2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I feel like German can have a word for pretty much anything, it just may end up being thirty syllables long by the time you get there.

      3. quill*

        Look if you need anything boarded by pirates, AAM would be the place to find someone to arrange it.

        1. Violet Rose*

          Even worse, ä and e sound similar at the best of times, but “ä and e sound the same” is a known trait of the accent of this region, so the *only* hint is the t/d!

    1. DataGirl*

      I worked as an au pair in Germany, so most of my knowledge came from listening to people speak the language rather than book learning. I found out how problematic that was when I went to a corporate job there after my year as a nanny and my grammar/spelling/writing skills were atrocious.

      1. Violet Rose*

        It was a custom plush toy, and sadly not a pirate – though that would’ve been one heck of a way to pitch that particular change!

      1. Euphony*

        I remember a piece of German homework at school where the assignment was to write about camping. Arrived at the lesson the following week to find everyone laughing. What I’d meant to say was that you could meet people and have a barbecue. What I actually put was something like “man kann Leute treffen und grillen” – “you can meet people and barbecue them”. I’ve never seen a teacher laugh that hard before!

        1. tamarack and fireweed*

          Oh, that’s along the lines of the very-well-known anecdote (in Germany) of the skiing commentator who waxed lyrically “Tausende standen an den Loipen and Pisten”. (Loipe = cross-country skiing run, Piste = downhill skiing run. But “Pisten”, the plural of Piste, is pronounced exactly the same as the verb “pissten”, third person plural, which means exactly what you think it might mean.)

          1. tamarack and fireweed*


            (The real translation is “Thousands were standing along the cross-country and downhill skiing runs”.)

          2. londonedit*

            Reminds me of the classic bit of cricket commentary – ‘…the bowler’s Holding; the batsman’s Willey…’

  19. RunShaker*

    I thought I would never get to share my story. I was in my mid-thirties, newly divorced. I had a crush on a manager in my department. It was a large department, over 1000 employees & our work didn’t cross. I didn’t know, was naïve, about manager/employee boundaries at the time (another story on my upbringing & crappy marriage). We would chat on occasion & I let it be know I was interested in him. He came by my desk to say hi. I was eating a snack, laughing cow soft cheese wedge with crackers. He leaned, kind of sat on my desk directly on my cheese! He kept chatting away. I’m freaking out a little since my cheese wedge is now on his rear. There’s couple of other coworkers chatting with us as well. I guess he finally realized my wide eye look, stopped talking & I finally told him he was sitting on my cheese. He got up, I went to reach for it since it was now stuck to his rear, then stopped myself cause I didn’t want to explain to HR why I touched his rear. We all were freaking out, more him, seeing that shiny silver wrapper stuck to his rear. He finally got it off, didn’t say another word to us & left. My other coworkers were like, what just happened & were giggling. Totally embarrassed. We never spoke again.

      1. RunShaker*

        I’m still chuckling. It felt like it was happening in slow motion. Him trying to leave, me trying to stop him & figure out how to get the cheese off his rear end. Then watching him fast walk away with a very noticeable spot on his back side.

    1. Cheesecake2.0*

      Yours is the best story here. I can imagine your horror as you realize your crush sat on your cheese. omg.

  20. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    Oh man, the cupping one reminded me of my most embarrassing moment that was my fault at work. (Messing oneself during an epileptic fit in the office remains my worst moment but I couldn’t help that).

    In a rush to get back to the IT office, walking fast down the corridor, carrying a cup of tea I tear through the open door and…

    …get my belt caught on the door handle, pivot round, slam knockers first straight into the door, cover myself in tea and..splash some on the guy sitting next to my boss.

    Who was the Director down for a visit. I resolved to walk slower.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      (Although the time I mistook my lipstick for a Vics Inhaler and ended up in a meeting with bright red nostrils is a close second)

      1. JD*

        This one finally killed me. I was barely hanging in there with the “have you gotten your pooper today” story in the post…

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          The nose thing was about 12 years and 2 companies ago but I’m reliably informed that there is still the legend of the ‘techie who snorted her lipstick’.

          Ahh it’s nice to be remembered :p

          1. kicking_k*

            I think you will be remembered forever.

            I’m crying here. Very glad I have an office with a closable door.

      2. Hazel*

        I’m clamping my legs together so I don’t pee myself, I’m laughing so hard! As soon as I read “door handle,” I lost it laughing because the f*cking pockets on my dresses are always grabbing the f*cking door handles and yanking me backwards. And I’m always rushing somewhere. I don’t know if anyone has ever witnessed my yankings, but that would make it so much worse! And “red nostrils”?! Laughing all over again!

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          I mean, luckily the twin airbags on my front cushion the blow given that I’ve done this a lot!

        2. Mannequin*

          I am just the right height to have ripped multiple dress pockets open on those hook type door handles. I *hate* them!

    2. Arctic Foxy*

      OMG this is totally something I would do. I regularly get my pockets stuck on drawer knobs in the kitchen, and walk into door frames for no reason. Dying lol.

      1. kicking_k*

        Yes. When we have a new kitchen at home, I am having those cup-shaped handled because I CONSTANTLY catch belt loops on the ones we have.

  21. Elenna*

    OMG THE CAT. I would have died. Or at least considered leaving the wifi off, never coming back to that job, and running off into the woods to become a hermit.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      We’re all grown adults here. Nobody can stop us from running away to live in the woods and hang out with the raccoons.

      Anyway, that’s my retirement plan.

  22. M*

    I had a work study job my freshman year of college, and I used to like to go to the gym before or after work, so I’d leave both work clothes and gym clothes in the bottom drawer of my desk. I also obviously left a bunch of bras and underwear in there too. The last day of my job before summer break we took some stuff home with us but since we were planning on coming back in a few months, most people left a few things at their desks (our office wouldn’t be open during the summer). For some ungodly reason, I took my clothes out of the bottom drawer, but left the bras and underwear (why why why why why). Sure enough, I ended up transferring universities over the summer and never got a chance to go back and collect the rest of my stuff from my office. Over 5 years later and I still cringe thinking about my very formal, very buttoned up boss opening my bottom desk drawer to clean it out for the next person and finding a bunch of my underwear.

  23. Morticia*

    After I had coffee, I realised that “mortification” wasn’t the process of making things Morticia. I’m kind of disappointed, but some of these stories had me howling.

    However, are we sure Sophia didn’t bring everyone back little skulls from her vacation? I have done this in the past.

  24. Double A*

    OMG wiping schmutz off your colleague’s face!

    When I was about 25 my boss, obviously excited, told me that she was pregnant. I was still in a period in my life where for me and most of the people I knew, pregnancy would be unwanted at best. This was one of the first people I knew who chose to get pregnant. So my response to her was, “And you’re…happy about this?”

    She later had me nanny for her for a little while after I had left the job, so I didn’t destroy the relationship and I can only hope I didn’t sound as horrified as I do in my memory. And I have since learned you respond to a pregnancy announcement with, “Congratulations!” no matter what you think about it.

    1. Cat Tree*

      In my first job after college, I had a coworker who had mentioned that he didn’t want kids and it was a disagreement with his wife (I don’t really know why he shared this with me because it goes beyond small talk, so presumably it was a big deal). A few months later he announced that his wife was pregnant and I didn’t know how to respond. I paused and said “congratulations?” with the question mark clearly audible.

