let’s talk about your mortifying moments at work

It’s almost time for Mortification Week 2022, and in preparation we need to hear your stories of mortifying experiences at work — yours or other people’s. Maybe you mistakenly emailed your lengthy romantic story to a colleague instead of your husband … or gave a person two noses in an interview Photoshop test … or accidentally threw condoms all over your interviewer’s desk. Whatever it is, we want to hear in the comments about your stories of embarrassment at work.

And remember, mortification is universal and makes us human, and it is often hilarious.

{ 1,178 comments… read them below }

  1. Liz*

    As a server, I was mid-shift on a very busy night when a gentleman sitting alone at a booth asked me how things were going. I joked, “Well, sure could use an extra arm or two!” and kept walking. When I returned to the booth later, I noticed for the first time that he had a limb difference.

    I think my face is still red.

      1. Cookie monster*

        I was wearing a button up shirt that buttons kept opening on all day. Something major happened at work and I had a conference call that I was on to be informed of the news which I then had to give to my local team. After the call, I stood up in our open office, threw my hands out and said ” Everyone, X (horrible great grand boss) was fired!” And every button on my shirt decided to fail and open right then. So I was standing with my staff looking at me, with my bra on and a completely open shirt. That shirt went in the trash when I got home.

        1. Cookie monster*

          This was not supposed to post as a response! Sorry.
          But also, I once asked someone if they “needed a hand?” Only to realize they were missing an arm…

          1. Muddlewitch*

            You’re not the only person to whom this has happened -welcome to the club. No, I’ve not been able to forget it either.

            1. Bunny*

              I am a reporter. Early in my career I attempted to shake Bob Dole’s hand. Which was fine. I went for the one he wounded in combat. The Senator had a sense of humor.

            2. jlynnm*

              My boss is an amputee – he will joke about it often. About only having one hand/ needing a hand/ only 3 hands between us…. Fortunately he has a sense of humor about it.

        2. H3llifIknow*

          OMG My first day at a new company I had a new blouse on… and the buttons over my breast *I’m very busty* kept popping open without my realizing it. At one point my 2 new managers left the room and the one apparently told the other one “You have to tell her; you’re going to have to learn to manage her” and they came back and he said, “Ummmmm your shirt has popped open.” It did it like 3 more times. That shirt also went in the trash. It was FINE when I tried it on, I swear!

          1. CoveredinBees*

            I had the same thing happen on my very first day as an employed attorney. Two days later my boss called me into her office for a humiliating conversation about appropriate clothing, breasts, and all the ways in which women’s bodies are judged by others. She could not accept my response that I’d given the shirt a test drive and it had been TOTALLY FINE at home and in the store.

            1. Esmae*

              Oof. I had a similar experience with a wrap dress that fit fine at home, but started to gape more and more in the front as the day went on. Loooong conversation with my boss about how women in public service have to be careful to dress conservatively so we don’t attract inappropriate attention, and how much paperwork there is if we have a stalking incident. Explaining that I was completely aware of the problems with the dress and never planned on wearing it again did not get me out early.

              1. La Triviata*

                At a previous job, one of the directors – who was fairly busty – tended to wear tops that would gape. At one luncheon she sat right in front of the speaker (a man) who would at various times look down at her and, as her blouse gaped more and more, he became more and more distracted. She was teased about it and finally started wearing tops that would stay closed.

                Luckily, I’ve been fairly flat-chested for most of my life, so this has not been an issue but I will, if it seems necessary, use safety pins to ensure no flashing.

              2. Anonomatopoeia*

                While I get you didn’t want to wear this again, and decency rules exist and all, if someone DECIDES TO BE A STALKER because you have a wardrobe malfunction, that is 73000% that person’s fault, and 0% yours. Would the paperwork be a hassle? Maybe, BUT SINCE YOU WOULD BE BEING STALKED in that scenario, it’s not the biggest problem omg. That boss is a nincompoop.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Oooh, ouch. If he had a sense of humor about it he could have said, “Me too!” :-)

      Reminds me of how I always used to say that I was blind as a bat because I wear glasses. Sure, can’t read signs and see details without my glasses, but I am definitely not blind. I stopped saying that when I started a new job with a boss whose father was actually blind, but I’m fairly certain I said it once or twice before I knew that.

      1. ecnaseener*

        If we’re being pedantic, bats have some vision, so “blind as a bat” doesn’t mean completely blind. You were just being accurate!

        1. k bee*

          Blindness also has varying degrees and not everyone who is blind lacks total vision. Glasses are a disability aid and there are folks who are blind who still wear glasses because they help navigate the world better. Still a good reminder to be careful of our language!

          1. Been There*

            Over the weekend my cousin’s girlfriend tried on my glasses (they’re Rx but she thought they were decorative… if I’m going to wear one item the entirety of my waking life, they’re going to look good). I’m pretty blind, but only in one eye, and usually warn people before they put them on because it can give bad vertigo.
            I did not have time to warn her before she just plopped them on her head.
            She took a VIOLENT step backwards, shook her head, pulled them off and said to me in an astonished voice “wow, you’re really….” and then just trailed off.

            I could only laugh about it. I was like “yup, bad vision in one eye, basically blind!” She’s really sweet and i could tell she felt bad about her reaction but I thought it was cute.

            1. Snoozing not schmoozing*

              Is there really such a thing as glasses for just fashion or decorative use? Ugh, how is that different than a fake hearing aid or crutches or wheelchair as a fashion look?

              1. Summer*

                Sunglasses are a huge fashion item; it’s really not that much of a stretch if someone wants to wear glasses as an accessory. Why that would bother anyone – let alone be compared to someone using a wheelchair for fun – I will never understand.

              2. Kacihall*

                I enjoy treating glasses as a fashion item. I mean, I need to wear them if I want to see more than 18 inches in front of me, but I have six(ish) pairs of regular glasses. Some days I don’t care and pick the ones I grab first but other days I like coordinating.

                Meanwhile, my kindergartener has a pair with no prescription because he thinks he looks so grown up in them. (I got tired of him trying to wear mine and Zenni had them for $10. And he’s right, he looks like such a little man in them. )

              3. SnappinTerrapin*

                I worked with a fellow who wore “lift” shoes to look taller and glasses with plain lenses to look smarter.

                He discussed this in the office, just to give you a base line of the starting point the glasses worked from.

              4. Seeking second childhood*

                Been There didn’t say that person tried them on ONLY as a fashion statement. When I’m in need of new glasses, you can bet I look at other people’s glasses. And on occasion, I have been known to ask to try them on to find out if they’re a possibility for me. (But taking them fast like this woman? That’s way over the line.)

              5. GlitterIsEverything*

                Drew Carey had LASIK, but then discovered that his glasses had become part of his acting persona. He still wears glasses when acting as a result, even though he doesn’t need them.

                Sunglasses are a protective device that are also fashionable (thank you Jackie O for making sunglasses a fashion statement!).

                Lots of people are starting to use blue light blocking glasses when on the computer; also using fashionable frames.

                And there is a small fashion trend to wear non-prescription glasses as a fashion statement.

                Plus, for those who wear prescription glasses, some have multiple pairs for fashion reasons. I have several patients over the years who will keep 4-6 pairs. Some will have different purposes (sunglasses / computer / driving), but others are for different looks. (I personally carry 3 pairs in my purse at all times, for different purposes.)

              6. Migraine Month*

                My college had a wheelchair basketball team, and so far as I know most of the participants did not wear a wheelchair when not playing the sport. They weren’t “fake” wheelchairs, just equipment used for a less-obvious reason.

                Similarly, there are plenty of times it’s helpful to have glasses, even if your vision is fine. Sunglasses and reading glasses are the most obvious, but there’s also blue-light glare reduction, safety equipment, etc. As someone who’s worn Rx since second grade, it’s never bothered me.

      2. dawbs*

        Absolutely true story:

        I had an uncle who lost a leg. We were at a “church comedy” thing (they exist. Basically a comedy play that was also start standup/improv) and part of the act was 2 characters getting lost and wandering into aisles. One tripped on uncle’s leg, which was angled awkwardly and apologized. Uncle reached down, said something like “that’s OK, you might need it more than I do”, and handed the actor his prosthetic leg.
        The actor gaped for a second and it was the moment that truly brought down the house :)

        1. Nea*

          Something similar happened to friends who ran a haunted house. One of the rooms involved a mad surgeon reaching through locked bars and begging for a victim to “donate” to their cause.

          One guy unbuckled his prosthetic and offered it.

          1. My dear Wormwood*

            I played a mad scientist for Halloween once – crying “Ah! Fresh parts!” and measuring up the children’s teeth, eyes, etc, and then sadly saying they were not quite right but thank you so much for coming, do have some lollies. They LOVED it.

            1. April*

              *sorts idea away for if I ever live in a neighborhood that gets a lot of trick-or-treaters*

          2. Reluctant Mezzo*

            I was once in a Jaycee haunted house where the chairman’s girlfriend had lost an arm in an accident as a child. They had the most splendid and awful axe-murderer set in history.

        2. Lizzo*

          FANTASTIC.

          I was hanging out with friends (husband and wife) who are also freelance clients of mine and made a passing comment about the fact that my father-in-law is a risk taker but (paraphrasing) “wouldn’t do anything stupid where he might lose a limb”, and the husband responded with a very brief quip that I forget the details of now but I WAS SUDDENLY HORRIFIED BECAUSE HE (husband) HAS A PROSTHETIC LEG. I spent the next 5 minutes laugh-crying because I was so horrified by what I’d said, but the wife assured me that the husband lives for moments like this where he gets to make jokes about his leg.

        3. Charlotte Lucas*

          My dad was a printer, & a significant number of people lose parts of fingers to the trade. He worked with a guys who was missing a finger. Anytime someone asked about it, he’d claim it had just been there a minute ago & institute a search.

          1. Ralkana*

            I work in manufacturing and a lot of the older guys are missing fingers or parts of fingers from less rigorous safety measures when they were younger. An older manager, retired now, once held up 3 fingers on his right hand in a meeting and said, “3 things to remember. Wait, that’s 2 1/2 things” He put down his right hand, held up 3 fingers of his left hand, and said “3 things to remember,” and then kept going. The whole room burst into snickering.

        4. Hills to Die on*

          My former neighbor lost a thumb. He would do that trick where you pretend that you are pulling your thumb off with your other hand. It was so cute watching my toddlers try to figure out how he did it.

          1. HBJ*

            My dad never did that trick, but when he lost the tip of his finger, the young grandchildren spent about five minutes looking around his hand, comparing it to the other, trying to figure out where it went.

        5. Magenta Sky*

          I live close to Disneyland in California. A very close friend of mine, who is something of a fan of theirs, was born with no left hand. (Having been born that way, it’s so perfectly natural for him I actually knew him nearly a year before I realized it). One of the more popular rides there is Pirates of the Caribbean, which is a boat ride. One of his favorite tricks is to dangle the stump in the water and wait for the ride operator to get to the part of his spiel about sharks and other water hazards, then pull his handless stump out of the water and start screaming. (The ride operators apparently love it – the second time they see it.)

            1. littlehope (formerly Blue, there were two of us)*

              IME, most amputees are the funniest people in the world and rarely pass up the opportunity for a joke about it. I mean, you should let them make the joke first, but they usually will!

        6. Usagi*

          I used to work in tech retail, and I was training a new team member on different features. We were on the sales floor, so there were customers around us, but I wasn’t in uniform so that we could focus on training (i.e., he’d look like he’s helping a customer). I was explaining to him the different accessability features, and he just… didn’t like them. He overall was not a great employee, and would keep arguing about how he didn’t understand why these accessability features were there, or “why would anyone need that?” or “who would even use this?” I was starting to get frustrated, when suddenly, the customer behind him exploded in a rage, “IT’S FOR PEOPLE LIKE ME” while tearing off his prosthetic arm and waving it around. The employee turned a billion shades of red, apologized, and excused himself.

          The customer was a regular with a great sense of humor, and he then told me that he could see I was getting frustrated, and that he hoped I didn’t mind if he “put a little fear of God in the new guy.”

          I didn’t mind at all.

        7. Kate Adams*

          A high school classmate played football and also happened to have an artificial eye. One time when the team wasn’t doing so well against an opponent, he popped out the glass eye, rolled it onto the field, and screamed “my eye!”. This totally unnerved the other team, and of course our side thought it was hilarious. Unfortunately word got around, so the trick lost its effectiveness. (I used to think of this guy when I was stuck in endless staff meetings, for some reason…)

      3. Jay*

        When I was a new doc practicing in primary care and I saw someone with a viral illness, I would tell them that the best way to prevent other people in the family catching it was to “wash your hands like someone with OCD.” Ha ha ha.

        And yes, I did say that to someone who I later learned was being treated for severe OCD and who was also a colleague of my husband’s, so I had to see him regularly outside of the office.

        Oy.

        1. Carol the happy elf*

          My friend’s father had a mild OCD, and when he was telling a new Primary Care doctor about it, the doctor asked him questions, then asked how it affected his life.
          Friend’s dad loved doing this- he said “Well, it drives me nuts that they named it wrong.”
          The doctor took the bait, so friend’s dad got a very stressed look on his face, then stage-whispered, “they have to change it to “C.D.O. so it will be in alphabetical order!”

      4. LobsterPhone*

        Once when I worked in a public library I noticed a lady sitting at the (desk height) query counter so I sat down opposite her at the workstation and asked if I could assist….she told me that one of my colleagues had put a book aside for her but she didn’t know my colleague’s name or where she’d put the book. I asked if she could describe my colleague, does she have brown hair in a bob, etc to which the customer replied ‘I have no idea, I’m blind’ and at that exact moment her guide dog stood up from behind the desk where he/she had been having a nap.

      5. Anonomatopoeia*

        I dunno if I would determine someone doesn’t have a sense of humor about something based on what I think they would have said if they did? IJS.

      1. SamiJo*

        While eating a spicy lunch at my desk the CEO walked by just as I commented to myself, ohhh SPICY. I’ve never been more embarrassed at work!

    2. Nick Fireplace*

      Oh this happened to me. Years ago, I used to work in a bookshop and one shift, I approached a customer and asked, “Can I give you a hand?” Friends, I think you can imagine what happened next. It still keeps me awake at night.

      1. lisavfr*

        Reminding me of my high school woodshop teacher. He would demonstrate how to use a saw and say “Don’t do it this way, or you will end up like me!” while proudly displaying his hand missing most of his fingers.

    3. BadHostess*

      I was working hostess in a restaurant and asked a busy server, “What are you limping about today?” They didn’t respond, and — thank heavens, because it was uncharacteristic for me at that time — I did not persist.

      What I had pointed out so cluelessly was this person’s normal way of walking. I’d just never noticed. (Along with being loudmouthed and tactless, I was not very observant.) The server was gracious enough to ignore the question, but I’m still embarrassed, decades later. I was SUCH an idiot in those days.

      1. DrRat*

        It could be worse. I was at a conference where Geri Jewell, the actress/comedian gave a talk. She told a story about going to a restaurant with a deaf friend who had a service dog. The server sees the service dog and thinks the friend is blind. No, Geri explains, it’s not a seeing eye dog, it’s a hearing ear dog. So when it comes time to order, the server ignores the deaf customer, lifts up the tablecloth, looks straight at the dog, and says in a loud, clear, slow voice: “AND WHAT WOULD SHE LIKE TO EAT?”

        Geri told that story over 2 decades ago and I still crack up every time I think of it.

        1. Nightengale*

          My Deaf ASL teacher was given the Braille safety instruction card on an airplane. And said this had happened to other Deaf friends as well.

    4. giraffecat*

      Ooh, this story reminded me of when I had just started was working retail years ago. I was busy checking out someone at the register when a customer walked up to the side and asked me where the bathroom was. Without looking up from what I was doing, I pointed in the direction the bathroom was and said “the bathroom is that way, door at the end of the aisle.” The person asked “which way?” so I again pointed and said “that way.” It wasn’t until they started walking off in the wrong direction that I realized they were blind and couldn’t see where I was pointing! I felt terrible.

    5. Darkangel_1708*

      I worked in an amusement park in my 20’s. We used to do the push and pull on the harness to verify it was properly locked. Some people would rest their hand on their lap under the harness and so to avoid squishing them during the push I would tell them “watch out for your hands” so they could move them away.

      There is that one guy who raise is arm after I say this…waving his arm with a funny face…he his missing a hand. I was mortified…

    6. ASneakierMailman*

      Oh my goodness, you beat me to it. I’m a reference librarian and we have a frequent patron who visits the desk who has only one arm. He was once trying to get something out of his wallet and I asked him, “Can I give you a hand?” He gave me a not-sure-if-joking look and I immediately realized my mistake. Fortunately we were both able to laugh at it afterward.

    7. Nomayo*

      Working retail I once asked a guy if he could use a hand with anything, and he looked at me and waved his arm that was missing a hand.

      I was “OH MY GOD I AM SO SORRY.” And he laughed and said it was okay.

      So total solidarity with you on this.

    8. Medium Sized Manager*

      Serving brings out the absolute dumbest moments. I once asked a deaf person if they wanted a braille menu because….my brain wanted to help but not to think apparently.

      I also asked somebody if they were fine with a medium well cook on their chicken sandwich at the tail end of a long day – she was very kind to just laugh when I quickly corrected myself and told her she didn’t have a choice.

    9. Stackson*

      Yep, the safety guy at my former job was doing a training on how to use the cardboard baler we’d just gotten in. It was a little bit of a rough training–he didn’t appear to have done any homework on how the baler worked, so he was figuring it out as he went, in front of all of us. It was a little awkward but he worked it out eventually and we finished the training.
      Later that day, I saw him out walking around the plant and thanked him for the training. He said something to the effect of “Yeah, it could have been smoother, but we got through it, didn’t we?”
      I said, “We did! Although I think with things like that, it can be helpful to confirm how things work in advance of the training. We don’t want anyone losing a finger!”
      He replied, “Nope,” and walked away.
      And as he walked away, I remembered that he was, in fact, missing a finger.

    10. Not So NewReader*

      I complimented a customer on their new hairdo.

      It was a chemo wig. smh.

      1. Sally*

        I have a friend with Trichotillomania who wore wigs for years, and she didn’t really know what to say when people complimented her and asked where she got her hair done. In a happy note, she has found a medication that helps, and she has been able to grow out her own hair.

      2. Carol the happy elf*

        Gushy, annoying coworker, to me:

        “Oh, Carol, you finally decided to take time in your hairdo! I love it!”

        Me: “Then you can have it, it itches.”
        (Pulling off detested chemo wig and handing it to her.) My bald head is bumpy and has freckles.
        She went all woozy and threw up on my $600 human hair wig.
        It was worth it.

    11. Clefairy*

      I used to work as a skipper on a now-defunct boat ride where a shark attacks the boat at a popular theme park in Florida- one time, as my guests were unloading, a man who was an amputee ran up to me, waving the nub of his missing arm, and said “OH NO!! HE GOT ME!!”

      It was literally one of the funniest moments of my theme park career haha

    12. Curmudgeon in California*

      LOL! I have hemiparesis, which in my case means that my right arm is a useless decoration and I walk with a serious limp. I regularly get double takes when I say “I’m busier than a one armed paper hanger with hives.” and they know I only have the use of one arm. Yes, I make gimp jokes, and sometimes do the Igor “Mathter, mathter”, with the dragging limp that is my typical when I’m tired.

    13. Irish Teacher*

      I actually did something…possibly worse. One of my students was shouting across the room, not being deliberately disruptive, just talking very loudly and I told them to lower their voice, nobody hear is deaf. Guess what? There was a kid in the class who was hard of hearing. And I knew it; I just…wasn’t actually thinking about that kid at the time!

    14. Emmeileia*

      Oh no, I had something like this happen to me! I was working as a nature interpreter at a public park. My job was to sit by a table of ‘specimens’ and answer any questions folks had about the park. So this lovely family (mom, dad, three boys from about 4 to 10) come by and ask about the coyote skull. Great! I love canids, and can go on for a while. So there I am waxing eloquent about their adaptability, their fur, etc and I get to the sagittal crest on the skull. “This is where their jaw muscles attach! Look how big it is, they could take your arm off in one bite” I said, gesturing with the skull like it was chomping at the middle boy…who promptly held up an arm that ended in a stump past his elbow. This kid’s eyes lit up as he looks right at me and says “Too late” with a big grin. His parents thought it was hilarious, but I must have turned 30 shades of red. Now, a good 14 years later I can laugh at the boy with the best comeback ever.

    15. Anon for this*

      So I had a coworker with one missing hand, who had what I guess is called a hook clamp that he used. It’s roughly hook-shaped, but is blunt rather than pointed, and can clamp onto things so you can use it the carry stuff and hold on to it. One day we were talking, and for reasons now lost in the mists of time, I mentioned something about it. But I called it, “Your little clampy thing.” Readers, this is apparently not the formal term. Thankfully he just busted up laughing.

      1. Bronze Betty*

        This reminds me of a fellow student when I was in college who had a prosthetic hand. This was long enough ago that it was an actual hook (I’m old!). He would occasionally refer to himself as The Happy Hooker.

    16. Alpaca Bag*

      This reminds me of when I was ushering and asked a patron if I could see his stub… I meant his ticket stub, and was mortified when I saw his partial arm. I rephrased that question from that day forward!

    17. DrRat*

      Former boyfriend was taking a class, sat next to the same woman every day. One day he notices she has crutches with her. He asks “Is something wrong with your leg?” She replies casually, “Yeah, it’s in the shop for repairs.” Only at that point did he notice her jeans were completely flat on one side.

    18. Numbat*

      I once worked in a hardware store and would occasionally serve a woman with no arms or legs. When chips in credit cards first became a thing (mid 2000s) I would ask every customer “PIN or sign?” So of course I asked her, unsure if I’d just asked the dumbest thing ever or not. BUT it turned out I didn’t need to feel mortified for that split second because she could sign the receipt with a pen in her mouth. Of course!

    19. Iain C*

      I am sure they took that as an armless and amusing comment.

      I’ve met a few people with missing limbs. I make sure it’s not what I talk to them about, but my 3 year old…. was another story. But they’ve always been very open an friendly to a curious child who brings no judgement, just wonder.

    20. Anon scientist*

      Related: I was in training with a guy who was missing an arm. We had to pick a group name from an 80s hair band and I yelled out Def Lepard! Which is technically correct, but I only realized a few minutes later that their drummer is missing an arm (thanks subconscious) and I just wanted to fall through the floor.

      We did not pick Def Lepard and all involved politely glided over it.

    21. Cedrus Libani*

      In college, I was working a youth-science event. I managed to get my leg stuck between the event coordinator’s wheelchair and a roof-support pillar, such that I lost a good chunk of skin. The coordinator apologized profusely. I tried to laugh it off, but I was flustered and bleeding, so what escaped my mouth? “It’s OK, I’ve got two of ’em.”

      That is, two legs. And of course, the moment I said it…I remembered. She did NOT have two of ’em; she had maybe 0.7 legs, in total. Hence the wheelchair.

      I’m 99% sure she heard me, but saw the look on my face and had the charity to pretend she hadn’t. So I was able to quietly limp off to the bathroom, where I hid for the rest of the evening.

    22. Suzy Q*

      Oh, this made me remember the time I went to automatically shake a person’s hand who had about half a hand. I check now.

    23. EvilQueenRegina*

      At an old job, my one coworker was looking at someone’s application for financial assistance for adaptations, only to find that this person’s finance meant she wouldn’t be eligible. The lady in question was…someone quite likely to dispute the decision, and in discussion, my coworker said that “X hasn’t really got a leg to stand on”. X was an amputee.

  2. EPLawyer*

    Really? On a day when I HAVE to prepare for trial. You are truly evil Alison (just kidding).

      1. EPLawyer*

        Well there is the courthouse that is trying to kill me. Seriously, every time I visit it, something happens. I’ve tangled my legs getting up from the benches to go up, I’ve tripped over my own two feet and banged into the wall. But the bestest one I was walking across the lobby in heels and hit a weird spot and completely wiped out. I was fine. Just don’t go to that courthouse anymore.

        But oh this is a good one. On one county scheduling hearings are at the god awful hour of 8:30 a.m. Several years ago, I had one such hearing. The night before I had insomnia so I figured what the heck, just get there early. All well and good. My case is called, the judge gives me a date and time for the final uncontested divorce — 8:30 a.m. I just gave him a look. He said “Don’t make a face, I saw you walking into the courthouse this morning as I was pulling in.” I said “well I didn’t sleep last night so i got in early.” He said “I don’t want to know about your personal life.”

        I should note, this judge was smiling and almost laughing when he said these things. He and I had and HAVE a great relationship. He’s retired but we get together for lunch every so often and text regularly.

    1. Then Intern*

      We had a team building meeting with a facilitator calling in from a different country. So, think full board room – from director to interns, sat around the table trying to hear what’s coming out of the laptop speaker.

      The facilitator decided to start with a meditation exercise to get us started. We were supposed to close our eyes, so some breathing, (spiritually) feel the earth around us etc. Already not my cup of tea, but fine. Until at some point she focused very heavily on the pelvic area, with instructions such as “feel your pelvic, feel the energy flow through it, down onto the floor, through the building and into the earth.”

      It was just a bit too ridiculous for me (and I mean – pelvis? I was very immature ). So I felt laughter coming. I bit my lip and tried to keep it down, but she kept going on and on about our pelvic. I opened my eyes to focus on something visually, to distract me from laughing. Instead, I made eye contact with my colleague who had a funny look of WTF on his face.

      I unsuccessfully tried to hide my bout of laughter with coughing. It just drew more attention as more colleagues opened their eyes. This caused me to laugh even harder. I eventually had to leave the room entirely, and sat out the rest of the team building.

  3. Neil*

    Not one of my own, but a particular favourite.
    The place i used to work did sandwich platters that were used to cater for parties and, sometimes, wakes. I was stood in front of my counter with a customer, loading up their trollies of about 20 sandwich platters for the wake of the grandad. My line manager come bounding up behind them, full of excitement, whilst I try to get him to stop because I know what’s about to happen. He doesn’t stop, and announces his arrival with, “wow, that’s a lot of sandwiches, what’s the big occasion?” To which the customer quietly replies, “my grandad’s funeral.”
    Cue line manager making an amazingly quick, sheepish exit, leaving me to have to apologise for him being a buffoon.
    He then came back half an hour later, very, very mortified, and apologised to me for him making an idiot of himself, and for leaving me to deal with the fallout.
    Thankfully, the customer was fine with it.

    1. Audrey Puffins*

      I used to work in a bookshop and when someone was returning a book, we’d ask why, presumably so we didn’t accidentally put damaged products back on the shelf but I suppose there are other reasons for asking why. I learned the hard way never to ask why someone’s returning a book about expecting a baby.

      1. Her name was Joanne*

        Anything related to babies. Many years ago, my sister miscarried. About a month before it happened, she had gone to her favorite department store (who at the time had a very generous return policy) and bought a bunch of baby stuff on sale. When my brother in law went back to return it all, the salesperson rudely ranted to him about how tired she was of people buying lots of stuff and then returning it as it hurt their sales for the day. It was a looong time before they shopped there again, even after the store sent flowers and an apology.

        1. The Bimmer Guy*

          I mean, miscarriage aside, he shouldn’t have been ranting to a customer about returning baby stuff…*while* the customer is returning baby stuff.

          And, yeah, you have to have the tact of a rabid gorilla not to realize pretty quickly why lots of people might return baby stuff.

          1. Cathie from Canada*

            Off topic, but Hemmingway’s famous six-word story is this:
            “For sale, baby shoes, never worn.”

            1. Workerbee*

              That got debunked, but it’s still a fascinating and heart-wrecking story all the same.

        2. lb*

          Oh, I have one for this – actually a friend’s story (because if it had happened to me I would have melted):

          Many years ago I worked at a Chicago-based internet coupon company (it’s the one you’re thinking of.) Because we were in Chicago, birthplace of improv comedy, the customer service department had an abundance of improvers/comedians, and they would do silly things like take calls using weird accents. One of my friends got an inbound call and decided to use a thick, very fake, Texan accent for it…
          The customer was a woman calling to ask for a refund on a 3D ultrasound deal she’d bought, because she’d miscarried & no longer needed. My friend reasoned it would be worse to drop the accent midway through, so just stuck doggedly to doing it while taking the call… and then never, ever used anything but his own voice on the phone again.

        3. Hannah Lee*

          Not baby related, but my mother was very sick in the hospital, had surgery that didn’t go as expected. The person in charge of the floor she was on told my brother and sister and I we could stay with her, never mind the official visiting hours, and that she’d arrange to send some sandwiches up for us so we don’t have to leave her bedside to go find dinner. (Not that we cared about eating but it was a nice gesture)

          Meal service shows up a while later with a tray, with one of those printout receipt/order tickets showing what was in the order, it said:

          – Room number 123
          – Our mother’s name
          – Bereavement Tray

          Like, if we didn’t realize things were serious and she likely wasn’t going to make it through the night?
          Hospital Meal Services were only TOO happy to put it in writing – OOF!

      2. Shhhh*

        This happened when I was in high school, not at work, but it was also a case of learning a lesson the hard way. I had gym first period and one Monday when we were coming back from a break, most of my classmates coming into the locker room were really solemn and subdued. I was feeling quite bubbly and happy that morning and after being chipper to a couple of the girls I was friendlier with and getting nothing back, I asked, “Who died?”

        Yeah, a classmate had committed suicide over break. Absolutely mortifying and not at all funny.

      3. Someone*

        I accidentally asked someone why they were selling a really nice Ergo baby carrier. Duh.

      4. AnotherOne*

        That’s definitely worse than having to help people buy coping with death books for their children.

        But yeah, you got a LOT of awkward stories that way. People are grieving- and you are a total stranger they can share their grief with.

        1. This is She*

          Yup. When I was working in retail a hundred years ago (women’s clothing) a woman came in with an adolescent girl and said she needed to buy a dress for her daughter. I was all cheery and “absolutely! what’s the occasion?” and she said “Her sister just died.”

    2. DenseShoeSeller*

      I had a similar experience while working at the mall shoe store. We were required to bring a minimum of three pairs of shoes to the customer, even when they only asked to try on one pair. A lady asked to try on a simple black pump, so I brought her some fancier heels as well. She was shopping for shoes to wear to her mom’s funeral…..

      1. Attractive Nuisance*

        When I was in high school I was trying on a bunch of black dresses in a department store. My mom was with me and she started chatting with another mom about how teen girls these days are so shy with their fashion choices. I finally chose a dress I liked and when I came out to show my mom, the dressing room attendant said cheerfully, “That looks great, but why don’t we try something with a little color?” and winked at me.

        After a moment of stunned silence my mom had to awkwardly explain that I was buying a dress for my grandmother’s funeral.

    3. Baby Yoda*

      Ugh. One of my first jobs was at a women’s clothing store which was mainly for youngsters. When a young woman tossed a bunch of black outfits on the counter to purchase I made some comment about going to a funeral. She then told me her husband had died. Just ugh.

    4. Slightly Less Evil Bunny*

      To any bank clerks out there: if someone is depositing a substantial check in person, don’t smile and ask them if they won the lottery. At least not until you’ve verified that the check is not written on an account that is “The Estate of”.

      Happened to me when my mom died. I was already trying really hard to hold it together, and that did not help.

      1. Mrs. Hawiggins*

        THIS happened to me.
        “Oh did you sell something?” The teller asked.
        “No, our father died.”

        I never saw her again.

      2. Hannah Lee*

        I worked as a teller for a while (and was trained right, by someone who knew that sometimes customers were dealing with difficult times). I can’t believe some of the things tellers say to me or other customers, loudly, in front of other people.

      3. darcy*

        when I was getting coffee at the train station with a big suitcase on my way to stay with my mum to help care for my dying grandad the person at the coffee shop clocked my suitcase and went “ooh, going somewhere nice?”
        A completely flat “no” wasn’t enough to discourage her and her follow up question was “ah, work travel?”
        I just about managed to say “no” again rather than crying/snaping “no, I’m going to watch my grandad die” because she was just trying to be nice but jeez

        1. Anonymath*

          I’ve found when people are being extra insensitive and won’t take the hint from the first non-response to an inappropriate question, returning the awkward to the sender by giving that snap response to the second probing question can help the intrusive person learn NOT to keep asking.

          Just after husband and I had decided to end our year + of expensive not-covered-by-insurance fertility treatments, a former co-worker asked if my husband and I were planning on having additional children (Why ask this at work?!?). After responding with a no, the co-worked followed-up by suggesting our child would be lonely as an only child and do we think we would reconsider. That earned her the polite-but-flat response that we had tried for years and it wasn’t medically possible, through watery eyes. She not only backed off, she also tended to avoid me after that, which was a bonus.

    5. DrRat*

      On the “awkward death stuff” theme…my sister called to cancel her husband’s credit cards after his death, and for one got an Indian call center. She said she needed to cancel the card and the man cheerfully said fine, he just needed to speak with Mr. X. My sister said “He’s deceased.” The guy said in a perky voice, “Okay, I understand, I just need to speak with him.” My sister, who is much nicer than I am, quietly explained, “Deceased means dead” at which point it finally got through and the guy apologized and took care of it. My theory later was that with English as a second language, the call center guy heard “deceased” as “diseased” and thought her husband was just ill.

      1. Bizhiki*

        English is actually one of India’s official languages, so this may be more of a hearing mishap than a second language thing. Folks often think Indian accents mean the people aren’t native speakers, but a few hundred years of colonization have put paid to that in many cases.

        1. Seeking second childhood*

          Dialect drift is real though, and pronunciations are the harbinger.
          I’ve told this story before, so short version: an old friend did in-person translation between two native English speakers who had been working on an academic project via email. Bronx & Glasgow pronunciations are that different.

          1. Mallory Janis Ian*

            Even just watching Billy Elliott, it took my a while for me (southern U.S.) to understand their accents (northern England). I became acclimated after about half hour of the movie and I could understand them perfectly, but at first it was like hearing an entirely different language.