    2. pieforbreakfast*

      I remember that change of life stage, when you respond to “I’m pregnant” with anything but “Oh no, what are you going to do?”.

      1. kicking_k*

        I’ve been the only one to be pregnant in years in an office full of childfree-by-choice women. I did wonder how they’d react. But they were all very nice about it.

        Also there was the time when I suddenly let out a guttural cry during a quiet period in the office because the baby in utero had stuck his toes between my ribs. Ow.

        1. 'Tis Me*

          I went up a band size while pregnant with my first, because she would, I think, try to lever my ribs outwards with her heels for about 40 minutes at a time, a few times daily, through the whole of the third trimester. She’s not 7 yet and comes up past the bottom of my chin. My first glimpse of her was outstretched arms and legs. Poor bubba evidently felt a bit cramped in there…

          1. kicking_k*

            Yup. When my son eventually made his appearance, he had very long arms and legs for a newborn. And big feet. He’s still leggy. My younger child was the biggest baby in the birthing unit, and is now a 96th percentile 8-year-old so… I just have long babies. Their dad is tall.

  25. Sloan Kittering*

    I love that the question is so often “what was I thinking??” because this is the piece that most interests me. In some of these cases there was just subtext the OP didn’t grasp and it’s understandable how the error occurred; in others, OP just got some signals crossed due to exhaustion or inattention, like the tired mom. But the ones I’m most interested in are the ones where someone confidently proceeds in what is clearly the utterly wrong direction and it’s almost implausible now looking back on it how it could have happened. Literally, what we were thinking??

    Some of it’s gotta be Dunning-Kruger wherein we just don’t know how to realize that we don’t know. Some of it is that when your inexperienced you’re most used to “fake it till you make it.” But there’s still some piece of sheer audacity in a lot of my own errors that I can’t explain to myself.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Not exactly mortifying, but does fall squarely into the “can you imagine what I might have been thinking?” category.

      I’m a programmer. I once got sent home from work because I was reacting to a medication that neither I nor the doctor had any idea I might react to. My fingers started to swell. A sane person would have left on their own, right? Me? No; I took stock of workload and deadlines, went to the break room and assembled a bucket of ice from the ice machine, went back to my desk and kept resting my hands on top of my head while thinking and dipping my hands in the ice water each time the swelling started to interfere with typing. This lasted at least 3 hours until my supervisor stopped by for her afternoon check-in.

      If anyone has any idea what I might have been thinking, I’m still curious.

      1. quill*

        Possibly the same thing as I thought when an ex classmate of mine, who showed up to lab with a hand the approximate size of a basketball, so hungover that he was still drunk, declared that he felt fine but that he didn’t know why he couldn’t move his fingers.

        Me, examining his knuckles: So last night you… I assume… got drunk and punched a brick wall? Unless that was this morning?

        Him: Uh huh.

        Me: I need you to hold this piece of ice at the bottom of the ice bath please. I’ll let you know when you can take your hand out.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          I was quite sober the entire time; this was during the period where my light workweeks were 90+ hours. Crazy things happen at the intersection of inexperience, borderline desperation to keep a job and make a good impression, and significant understaffing.

      2. All the words*

        ‘Well, nothing’s bloody or broken so clearly my boss will think I’m a big baby and slacker if I go home because “my fingers are puffy”.’

        Says the woman who broke her toe and could barely walk, but still came into the office last week. No, I didn’t make it to the end of the day. Because “I stubbed my toe and it really really hurts” just sounds so ridiculous.

        1. Mannequin*

          When I was in grade school, I fractured my finger playing tetherball, and thought it would be a good idea to just wrap it in a paper towel I kept soaking with cold water (we had a small sink in the classroom), even though it was monstrously swollen and hurt like hell.
          I have no idea what I was thinking! My mom took one look and immediately took me to our pediatrician.

    2. GoryDetails*

      Ooh, I have a “what was I thinking” – had forgotten it until this thread. Early in my career as a software developer I worked in a college computer center, one big room with four desks in it for the (small) staff. One day I’d had some wisdom teeth removed – local anesthetic, not too traumatic for me as I’m generally OK with dental-type stuff – and afterwards… I went back in to work. What was I thinking? Well, I didn’t feel too bad (thanks, local anesthetic) and wasn’t woozy, and didn’t *think* I looked obviously freshly tooth-extracted. And this was in roughly 1980 when there was no internet or even dial-up-from-home access at my job. And I was in the stage of my career where I really would rather work on the code than do almost anything else, and I couldn’t do it from home, so why not go in?

      This worked out just fine for about 20 minutes, and then one of my workmates gently let me know that I was drooling blood. So THEN I went home. But up to that point my decisions felt quite logical…

    3. meyer lemon*

      This question interests me too, and I think a lot of it has to do with context. If you’re used to something coming up only in a personal context and it suddenly intrudes on your work life, or if you’re used to being pretty straitlaced at work and you’re surprised by something really bizarre, a kind of disorientation can set in and you just go on autopilot.

      1. Nicotena*

        Yes, I think this is part of it: the disconnect and fail to switch lanes between work and home can make you do some really weird things, and then buckle down.

    4. Mobius 1*

      Not quite as funny as some of the other ones, but near (and past) the end of my last relationship I was pretty deep in my cups. I definitely called in “sick” (read: hungover) waaaaay too many times and thought absolutely nothing of it. ?!?!?

  26. Macaroni Penguin*

    Mortification Story. I was once fired for writing a company Zombie Apocalypse Survival manual (on official letterhead!). Many Halloweens ago, I thought this would be a great joke. The company had guides for dealing with other natural disasters, so why not a zombie attack? So, explained to a manager what I wanted to do and asked for letterhead marked papers. Once obtained, I then typed out a comprehensive and realistic zombie policy manual. The document was stamped with “Zombie Proof” letters in comic sans. And then on Halloween, I left the company Zombie Apocalypse Survival Manual on the desks of my team lead, manager, and director. The director was not amused. A month later (after a very positive staff review) I was let go from my position.

    Fast forward to 2020 and my current employer. I was asked to create a company guide on Zombie Apocalypse Survival Strategies which could be applied to the pandemic. So, know your work culture and use humour carefully!

    1. Elenna*

      Honestly, though, if you explained what you wanted to do that’s at least partly on your manager for not being like “hey, maybe don’t, this isn’t that type of workplace”. (Also this very much does not seem like a firing offense to me, even if it wasn’t that type of workplace, assuming you weren’t spending significant amounts of work time making the manual.)

      1. Macaroni Penguin*

        Yeah I know eh! Manager 1 was very much aware of my Halloween Joke. And I wrote up the Zombie Apocalypse Survival Manual during my off time. These details were shared during my disciplinary meeting. Which was conducted by the director alone. He was supremely not amused.

      2. Voice of NeverNeverLand*

        That’s what I was thinking – if you cleared it with your manager, what’s the problem? And it doesn’t seem like a firing offence to me – maybe just a word to the manager who approved it that that wasn’t in tone with the workplace.

        Personally, my team at work would find that sort of thing hilarious, and my manager would probably approve it, too. Even if your company isn’t like that, though, that’s really on the manager who said it was okay!