            1. allathian*

              When I was in college, I volunteered as an exchange student tutor. One of the foreign students, a guy from Glasgow, sought my company to the point that for a while I thought he had a crush on me. It turned out that I was the only one of either the tutors, or other foreign students, who could understand him when he spoke Glaswegian. With everyone else, he had to moderate his speech to something closer to standard British English. I was flattered, but at the same time it felt a bit strange that he’d say that, he at least was speaking his first language.

            2. Reluctant Manager*

              I watched Trainspotting not long after I got to Paris, and even though my French wasn’t amazing, the subtitles were key.

        2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          English is an official language in some states in India, but certainly not all, and a staggering 90% of Indians in India do not speak English.

      2. Beebis*

        I saw this exact mistake in writing once. Got a case that had something to do with a guy’s “diseased wife” when they clearly meant “deceased”

    6. LobsterPhone*

      I used to get a lot of feedback about how I needed to be more social and engaging with my colleagues at work, more cheery good mornings etc….one morning I arrived at work and noticed a big bunch of flowers on someone’s desk so I asked about the bouquet, that was nice of the person who gave them (another colleague), nothing intrusive, just general oh hey those are nice, lucky you…then the colleague who gave them came up to me later and explained that it was the anniversary of the death of the other colleague’s husband.

    7. Numbat*

      I truly felt for the hospital worker who came into my Grandpa’s hospital room to offer lunch service… only to be told that no, my dead Grandpa does not need lunch. (He had been dead a couple hours, there was a sign on the door…)

    8. Hellokitty Supporter*

      So my story is death/retail related. It wasn’t my work, but how I mortified someone else at their work. It’s funny now, but at the time I’m sure I scarred that sales lady!

      So a close high school friend of mine passed away after an accident about 3 days after we both started grad school, when I was 23-24. I didn’t have anything appropriate to wear to a funeral so I headed to the local mall. In addition to all the emotional turmoil around my friends death – we had also dated briefly, and I was hoping to rekindle that relationship, so I was a mess – I was also in a bit of denial about my clothing size. I was just on the cusp of needing plus-size, so in most stores the biggest size they have is a bit too small, but in plus-size stores the smallest size they had was too big. Annoying any time, but at this particular time I just could NOT handle it. So I need funeral clothes, I go to the mall, I’ve been in 3-4 stores already, nothing is working and I am at the end of my rope, but I still need to find something to wear. Remember Casual Corner? It was a shop for women, mostly work type clothing, and their claim to fame was that they used the same fabric for all sorts of things. So if you found a pair of pants or a dress you liked, there would also be a skirt, a jacket, a different skirt etc. in that same fabric so you could mix and match to your taste. It was actually a great idea, especially when you were just starting out in the work world and couldn’t afford a whole bunch of new suits. Anyway, I head into the store and immediately find a black dress, and go to try it on. The sales lady asked if I need help, I decline. I’m pretty done with people at this point. The dress won’t zip because it’s just a hair to small. I am super frustrated. The poor sales lady, trying to be helpful, starts bringing me all of the coordinates – ‘If you like the dress, here’s a jacket that matches. Here’s the pants to go with the jacket. Do you want to try a skirt?”

      I COMPLETELY LOST it. I start crying like, cartoon tears – tears are literally shooting out of my eyes in a big arc. I’m babbling about how the dress if for a funeral, how unfair it is to have lost my friend, just everything, every emotion I’d had over the previous days, poured out onto this poor lady. Also, when I sob like that, it isn’t a delicate tear-stained thing, so there was also a runny nose, a red face, the works. This poor woman backs out of the changing area with a very faint “I’ll just leave you to it then” and I get me clothes back on and leave the store, with neither of us acknowledging the other. I went home – I was clearly not in the headspace to shop.

    9. On Fire*

      Very late replying to this.

      When my dad died, several of the family went from the hospital to my house to … breathe? Begin processing?

      It had been a long week; nobody had eaten pretty much all day, and of course nobody felt up to cooking. There was a pizza place near my house, so I called on my way home and ordered several pizzas and a couple of 2-liters. When I arrived to pick it up, the clerk handed over my order and asked, “Big party?”

      “No, just some family getting together.”

      “Yep,” he insisted. “That’s a party.”

      I didn’t want to deal with the awkwardness, so I just paid and left.

  4. cabbagepants*

    This one is so bad I’m using an alias of my regular alias!

    When I was a student I was working late and had already shut down my computer but then realized I needed to check one more email. My older colleague (post doc; I was a grad student) had left her computer logged in so I stupidly went to her computer to log in to our web based email client. Before I got anywhere, she came back and I jumped away. She really awkwardly told me never to go onto her computer again. She had never been warm to me but she was icy after that. That would have been mortifying enough, if not for the fact that…

    …years later I learned she had been having a secret relationship with our boss while he was still finalizing guys divorce from his ex wife. I guess she was afraid I’d discover it? He ended up firing me over a professional disagreement I had with this post-doc after she’d moved on to a new position, on a project that should have had nothing to do with him. Many things caused the relationships to tank but I can’t help but think the awful computer incident, which was a total lapse of judgement on my part, didn’t help.

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      Aw this isn’t as bad as you think!

      Yeah, it was presumptuous to use her computer without asking (more so if it was her personal computer vs a company computer). But it’s honestly a very minor transgression. I would have said – hey, please ask before you use my computer – and that would have been the end of it.

      Her and the boss on the other hand should be mortified for their behavior and actions. Being a jerk to a colleague, having a relationship with a subordinate, firing you……horrible terrible bad stuff.

      1. TechWorker*

        Fwiw using someone else’s work computer/login is very much not ok at many companies. Probably not a ‘immediate firing’ sort of offence but also not a minor transgression. If there’s any sort of security breach or something malicious done to the system, they need to be able to trace it back to the right user, for Eg.

        1. EPLawyer*

          I think she was only using the computer that was turned on. She did say “went to log on.” So I think she was using her own log on to get to her email. Otherwise she couldn’t access it.

        2. KateM*

          But that means that the person whose computer was tu be used should not have left their screen unlocked.

        3. Fluffy Fish*

          I am aware this is the case. Those companies make it very very clear that it is not okay and what the repercussions are.

          OP was a student and I’m sure they would have state if they worked at a company like that.

          It was a thoughtless error.

      2. Ivka*

        Agreed. Not to pile on cabbagepants but for anyone else reading – that would be a serious (not fireable, but serious) no-no anywhere that works with privileged client material (a broader category than you might think).

        That said, almost discovering the affair is a mortifying consequence of THEIR actions – nothing to do with what you did!

        1. Fluffy Fish*

          As I stated above, when you work someplace like that, it’s made abundantly clear that it is a serious no-no.

          That does not appear to be the case here as they didn’t mention anything about violating company policy, just a mad colleague.

          1. Mike S*

            Where I’ve worked, the sin is in leaving your computer unlocked, not using someone else’s computer.
            I had a coworker run to our boss’s office after coming back from the bathroom to see an “I quit” e-mail on his computer addressed to her.

      3. Sequoia*

        The reaction was partly due to the secret relationship, but at every company I’ve worked at even touching someone else’s computer is taboo. Akin to touching someone else’s purse or handkerchief or something. The few times I’ve forgotten to lock my screen and someone’s locked it for me they’ve told me about it afterwards and apologized for touching my stuff.

        That said, people still do it. I actually use a different keyboard layout partly so “borrowing” my computer “helping me” by grabbing my keyboard aren’t viable options.

      4. Bethany*

        I agree that touching someone else’s computer is taboo, but I always make sure there is nothing on my work computer I would ever be embarrassed about if someone else looked. It’s not my personal device.

  5. Amy L*

    Walking into work on a windy day and in front of 2 men, my skirt basically flew up and practically wrapped itself around my head. Yes. Mortified.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Not work-related, but you know those giant cardboard bins they have outside of the grocery store, full of melons or pumpkins or other large, heavy, fruit?

      I once leaned over to get a watermelon, only the melon was heavier than I anticipated and I went in head first. In a relatively short skirt. Fortunately, it was near closing time and there was hardly anyone around but it was straight out of the cartoons.

      1. Pippa K*

        I’m sorry but this one is hilarious. From a bystander’s point of view it must have looked like one of the melons grabbed you and pulled you in!

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Yeah – my mind also went straight to “Little Shop of Horrors” reading that one.

      2. Be kind, rewind*

        Hahaha I’m picturing that moment from Mean Girls when Lindsey Lohan goes head first upside-down into a garbage bin.

      3. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

        I wasn’t wearing a skirt, thank God, but as a very short person this happened to me at Costco when I spotted a Grogu (Baby Yoda) Squishmallow in the bottom of one of those giant cardboard bins at the height of The Mandalorian’s popularity. My husband had to pull me out!

        I don’t even have little kids, I just wanted it for myself, lol.

    2. Not Today Josephine*

      I was working at a company of about 100 employees. I had gone to the ladies room probably an hour before, when I realized that I had tucked the back of my skirt into my underpants. And was walking around like this. Not one person mentioned it to me. I am still embarrassed.

      1. Meow*

        Friggin skirts. I have a really cute one that is the perfect length that it seems to immediately find its way into the toilet bowl when I get in a stall. The first time I wore it to work I came out of the stall and realized it was absolutely soaked all the way down the back. Luckily it was a Friday and hardly anyone works in the office on fridays, because I had to try to rinse it out and then sit with a wet skirt for a few hours till it dried.

        1. KRM*

          We had a “rain or shine” volunteer day where many of us chose the outside option. It was pouring out, and we all dressed in rain gear. However, most rain gear is not meant to withstand 3 hours of work outside in heavy rain, so we were all soaked by the time we were done. I had brought a change of clothes (I’m sure most people did), but not a change of underwear, and also had brought a (light colored) skirt to change into. Lots of judicious paper towel usage allowed me to be able to sit down, but it was not a happy time.

        2. Marmalade Today*

          “Friggin skirts,” indeed!
          My first office job was in customer service for a start up that was growing pretty quickly. Tasks would come up that weren’t really anybody’s job description yet. We all wanted these, both for the chance to be off the phones, and also because, with luck, you might get a reputation for being good at whatever it was and that could lead to an actual new position. Twice, the office manager asked me to help set up equipment (desks, phones, computers) for new employees. Unfortunately, the second time I happened to be wearing a skirt – a perfectly modest, slightly below the knee, pleated skirt, over opaque tights. I thought it would be fine if I was reasonably careful, but my manager glanced my way as I was crawling under a desk, and called me over. “Would you like to go home and change?” I said “no”, because I was almost done, and finished the job. But I guess that was wrong, because he never tapped me for that kind of job again, and somehow only male employees were asked to do any thing with boxes or tools after that. I didn’t wear a skirt again for several years.

          1. JESUS IS THE MAN!*

            That sounds less like “friggin skirts!” and more like “friggin manager!”

            I mean, nothing in what you’ve written suggests that you were giving the office a show. I’m a little grossed out that he had such a problem with someone doing manual labor while presenting as feminine, you know?

      2. Asenath*

        I’ve done that (skirt tucked into my underpants waistband). I like wearing skirts and dresses, especially the more casual styles and especially in warm weather. At one time, I had a long (not ankle-length, but well below my knees) bright burgundy circle skirt that I loved for the way it moved and swished around when I walked. I wore it to work often, and it not only got caught in my waistband, it got caught in the quickly closing and automatically locking door to the staff toilet, requiring me to stop rather abruptly in a busy hallway, twist myself around, and unlock the door to free myself.

        1. LPUK*

          Also busty so tend to wear jumpers. One day I had a v- neck jumper that looked Ok in the mirror when I got dressed, but which proved to be an issue when, during a presentation, I bent over to adjust the lens of the projector. One of my male colleagues ( I was the only woman in the room said ‘ woah xxx , can you please put your breasts away , they’re very distracting’. That jumper is still in the back of the drawer 20 years later!

          1. Carol the happy elf*

            CPR Instructor-Trainer friend told me they always kept logo tshirts, because a perfectly modest V- or scoop neck blouse becomes quite a display when doing compressions. Also, when nurses had to wear dresses, sitting by a low stretcher so the patient got a crotch shot was– going to mess with the vitals. One way or another. Dental assistants, too, I am told.

        2. Middle Aged Lady*

          My favorite trick was to roll over my long skirts with my office chair, not realize it, then try to stand up.

          1. Robin*

            Oh goodness the number of times I have managed to do this…but I love my long skirts too much to give them up

        3. Seeking second childhood*

          I stopped wearing full, calf-length skirts after one got tangled in the wheels of my office chair and ripped rather impressively. ( I used to stay spectacularly, but after reading today’s stories I’ve downgraded it. Yes I had to remove the bottom tier of the skirt, but nothing above my knees was showing!)

      3. GythaOgden*

        This is me too. I work side by side with someone else so they caught it quickly, but gosh yes, something many of us can relate to!

      4. Betsy Not Elizabeth*

        This reminded me of the time I noticed a woman walking several paces ahead of me over a footbridge in Century City, California. Her skirt was tucked into her pantyhose (yes, it was in those dark days) and to make it worse, she wasn’t wearing underwear. I made a quick decision, caught up with her and in one perfectly executed movement managed to untuck her skirt, utter a cheery “There you go!” and continued walking quickly ahead of her to avoid making it any MORE awkward!

        I must have walked over that same footbridge dozens of times after that and never saw her again, thankfully for both of us.

      5. JESUS IS THE MAN!*

        Did that at church once, and someone took me aside and discreetly told me about it as I was heading down the aisle from communion. A W K W A R D

    3. Charlotte Lucas*

      Was once leaning over a 2nd floor railing watching people walk in to work. The railing had a clear glass divider underneath. I was wearing an A-line skirt. Someone I knew walked in & told me to step at least a foot back from the railing.

      Note to corporate architects: women often wear skirts. Make sure your designs don’t allow strangers to look up them!

      1. OrigCassandra*

        There’s a Fancy Art Library that got called aaaaaaaaaaall the way out after construction for corrugated-metal flooring and glass stairs. Upskirt city.

        1. hamsterpants*

          Omg. I assume there are many sane, reasonable architects out there. It always baffles me how many high profile architecture projects give “making a statement” 90% and actual practical considerations 10%.

          1. Observer*

            This. Because it’s not just about “up-skirt city”, as bad as that is. Corrugated metal flooring sounds like a nightmare for anyone who wears heels, and makes anything on wheels harder to move. And depending on how the corrugation lays, you are also probably looking at people twisting their ankles, etc.

            Who on earth approved that design?!

            1. Jay*

              The same people who approved deep-pile carpeting for the area outside the elevators in a hospital. Pile was so deep it was essentially impossible to push a wheelchair or a gurney. Which they discovered after installation.

              Yeah.

              1. Lady_Lessa*

                Must have been the same folks who designed the late (and probably unlamented) Burroughs Wellcome building in Research Triangle Park, NC. Lovely to look at, but not a straight wall in the labs.

            2. Bronze Betty*

              Not the same thing, but several years ago I worked in a large one-tenant building that was essentially a maze, with pods identified as A, B, C, etc. Your ID badge had a map of the building on the back, to assist you in getting around. It was madness.

              My first day on the job, I was escorted to my department, and my co-workers showed me how to get to the cafeteria, bathrooms, etc. On my second day, I wandered around in circles while consulting my badge map, trying to find my department. and my desk. After I passed one person’s desk (in another department), someone took pity on me and led me to my destination. It took quite a while to get the layout of the land.

              The company has gone out of business and the property has sat empty for years because it is huge (too big for most businesses), and the cost to divide it up for multiple tenants is prohibitive. A waste, as the building itself was nice. Nice to look at, difficult to use.

          2. Rake*

            I used to work in a building known internationally for it’s architecture. I think you are vastly overestimating the number of reasonable architects…

            1. Bagpuss*

              Yes. A few years ago they opened a brand new court building which we had to use. It did look nice – big airy atrium and a very elegant staircase, but it had far too few consultation rooms and they were all tiny. It was (and is) a ‘hub’ for Child Care cases, for which you will typically have a *minimum* of 6 people needing to sit down together before the hearing (Mother’s lawyers, father’s lawyer, local authority’s lawyer, child’s lawyer, social worker and child’s guardian, and often more, if there is more than one child or any extended family involved.)
              I don’t think a single one of the rooms is big enough to allow 6 people and a table (& I suspect you would really struggle if you were a wheelchair user, too)

              I think you get similar issues with theatre productions- they design sets that look great from the premium sets but never seem to check on the view from the cheaper ones. I don’t expect as good a view but I don’t feel that the set itself should block the view of the stage…

          3. Artemesia*

            We looked at apartments in a perfectly stunning building by a brilliant architect in downtown Chicago. I would estimate that this small apartment had 40% wasted useless space. There was a huge pillar in the living area and the space beyond it was too small for a chair or to be a useful nook — so just about 20% of the small living room gone.

            The entry/hall system were billed as ‘office space’ but nothing beyond a tiny tiny desk would fit, so it was huge square footage useless. But it was a beautiful building.

            We ended up in an older building where every inch is usable.

          4. BubbleTea*

            The law faculty at the University of Cambridge won design awards. And then they tried to use it. And they had to spend a fortune adding walls.

            1. Siege*

              It’s the whole open office thing. If you read the original story on the (what else) design firm that went open plan and hot desking, it’s clear it doesn’t work, and the idea was developed because someone with autonomy to work as he pleased felt he was more productive not working at a desk. So here we are with open offices and got desks that have more drawbacks than benefits when really what was needed was to give people autonomy to figure out how they work best and provide that. But that doesn’t win design awards.

      2. Alice*

        Yep. We had a bathroom floor retiled with very shiny marble that was basically a mirror. Lasted less than a week before workmen were back ripping it out. Also a brand new bathroom in a brand new office with a very fancy long sloped sink (similar to the Kim kardashian home)- but no where to put a jacket or bag. Not a single shelf or mirror, so we had to put our things in the floor. We all commented it was clearly designed by a man.

        1. no longer working*

          Our village put up all new street signs… in an Old English font. Completely unreadable. All were replaced.

      3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        My partner was working on a building and decided to put glass floors on all levels so that even in the basement there would be a well of natural light. He very proudly showed me the results, and I said, well, any woman living here will immediately cover that with a huge rug. He looked at me wide-eyed and I said, you know women wear skirts? He was shocked.

    4. Anonymouse*

      Got a new job at 30 years old. had to wear dress ir skirt. Didn’t know that my backpack would make my dress ride up. As I walked the MILE TO MY OFFICE!

      1. Hills to Die on*

        Oh, I did that too! Bonus that I was wearing stockings and a garter belt. Because I was extra. face palm.

        1. Nonny-nonny-non*

          I once accidentally gathered up my flowy skirt along with a rug I was taking to a till point to sell to a customer. While wearing stockings and (red) garter belt. Thankfully the customer was gentlemanly enough to not react other than a polite “I think you’ve caught your skirt slightly” to me.

          1. LPUK*

            I think I’ve told this before, but I was a retail buyer in a really small office where I had to hold negotiations. Big meeting with big company- I ushered them into to my office and then had to squeeze past to get to my chair. I was wearing a lightweight wrap skirt and suspenders… the suspenders got caught on the chair and took my skirt with them. Left showing my stockings and underwear to two startled account managers. The negotiation never really got started after that, I honestly don’t know who was more mortified

      2. Siege*

        Been there, done that. I had a couple of lovely suede messenger bags where the nap would “grab” my skirt and walk it up. I kept carrying the bags after I learned this (I still have one as part of my evacuation protocol since it’ll hold my cat) but I spent a lot of time shoving my arm between my body and the bag.

      3. Barky Barkyson*

        Oof…I was in Italy one summer (note, I do not speak Italian), I think I may have been in or near Verona but was in a very un-touristy area, and I saw a young woman walking in a skirt with a backpack. The skirt had completely ridden up, exposing her thong-clad butt. She was completely oblivious. I didn’t want to touch her, she spoke no English. I tried to mime something to indicate to her she needed to pull her skirt down…it probably just looked like I was doing a weird hip/butt-centric dance. Finally some Italian person ran up and presumably let her know what was going on. She walked away embarrassed. I walked away feeling like I could’ve handled it better.

      4. AnotherOne*

        I had that happen time and again with my backpack from grad school. When I was getting a new laptop backpack, I spent an inordinate amount of time making sure that wouldn’t happen.

        Considering things like material, how far down my back does the bag go, wanting to know who the f- designs these bags. I literally walked around the store for like 20 minutes with it on- and after I bought it, promptly thru everything- including said laptop- into the bag to make sure my skirt wouldn’t ride up.

        No problems.

      5. Alli*

        I have done this as well… along one of the busiest streets in the city I lived in. I found out when a random lady pulled up her car to let me know that my butt was hanging out and I might want to do something about it…

    5. Maxie's Mommy*

      I was walking back from lunch in a not-great part of downtown. I heard footsteps behind me coming quicker and quicker, so I laced my keys between my fingers, turned around and said “WHAT DO YOU WANT?”” The very nice older gentleman said, “I just wanted to tell you that your skirt zipper is unzipped.”

      1. Uranus Wars*

        This happened to me in a parking garage! Or a similar thing – I was walking into a hospital and a car was creeping me. I finally turned around exasperated and the woman driving said “You have a split in your dress”.

        It was a purple dress. I was wearing neon yellow underwear. I have no idea how many people I saw that day who watch my yellow rear walking away from them. This happened around 2 in the afternoon and I had been working all day visiting hospitals for work.

    6. Deanna*

      This happened to me when I was on holiday in Spain after I didn’t check my skirt was out my underpants after going to the toilet and accidentally flashed my arse to a busy cafe. Thankfully the patrons alerted me immediately while laughing. I was just grateful I was wearing nice underpants!

      1. Artemesia*

        I was at the Lyric opera when I tucked skirt into panty hose — luckily some kind woman in the restroom alerted me before I flashed a few hundred people on my way to our seats with my seat. I think all women everywhere have a duty to rescue other women from clothing mishaps. I have certainly paid it forward many times.

        1. Puggles*

          It happened to me at church! Many moons ago when I was a teenager I walked out of the bathroom with my dress tucked into my underwear. All the teenage boys were in the foyer and saw me! ugh! My best friend’s brother was the one who came over and whispered in my ear to fix the backside of my dress! I nearly died of embarrassment. I’m still mortified after all these years.

        2. H3llifIknow*

          Twice… in the same day! Had lunch with hubby and some of his coworkers and hit the loo on the way out… One of them whispered it to hubby who had to tell me “Your skirt…fix it!” and I realized it was tucked into my undies. That evening he and I met another couple at a bar/bistro for dinner and drinks and on my way out of the restroom a woman sitting at the bar came running after me to tell me to fix my skirt as it was tucked in.. again! I loved that skirt but it was so light and gauzy that I knew this was going to keep happening and I threw it away!

    7. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      My skirt unzipped and started sliding off my hips during the middle of an interview, in the middle of the street as we walked between buildings. I wasn’t wearing tights/hose and was wearing a thong. I caught it and kept talking and walking while trying keep it on and zip it up, but that was awkward. I also didn’t get the job.

      1. JanetM*

        Not at work, but a few months ago my wrap-and-tie skirt came untied and fell completely off while I was in the security line at the airport. Fortunately I was wearing a long slip and a long blouse, so I wasn’t indecent, just mortified.

        1. Observer*

          This kind of story is one of the reasons I won’t wear anything that uses a tie as it’s main way of staying up. It’s got to have a hook or a good button or something like that.

          Yes, anything can come undone. But Tie closures on skirts are THE thing I hear the most about, with sippers coming in a distant second.

          1. Siege*

            If you actually need a zipper to get a garment on, it’s at least not going to come down if the zip undoes itself. I truly hate pointless zippers, though.

        2. Asenath*

          I gave up on wrap skirts, as much as I like skirts generally. I have never found one that would stay in place when I was walking outdoors in our rather windy climate, although I don’t think I ever lost one completely.

          1. Gracely*

            The trick to wearing skirts in a windy climate is to sew dress weights into the hem.

            1. SyFyGeek*

              I found out mid-morning that I needed to attend a meeting across campus in the afternoon. I was wearing a knee length circle skirt that any breeze caused it to flutter. The weather forecast was calling for windy conditions in the afternoon. On my lunch break I drove to a fabric store, bought curtain weights and safety pins, went back to my office, and safety pinned them to the inside of my skirt hem. All to walk to a meeting that could have been handled in an email.

            2. Deanna*

              My trick is to wear shorts underneath the skirt (especially if it’s a nice flowy skirt) because I live in a windy part of the world and do NOT trust my non pencil skirts to stay down.

        3. Laura L*

          I unknowingly shut the tie to my wraparound skirt in my desk drawer. I realized after I was standing skirtless by the file cabinet.

      2. Azure Jane Lunatic*

        I always wear skirts, and always wear shorts or something underneath them. I had a very new job, and made the mistake of wearing a slinky synthetic knit skirt over a very new pair of slinky synthetic warm-layer leggings that my mother had sent me. I tripped a bit in the parking lot, stepped on the hem of my skirt, and realized my mistake as the skirt fell all the way down around my ankles.

        I had gotten over the pure mortification by the time I got into the building, so I spent the rest of the day (successfully) struggling to not overshare by mentioning it. I didn’t have any friends there yet, let alone a friend with the same sense of humor who would appreciate the moment.

    8. Juneybug*

      Back in the day when I was a new mom, I wore a mini skirt to the mall. It was the thing to do on a hot day in California in the 80s.
      My toddler wanted me to carry him instead being in his stroller. So as I picked him up, his foot caught my skirt hem and hiked it up my waist. I showed my underwear to everyone in a very crowded mall. And this was a time when he was clingy so it took a wrestling match to get him down. Meanwhile my skirt is still hiked up. I turned beet red and left the mall in a hurry. I could the laughter of those shoppers for days in my head.

      1. voluptuousfire*

        Heh. My mom told the story of how when I was a toddler and she was holding me while in line at the bank and I untied the knot holding up her halter sundress. LOL The woman behind her saw what I did and let her know and redid the knot for her.

      2. Run mad; don't faint*

        I was running errands on my day off with a nine month old on my hip. Went into one place to take care of some paperwork and baby pulls the neckline of my knit top down halfway to my waist. And kept repeating it, even to the point of squirming around to grab it again after I turned him outward. He had found a great new game and was so pleased with himself! I was so glad the female associate was the one I dealt with that day. And I put the top in the ‘give away’ pile the next day.

      3. CatMintCat*

        I was in the motor registry getting my photo taken for my driver’s licence when my toddler son decided he was going to pull my skirt down in an attempt to climb me. Five years I had to live with that photo (of my face as I tried to push him down without upsetting him and retain some dignity).

        He’s 32 now. I must remind him.

    9. Miette*

      This happened to me walking up the stairs at Christopher Street PATH station in NYC many years ago. Training coming into station = tremendous rush of air throughout the station (and up the stairs). Reminding me of the importance of wearing bike shorts underneath my skirts lol.

    10. Not THAT Karen*

      I once walked around the office for over an hour with my skirt tucked into my pantyhose and nobody pulled me aside to say something!

    11. NYC Taxi*

      I was wearing a wraparound skirt that untied itself and fell off as I was walking down the street in midtown Manhattan. Luckily it was in the fall and I had on a raincoat. I stepped over it, just kept walking and went into what was then a Bolton’s and bought a new skirt. A few coworkers commented that they thought I was wearing a different skirt before lunch, but I denied it – no, same skirt!

    12. NerdyPrettyThings*

      Oh my gosh, this reminds me of the time when a bee flew up my sleeve just as I was getting into my car at work. I had to take off my whole shirt to get it out. Luckily, this isn’t really a mortification story, because I was in able to stay in my car, where I don’t THINK the security cameras could see me.

      1. Cathie from Canada*

        I was student-teaching for the first time to a classroom of 14-year-olds and all the boys in the class seemed to be laughing and I couldn’t figure it out.
        Finally one of the girls whispered to me that the middle button on my blouse was undone so my bra was visible. I was able to just button it up and carry on but I never forgot my mortification….
        Until a year later, the next time I was student teaching, again to a class of 14-year-olds, when I started talking about the Reformation and how many “religious sects” were active during that time and, again, all the boys seemed to be laughing. I figured this one out by myself eventually.

        1. Hungry Magpie*

          My mom, an elementary school teacher for many years (and also in Canada!), had similar confusion when she read a story that mentioned a “haughty butler” and the girls started giggling. It took her a second to figure out that the kids were thinking “hottie” instead!

      2. LPUK*

        I used to unbutton my waistbands when I was feeling full, until the night when I was at a restaurant in my favourite circular swishy skirt and forgot to button it back up before I stood up, only to find myself skirt less in stockings and suspendaers in the middle of a restaurant…

        Also, my Mum went out to dinner in a button through dress and jacket. The waiter offered to help my Mum by taking her jacket off. She turned round to a table of businessmen as the waiter reached for her jacket. With a great flourish he pulled it off and the top half of the dress went with it, leaving Mum topless except for a rather sexy bra in front of the table of businessmen

      3. LPUK*

        I was driving to work once and one of my stud earrings fell out and went down my cleavage. It lodged with the pin in my skin which was deeply uncomfortable, so when I hit a red light I thought I’d take the opportunity to get it out. Unfortunately as I stuck a hand down my shirt, I dislodged the earring and it went further down, so I ended up groping around for it. Finally I got hold of it and hauled it out of my shirt… only to find the guy in the car alongside me had been watching the whole thing

        1. Retired (but not really)*

          I was working in a Renfaire booth that had slats instead of a roof. There were plenty of squirrels and oak trees around. The squirrels liked to drop acorns on the “intruders” into their territory. I was welcoming a customer into the booth when one of the acorns found my cleavage. I tried unsuccessfully to be nonchalant.

        2. Antares*

          I was just driving home from work yesterday when someone in the car next to me almost watched me swerve and crash into their car. A wasp flew in my window…panic attack.

    13. Momma Bear*

      I have a wrap skirt I love that doesn’t love me. At least twice it has unfurled in public, once while walking into church.

    14. Alliesaurus*

      Coworker at OldJob once caught her shirt in a door and only realized once the door had closed and fully caught her in it. A locked door. With no fob access or any way to get back in. And it was late on a Friday afternoon so no one else was around.

      Thankfully she had a camisole on and it was a flowy shirt (hence the getting caught) so she managed to wriggle out of it and then went around to the front of the building so she could get back inside and retrieve her shirt.

      She told me later and thought it was hilarious, but I can’t even imagine if she hadn’t been able to get free so easily!

    15. Reluctant Manager*

      Not me but a colleague–standing outside the doors at an international conference, waiting for it to open. Her slip (she wore a slip!) just fell to the ground. Some other attendees just watched it happen… She stepped to the side out of the slip, picked it up, put it in her bag, smiled and shrugged at the audience. Such grace!

      1. Lexi Vipond*

        One of the members of a group I dance with once had her underskirt fall off in the middle of a performance – she just stepped over it and danced on!

      2. The Rafters*

        I was walking with a coworker and the same thing happened to her! I don’t know how she did it, but she *very gracefully* stepped out of it, swooped it up and put it in her bag. I couldn’t stop laughing.

    16. Alan*

      Many years ago a secretary at work was wearing some wraparound skirt at the copying machine and it totally came undone and she didn’t notice she was standing there pressing buttons with her skirt hanging to the side. Another (male) employee clued her in. That said, she was so sweet that I never heard any gossip about it. She was extremely loved. These things happen.

    17. GlutenFreePharmacist*

      On my very first day as the residency program director, the retiring director, new residents and I went to lunch to welcome them to the team. I was quite early in my career for a program director and was a nervous about making a good impression. I am also incredibly clumsy. On the way out of the restaurant, I tripped and fell right into the street. Thankfully, the only casualty was my pride and we had a great residency year, but it was not how I wanted to start my new role!

  6. Dust Bunny*

    (I work in a library) My boss asked me to figure out if we could compact A linear feet of books on X number of shelves onto X/2 number of shelves. Only I am horrendous at basic arithmetic–like, clinically. I have dyscalculia–and calculated them onto X/4 shelves.

    It turned out that we would eventually have needed to compact them that much, anyway, so it wasn’t a big deal, but it was mortifying at the time, especially since I had double-checked my math over and over. With a calculator, even.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        . . . sometimes. I calculated it several times and got several answers. My ability to get arithmetic wrong is nothing short of miraculous.

    1. Lie-berry-in*

      I recently told an engineer I needed to do some “library math” before giving them an answer about our stacks. Amused, they asked “Is that different from regular math?”

      I swear library math is harder than it seems!

    2. Serenity*

      I know this series is YA, but PLEASE tell me you’ve read Brandon Sanderson’s Alcatraz series! It has evil librarians and being bad at math is a superpower!

  7. Waterbird*

    A few years ago, I tried to message one of my coworkers about how I thought one of the projects we were assigned was particularly stupid… and accidentally messaged the project manager instead. By some miracle, he agreed with me. Could’ve been a lot worse, but I haven’t trusted a messaging system since!

    1. Alexis Rosay*

      Reminds me of when a coworker was trying to get me to purchase a very overpriced new speaker system—I replied over email saying I thought it was stupid and their claims were wildly inflated but sent it directly to the sales rep instead of my coworker. She came to my office and asked to speak to me in the middle of a meeting, and I didn’t realize why until days later.

    2. Wendy City*

      In the era of remote work, I think the only meetings that should be scheduled are ones exclusively for shit-talking. Never leave a paper trail!

      1. Meep*

        This morning I was in a zoom meeting with my boss and my coworker. My coworker kept asking if my boss was present and he refused to say anything to her. Meanwhile, he was texting me complaining about how she is all talk and no action. After that, I wonder what his complaints were about me to her.*

        *For the record, he will openly tell me if he has issues with me and that if he doesn’t tell me and I hear it about it from someone else, he was mildly frustrated at the time, but got over it. Because well… that is life. You aren’t going to like everyone every single second of the day.

      2. Migraine Month*

        I recently moved to a job where almost all of my emails and texts are open to Freedom of Information requests. When I’m frustrated by a particularly slow-moving project, I give a rant during my 1-on-1 with my manager and write down nothing.