    2. EPLawyer*

      Geez. It’s not like you dressed up for Halloween in your very button down office, then walked around a meeting of the C-Suite folks asking for candy.

      1. Mannequin*

        NGL, I think that is hysterical. I can’t imagine being n that C-suite meeting and not cracking up. (And that’s why I’m neither C-suite or ever worked in a conservative industry LOL)

    3. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      It’s that manager’s loss, though, once the zombies get to his place of business and he doesn’t know what to do.

    4. lemonade*

      When I was a technical writing intern, I thought it would be a great idea to make a poster showing Moses descending Mount Sinai holding our technical documents and distribute it to the whole team. My manager laughed but told me never to show them to anyone else.

    5. Gumby*

      This seems really unfair!

      Both the CDC and the Department of Defense actually have Zombie Apocalypse survival / emergency response plans. Not that they think there will be a zombie apocalypse, but the process of planning for one means that you have planned for a plethora of other more likely disasters which is a good thing. (Also, at least for the CDC, it’s a good public outreach tool.)

      I am sorry that director was particularly humorless.

      1. Macaroni Penguin*

        Yeah, the CDC stuff is great! Zombie survival strategies are legitimately useful when applied to disaster preparedness.
        (My unofficial company Zombie Apocalypse Survival Manual was written before the CDC stuff.)
        The director was apparently well known (to everyone except me) for Not Having A Sense of Humour. My offence was misusing the company logo and resources. Plus not having “good judgement or critical thinking skills.” Yeah, I accidentally botched the situation through youthful enthusiasm.

        1. Mannequin*

          I think it would take a HECKuva lot of good judgement and critical thinking skills to come up with a good disaster preparedness plan, whether pandemic, nuclear, or zombie. You asked permission of someone with authority and we’re given the green light, so if anyone were to get reprimanded for “misusing company logo & resources”, it should have been your boss.
          You didn’t do anything wrong and shouldn’t feel mortified at all . Your old director was simply a humorless tool.

  27. Mental Lentil*

    I was student teaching, and we had a box of those scented markers in the classroom. If you are of a certain age, you know the ones I’m talking about.

    It just so happens that I’m weird, and I love the smell of licorice, so right in front of a class of high school juniors, I took a big deep pull on that one. Right under my nose.

    None of these students knew how to tell me that I had drawn on myself. I spent the rest of the class walking around with a little Hitler/Charlie Chaplin mustache.

    1. Princess Scrivener*

      You win the prize, and I get to clean my keyboard free of La Croix (Coconut). Thanks for the snort laughs!

  28. chitheatergirl*

    After I graduated from college, I had an 6-month internship in another state. By the end, the department I was working in was trying to get a position into the next year’s budget for an admin position with me in mind. However, my internship ended before the fiscal year, and although one person warned, “Out of sight, out of mind,” I couldn’t afford to stay without a job. Plus, no one explained how all of this was going to work. I moved back in with my parents and tried to figure out my next move, but I was kind of disillusioned by the industry (it was the arts).

    The job was posted, ultimately, and I applied, but I didn’t even get an acknowledgment of my application. The job that was created for me was not for me anymore. Little did I know that my mom was so upset and angry on my behalf, because she saw what it was doing to my love of the industry, that she wrote an angry letter to the hiring manager/my internship supervisor. I found out about that whole situation about a year later and came close to perishing from embarrassment.

  29. Clewgarnet*

    In my late teens, I was applying for a marketing position with an airline. Because the office was based at an airport, I decided to fly in rather than getting the train.

    During the pre-interview chat, one of the interviewers asked me how I’d got there and I explained I’d flown in. “Who with?” she asked.

    “On my own,” I said, faintly confused about why she thought I’d need company. I was young but not THAT young! About five minutes later, I realised she meant, “Which airline?” and scrambled to explain myself.

    Bizarrely, I did actually get the job. I was terrible at it and didn’t even get to the end of my probation period before getting fired.

    1. Environmental Compliance*

      To be fair, that is a little weird to phrase the question like that. I would have assumed the same thing, especially at that age.

  30. Failed Manager*

    Hi LW #9 I would not be mortified. I was removed from management. Weeks after my removal announcement, I had an experienced employee from my former team asked me “So what great projects do they have you working on?” He as one of the better people in my team. I think that I would rather have the cat or guy wearing the dragon outfit dispose of me if I had relive my removal again.

  31. SparklingBlue*

    I am laughing so hard I’m crying at the cat story–that sounds like something my kitty would do!

  32. Sporty Yoda*

    TV scientists: perfect experiments, MENSA level IQ, no worries about funding
    Actual scientists: DIY muscle rub overdose
    (For the record, I’m an actual scientist… one of my coworkers once accidentally made a pressure bomb because he forgot mixing some chemicals will give off gas. Safety was called, it was disposed of, no one got hurt… but it was very much a “media does not accurately present my job” moment)

    1. Lora*

      When I was in Drug Discovery we had to evacuate the building at least once a year due to the synthesis lab blowing up AGAIN.

      Notoriously, Sasha Shulgin tested all his creations on himself and his wife. There is also the saga of Giles Brindley, who tested drugs on himself and displayed the um, results, at a conference in the 1980s…and should have been mortified about it, but was not.

    2. Where's the Orchestra?*

      For context this story took place back in the early 1960’s – when there were lot more things kept unlocked in chemistry labs then there are today (and also fewer vent hoods in chemistry labs).

      My dad had moved from West Virginia to Ohio – many years before this, and was the class valedictorian – but the chemistry teacher insisted on treating him like he was a hick from the sticks who had no clue what he was doing in a school, much less a chemistry lab. My dad decided that he’d had enough one day – and “accidentally” made nitrous oxide at his lab station, leading to the whole school being evacuated as a precaution. Teacher was left trying to explain to the administration how the “accident” occurred, and why the chemicals to make that were even out in reach of students in the first place.

      Dad went on to get a full ride to a local college for Chemical Engineering, and have an almost 45 year career (including a few patents). Never underestimate a person based on where they are from originally.

      1. Where's the Orchestra?*

        Forgot to add – Nitrous Oxide is the chemical name for Laughing Gas, and frequently gets given at dentist offices to help relax patients before minor procedures.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          This was actually high school – dad was about 16 at the time……
          But very good predictor of his future career.

          (I found his yearbook from that year of school – so many comments about the laughing gas incident.)

    3. quill*

      Actual scientists are the best at convincing themselves that something that works in theory should go off without a hitch. (source: I am one.)

      And this is why we need lab managers and safety managers. Because our first thought is usually “I wonder if…” or “I can fix that.”

      1. Lora*

        YES on the “I can fix that!” Can confirm, I am the terror of my friend circle.

        I’m not sure if the fact that I was responsible for production of more than one Covid vaccine reassured or horrified them. “Look, I’ve had TONS of experimental vaccines and I’m FINE!” *stretches out arms covered in scars*

    1. Stay-at-Homesteader*

      My thoughts, too! When I was 17 I told my Russian host mother I was “in my room practicing Russian and peeing.”

    2. Beth Jacobs*

      Slavic languages for the win :) The good news is that once you know one Slavic (with a Cyrillic script), one Germanic and one Romance language, you can muddle your way through most travel situations in Europe through some mix of them :)

  33. eshrai*

    I worked in a group with one woman who managed to get under all our skins and throw so much chaos around. She befriended us but then was making up lies behind our backs to try and get us in trouble with management. it was petty and transparent but we took it hard because we had become friends outside work. This whole mess culminated with a group meeting to talk it all out. Voices were raised, almost everyone cried. Our grandboss was called in to stop the meeting because her boss and everyone on the floor could hear us. Mortifying. Many lessons learned from that experience.

  34. eons*

    I fell asleep in front of my boss once. I was fresh out of college in legal admin and he used to like me to watch him draft and make calls so I could follow along and ask questions, why are we doing this, what does this mean, etc. It was usually interesting as I loved my job. One day he was doing this, and then all of a sudden he’s like “Are you okay??” with a fairly disgusted look on his face. I had no idea how he knew I wasn’t feeling well. I told him: “I’ve had a headache for 3 days, I sent my friend into the store to buy me ibuprofen and she got me extra strength and I didn’t realize it until this morning after I took it” (I used to be super sensitive to it – I’m a mid-30s pro now lol). His face turned from disgusted to concerned and he said “Okay. You should go home, go straight home for the day and sleep off the headache.” I agreed.

    I didn’t go straight home though. My friend lived around the corner and we had planned to eat lunch, so I stopped there for lunch. I fell asleep sitting up at the table, she woke me up and told me, and it was in that moment I realized that the entire thing was set off because I full on fell asleep sitting up in a chair across from my brand new first ever grown-up job boss!!

    1. The Rural Juror*

      I have several colorful sugar skulls from Mexico. I would be happy if someone brought me another one!

    2. TiffIf*

      I have a friend who loves Day of the Dead style decorations so I actually have brought her little skull (decorations) as souvenirs…

  35. Copier Company Admin Girl*

    Thanks for these, everyone who submitted. I am CRYING laughing at my desk, which is much needed today. I would love to see lists like these more often! Even a quarterly occurrence would be so fun. :)

  36. Poop Cat's Mom*

    It warms my heart so much to see my kitty included here. She was truly a one-of-a-kind cat – and thank goodness, because I couldn’t handle another like her! She stole half a ring of kielbasa out of a frying pan once, and taught my other cat how to steal bread. Her antics were never-ending.

  37. PolishedPreKTeacher*

    I teach Pre-K at a mainly international school affiliated with a large Ivy league university, so I get students every year who speak little to go English. I love languages and already speak a second language fluently, so I have taught myself some basic phrases in a few common languages spoken by my students and their families to help them acclimate. I was quite proud of myself for working on Mandarin and when I got a new student from Beijing, I enthusiastically tried out my new skills.
    My student (understandedly!) was having a hard time adjusting to the culture shock and would cry for his mom throughout the day at first. He was crying one day about two minutes before his pick-up time so I pointed to the clock and cheerfully announched in (broken) Mandarin, “It’s time for Mom!”
    He stopped for a second and then started crying even harder.
    I had no idea why until I checked my pronunciation and realized that I had missed a very key word and instead of “it’s time for Mom” I had announced to a homesick four year old:
    “The Mother-Sword is coming, right now”.
    No wonder it didn’t help.

      1. GoryDetails*

        Me too – and just the phrase “Mother-Sword” is spawning an entire fantasy series in my mind!

        1. PolishedPreKTeacher*

          The worst part is that its also just really clunky wording that implies that the sword’s imminent arrival is of its own volition- I pretty much told him “there is currently a sword flying through the air, and it’s coming directly towards your corporeal form”

    1. Elenna*

      Oh no the poor kid! I’m trying desperately, with my very bad Mandarin, to figure out what it is you actually said. Can’t figure it out (probably because I don’t know what “sword” is in Mandarin, it’s not exactly a word my parents use around the house). Help?

      1. PolishedPreKTeacher*

        I MEANT mama dao shi jian Lai Le, I said, Mama dao jian Lai Le – it’s a different character used in context, but (horrifyingly) I inadvertantly articulated the absolutely threatening one

    2. Mockingjay*

      Priceless. I should have used that on my kids!

      I love this thread. I’m a week behind on tasks, but screw it, I’d rather read these. Happiest I’ve been at work in a while!

    3. Uranus Wars*

      I should not have just spit my water all over my keyboard because THAT POOR KID.

      But “the mother-sword is coming!”…that’s just too much for me to hold in.

  38. Liane*

    #7. Oh, yes. Undenatured absolute ethanol. When I was an undergrad in zoology, I got to go to my college’s faculty/staff holiday party as the date for my now-husband, the department electronics tech. The bio department chair (who taught one of my classes) spiked the punch with that. I swear it’s way more potent than Everclear. Thankfully, there was also a big bowl of virgin punch. Also thankfully (or should that be “I’m sorry”?) I didn’t do anything mortifying as a result of drinking it.

  39. AwkwardK*

    #3 reminds me of my interview to be a RA in college. The question was something to the effect of “What is your biggest prejudice?” I managed to answer something about people that were just there to party. I knew it was bad almost as soon as I said it and tried to fix it but probably made it worse. I’m actually glad I didn’t get the job, but to this day I wouldn’t know how to answer that in an interview.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      I would be SO tempted to answer that my biggest prejudice is against stupid interview questions…

    2. LabTechNoMore*

      “So many to choose from! Let me start by listing my top 5 least favorite nationalities…” There’s not really a good way to answer that question.

      1. 'Tis Me*

        “When I come up against bigotry, I have to remind myself that other people have different upbringings and exposures to various aspects of humanity, and that I’m still learning about systemic biases, my planes of privilege, and other people’s very different experiences too, so I can’t guarantee I will never say anything that could cause offence either, even though I am trying to learn and would of course acknowledge that my intent wouldn’t overrule the impact, apologise, and try to do better going forward.”?

        Although yeah, in context (assuming USA) “I think people who are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of their parents’ money to party, wasting their opportunities and blocking people who would get *so much more* out of the college experience from getting places, are quite frustrating. And might find myself telling people who are taking out commercial bank loans for a very expensive party experience how badly they are shooting their future selves in the feet” seems like a pretty reasonable answer to me!

  40. kdizzle*

    Ugh, I cringe at all the times I was so unprofessional in my first job out of grad school.

    The company had a big shared drive between thousands of people, and I was undertasked, so I went ahead and created a folder that said, “SUPER SECRET” and inside that folder was one that said “DO NOT OPEN,” and one inside that titled, “I TOLD YOU NOT TO OPEN” and on and on like Russian nesting dolls of folders until it got about 20+ deep and there was a picture of Nicholas Cage.

    I forgot all about it.

    Then, a year later at the big awards ceremony, I was called on stage and given a big framed picture of Nicholas Cage by the SVP. Everyone just laughed and laughed and I wanted to crawl into a hole.

  41. the cat's ass*

    NEVER wear open back clogs. First event was running down a flight of stairs at the bakery, and of course i tripped and fell, and landed on… the bosses wife, who was coming up the stairs. We are both well-cushioned so no harm was done, though she never spoke to me again, despite my profuse apologies. Utter mortification.