    3. Project Manager*

      As a Project Manager…9 times out of 10 I agree that the project is stupid.

    4. Siege*

      I have this Thing about not using address books on my email or phone. I fully admit I am a weird person. But I was PRETTY sure a couple months back I was calling the right person in my work phone. I learned I was not right about that when I accidentally called someone else who just deflated when she realized I hadn’t meant to call her. I was mostly able to salvage it but she’s someone who doesn’t like me much and is overly warm to compensate (she’s also just overly warm in general but there’s an overly overly warm quality to how we interact). But it was the kick I needed to start assigning contacts. I just usually memorize phone numbers and have a fear of butt-dialing people. (Like the other day when I called out for a pet emergency and FaceTimed my boss from target when my partner and I were having a furious argument about raisins for our sick chinchilla.)

      1. Uranus Wars*

        (Like the other day when I called out for a pet emergency and FaceTimed my boss from target when my partner and I were having a furious argument about raisins for our sick chinchilla.)

        The best. That is all.

    5. KatieP*

      This reminds me of one of my former employees who had a habit of not paying attention to where her cursor was. We have an all-team chat in Teams, and twice (not once, TWICE, weeks apart) into the Team chat. After the first time, I poked her to change her password.

      It was the same password the second time.

      1. margaret*

        I have to admit I have done this. It’s because my Teams was set to auto-open and while I was logging into our VPN, Teams opened and superseded where I had previously had my cursor. EXTREMELY annoying. I no longer have Teams set to auto-open.

      2. Migraine Month*

        My manager did this quite frequently, but at least they were strong passwords and he always changed the password after the unintentional disclosure.

  8. Mr. Cajun2core*

    Typed in an email ” has reached a new level of stupidity”. However, instead of clicking on “Forward”, I clicked on “Reply”. The email went to said customer instead of the co-worker it was intended to go to.

    Luckily, I grovel very well and the customer forgave me.

    1. GovSysadmin*

      I have a similar one – a few years ago, we had a request come into our service desk from a user that I could have fulfilled, but it would have set a precedent for work that I didn’t want us to do regularly. I responded to some of the other people on the chain with, “Here is what I am telling , and here is what I am NOT telling .” Unbeknownst to me, one of the addresses I was replying to automatically forwarded their email to the service desk to create tickets for their team, and when the software saw the ticket number in the subject line, it helpfully appended my comments to the original ticket and sent a copy to . Whoops. I apologized, but never got a response from them about it, but fortunately our later interactions didn’t seem to be impacted.

      1. GovSysadmin*

        And today I found out that the AAM commenting system apparently interprets words in less-than/greater-than symbols as HTML and strips them out. What I meant to say was “Here is what I am telling [the user], and here is what I am NOT telling [the user].” And then it sent a copy to [the user].

      2. lb*

        I had a sales person reply to an email saying about a client “oh don’t worry about him, he’s crazy” – not realizing that said crazy client was on the email (it had come from our ticketing system & looked weird in the rep’s inbox.) Since then, my policy has been to write every email like it’s going to be accidentally forwarded to the crankiest client.

    2. Mr. Cajun2core*

      Same as “GovSysadmin” I did not know that this system would interpete greater and less than signs as HTML. What I wanted to say was:

      I typed in an email “[customer] has reached a new level of stupidity”.

      1. LPUK*

        I was driving to work once and one of my stud earrings fell out and went down my cleavage. It lodged with the pin in my skin which was deeply uncomfortable, so when I hit a red light I thought I’d take the opportunity to get it out. Unfortunately as I stuck a hand down my shirt, I dislodged the earring and it went further down, so I ended up groping around for it. Finally I got hold of it and hauled it out of my shirt… only to find the guy in the car alongside me had been watching the whole thing

    3. Just Me*

      Oh god something similar happened to me once. I worked as a school admin, and another admin and I were forwarding each other messages from a not-very-bright student with messages like, “lol, look at this” etc. There was an audit and we had to turn over all of the email exchanges–which included all of our snarky comments. Our boss said, “I don’t disagree with your comments, but maybe send them in Slack as opposed to in the email chain.”

      1. Mr. Cajun2core*

        LOL!

        Actually what I learned from my experience was to never put anything in writing (of any kind) that you wouldn’t want to be plastered all over the internet. I am much more cautious now about what I put in writing.

      2. PattM*

        I’m admin support for a school district and regularly have to go through emails for student record request that have reached both sides using attorneys. The number of emails with staff referencing making plans for non-school hours or other side chat is staggering, but I can’t redact it. Also a few mentions of how irritating, ridiculous or stupid certain parents are and how they are the problem. Again, can’t redact those comments and the parents do get to read them. Does not help tense situations at all.
        All emails (in schools specifically, not sure about the rest of the world) sent to/from a school email are discoverable either by FOIA, subpoena or other legal request, such as due process. Don’t say anything you don’t want seen on a screen in a courtroom.

      3. Astrid*

        I’m a lawyer and I used to live for the snarky e-mails when I was doing a long, boring document review.

        I think it was Bill Gates who said you should never put anything in an e-mail if you would not feel comfortable with it later being read in court. Amen.

        1. Middle Aged Lady*

          My dear departed mother said never write anything you don’t want on the front page of the paper. And she didn’t know about email!

    4. 867-5309*

      My first post-college job was at a PR agency and there was a client we all despised. However, the company was owned by the family of the agency CEO.

      I sent an email with a tremendous amount of detail the client requested and she wrote back, “I asked you specifically to answer this questions also, where is it.” I forwarded the email to my boss and wrote, “Not sure what she’s smoking this time but it’s right there in the first line.”

      You can guess… I didn’t forward. I replied. I was suspended for a week without pay and no longer allowed to work in our satellite office. Years later the CEO of the agency apologized for the suspension when we met up for a lunch.

      1. Uranus Wars*

        I have told this story on here before but I did something similar. Only I called a co-worker a “f@cking idiot”…via forward…but both emails were really close (think “ajgreen” and “ajgremlin”) so I forwarded her own email back to her, essentially replying.

        That’s the day I learned auto-populate is not always your friend.

        1. Mr. Cajun2core*

          OUCH! I have trusted auto-populate too when I should not have but luckily not with anything bad in the email.

    5. Ezri Dax*

      Within the first couple of weeks of starting my previous job, there was a day I knew my partner was going to have a difficult time at work. I texted him the following message: “Hope your day doesn’t suck too bad! -kissy face emoji.” A few minutes later, my new boss came out and asked whether a certain message she had received from me had been meant for someone else. Luckily she had a sense of humor. A few weeks later, the CEO had scheduled lunch with all the new hires. I shook her hand, got one whiff of the very nice but very aromatic lunch that was being served, turned green, and ran around the corner to the bathroom to retch violently. With only a thin wall separating me from the conference room where everyone was eating. I learned two important lessons from my probationary period – G-rated texts only, and never assume morning sickness is under control when pregnant.

  9. Wordnerd*

    This isn’t as good as some others, but I made it to the comments early, so here we go.
    I worked in the administration office for the School of Music as a work study student in college. There was an annex about 2 blocks away from the main office that had classrooms and offices. My boss one day pointed at an overhead projector (I think? it was about 15 years ago now) that was sitting on a small metal table and asked me to take “it” over to a certain classroom in the annex.
    I struggled with the projector and its table out of the building, down two blocks, and into the annex. Someone even stopped to ask me if they could help because I was struggling so hard with carrying it all. Barely made it into the classroom.
    Two days later, I receive an all-department email from my boss. “Did someone steal the table next to my desk?”
    Was definitely just supposed to take the projector and not the table it was sitting on. I had to 1. fess up, 2. deal with the good-natured ribbing of everyone picturing me taking it over there, and 3. maybe go back and get it on my own? I maybe blocked that part from my memory.

      1. Anonymouse*

        That was supposed to go under a different comment. My reply to this one was more along the lines of, reminds me of my sister telling me her husband didn’t unwrap and peel the fruit roll up because he’d never had one before and ate it like a candy bar.
        he was not impressed.

        1. nobadcats*

          One of my dad’s friends threw away the yogurt in his lunch one day because he thought it was spoiled. Turns out his wife packed his lunch every morning, peeled back the foil on the yogurt, stirred it for him, and then put the foil back in place. Turns out she didn’t have time that morning.

          1. Legalize Texas*

            I know she can do whatever she wants and it could not be less of my business.

            But.

            Whenever I hear about women doing stuff like this for their husbands all I can think is that you would find me deicing the streets in hell before you ever caught me nannying my own husband as if I were the doting mommy of the world’s largest newborn baby. And yet there are countless women out there proactively creating this life for themselves and, apparently, enjoying it. Life is truly a rich and varied tapestry.

            1. Siege*

              It can go both ways. I had a neighbor who didn’t realize her husband was fluffing her pillow every day until he had to fly home for an emergency and her pillow wasn’t fluffy. (I want to say they were his pillows, or new ones they got when he moved in?) It would be exactly like him to tell her they were a new kind that always stay fluffy, too. But at least she did know that he was setting out a washcloth for her every day, which is a little closer to the yogurt situation.

              1. nobadcats*

                But he probably fluffed his own pillows and set out a new washcloth for himself every day as well. I mean, perhaps he was an unrepentant pillow fluffer! Or he was the one who made the bed (my ex made the bed all the time, I … do not).

                The yogurt situation is more like, only the husband’s benefit, and he was dumb enough to not even notice his yoplait label had pictures of fruit on it. He wasn’t even curious.

              2. Legalize Texas*

                I’m sure it theoretically goes both ways but I ain’t seen it yet. I don’t think fluffing a pillow or setting out a towel or even preparing and packing a lunch are particularly similar, there is something particularly infantilizing to this that is honestly unique. I’m kind of impressed tbh

            2. Bronze Betty*

              Unrelated, but . . .

              Years ago, my husband transferred to a new job within his company that required regular travel, flying to different cities through the week. Someone asked me if I packed his bag for him. My response: I laughed. As if! He is a grown adult and is most definitely capable of packing his own suitcase. Of course no one would ask him if he packed my bag if the situation were reversed. (Plus, he only has himself to blame if he forgets something.)

              1. Retired Merchandiser*

                Actually, my husband DOES pack my bag when we go on a trip. He’s a much better packer than I am; can get into one bag what I would use three for. ( Of course, it’s up to me to have things set out for him to pack, and if something is missing when we arrive, I’m SOL. :-)

            3. nobadcats*

              I tried really hard not to … editorialize in the telling of this tale.

              There was also another time that they invited us over for bbq, and when Mom, Dad, and I rolled up, the wife ran out to our car and said, “Why did you bring nobadcats? Now we won’t have enough food!” I felt super-welcome after that and only ate the food that WE brought.

    1. noncommital pseudonym*

      Similarly, on our campus, the library put out a library cart with some books on it and a sign that said “Free! Please take!” They come back later and, yes, the cart and all the books were gone. They watched the security camera and saw two girls who, seeing an empty cart (the books had already been taken) with a “Free” sign on it, shrugged and took the cart.

      They were identified and contacted, and very sheepishly brought the cart back.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        My friend stooped into a bank in Boston. They had pizzas on a table. They said “help yourself!”
        She said, thanks! and walked out with a whole pizza in a box.
        She hot home and realized:
        1) they were offering her a piece
        2) it was off to one side (she was out if the main area to set up an account) so probably their lunch!

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Similar problem but with a construction company.
        Construction company had a very large bin they put scrap wood into and anyone can help themselves. This went on for a while and then the bin disappeared. Once it came back the sign that used to say, “free wood”, now said “free wood, do not take bin.”

        I am still trying to figure out who would take it, because the bin was too big to fit into a bed of a pick up that was 8 ft long.

    2. TinySoprano*

      I had a similar but different problem when my then chef at a restaurant asked me to bag up the figs on the tree out the back. I assumed he was cooking something with underripe figs so I cut them all off and put them in bags. It turns out he wanted me to tape paper bags over them to stop the bats getting them. It also turns out that I’m allergic to fig latex. So I came back half an hour later for dinner shift covered in hives and shame.

      1. Migraine Month*

        I absolutely would not have understood that “bag up the figs” meant “cover them to protect from bats”. You are not alone.

  10. Liz in the Midwest*

    I’m a physics lecturer at a university. On my birthday, I wore a nice dress and tights to work. I ran to the bathroom before class, then began teaching. A few minutes in, I noticed a girl in the front row kept staring at me in a really weird way. She’d recently gotten a poor grade on a test, so I was thinking, perhaps she was stressed about that?

    But then, a solid 6 or 7 minutes into class, she whispered “your dress!” I realized that apparently when I’d been in the bathroom, I’d tucked the back of my dress into the waistband of my (rather sheer) black tights. I’d been turning around to write on the board multiple times at this point. (And of course, because this was a physics class for engineering majors, it was 90% men.)

    My face bright red, I fixed my dress, paused for a few moments in horror, unable to collect myself, then resumed teaching.

    1. Dark Macadamia*

      I did this teaching at a middle school, except it wasn’t while I was teaching but while I was on dismissal duty, standing in the lobby while basically the entire school walked past me (parents in front, students coming down the stairs behind me). Luckily they were pretty thick tights but I’ll forever be furious with the woman who decided to alert me by saying “is your skirt supposed to be like that?” and watching me look down at the front confused and say “….yes?” then DIDN’T EXPLAIN THE PROBLEM. A few minutes later after I’d realized and fixed it she walked by again and smirked at me.

      1. The Bimmer Guy*

        Yeah, she knew what she was doing. Rude. You tell people discreetly, and you make sure they know how their wardrobe as malfunctioned so that they can fix it.

    2. Middle Aged Lady*

      A friend was giving her first lecture in a big auditorium classroom. The lectern was on a wooden platform that had been added to accomodate the mic, laptop tech, etc on the stage in this older hall. Friend spiffed up for the first day, and after greeting her new students, turned to write on the board. Her new dress shoe drraaaaaagggeed across the hollow wood and made a sound that was instantly humorous to the class. She turned around and tried to explain, instead of just laughing. She was mortified!

    3. The Friendly Comp Manager*

      I did that EXACT same thing but in 8th grade. I walked around the school for 45 minutes with my friends, thinking “wow, the guys are really giving me a lot of attention today!” Well, for a reason…. yikes.

  11. OrigCassandra*

    This one’s innocent, as these things go, but I sure did feel dorktastic at the time.

    My feet basically hate shoes. When I find shoes that fit, I buy several pair in the same style.

    It was my very first professional job after receiving my professional master’s. Very first all-staff meeting, and of course I was to be introduced as a new staff member, so I made sure to wear a nice outfit with accents in the organization’s colors. It wasn’t until I had been introduced, stood up to be acknowledged, and done all the obligatory greeting-and-schmoozing after the formal part of the meeting broke up…

    … that I noticed I was wearing one black shoe and one navy-blue shoe in the same style.

    To this day I don’t think anyone actually noticed, but yargh.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I did that once on Easter Sunday for church. Not sure anyone noticed then either. Hey, when it’s dark out when you get dressed, how can you be responsible for shoes not matching?

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I managed one morning to get almost all the way to a fancy dinner still wearing my slippers. I looked down, saw them, turned to spouse and said I have a minor problem. Spouse pulled the car to the side of the road, looked at my feet then at my face as we proceeded to both just bust out laughing before turning the car around and heading home.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Okay – that should have read one evening – I hate autocorrect at times…..

        2. Galadriel's Garden*

          Haha! My dad, bless him, 100% went to one of my student-teacher conferences wearing his slippers without realizing it, probably when I was in elementary school. It wasn’t until he got home and I pointed it out that he realized it, and true to form, he was very unfazed by this fact.

          1. BawlingOverHere*

            My dad went on a rare shopping trip with me, my sister, and my mom, back when I was very young. Dinner out was a centerpiece of these trips, and much anticipated by me and sis.

            While walking through a store, I noted that dad had on one brown and one black shoe; identical style, just different colors.

            The trip immediately ended with dad practically running for the car in shame and mortification. Nothing anyone could say to convince him no one else noticed.

            He was convinced the entire town saw him and everyone was secretly making fun of him. Self-centered much??

            We really missed that restaurant food. It was rare enough that it was a tragic event for us kids.

      2. Rebecca Stewart*

        My cousin once had something worse happen. He dressed for work in his usual black briefs, jeans, and polo shirt, from the clean laundry basket at the foot of the bed so as not to wake his wife.

        He has the problem many men do of having his pants slide down a bit when he bends over, and found out the issue with getting dressed in the dark when a colleague (all male office that joked around a lot) said, “Hey, Jeff, when did you start wearing Victoria’s Secret underwear?”
        Apparently he’d not grabbed his own underwear, but his wife’s.

        (Yes, I have a family where this story was told, by Jeff, at the next Sunday dinner.)

      3. LPUK*

        I did this with stockings. Got to the office and found I had one black leg, one navy leg

      4. Artemesia*

        with me it was blazers — black/ navy look alike in the dark but that navy with black slacks etc – not a good look.

    2. LolaBugg*

      Being distracted can do that to you! My mother, who is very fashionable, one time wore 2 completely different shoes to work. One brown, one black. But the kicker was they weren’t the same style, or even the same heel height! She was so preoccupied with her bananacrackers job that she didn’t even notice she was walking unevenly until someone pointed it out to her. Needless to say the day she retired was one of the happiest of her life.

      1. Anonymous please*

        If anyone had pointed it out, you could have said “Oh! I have another pair at home just like these!”

      2. PhyllisB*

        I did this years ago. I was trying to decide which pair of shoes went best with my outfit, and my husband yelled, “We’ve got to go, NOW!! We were going to a skating birthday party for our daughter. Got to the rink and realized I was wearing a white sandal with a heel, and one navy blue loafer. Luckily I was still young enough to skate so I immediately got on skates and kept them on all afternoon.

    3. Charlotte Lucas*

      I’ve worn 2 different styles of loafers to work! Dressing in the dark will do that to you.

      1. Cathie from Canada*

        Yes — luckily, on the day I did this, it was 4 pm before I noticed I had on one black pump and one navy blue pump.
        So at least I didn’t have to go through the whole day feeling embarrassed.

    4. Pippa K*

      When I take over the world I’m going to ban all shades that look black in some lights and dark blue in others.

      1. Middle Aged Lady*

        Please fix the sock problem after that. I often look down and find the blue sock and the gray sock must have mated and produced several blue-gray socks of different shades and textures, and they’ve all been sleeping indiscriminately in my sock drawer. It’s like kittens for my feet.

      2. BawlingOverHere*

        Please do! I have 2 pair of pants that I cannot tell if they’re black or blue, unless I hold them up to a shoe or something I’m certain of the color. I hate them.

    5. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I buy shoes in the same style and different colors on purpose, so I can mix and match them. Socks too. :)

    6. jleahul*

      My dad did this! His coworker said to him “Ray, your really fashionable today! Quite the trendsetter!”, but that was it. My dad went about his day feeling good about the compliment, and didn’t notice his mismatched shoes until a few hours later.

    7. noncommital pseudonym*

      Yep, got dressed while it was still dark out for an important all-day meeting. Grabbed the brown jacket instead of black, so spent all day with a black skirt and brown jacket.

    8. brightbetween*

      I am a public librarian, formerly children’s librarian. Years ago, at the END of a 45 minute storytime, a parent came up to me and said “I like your shoes”. Looked down and sure enough, 2 different shoes.

    9. Deanne*

      I worked in an office where the parking lot was about 6 blocks away, so I would pack my heels in a bag and wear sneakers to drive, then walk, to my office. When I got to my desk I realized that I’d packed 2 obviously different colors (1 red, 1 fuschia — it was the 90s, don’t judge) so I manufactured a “sprained” ankle and kept my sneakers on all day.

    10. My cat is the employee of the month*

      I know so many people who have done this. One person managed to pick out two black shoes with very different heel heights. I have no idea how they got out of the house in one piece.

    11. Gracely*

      I did that with a brown shoe and a black shoe when I was student teaching. Only realized it at the end of the day when we had to attend a pep rally, and I looked down at my feet so I wouldn’t trip going up the bleachers. No one noticed but me, AFAIK.

      But one time I met my spouse for lunch after he’d finished teaching two morning lectures. He had his shirt on inside out. Honestly, it’s not the first time he’s done that while wearing a t-shirt, but this time it was one of those polo shirts with buttons. I have no idea how he didn’t realize it; the buttons were done up and everything, which had to be awkward to do.
      Normally I’d catch something like that, but he had an early meeting or something and I was still sleeping when he left.

    12. Not the White Dragon*

      I will see you mismatched shoes and raise you:
      1. 1 pair of slippers worn to work (thankfully looked like loafers)
      2. Wearing my husband’s shoes to work
      3. My daughter mistaking my lounging robe for a comfy dress and wearing it to her staff holiday party.

      1. PhyllisB*

        I will raise you with me wearing a pair of my son’s kaki pants to work one day. After I got there I realized they were a bit loose in the waist and the pockets were deep. At least they didn’t scream MEN’S PANTS!! Also went to church one day and realized I was still wearing my bedroom slippers. Luckily they looked like moccasins and I was wearing slacks so no one noticed.

    13. Language Lover*

      That reminds me when I first moved to my current city and was crashing with my best friend until I could find my own apartment. Our shoes would be near the front door. She wore about two or three sizes bigger than I did so it was usually pretty easy to see which shoes belonged to each of us.

      During winter, I’d wear winter boots and bring in another pair of shoes to change into at work. One day I grabbed 2 leather low-rise boots with about a one-inch heel to take with me.

      I got to work and put them on. The right foot felt fine but the left foot was way too small for the boot. You’d think my first thought would be to realize I had accidentally grabbed one of my boots and one of hers.

      Nope. My first thought was that my left foot had shrunk significantly. And I panicked over that thought for longer than I should have (probably about a minute) before I reached the more logical conclusion that we had a similar pair of boots and I had accidentally grabbed one of hers.

    14. Bronze Betty*

      I did something similar.

      When I used to do litigation, I of course would dress appropriately in suits and pumps. My feet are hard to fit, so I would buy the same style of pump in different colors. I would drive to the court while wearing comfortable flats, and switch to pumps once I arrived. And, of course, once, upon arrival, I noticed I had one tan and one black pump–at least they were for a left foot and right foot.

      I just wore my flats into court. They did match my suit.

    15. Fashion Faux-pas*

      It happens to the best of us! It was my first week at a new job, I wasn’t sure what pair of shoes to wear, ran out the door because would you look at the time. When I got to the office, my office mate was looking at me in a really puzzled way for a couple hours, and eventually, asked “are your shoes… Supposed to be like this?”
      I look down and to my horror, I was wearing two very different low-cut boots – one was black suede with embroidered golden stars and the other light grey with a tassel. They just happened to have identical heel heights. I had to tell her this wasn’t an odd fashion choice on my part, then had to spend my day meeting new colleagues, going for a team lunch and getting home via public transports. It’s weird how self-conscious you can become when you know you’re wearing two different shoes.
      I texted a friend, and she suggested that on the next day I should wear the other foot for each pair!

    16. Anon for this one*

      I’ve worn mismatched shoes to a job interview! I had two similar but not identical pairs of black oxford shoes, and grabbed one of each.

    17. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      A friend/colleague was setting out to the bank, dressed to impress, but hadn’t realised he had only changed one shoe, the other still happily wearing a shabby old sneaker. We took a photo for laughs but then told him he needed to scoot back to the office to get *fully* changed. It took him a while to realise what he’d omitted somehow! But no damage done, since he always sets out very early.

  12. LunaLena*

    Ever since I got my first cell phone, I’ve almost never gotten calls, so I often forget to turn it off. This of course came back to bite me in the butt in the middle of a job interview. When my phone went off, I quickly silenced it and apologized, and the interview proceeded. Embarrassing, but no big deal. Unfortunately I also have a penchant for putting amusing audio clips on my phone for alerts, so when the person left a voicemail (it was a friend who wanted to know how the interview went but also lived in a different time zone, and so didn’t realize they were calling too early to find out), the two interviewers and I were treated to Ned Flanders from The Simpsons saying “Feels like I’m wearing nothing at all… Nothing At All… NOTHING AT ALL” followed by Homer saying “Stupid sexy Flanders!”

    Luckily the interviewers thought it was funny and I still got the job. And now I always remember to silence my phone for important events.

    1. Two Chairs, One to Go*

      That’s amazing. I love the Simpsons and that would make me laugh. I’m glad your interviewer had a sense of humor!

      1. Dragon_Dreamer*

        I knew someone whose ringtone was a tiny voice that piped up, “Let me out of your pocket!” *pause* “Help, I’m trapped in this pocket!”

        1. Cedrus Libani*

          My mom once borrowed my phone, and while doing so, gave her phone number a novelty ring tone: a Foghorn Leghorn voice saying “Answer the phone or I’m whooping your a**!” It amused me, so I left it like that for years. And then she called me when I was in a meeting. Lesson learned!

    2. CatCat*

      This reminds me of my mom’s story of when she was in the audience of a large, solemn meeting about layoffs. Her cell phone went off. It was the theme of “Jaws.”

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        My default ring tone is Tubular Bells. It’s the theme to The Exorcist. I often get double takes if it goes off (usually with a spam call) in meetings.

        1. SyFyGeek*

          I used to have that too! Then I realized I was really creeped out every time my phone rang. Now it’s the theme to “The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly”.

      2. jlynnm*

        Mine was in the middle of a law class (college) and my ring tone at the time was Kid Rock – and out blasts All Summer Long – specifically ” And we were trying different things, We were smoking funny things, Making love out by the lake to our favorite song, Sipping whiskey out the bottle, not thinking ’bout tomorrow”

        Changed that ring tone – real fast!

      3. Squirrel Nutkin*

        I was teaching a class when a student’s cell phone went off with “Ding Dong, the Witch Is Dead.” It was her mom.

    3. Thunderingly*

      Haha I remember one of my first interviews where my phone was on vibrate, but of course that was still loud and obnoxious! I tried to subtly stop it while continuing the interview I think. I was still offered the job but declined (they wanted to know if I would work extra for no pay).

    4. Bagpuss*

      I was in court once when someone’s phone rang (massive no-no) the Judge was getting more and more irate as no one turned it off, and was threatening to clear the court.. before realising it was his own.
      And because it was a criminal case he was robed so took him a while to then get at his pocket to turn it off!
      To be fair, he did then apologise!

  13. Ann Onymous*

    I poured Gatorade on myself in an interview. I was fresh out of school and interviewing for what would be my first full-time professional job. The hiring manager had a stash of snacks and drinks in his office for his team and offered me a drink, so I took a bottle of Gatorade. We talked for awhile, and then he was going to take me on a tour of the team’s lab. I guess I hadn’t gotten the cap all the way back on the Gatorade because as I was gathering up my things I managed to dump about a quarter of the bottle over my coat and into my shoe. If the hiring manager noticed, he was nice enough not to say anything. I got the job, so it worked out fine in the end, but I was definitely stressing over that Gatorade incident for a few days!

    1. The New Wanderer*

      Ooh! I did something similar while getting lunch at a street cart in NYC with my manager. We were walking away when I decided I needed to shake up my bottle of iced tea, which of course I hadn’t screwed the cap back on properly, and splashed it all down my front. Fortunately my manager didn’t get hit by more than a few drops, but I did have to immediately go buy a new shirt before the next meeting.

      1. Ann Onymous*

        I lucked out – my coat was black and the Gatorade was lemon-lime instead of a more intensely colored flavor, so I didn’t end up with any stains.

      2. Dragon_Dreamer*

        Heh, I once was walking back to work on a windy day with a cup of hot chocolate. The wind was intense enough that the air pressure actually caused the chocolate to spew out of the drinking hole and all over my shirt! My manager just gave me a new shirt.

        The next day, I went up to my physics professor, and proudly announced, “I learned first hand about pressure differentials yesterday!”

        He gave me this extremely wary look, and asked, “Do I want to know what you exploded?”

        He did enjoy the joke after I explained it. ;)

      3. wine dude*

        Not at work but when I was in my early 20s I got into the habit of shaking the (glass, screw cap) ketchup bottle to loosen things up before pouring. In a casual restaurant with friends I proceed to shake, without checking the lid or even putting a finger over it.

        You would be amazed how much thick Heinz ketchup can exit the bottle when you shake it just right. The right side of my face was covered, and we all looked like accident victims. Our server then I arrived and I sheepishly requested a towel, at which point she understandably lost it.

    2. Phony Genius*

      After reading your first sentence, I pictured you doing is as some sort of football-like victory celebration because the interview was going so well.

    3. Mid*

      I was handed a cup of coffee and somehow completely failed to actually grab it, so it just hit the floor and splashed all over both of us. I felt so bad because the person I was interviewing (not for a job, for a job shadow type thing) was absolutely dripping and it totally ruined her outfit. The splashes hit my glasses and hair, so it was like a floor to ceiling type spill. Luckily it wasn’t super hot coffee, I guess?

  14. Full anon for this one :)*

    I had a summer internship with a judge in law school, and before it started, I was told that there would be a new intern orientation/program for all new judicial interns one afternoon. I think I may have had confusion about what room in the courthouse it was in or they weren’t clear or something? So I showed up, and I think I asked someone where the meeting was, and I was told to go to a certain room. I get there, and it seemed like the right place, most of the people were about my age/they seemed like students as well. Long story short, though, it turns out it was for a mentorship program for Black students, and there I was, the whitest person ever, sitting there and thinking more and more “oh no, I don’t belong here, this isn’t my place.” I felt so bad, and the way it was set up (everyone was sat around a conference room), it would have been so much more awkward for me to have left because I didn’t realize what was going on until the meeting was fully ongoing. At one point towards the end, everyone went around and introduced themselves, and I at least had the wherewithal to say that I realized that I had wound up at the wrong meeting and apologized for any intrusion.

    1. londonedit*

      Not work, but I’ve done something very similar! A few years ago I was on the committee of a local sports club, and as part of this I was asked to go to a meeting of other clubs in the area. I’d never been to this particular meeting before, but the person who would usually deal with it was away, so I went in their place. I wasn’t hugely familiar with the place the meeting was being held in, so I did my usual trick of getting there extra early just in case I got lost, but when I got there the doors were locked and there didn’t seem to be anyone around. Figuring I was just a bit *too* early, I looked around for somewhere to hang out and wait for someone else to arrive, and spotted a sort of community cafe place across the road, attached to the library. So I went in, and there was a counter with tea and coffee making stuff, someone behind the counter handing out drinks, and there were plates of biscuits and sandwiches. I assumed it was the sort of casual WI/village hall setup that you find in Britain where there would be tea and biscuits available and you’d put £1 in a collection jar or whatever. So the person behind the counter offered me a drink, I asked for a coffee, they gave me a cup of coffee and offered me a biscuit, and in the meantime a couple of other people came in and did the same and sat down at one of the tables. As I was checking my phone for updates from the meeting I was meant to be at, a few more people came in and sat down, and eventually the person behind the counter turned to me and said ‘We’ll be getting started soon…you’re here for the group meeting?’ And then I had a proper look around me at the situation I was actually in, and it gradually dawned on me that I was not in a public community cafe-type place, and I was in fact gatecrashing a meeting for some sort of support group. Being British, I think I mumbled something like ‘Oh, dear, no I must have the wrong place, whoops, sorry, didn’t realise, whoops…’ as I scuttled out of the door.

      1. Madame Arcati*

        I’ll put this as a reply here as it’s not work but it’s along the same lines as your story Londonedit. Keeping it as short as I can – a group of three people followed the wrong cars from the crematorium and ended up at the wake of the wrong person, at his parent’s house. An easy mistake to make you’d think but they somehow didn’t notice that at their service every single person was black (we saw them come out of the building as we went in) but they were now at a wake where every single other guest was white. The deceased’s mother graciously went over and politely asked how they knew her son. Swift exit stage left; and a frankly hilarious epilogue when we discovered that the front page of the book of condolence the mother had placed on her sideboard, with an obviously fairly recent portrait photo of her son in his 20s next to it, now bore a sentence in memory of dear old great uncle [different name] from [Caribbean island]…

    2. So so so anon*

      Ack! The wrong group situation! I was at a company on a summer internship between my freshman and sophomore years, and they had all the interns together for meetings on a schedule, which was all laid out on a piece of paper among the rest of the handouts. The schedule had served me well up to this point. However, it came to a day that they had an “MBA lunch” on the schedule. I had heard very generally about MBA this MBA that but I didn’t actually know at that time what it stood for, or that the event was, in fact, only for a subgroup of the interns, who were (either already or pursuing? I still don’t know) MBA’s.
      The couple of actual MBA interns who got there before my mortification point were very welcoming. But before we could really start conversing, the intern coordinator arrived, came up to me and said “This is actually only for the MBA’s, so you can’t stay, sorry.” As I turned some variety of scarlet, I went wide-eyed and emitted an “Oh!” I may or may not have mumbled something about the schedule as I left, walking partly backwards at first, as gracefully as I could while reeling with shame and confusion.

    3. Phoenix*

      Hahaha, I did a version of this in college! As a freshman, I had signed up the easiest possible physical sciences class to fulfil a gen ed requirement–think Rocks for Jocks. It definitely had a reputation for being a joke class. On the first day, I showed up to the room and prepared to zone out. I remember being mildly surprised that it was being held in a small classroom instead of a large lecture hall, but figured that most of the students at my notoriously hardworking college probably didn’t want to take the easiest option. Well, the instructor arrived, sat us all in a circle, and had us introduce ourselves. One by one, the other students introduced themselves. They were all juniors and seniors who were math, physics, and chemistry majors with plans to get masters degrees in Engineering. They started making comments like, “I’ve been waiting for four years for a course like this to be offered, and I’m so thrilled to finally get the chance to take it.” I sllllllowly realize this is my school’s first ever Advanced Materials Engineering class and is very much NOT Rocks for Jocks. As luck would have it, I was the last person to introduce herself. As everyone turned to look at me, I said, “Hi, I’m Phoenix. I’m a freshman poli sci major with no engineering background. I’m also definitely in the wrong class. Could someone point me to Rocks for Jocks??” There was some snickering, but the professor kindly directed me to the large lecture hall down the corridor, and I stealthily slunk into Rocks for Jocks about 20 minutes late. All’s well that ends well: I did indeed manage to knock out my gen ed requirement with minimal effort.