    Second event was on a hospital floor as i and an intern were running to a code blue, and i stepped on the back of HIS clog, catapulting him out of his shoes, and I landed on top of him. Me, still well-cushioned, him not so much, I broke 2 of his ribs. Most important, the patient survived, and Dr. G and i remained on good terms until we both departed that particular hospital. More mortification.

    1. quill*

      I threw a clog, like a horse throwing a shoe, after I tripped up a set of open riser stairs at a job interview.

      It fell down all 3 stories.

      I did not get the job but I did get help in the form of an interview jogging down to the bottom of the stairwell to fetch it.

  42. CatWoman*

    So, on #15, did Sophia NOT bring everyone little skulls back from vacation? Because it would have been pretty cool if she did. Just saying…

  43. LawEnforcementLurker*

    Long time lurker, first time commenter.
    I met my husband during training for our law enforcement jobs. We both worker at different sites in different provinces for the first two years of our careers. We got married while we were still long distance. When he finally got a transfer to my site I was ridiculously excited. It was not a secret that we were married, but its not a small site so there are lots of us and not everyone knows everyone very well.
    My mortification comes from a phone call I made at lunch break on his first day. I called down to his post to ask if he would come to mine to have lunch with me. Another coworker answered the phone, usually we identify ourselves and then ask for who we are wanting to speak to, well in my excitement all I said was “Can I speak to my HUSBAND?” apparently expecting my coworker who barely knew me and definitely didn’t know my husband to hand the phone to the appropriate person. I had to stumble and explain myself. I heard afterwards that she made fun of me to everyone in the room, which I 100% do not blame her for. I wasn’t particularly mortified at the time but now that we have been working together for 5 years and I am no longer a giddy newly wed I can definitely appreciate how unprofessional and mortifying it was. I did learn my lesson immediately though, I have only referred to him by last name (as most do in our industry) since then. Which is actually more fun since we share the same last name. “LawEnforcementLurker here can I speak to the other LawEnforcementLurker?”

    1. JD*

      My husband and I (both men) work together and we often forget that new employees typically have no idea we’re married. So it’s got to be a shock to them when we talk about our weekend plans together, or I slip up and call him a nickname – I think one of our younger hires thought we were having an ill-concealed office affair.

      1. LawEnforcementLurker*

        We haven’t acted like a married couple at work since that day. We were working together one day and one of our clients noticed we had the same name tag and asked if we were brother and sister. The client knew I was married and knew my last name had changed in the last year and he had worked with my husband for several months at that point. It was pretty funny.

    2. Lyudie*

      Awww that’s cute though! When we were on our honeymoon I went to ask someone who worked at the hotel about buying tickets to something, and I said “my husband and I” and started giggling. She looked at me like I was a lunatic haha.

  44. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

    I once was complimented on my gorgeous sundress by a classmate in college.

    I had woken up about two minutes prior to the class and had worn my nightgown (which did look like a sundress: it had a sweetheart neckline and ruching) to class rather than waste time trying to get dressed.

    You’re not alone, Tablecloth OP!

    1. Where's the Orchestra?*

      At least you wore something.
      My first semester at college was, well, interesting. I seemed to get stuck in the building where the fire alarm was frequently mistaken for the cooking timer. By the time we hit December we’d had 11 fire alarms – none of them preplanned drills (at least housing decided that our building was well practiced in the art of evacuating and that we didn’t need a practice). However, the downside was that we started getting people that would come out completely naked as a jay bird. . . .even in December.
      I was very happy to move to a new building at the end of those two semesters. . . .

      1. 'Tis Me*

        Apparently when my dad was at uni one of the girls was epileptic and loud noises would induce fits. She had a fire alarm bell right outside her door. People would routinely set the alarm off in the drunken belief that this would be funny (not knowing, presumably, they would induce a seizure in somebody). So for a while when the bell went off, it was somebody’s “job” to RUN to the girl’s room and catch her aa she collapsed so she wouldn’t injure herself… The facilities people wouldn’t do anything about it (e.g. Move her to a room further from the bell), so in the end I think they ended up tying something around that one to muffle it because this was like a weekly+ occurrence…

  45. KuklaRed*

    I am 63 and I swear, I had no idea that you could even buy a velvet bra. You learn something new…

    1. spaceygrl*

      It was a Victoria’s Secret bra – leopard print and the “print” part was velvet. Or velour. Fuzzy.

  46. A Social Worker*

    I was mortified when this happened but not embarrassed about it now. I used to do home-based therapy and had a client who lived at the top of a very steep driveway. We had recently had a bad storm and the driveway was a sheet of ice. I made it up okay, but on my way back down to my car afterward I fell and couldn’t get back up so I ended up sliding on my rear all the way down the (long) driveway. I was hoping nobody saw but the next time I came I was greeted with “OMG are you okay?!”

  47. Mallorn*

    Okay, I have to share my own, burned-into-my-mind-and-soul-forever story:
    I write a lot of scripts for my job, which are little computer programs consisting of a bunch of built-in functions that each have their own inputs and tricks. Each command is documented in a “manual” page that you can get to in a number of ways, but you typically type “man” followed by the command. I was trying to combine two things but couldn’t remember how one of the commands worked. I usually google for the command in a browser window so I can reference its documentation while I used it on another screen. So, I merrily typed “man paste” into Google and… OH MY GOD. I have never closed a browser window so quickly in all my life. Forevermore I preface any google search with the name of the software program. “unix man paste” is much less likely to get me fired.

  48. Shan*

    The ganja one has me in hysterics! I can picture her doing the hand gestures so perfectly

    As for #2… a coworker at my last job had that exact thing happen to him. The woman who did it was a very shy, soft-spoken person, and my co-worker is also quite awkward, so they just aggressively avoided each other after it happened. Then about a month later, she announced she was moving down to Texas for her husband’s new job… my coworker and I still joke that she went home after the incident and told her husband “I don’t care where we go, but we have to leave this city.”

  49. Anon Unicorn*

    A few:

    My first day at an internship I went to get coffee. The carafe was about half full, but it was cold, so I figured I’d make more. For some reason it didn’t occur to me to empty the half-full carafe. I guess I just thought it would be able to sense when the carafe was full. So I start the coffee and the carafe starts to fill…and fill…and fill…and then I realized my mistake. Coffee was pouring over the top and I was frantically grabbing mugs to swap out with the carafe to take some of the excess coffee. The only saving grace was that no one else was in there to see, they only saw me mopping up the counter with paper towels

    At the same internship one of my trainers had recently had a baby and was still in the pumping phase. She had stepped out of our office when the managing director (male) came in and asked where she was. Without giving it another thought I just said “Oh, she’s pumping.” I didn’t think anything of it until I noticed the weird look he had given me.

    Finally, about a month into my very first adult job I developed the first abscess of my life, and it was in the perianal region (the latter part of that word should indicate where it was). It didn’t require too much, but my GP wanted me to see a specialist to take care of it, which required a referral and then waiting until they could squeeze me in for an appointment. While I did want to let my supervisors (yes, plural) know that I might be out for a day depending on what was needed to take care of my medical issue, for some reason I decided I had to be incredibly specific about what my ailment was and where it was. I’m still mortified at the absolute TMI of those discussions (and the fact that neither of them cut me off and asked me to spare them the details).