      1. caterpillar anon*

        (TW: gross biology stuff) I was a witness to a version of this in college: I was taking a class on infectious disease, which it turned out was 90% about parasitic diseases (rather than bacterial/viral diseases like I assumed). In the first teaching section for the class, there were about 15 of us sitting in chairs in a circle and the TA started by showing us a video: an interior view of a caterpillar that had been infected by some kind of parasite, which was growing and multiplying inside it. Just as the parasites BURST out of the caterpillar, one student jumped to their feet, said something like “Wait, this isn’t the micro econ section!”, grabbed their stuff, and RAN out of the room. For years I’ve wondered if they were sitting there the whole time thinking the video was some kind of metaphor for the economy before they realized what was happening.

        1. Bronze Betty*

          I did something like this. I registered for an Econ 101 class and was running a few minutes late for the first class, so I missed any introductions by the instructor. Entered the classroom, sat in the back, and within a very short time was marveling that Econ 101 was way more advanced than I had thought it would be (I was a liberal arts student, not a business student). After about 10 minutes of lecturing and quickly checking my schedule, I realized I needed to be in another classroom. And yes, the correct class was more my speed.

      2. Middle Aged Lady*

        At Big State U where I attended undergrad and grad school, the profs were kind enough to announce at the beginning of the first class ‘This is English 312 British Poetry from 1750, I am Dr. Xand this is Smith Hall, room 101. If you need to leave for another class, please do.’ It made it so much less embarrassing. That place was huge.

        1. Constance Lloyd*

          I’m sure “Smith Hall” isn’t the actual name, but this comment made me do a double take because my Big State U did have a giant Smith Hall where I indeed accidentally joined the wrong class once.

    4. Jellyfish*

      This is much lower stakes, but it reminded me of a similar story. When my partner was getting his paramedic certification, he needed a certain number of hours shadowing at a hospital. His certification program set it up for St. X Hospital at 2:00 on Tuesday (or whatever). My partner instead drove to St. Y Hospital, told them what he was there for, and they assigned him to an emergency room doctor. The doctor signed off on everything at the end of the day, and that was that.

      It was only the next week when his instructor asked why he didn’t show up at St. X that my partner realized his error. Apparently all the area hospitals were used to both student needs and poor communication, so they just ran with it whenever somebody showed up, whether they were expected or not.

    5. Anon5*

      Nooooooo! I think I would have died of shame!

      This story reminded me of a friend who also wound up in the wrong meeting once. She was in her early 20s and just starting to get active in the local BDSM community. There is a group that meets in a park to grill and socialize. She showed up and didn’t recognize anyone at all, which was a little surprising because she had gone to a few meetups for different groups already, but not too much of a red flag because she was still new and hadn’t been to that particular group yet. She jumped in, mingled, met new people, shared her potluck item and ate dinner…and eventually someone came over and asked how she had known their son. Their deceased son. Whose celebration-of-life style funeral this was. She stammered something about going to school together and made her exit as soon as she could without making a scene.

    6. Banananon-anon-anon*

      Oh ugh, this unlocked a memory for me that I’ve tried desperately to forget. When I was a senior in college, I had one class left to complete my Spanish minor, and I had selected a Spanish film class. On the first day of class, I showed up to the classroom listed on my schedule, but the class name on the blackboard didn’t match the class I had signed up for. Soooo, I headed over to the main office to confirm the classroom, and they told me that all was correct and I was meant to be there. I returned to the classroom and things still didn’t feel right, so for reasons unbeknownst to my conscious mind, I proceeded to repeat the whole process again before finally realizing I’d actually been in the correct place the entire time.

      The class wound up being one of my favorites, but I’ll never know why the very small class *and the professor* idly watched me stand up, leave, and sit down in absolute confusion without saying a word to me.

  15. LolaBugg*

    My boss sent me more work on a day when I already had too much on my plate plus I wasn’t feeling well. I opened a text message to my husband and wrote “I really freaking hate my job sometimes” and hit send. Then I realized I had messaged my boss back, not my husband. Complete mortification.

    1. Cat Tree*

      I used to have a boss with the same first name and last initial as one of my siblings. I was veeeery careful about texting during that time period. Fortunately I avoided any mishaps.

      However, I once dated a guy with the same first name as my best friend. I got that mixed up once, but thankfully in the harmless direction (texted my friend instead of my date).

    2. Old Cynic*

      follow up email: “I’m glad I feel comfortable saying things like that to you…”

    3. SaffyTaffy*

      I did something a little like this once, but with an email title and my inbox projected onto a giant screen.

  16. AcadLibrarian*

    Not work, but high school. I am a proud nerd and did Mock Trial. We had local attorneys coach the teams. Got into the elevator at the justice center with one of them. Wearing my letter jacket. He asked me what I got my letter jacket in. I stood there for a moment and said…”small?”
    Which thinking back is probably better than admitting my letter was the …Lamp of Knowledge. Sigh. Yes, I got a letter jacket for good grades.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I got a letter in high school for being in the orchestra for two years. Talk about nerdy.

        1. Mellophonist*

          +1 for marching band! We were the state champions 2/4 years, so I also had a championship ring that I proudly wore. Better than any of the sports teams at my high school!

            1. Squirrel Nutkin*

              Do it — life is short, and you might as well have fun! There is a community band somewhere nearby that wants you playing again!

          1. Jellyfish*

            Yup! Band, Scholar’s Bowl, and Academics here. It got some weird looks, but I’m young enough that nerdiness was already in vogue when I was in high school. :)

        2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Also marching band letter, but also had one for Academic Team (which was like team Jeopardy).

          Yep – go nerds.

        3. AnotherOne*

          I thought every school gave out letters for marching band…

          I got one for each year I was in it. (You had to buy your own jacket though. And I know people who did.)

      1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

        Middle school, handbell choir. One of the more fun musical things I’ve been a part of.

      2. Office Gumby*

        Mee too! Got the letter, but couldn’t afford the jacket. I still wish I did.

    2. The New Wanderer*

      *nerd fistbump*
      I also lettered academically (30 years ago) and TIL that the pin is called the Lamp of Knowledge.

      1. Butterfly Counter*

        I had that letter too! And the lamp pin and all 4 years that are add ons to that that pin! I don’t think they let us have the jacket, though (I got it for soccer).

    3. Jessica Ganschen*

      If my family had had the money for it at the time, I would have gotten one for being on the Varsity Academic Challenge team.

    4. Jay*

      I was PISSED when I got to college and found out some high schools did that. Mine did not and I felt robbed. Never played sports. Had very good grades.

      1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

        I had no idea this was a thing! We only got letters for sports. (I lettered in a sport but didn’t get a jacket.)

      2. Lina*

        Yes, my high school only did letters for sports, and letter jackets were a Big Deal. 30 years later I am still somewhat salty about it. A friend of mine had a good solution – she sat down with an old yearbook, worked our which sport she had to play to go immediately onto the varsity team and meet letter requirements with only one season during the off-semester from all our academic teams, and promptly went out for ladies’ golf that spring. Her scores were terrible but it was enough for the school to earn participation points in tournaments.

        1. Artemesia*

          LOL. I knew a guy who who was a very good skier and wanted to go to the Olympics. He was not THAT good. So he looked around for a sport nobody did that he could qualify for. This was the 60s. His pick was luge and he went to Innsbruck on the US luge team.

      3. DT*

        I was today years old when I learned some high schools give letters for academic type things! And now I am salty too.

    5. AcadLibrarian*

      I have never felt so seen. And I got the letter, but had to buy the jacket and have the letter added to it. But it was a big high school so it was a thing that tons of people had jackets.

    6. My cat is the employee of the month*

      I got one in junior high for grades. Just the letter. No jacket. I also got a dictionary for perfect attendance. I still have the dictionary.

    7. Fleur-de-Lis*

      I lettered in Scholastic Bowl (or Academic Team or Quiz Bowl, whatever you called it locally) and Band. As a freshman. SUPER NERD!

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Academic Team was a blast – glad to run into somebody else who did it!

        1. Academic Team geek*

          I was an Academic Team mom for 8 years ( both my kids) and it was fabulous. My son’s team won state and nationals one year and the school bought them windbreakers that said state champs and nice rings for the national champs.

    8. miss chevious*

      I lettered in Academics, too! Instead of a jacket–which I thought I would be teased for–I bought a sweater in a school color and made a letter sweater like the ones they had in the 50s. I still have it!

    9. 3DogNight*

      Serious nerd alert! I lettered in Journalism! And yes, yes I did play D&D in High School, why do you ask?

    10. WFH with Cat*

      WHAT?!

      I was newspaper staff, yearbook staff, speech tournments, theater, AP classes, honor society, all of that — but my HS must only have had Letters/Jackets for jock. None of us nerdy types ever got a pin, letter or jacket. I had no idea any schools ever even did that until today … darn it, I want my swag!

      1. I'd rather be a nerd than a jerk*

        I got mine for Theater; if there had been one for academics, I would have had that as well.

        I also have had a long and successful career, which I doubt the lettered jocks have, so I’ll take the whole thing for a win.

    11. H3llifIknow*

      My letter was for making it to Nationals in …. Debate… so I got it for arguing with people.

    12. WFH Forever Please*

      This reminds me of when I met with an OBGYN to check on an IUD. She asked me where I had the IUD put in.

      “Um. My uterus?” I even pointed.

      Turns out she meant what city. But for that split second between when she first asked and my response, I thought for sure I had chosen the wrong OBGYN!

      1. DrRat*

        I am completely thinking of Mall Rats where they keep referring to anal sex as sex “in a very uncomfortable place” and someone gets the “place” concept wrong and asks, “Like in the back of a Volkswagen?”

    13. BawlingOverHere*

      I did too! I wanted one, and as I’m in no way a jock, that was my option. Lol.

    14. JustSomeone*

      Yessssss! I lettered in Speech, Knowledge Bowl, and Academics for multiple years! I never bought the jacket because it was expensive and ugly (everyone had to buy their own, regardless of what they lettered in), but I sure did pin all the little pins to the fuzzy letter and display it at my graduation party.

    15. Cedrus Libani*

      My high school did varsity letters for academic teams. When I was a freshman, my mom had volunteered to drive to one of my first competitions. She spotted the letter jacket on my team-mate – it was absolutely covered in pins, but the kid wearing it was a scrawny fifteen-year-old who didn’t look like he was qualified to be a water boy, never mind the all-the-sports legend he apparently was. (He was on the varsity math team, the varsity physics team, the varsity computer team, the varsity quiz bowl team…a few others besides, plus the one for good grades.) Curiosity got the better of her, and she asked him what sports he played. He looked her right in the eye, and deadpanned: “Football!”

  17. The Dread Pirate Roberts*

    I was doing a Skype interview for a job, as I lived halfway across the country. I have a history of putting my foot in my mouth in interviews, and I was super nervous I was going to do that on this interview because I was really interested in the job and it was my first interview in a long time. I thought I was home free: I had answered all of their questions, I thought I represented myself accurately, and I was asking my questions. I thought I couldn’t possibly mess up asking my own questions! I asked what the next steps were, and the head interviewer said that they were going to do a second round of interviews and, while they knew it would be an inconvenience for me, they would like the second interviews to be in person.

    She STARTED to say that the reason they would be in person was because part of the job involves operating some… let’s say heavy machinery that can be somewhat intimidating. Let’s say driving a teapot delivery truck. And they didn’t want to go through all the expense and time commitment of hiring someone only for them to take one look at the Teapot Truck and go, “I can’t possibly do this job. I quit.”

    Makes sense, right? Right. Except that’s not what she said. Here is an imprecise transcript of what actually was said:

    Interviewer: I know that it will be an inconvenience for you, but we would really like the second round of interviews to happen in person, because —
    Me: Oh! Yeah! Totally! Of course! Because, like… just, y’know, for an example… I might not be wearing pants right now.

    But happy ending: I’ve been in the job for going on four years now, and my quirky personality is appreciated for perhaps the first time in my career.

    1. Lie-berry-in*

      This is hilarious. I’ve been on more hiring committees than I can count and this would probably stop me mid-sentence while my brain tried to process what to say in response.

    2. Purple Cat*

      OMG, I love this. (Well, I’m dying of second-hand embarrassment, but I’m so glad it worked out)

    3. Elenna*

      But were you wearing pants for that first interview? Inquiring minds want to know.

  18. fiona the baby hippo*

    I was fairly new at a ~ cool ~ women’s media company in my early 20s. We all had assigned those under-desk file cabinents but bc it was a digital company, there wasn’t much I actually needed to put in them. I got in the habit of storing tupperware after lunch so I’d remember to take it home for the day. One day, I packed my go-to salad: Kale, avocado, almonds, parm, EVOO and balsamic vinegar. I ate most of it then got full and put it up, meaning to empty and clean it later. Only a DAY later, I remembered it then quickly tossed it in our common area just off where my desk was. A few minutes later, everyone around me started reacting to a bad smell…. then the people further behind us, until nearly our entire section was reacting to what I quickly realized was the smell of my rotting kale. I had no idea vegetables could smell this bad! As everyone was turning to their neighbors wondering what was going on, I had to stand up, walk the 15 yards to the trash can, pull out the MASSIVE trashbag (this was like an industrial-sized trashcan that was built into the wall) and find a facilities person to ask where to throw it out. Thankfully, everyone around me found it funny… and eventually I did too.

    1. Jeremy Jamm*

      Not work related, but my ex and I had a multi-day fight over what the smell was coming from the fridge. We were throwing things away every day and the smell just kept getting worse and worse. Finally, we found a bag of rotting kale in the back of the fridge. We threw it away and the smell immediately disappeared. It never dawned on either of us that kale could smell THAT BAD but it does.

      1. Baby Yoda*

        My husband found an old sardine can under his desk after not being able to track down a nasty smell. The company accountant had let it roll under there.

      2. Artemesia*

        Greens. But the other amazing smell is potatoes — when those suckers go bad, it is almost as bad as dead rat.

        1. Lizzie*

          citrus too. I had a smell in my fridge that i couldn’t find. i finally realized it was a desicated lime in my crisper drawer

      3. Euphony*

        One morning my pregnant boss (who sat opposite me) kept asking me if I could smell bananas. We had almost completely convinced ourselves that it was her pregnant nose being extra sensitive when a giant stack of paperwork toppled on the floor, unleashing a horrendous stench and revealing a completely black and leaking banana underneath. Yuk

    2. Lizcase*

      Rotting potatoes is the worst thing I have ever smelled. Worse than the rat who inconveniently died in a wall.

      1. KRM*

        My roommate and I had THE WORST smell in our apartment and it took us like 3 weeks to realize it was an onion rotting in the bowl–but the top looked fine. Just when you tried to move it, it had disintegrated into black sludge underneath.
        We also had an incident where the crockpot broke when she was trying to make chickpeas, and then we shouldn’t have left it to ‘take care of later’. We may have invented a new nutrient broth for bacteria, except that it smelled like mold and mothballs, so nobody would have wanted to use it.

      2. Asenath*

        Nothing is worse than a deceased rat in an inaccessible place. I worked somewhere once which had a rat problem, and the maintenance staff, who cannot possibly have followed possible procedures, poisoned them, and they all crawled into the floor space under the cafeteria area and died. The rats, not the staff.

        But some vegetables can be particularly noxious. I’d vote for rotten zucchinis as “most stinky vegetables”, but I do admit rotting potatoes are pretty bad. I recently had to sort through large sacks of potatoes, putting them in smaller sacks for individual use, and every so often I’d come across a bad one. Nasty.

      3. Artemesia*

        wrote my note above before I saw yours — and we both used the dead rat comparison. Great minds — or maybe the dang things really do smell worse than dead rats.

    3. H3llifIknow*

      Coworker at a “major bank” call center went on vacation. While she was gone, our shared quad started to smell soooo bad. She was gone over a week. When we came back, it was discovered that she had left half a tuna sandwich in her LOCKED desk drawer. Rule after that was NO FOOD AT DESKS.

    4. Minccino*

      One time I walked into work and was met with the smelliest smell. My boss initially thought there was a dead mouse or something in the building. Turns out it was a bag of rotting produce that she placed in the office and forgot about. The bag was leaking “juice.” D:

    5. Azure Jane Lunatic*

      A co-worker once had an unexpected medical emergency that pulled her out of work for a few months. Her desk stayed untouched until a massive desk-shuffle, and I was very apologetically approached by her (extremely pregnant) manager. The co-worker had inadvertently left a cafeteria to-go bowl of soup in a drawer, which the manager discovered while trying to pack her desk. And she was very sorry but she just couldn’t. And could I please.

      It turned out to have been just a tiny amount of soup in there making all that stench. I tied the trash bag, and put it in another trash bag and tied that as well.

  19. The Prettiest Curse*

    Events are rife with the potential for mortifying moments:
    1. I remembered an article that I’d recently read and greeted a guest by asking “are you the serial entrepreneur I’ve been reading about?” He replied “No, I’m a serial academic.” (Similar-looking guy with same employer and the same first name.)