  50. Nea*

    I was walking down the hall of my very large, very stuffy corporation one day and felt a *thump* on my foot.

    It was a maxi pad that had fallen out of my pocket. Looking back, I realized that I had been accidentally leaving an entire trail of feminine products behind me All. Down. The. Hall.

    For about 30 seconds there I seriously debated picking up after myself or running and pretending that someone else must have dropped them!

  51. Jennifer*

    I’m so sorry OP but #2 made me laugh so hard. It’s like a parody of a bad musical. “La la la laaaaaaaa. Swinging my arms because I’m having such a woooooonderful daaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyy!” and then BAM!

  52. Brain fart queen*

    Ooh ooh I’ve got one!
    I worked in promotions in a medical school, and had a new colleague join us. I took him on a tour of our facilities, including our anatomy lab. A scientist was in there, investigating a cadavers dissected head. My new colleague wasn’t a medical person (and neither was I) and he was fascinated as the scientist showed him the tongue, larynx, thyroid etc.

    After the tour we caught up back in my office. He was impressed, saying that was one of the best tours he had and how great my department was.

    Now…he was a very handsome young man and I got a little flustered and tried to be chic and maybe even a bit flirty. So, what was my witty repartee?

    “Of course we are! That’s because we gave you head!”

    Him: well…. I guess I’ll see myself out now.

    You bet I face palmed when he left!

  53. F.M.*

    As a grad student, I teach classes with lots of students, in a field that draws mostly students of a single ethnicity (the same as my own). I’m also mildly face-blind. So give me even sixteen people in an active class that I’m teaching five days a week with lots of instructor-student interaction, but almost all of them of the same ethnicity, with very similar current haircuts–especially among the male students!–and, well. I worked very hard at trying to memorize the names!

    But one semester I had multiple students with names starting with the same letter, plus multiple students with the same name, or variations on the same name. Say… Steve, Steve, and Stephen. So in my head, as I would study class pictures, try to remember where people sat, and desperately attempt to project professionalism, these ended up being, in my head, something like Original Steve, Long Name Stephen, and Other Steve.

    Which helped quite a lot!

    Until I called on someone in class as “Steve!” and then followed up by calling next on “Other Steve!”

    1. Elenna*

      Oof! My high school class did have “big Steve” and “little Steve” (they both had the same last name) but as far as I recall the teachers mostly used their middle initials as distinguishers and/or ensured that they were not in the same class together.

      1. quill*

        The years surrounding my brother and I had a LOT of uniformity in male names, both first and middle. So you would get a Jacob. A Jake. A Jake B. A JC. A JJ… you usually wouldn’t get more than three per class or cohort until middle or high school, but it was also a historically italian town with a lot of similarly lettered last names, a lot of repeat last names (so you couldn’t just yell Jake Lastname!) So it only got worse if you were talking about someone instead of to them.

        Eventually you got names like “football Jake” and “british Jake,” and my personal favorite “Mailbox hit and run Jake.”

      2. Retired(but not really)*

        It does seem like there are certain names that cluster in groups. At one point we had drunk Sean, Minnesota Sean, girl Shawn, and a couple of others. More recently it’s Mikey, Hiccup, and 2.0 (all really Michael).
        And when my son was in third grade there were David, Dave and Davey all with the same last name.

    2. Buglady*

      At one point my work (bike shop) had so many Daves and Davids that the rest of us started answering to it as well. Including the women.

      I think “Steve” and “Other Steve” is hilariously cute, but of course they might have felt differently about it.

  54. No longer working*

    I once answered a request from my boss with “Yes, dear.” Luckily we were alone in his office and no one else heard. He understood as I apologized “Oops, automatic pilot….” Actually, I’m surprised I didn’t say it more often.

  55. Thursday Next*

    I had been in my position for about a month and my team and I were in a skip-level meeting with Grandboss. Everyone was quiet while he was giving updates and information. At one point, he mentioned something he was going to do (I don’t remember his words) but in a split second I misheard what he said and I just….barked laughter. Like a full-on HA!! If I’d been drinking something I would have spit it all over the woman across from me. In the next second I realized my mistake and when Grandboss gave me a wtf face and said, “You don’t even know me” I wanted the floor to open up and swallow me. My team was giving me the same look. I still cringe and this was about 12 years ago.

  56. Anon working class*

    When I was working at my first job out of university I had a bathroom emergency and needed to go home. That’s not how I told my boss, though. I told her I had diarrhea, which apparently is quite offensive. I still got to go home. But I cringe at how specific I was. I now know I could have said intestinal distress, bathroom emergency, even rump rot. But not the actual word for what happened. I still don’t know what’s worse. Messing myself at work or being very specific about it.

    1. Poppy*

      At one job, my boss had a card in her desk drawer spelling the word because so many people got it wrong when they filled in the form the next day. She’d just hold it up as they struggled mid-word. This was in the UK, so the spelling has an extra letter or two in it; really difficult, especially the day after you’ve had it.

  57. Presea*

    During what was like, my second professional project outside of college, my client asked me if I was working on any other projects. The only other project I could think of that he could possibly mean was my cross-stitch project, which contained several swear words and was generally something I wanted to keep out of my work life at the time. I just stammered out a very embarrassed and awkward “no” with a tone that implied he asked an inappropriate question, while internally wondering how the hell he knew anything about my hobbies (??? what was I thinking?).

    Again, this was during a client meeting.

  58. Victoria J*

    Number 10. and the velvet bra –

    What is it about velvet being so attached to other fabrics ?

    My life advice is never wear velvet trousers to the cinema. This is probably less of a problem these days as they mostly seem to have fake leather seating, but the older ones always had velvet seating.

    So – velvet trousers plus velvet seating = finding out at the end of the film that every time I had moved at all my trousers had not. And were no longer where they should be.

    And we were sitting in the front row (my mother has vision issues).

    I stood up and I thought manage to pull my trousers up with amazing discreteness and deftness. I was feeling pretty good about myself until I got outside and my mother asked if I was going to buy the rest of the audience snow goggles because I had just blinded them with my very pale (true) bottom…

  59. Rebekah*

    I once, several months into a job, answered the phone and in a moment of complete brain malfunction gave the greeting from my previous job.

    It was my boss on the phone.

    Fortunately he thought I’d seen the call display and done it as a joke. I completely ran with that explanation and never, ever corrected him.

    1. nothing rhymes with purple*

      Oh my goodness, almost the same thing happened to me. New Job was in a school and the caller was a teacher, who thought I was joking and cracked up laughing, then warned me never to do that to the Headmaster.

  60. Jx*

    My mum used to be the keeper if your local village hall and one time when she had to call someone about a booking, instead of introducing herself as Mrs Poole the hall keeper, she said ‘This is Mrs Hall, the pool keeper’. She didn’t realise what she’d said until my dad, who was there at the time, burst out laughing. Don’t think she’s lived that one down yet.

  61. Generic Poster*

    First full-time permanent job and a client called about something. I knew he was behind on his payments and mentioned it. Decades later, I am still so embarrassed.

  62. learnedthehardway*

    I think my most embarrassing moment was when I was informed that my really nice, comfy sarong skirt was a) not appropriate office wear and b) completely see-through when backlit.

    In retrospect, it really wasn’t appropriate for the office I worked in, which was extremely formal. I had mistaken the invitation to dress down when clients weren’t present for casual wear, rather than being invited to remove our suit jackets. Oops.

    Since then, I have also always ensured that I try skirts on with a bright light behind me, if they are not lined.

  63. Midwest Manager*

    When I was in my mid 20s I worked for a small law firm, which was close enough to my apartment that I walked to work every day. One partner was super outgoing and gregarious, and the other was this shy, super socially awkward, ex-hippie who did mostly prisoner litigation—the kind of guy who you might say “good morning” to and he wouldn’t reply, but he’d come back 2 hrs later asking “I’m sorry, did you say something to me?” because he was so lost in deep thought that he honestly hadn’t registered you. One day it’s raining and I get to the office and shy partner is packing up to spend the day at the penitentiary meeting with clients. I literally walk in the door and he starts giving me instructions on what he needs me to do that day, so I’m walking back to his office while I’m unbuttoning my trench coat, closing my umbrella, etc. We get into his office, I put down the rest of my things and take off my coat, he’s still talking and then he looks up…..and stops dead. With this stunned, poleaxed look on his face. I look down and discover that the inside lining of my coat had rubbed against my clothes as I walked to work, and I was now standing in the senior partner’s office with my skirt suit *up around my waist.* Just standing there, hanging out in my pantyhose and bright red lace underwear. I DIED. I yelped, half turned, and clawed at my clothing trying to get it back into place, apologies pouring out of my mouth. We were both horribly embarrassed already, but then he, trying to make me feel better (I guess?), said “Well, I don’t know, I thought maybe it was just some fashion thing.” What??? What on earth do you think of how I dress normally if you could possibly believe my standing there in my underwear was a conscious fashion choice?? (to be fair, I did have several “work” outfits in my 20s that now make me want to curl up and die, but this one was definitely not intentional).

  64. Eye roll*

    Reading this I’m reminded of wardrobe malfunctions, pet interruptions, and two medical mishaps. My entire career has apparently been plagued with regular cringe.

    I am only the embarrassed bystander in my best story though.

    When I started my current job, there was no physical space to put me in, but management realized attorneys needed office space to handle the confidential work they were assigned. So, the Big Boss decided to divide up the storage room, planning to put in a wall and create a private office in the back. Of course, that required taking bids and doing construction, so the interim solution was to build a six-foot wall out of reams of paper, storage boxes, and cabinets. It served the role of providing visual privacy and made everyone forget I was back there, but it barely absorbed sound, and did nothing for the open space above the wall of stacked-up stuff.

    For whatever reason, there was a weekly visit by a massage therapist to the office to provide massages (mainly to more important people) and they always set up in the storage room. Every week, I had to listen to certain people moaning and groaning and making practically orgasmic sounds throughout their massages. This continued for months, until the Big Boss happened to stop in for a meeting during massage day. She turned a color I had never seen before and scurried off. Massage day was canceled thereafter as an inappropriate use of resources. I left for a business trip the next week, and returned two weeks later to a real wall.

  65. Wardrobe Malfunctions Galore*

    I was in my early 20s and shared a tiny office with 2 other people. I wore a new wrap skirt into work and it started coming unwrapped mid-morning. Fortunately, only one of my co-workers was in the office, and she was handy with clothing repairs. After using binder clips didn’t work, she decided stapling on the inside and binder clips would do the trick. As I am standing there, with co-worker in front of me on her knees and her hands up my skirt with the stapler, one of the managers pops his head in to say good morning, pauses, and says “I’ll come back later.”

    Second wardrobe malfunction: Same job, formal holiday party (it was a very big deal – shopping for THE dress was a conversation that started by the end of summer). I wore a black velvet dress I had worn the year before, with different accessories. After all, who would know? All was well until I was checking in and about to check my coat…RIP. My dress ripped up the back, all the way to the zipper. So, my same co-worker goes in to the bathroom with me to see if she can fix it, but it’s going to take some time. Fortunately, another crafty co-worker came in to the bathroom and volunteered to sew it up for me. (At that point, I always carried a sewing kit with me.) So I’m standing there in the bathroom in a corset, pantyhose, heels, and a winter coat, as co-worker 2 sews my dress back up. She used all of the thread in the sewing kit. While that seam didn’t rip again, I left when one of the straps popped, and by the time I got home, I was wearing black velvet rags.

    Decades later, different job, I was escorting a candidate around campus throughout the day. Mid-morning, I managed to spill an entire cup of hot chocolate down my front. It was a drapey, lightweight top, but I was only wearing a camisole under it, and I didn’t have time to go home. So I spent 10 minutes in the bathroom, scrubbing chocolate off and then using the hand dryer to try to dry it out before I had to meet with the candidate again.

    In conclusion, I no longer wear dresses or skirts to work, I always carry a sewing kit with me and keep one at my desk, and I avoid drinking hot chocolate if I have an in-person meeting.

    1. RunShaker*

      oh my. I’ve had bra malfunction. I’m walking into a meeting & I heard an audible pop. the front middle of my bra popped for some reason. It was newer Victoria’s Secret & the correct size. My male manager looked at me real funny & me being young & dumb, early 20s said oops my bra popped. He noped out & headed into meeting ahead of me. sigh…..I was so naïve & dumb.

  66. Late Bloomer*

    Mortification story here. I was 21 and a college senior when I was flown from the Midwest to Los Angeles to interview for a teaching job at a super swanky prep school with a name identical to a certain Ivy League university. After a full-day interview, I went to dinner on Rodeo Dr. with some of the teaching staff. It was decided that one of the teachers was going to drive me to the airport afterward for my flight home. It was the heaviest day of my period, but I thought it was all good because I’d made a bathroom pitstop midway through dinner. Well, he decided to offer me a driving tour on the way to the airport–it was a late flight–and I started to get anxious as eons passed. Finally, he walked me into the airport and I waved a breezy goodbye as he watched my cream-colored-suit-clad butt move up the escalator. When I went into the bathroom, the damage was clear. (Fortunately, I had a change of clothes in my carry-on.) I was not offered that job, also fortunately.

  67. BeepBeepGoesTheScooter*

    In my previous life, I was a middle school/high school teacher. I was student teaching 8th grade English when one of the students lent me the book “A Child Called It”. (FYI, the book is about abuse and trauma). I had just finished reading a particularly upsetting chapter when it was time for me to be lead teacher, doing one of those grammar exercises where sentences were written ungrammatically and the students had to identify the errors while I corrected them on the overhead.

    A student had just provided a correction to the sentence I was on, so I crossed out the offending word and put in their correction. (Or so I thought). I started to move on when a student raised their hand and said, “Mx. Scooter, you just crossed out that word and wrote “child”.” And so I had.

    I played it off, saying I had done it on purpose to see if they were paying attention. I erased “child” from the overhead. And then…I wrote “child” again.

    “Mx. Scooter!!! You did it again!” At this point, I could no longer play this off, so I just erased it and apologized.

    At this point I was starting to feel embarrassed…what was wrong with me?? The book was upsetting me, but why on earth did I keep writing “child” over and over again like a total idiot in front of a bunch of thirteen-year-olds?? Why was I so distracted?

    And so…(dear reader, I’m sure you can see where this is going)…somehow, I WROTE “CHILD” AGAIN in the ungrammatical sentence on the overhead!!!! (THREE TIMES?? Why?)

    I don’t recall anything bad coming from that bizarre interaction, though I’m sure those students thought I was losing my mind.

  68. Oh Behave*

    Many times I would end a call by saying, “I love you!”.
    Answering the home phone with the business salutation.
    I opened an email containing a virus. It shut down the entire company for a day or two. I told my boss (a friend) that I would resign if he wanted. I was seasoned enough to know better.

  69. English Rose*

    Oh Alison thank you so much for posting all of these, I have had tears of laughter rolling down my face!

  70. GingerSheep*

    I was in my early twenties when a new coworker was hired. Meeting her I realised that she was someone that my parents used to know through my church. I couldn’t remember much about her and her husband, and the only thing that came to mind is that when I had last seen her about 8 years previously when I was about 15, she had a baby that was massively overweight (like, by far the fattest baby I had ever seen). So I was there both wanting to show I remembered her and her baby, and being terrified I might put my foot in my mouth and say something about its weight. Which meant I ended up blurting out : « I remember you had a baby! Do you still have it? ». She proceeded to inform me very coolly that she had, indeed, kept her daughter, and that she was now in a school for highly gifted children. I was mortified, and she never really forgave me. Thankfully I changed jobs not long after!

  71. Seriously Frivolous*

    Here’s my story: I just got my first real R+D technology job after my PhD. On the evening of day #1, my partner and I went to a nice restaurant to celebrate, but couldn’t eat it all. We took the leftovers home and I brought them to reheat for lunch. The dinner was spicy with whole chilli peppers as garnish.

    On day #2, the CEO of the company came to my table in the lunch room to say hi to the new employee. I tried hard to impress him, making sure to make eye contact. This meant not looking at my food, and taking a bite full of peppers.

    My mouth exploded and my face went red. But I decided to pretend nothing was happening. I tried to pretend to follow the conversation. Next, I started crying. Tears flowed down my cheeks. Still I pretended nothing was wrong. The CEO had a strange look and slowly ended the conversation. I never explained what happened. The job was OK, and I lasted another two years before leaving for a better job.

  72. Mimmy*

    I am loving everyone’s stories! It definitely makes me feel better about my own mistakes. I’ve had a couple of interview gaffes that are tame by comparison (to be fair, I was still very new to working). One was during a job interview at a law firm. I think the question was “how organized are you?” and I basically said “so so”.

    Second one was for, I believe, a Child Study Team secretary. I think I said I was just looking for something until I found something else (I was trying to leave an unpleasant job). I distinctly remember the woman saying “well that’s not good for us!”

    I’ve since learned that you shouldn’t be TOO honest in job interviews!

  73. Unkempt Flatware*

    I once worked as a teacher specialist where I would pull out students from their classroom and work with them one-on-one in my half-sized-classroom. I was laughing and joking with a friend in the teacher’s lounge about how I could close my door during my lunch hour and take a nap while The Price is Right played on my TV in the room. We were joking about how funny it would be to do that in the middle of a schoolday and I attempted to pretend to be me in that hypothetical scenario and wanted to say, “hahah yeah I could just put a sign up that says, ‘I’m in here asleep. Whatever you do, don’t come in'”, but what actually came out of my mouth in a room full of teachers was, “I’m in here asleep. Do what you gotta do but don’t come inside me”. My face was on fire.

  74. Uranus Wars*

    I think I have mentioned this here before, but in my first job out of college (20+ years ago) I had a colleague Jane Smith, who I fancied an idiot. My best work friend was Judy Smithfield….our emails were FI.LastName@ and you know how outlook LOVES to store email addresses.

    Well, Jane said something moronic so I emailed Judy and typed Jane is a F*cking Idiot…only it went to j.smith@ (instead of J.Smithfield@)

    Why she did not tell our boss and get me in trouble I will never know. Lesson learned early, tho!

  75. Free Meerkats*

    To go along with the cupping one.

    When I was fresh out of the Navy, Dad was flying an advertising hot air balloon for a Phoenix rock station, so I was regular ground crew. One of the things you have to do after you land is to “milk” the air out of the balloon. One does this by stretching the balloon out on the ground, and starting at the basket end, wrapping your arms around the envelope, and working toward the open vent at the top. There’s a lot of fabric there, so you end up completely enveloped in hot, propane-scented rip-stop nylon, shoving with your head and shoulders while alternately sticking your arms up as high as they can go, and bringing them down to gather up fabric. If you have help, they sort of shove fabric toward you ahead of you.

    We had help that day, a young advertising intern from the radio station and she was shoving. I threw up my right arm, brought it down, and ended up with a handful of butt. Since I couldn’t see anything and knew this wasn’t a normal part of the balloon, I started feeling around to figure out if I’d gathered up a small bush. There was significant embarrassment on both sides.

  76. Oops*

    At my previous company the non-unionized staff were very unhappy as there were wage freezes for years. We always had really good benefits but the company was making some changes. One of the HR Directors was giving a presentation on some upcoming changes – literally no positives. Halfway during the presentation with a very unhappy room her skirt just drops to her ankles. Out of nowhere.

    The funny thing is I saw the same thing happen to someone else in the same room 2 months later. We all joked the room must be cursed.

  77. DT-C*

    I’m wondering if LW15 speaks Russian at work. I took a few years of it in college and pee-SAT means “to read,” while “PEE-sat” means to pee.

  78. Will's Mom*

    One time I meant to use lip balm but I used my glue stick instead. Then, I grabbed a tissue to wipe off the glue which firmly attached itself to the glue. Just as I jumped up from my desk to run to the restroom, my boss brought the founder and CEO of my company by to introduce him. That was a fun day. Thankfully, they both laughed about it but boy was my face red!

  79. Foxgloves*

    Re: #10 – OMG JUST TELL SOMEONE IF THIS HAPPENS!! Just a quick “oh, Jane, your top!” would be absolutely fine. When someone’s WHOLE BOOB is out at work, it’s pretty obviously a wardrobe malfunction and not the look they were daringly attempting that day…!!!

  80. Anonymous Hippo*

    Oh, I forgot this mortification the other day.

    One of the first major meetings I was in for my first job, had all the higher ranking managers in it, my first season of budget setting. We were calling into the conference line so we could link in corporate. My boss’s boss is reading off the number to me and I’m typing it in. IDK if she read a number wrong, or I typed something wrong, but I typed it in, and the answer was along the lines of “Thank your calling sexy times” I leaped across the conference table and slapped the phone so hard I’m a little surprised I didn’t break it. The most embarrassing part was that I slammed it down so fast that nobody heard the answer, and then I had to explain to everyone in the room why I leaped across the table like that. Everybody thought it was hilarious except me.

  81. TardyTardis*

    I should have added The Popcorn Incident. Bear in mind that our microwave at home is elderly and of lower power than most on the market today. So when I started work at Old Ex-Job, three weeks into it I decided I wanted some popcorn. Instead of using the Popcorn button like an intelligent person, I set it for the number of minutes I used at home and used the restroom. Smoke, fire alarm, assembly on the lawn–fortunately, I stayed there for quite some time with the understanding that I Would Never Fix Popcorn Again.

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