    2. At an event last week, I greeted an important executive by asking her if she would be speaking on our panel later. She replied “I hope not!” (The real panel member looks a bit like her and works for the same type of company.) Apparently, I should just never give anyone a personal greeting again.

    3. Also at last week’s event, I said that I was going to put some more Velcro on a poster, and one of my colleagues somehow mis-heard that I was going to put Velcro on a person…

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      I should add that all of the people I mixed up with each other are middle-aged white people (and so am I.)
      I realised after writing my original comment that another common denominator was hair – both the men I mixed up are bald, and both the women have the same type of hair. Apparently, I just pay a lot of attention to people’s hair…

      1. Tin Cormorant*

        I’ve been there. I’m like 60% face blind, possibly as a result of having extremely bad eyesight in my formative years. Anyone with similar skin color, hair, and general body shape gets confused for each other. There have been some movies where two of the actors were white men with short brown hair and I was cursing whoever planned that because I couldn’t remember which one was which in order to follow the story.

        1. The Prettiest Curse*

          I’m not face blind, but I do have terrible eyesight, so that might be why I focus on people’s hair more than other details.

        2. Former Young Lady*

          You both sound like me. I asked a coworker once how her weekend swimming had gone, to show off how well I remembered our discussion the week before. She stared at me blankly and I realized I asked the wrong white woman with glasses and short brown hair.

          (White woman myself, and I’ve been on the other end of it too. It’s survivable.)

        3. Elenna*

          Same! And I also had pretty bad eyesight when young. That’s one reason I don’t watch many movies, because plots are really hard to follow when you can’t tell half the characters apart. (Or you can tell them apart but you only started being able to tell them apart halfway through the movie, well after the point there were introduced, and now nobody is using anybody else’s names…)

        4. Chris*

          Wow, I’m the same, focusing on hair and having trouble with movies. I also got glasses at the age of three or so, so your theory intrigues me.

        5. LPUK*

          Oh I get that! I watched Chariots of Fire and was really confused all the way through because I didn’t recognise that there were two different runners – they were both bony white men

        6. DrRat*

          My sister got completely confused watching the second Jumanji movie because she thought the gamer at the beginning of the movie (young Alex) was the same person as Spencer. So when Alex popped up later on in the game she had no idea who he was or where he came from.

        7. Squirrel Nutkin*

          Whoo boy, yes — prosopagnosia checking in! I have had whole conversations with someone thinking they were someone else.

      2. Asenath*

        Oh, that’s fairly normal. I’m terrible at recognizing people I don’t know well, to the point that I simply don’t use names if I am not absolutely certain they’re the right ones (which means almost never) and sunnily smile and say hello to anyone who shows any signs of knowing who I am. If you don’t, you end up like the very senior person in one of my former workplaces who made a point of greeting workers he passed in the corridor. That would have been just fine, but he would then go on and say something about how things were going in, let’s call it, the teapot repair depot, when I actually worked in staff support in the technician’s training centre. I’d smile and correct him – and he’d do it again next time.

      3. Blissfully ignorant*

        I used to be horrible at recognizing people!
        I worked in a doctor’s office they had just acquired the office of another doc who retired. We took over all his patients.
        One patient called asking to schedule with “the doctor who wears glasses” but i had no idea which of our docs wore glasses! I had to ask the nurse which one. 9 months in and I just never noticed! They teased me for quite a while about that

        1. JESUS IS THE MAN!*

          Ha, that reminds me of TAing in grad school. One of those students who never showed up for discussion sessions came to turn in a midterm exam and just paused in abject confusion for a while.

          “Which section are you in?”

          “Ummm…dunno? I think the TA is a woman? With glasses?”

          Reader, three of the five of us TAs sitting there were women with glasses.

    2. Mid*

      I worked a job in college for major donor events, and at one, I was trying to inhale some food because I hadn’t eaten all day and it was really good (free!) food. So I semi-hid in a corner and shoved a HUGE bite of food into my mouth, and was immediately called over to talk with a donor who wanted to hear about my research. I was holding two plates of food and my cheeks were stuffed like a chipmunk, but I panicked and walked over anyway and just stared awkwardly at VIP Donor until I finished chewing, stacked my plates, and then finally shook their hand and introduced myself. It was the longest two minutes of my life.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        Nothing worse than doing something mortifying in front of a VIP! I was once in the middle of hauling an overloaded cart out of our storage area when it banged into the wall and a chunk of plaster fell off. I looked up to see the owner of the building standing right there….

        1. Mid*

          Oh no! That’s always how it works–you could push that cart with twice as much stuff every day for a year and never bump a door frame, but the second someone important is watching, you’ll take off three side mirrors and rip up the carpet in one fell swoop!

          1. Not So NewReader*

            One place I worked we constantly had to move things. I never bumped anyone, I swear. Until this one day I was moving something and I bumped an inspector. It was a while before I lived that down.

          2. Old Woman in Purple*

            I’m sure it’s some corollary of Murphy’s Law, that allows embarrassing events to happen only when there is an audience.

      2. LPUK*

        When I was the British equivalent of an intern, I worked in a very large open plan office, where the Directors had a different part of the building, executive dining room, chauffeured limousines etc. they were godlike. We used to see them once a year at Christmas when they came round all the carrels for a meet and greet. When they arrived in our area, the intern who shared a carrel with me, was so flustered she stood up and put her foot in her own bin. Bad enough, but what really killed it is that she decided to do nothing and hope he wouldn’t notice, so she shook hand with him with one leg in a bin

        1. The Prettiest Curse*

          Wow, that sounds excruciating. Extra points for trying to just power through it, though.

    3. Sad Desk Salad (which I am eating right now)*

      Oof, I did something similar at my previous job. I was still pretty new. We were lined up at the buffet at our colleague’s retirement lunch (small company, we’re all in basically 2-3 person departments), and the honoree happened to be right in front of me. I asked, “so, is this your last day?” He looks at me and goes, “no, why, do you know something I don’t?” Similar looking guy–but decidedly NOT the same guy. I was so red in the face that I sputtered and stammered until he mercifully started a conversation with someone else.

      I wonder if he remembers that. Months later he gave me a book recommendation that turned out to be a favorite (Under the Banner of Heaven).

      1. H3llifIknow*

        Hey I just finished that miniseries on Hulu and was considering reading the book since the show took some liberties with the story!

  20. Higher Ed Drama*

    I feel there will be much more mortifying stories…but I was once in a meeting with a small group and noticed a tick was crawling through my boss’s hair. And I just had to stop the meeting and tell her so we could try to take care of the situation. She went to the bathroom to try to get it out but couldn’t find so came back to try to resume the meeting with several skeeved out people. A few moments later I saw the thing again. So I just reached out and grabbed it out of her hair and threw it on the table. I may have squealed a little too. Once the little demon bug was taken care of and things were settling down I just remember saying “It’s alright Sweetie” … to my boss. I later apologized to her for saying that. Her reply was “You got the tick out of my hair – you can call me whatever you want!”

    1. Joanna*

      Higher Ed Drama, I hate to diminish your mortification here, but you are clearly the hero of this story.

    2. Charlotte Lucas*

      I live in an area where ticks (& Lyme disease) are a problem. You did a good thing.

    3. Rara+Avis*

      I was recently chaperoning an outdoor ed trip and my 6th grade crew had mostly not met ticks, and were very anxious about identifying them on nightly tick checks. So when I found a tick crawling on my shoulder, I brought it around to show them. Then the naturalist got out his little magnifying box and put the tick inside so they all could see it really well. On the upside, all those kids now know how to identify a tick!

    4. Yoyoyo*

      Oh my god, you just reminded me of this incident of my own! I was taking an AP exam as a senior in high school and felt a tick on the back of my neck. It had latched on and I couldn’t get it off easily, and I was freaking out about the exam, plus we weren’t allowed to get up from the desk until the official break, so I decided to just ignore it and try to focus on the exam. Once there was a break, the tick was nowhere to be found. So I finished the exam, and later that day, went to my job…where my coworkers looked at me in horror as the tick crawled out of my hair and down my forehead!

      1. Dragon_Dreamer*

        I felt itchy on top of my head during a high school exam, and scratched at it… only to pull away a large tick attached to a tiny bit of scalp! I shrieked, the teacher was about to reprimand me, but then he looked down at the tick on my desk and shuddered. Tick was shoved into a sealed container and disposed of.

      2. Higher Ed Drama*

        Omg that’s horrible! I’m duly impressed that you were able to finish the exam.

    5. Dasein9*

      I had a bedbug crawling between the student in the front row and me on a wide shared table. Was able to use a tissue to get rid of it and asked her to stay after just in case she didn’t know what it was.

    6. Madame Arcati*

      I’ll join you in the accidental endearments mortification. A young man I was managing at the time made me a cup of tea and I responded with “thank you sweetheart”.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Oh dear yes, that happened to me to, except I’d made him the cup of tea while he was installing something on my computer, and then because I took longer to make the tea, he went and fixed a whole load of other stuff on my computer too, like broken shortcuts I’d never bothered to fix. He really was a sweetie, and cute too. Only a few years older than my son, and he came on his first day wearing a jacket that he’d clearly borrowed because it was way too big for him. He triggered my maternal instincts big time! Which led to the boss thinking we were having an affair. He was having an affair with the young woman he’d just promoted way beyond her ability, so there may have been some projection in there too.

  21. Side Boob City*

    Oh my god I just had one. I started a new job a few weeks ago and have to be in the office occasionally. My last job was fully remote since the start of covid so I bought a bunch of new work clothes and poured a ton of mental energy into my outfits since I’ve been living the leggings life for two plus years. Anyway, my second time in the office, I’m wearing a silk button down shirt that I feel great in. I come in and chat with my boss for a few minutes, then use the bathroom, where I notice that there is a MASSIVE gap in the front of my shirt and my bra is extremely visible. Apparently if I move my arms in that shirt at all, the front gaps horribly. I immediately ordered some undershirts and stayed very still the whole rest of the day.

    1. Rainbow*

      I did an INTERVIEW in an otherwise-nice shirt that gapped right open in that way. Absolutely horrific. Thankfully, it was just with one guy and he was an academic, so a lot of leeway on personal dress. The worst part was I was aware it was gapping a bit, but had no idea how badly until I met a friend for recovery drinks afterwards and she told me.

      1. Muddlewitch*

        Have all you gappy bloused girls heard that the solution is to cross the buttons?
        Eg button 4 is gapping:
        put button 3 into buttonhole 4;
        then put button 4 into buttonhole 3

        Weird solution, but it somehow works!!

        1. HBJ*

          I sew hook and eyes in between the buttons. I’ve also done snaps (if the gapping just looks bad and isn’t in danger of popping open). You can also do a reverse button hole – button hole between the existing buttons and the button sewn to the other side.

    2. Kate, short for Bob*

      I walked into work with my laptop in a new rucksack and didn’t realise the weight had unbuttoned the top of my shirt till I saw my bra in the mirror in the lift.

      I’ve been repressing that for years, thanks for reminding me :-O

      1. Bethany*

        Argh I did this the other day, I got off the train and I realised my shirt was open because of my backpack, no idea how long it had been open or how many people I flashed.

    3. Trawna*

      Oops! My go-to, because I’m uncomfortable wearing layers all day — adding a snap between the two bust buttons.

    4. Lizzo*

      Had a problem with a button (in)conveniently coming undone on my shirt during my dad’s funeral (!?!??!?!) earlier this year, and I wasn’t prepared because that’s not normally a thing that happens with my shirts.

      Thankfully I don’t think it happened while I was delivering the eulogy…

    5. amoeba*

      I accidentally unbuttoned, like, two or three buttons while saying goodbye to the hiring manager at the gate after a whole interview day. Awkwardly tried to re-button while shaking his hand and pretending nothing was wrong. I still wonder whether he thinks I did it on purpose to seduce him into giving me the job… (I did not get it, in any case!)

  22. Anon for recognizable mortification*

    I was being trained on a process by someone I didn’t know very well, and I already had it in mind to turn the existing written outline of the workflow into comprehensive directions, so I was paying close attention and trying to catch every detail and nuance. The person training me was fairly thorough and I knew she was very busy, so I felt bad taking up more of her time with questions for the purpose of writing up documentation for situations that might never arise. Also, I have a habit of stumbling over words. It gets worse when I’m nervous or pressured.

    We were nearing the end, and I had one last quick question, or a brief question, as it were. What came out was: “I have a queef question.”

    Dead silence for a moment. I could see the trainwreck coming as I was talking so had an extra moment to plan, but STILL somehow I said the word again as I tried to recover: “No, not queef, *brief*.” She had the good grace not to laugh or comment on it, but I was ready to quit that job, move far away, and start completely over.

    Please, heed my warning and choose one word you always use so neither your brain nor mouth thinks it might be okay to say both at once. However, if you do someday commit this same gaffe… I implore you to write about it in a Friday thread so I know I’m not alone.

    1. Becky*

      Nowhere near that but my brain once tried to say the phrases “holy cow” and “no freaking way” at the same time and it came out “no freaking cow” which is now a running joke with a friend and I.

      1. Anon for recognizable mortification*

        I love this! But yeah, it happens kind of a lot. There was also the time when I tried to say “Okay!” and “Great!” at the same time, and it came out “Gay!” Was I in a city’s gayborhood, speaking to someone I read as a gay man? Yes, yes I was. (I’m queer, for the record.) And just the other day I said “white-erase marker” instead of whiteboard or dry-erase marker. I wasn’t at work in either of these instances, though.

      2. Becky*

        I’ve also done the same thing with “you’re welcome” and “no problem” which came out “you’re problem.”

        1. jlynnm*

          My daughter was pretty little when she came up with ‘no iclue’ – long before an iphone/ipod and it was some semblence of no idea or no clue…. it’s stuck for like 20+ years.

      3. Butterfly Counter*

        There’s the meme out there of the person playing soccer who kicked the goalie in the head who tried to say, “I’m so f-ing sorry!” and “Are you okay?” at the same time and it came out, “ARE YOU F-ING SORRY?!”

        Makes me laugh every time.

      4. londonedit*

        My mum once attempted to say that something either ‘scared the pants off them’ or ‘put the wind up them’ and came up with ‘put the pants up them’. Which is obviously now part of the family lexicon.

      5. Lizzie*

        I did that once in college. During finals, so no sleep and lots of pressure. Tried to say barreling and zooming together, and came out with “bazooming” the funniest thing is i didn’t even pick up on it, and kept yammering on. Meanwhile my two friends were hysterically laughing at me.

    2. Dark Macadamia*

      Why couldn’t your brain have said “brick” instead??? This is great lmao

    3. Gnome*

      Thank you for this… been laughing for several minutes straight. My teen was worried I was having some kind of medical episode.

    4. Bizhiki*

      Ohh, here I was reading all these stories, thinking so smugly that I really don’t have any embarrassing work stories. But reading your comment has reminded me (I was obviously trying to block out the mortification) of the time I left a work voice message referring to myself as the “engorgement coordinator”. It wasn’t even one of those voice mail systems that let you re-record if necessary, I just had to let it stand.

      You’re not alone Anon.

    5. B*

      Guy I worked with once combined something coming to a halt and a stop to say “screeching stalt!” We all knew exactly what he meant.

  23. museums&glitter*

    When I was an intern somewhere about 10 years ago, our staff bathroom had a difficult lock that was easy to accidentally not turn all the way. This led to my supervisor walking in on me on the toilet…. I’ve literally never told anyone this happened.

    Flash forward, and I’m now a full time staff member at the same institution and my former supervisor is now a peer co-worker. I assume she must remember this, but we’ve never talked about it and probably never will!

    1. ThatGirl*

      Same idea led to my now-former grand-boss opening a stall on me. We never talked about it; I don’t think she saw much as I sorta gently pushed the door back shut as soon as I saw it starting to open.

    2. Mid*

      Oh I’m getting a flashback to the worst designed bathrooms I’ve been in.

      The stalls were narrow but long, so you couldn’t reach the door from the toilet. The locks were sliding locks that never really securely latched unless you really wiggled them into place. And the floors shifted slightly, so if someone else walked into the bathroom after you, and you didn’t spend 5 minutes making sure your door was truly latched, not just appearing to be latched, the stall doors would open themselves. And they all opened out, so you couldn’t do anything to stop it if you were in the middle of your business.

      So I’m using the bathroom, unaware of these quirky doors, and someone walks in. My door slowly swings open, as I look upon it with pure terror. It slams into the next stall, making a huge noise, and the person who walked in to check their reflection was startled and turned to look for the source of the noise, and we made direct eye contact, as my pants were around my knees and I was unable to move. I didn’t know what to say/do, so I gave them a little wave and said “hey.” Which might have been the weirdest possible thing to say at that moment.

      After that, I carry on with my day and head to my next class, and it turns out the person who I just exposed myself to (unintentionally) was going to be a guest lecturer for the next two weeks for my class while my professor dealt with a family emergency. She ended up being there for the entire term, so 8 weeks. She was also a lovely person and never once indicated that she remembered me from our *interesting* first meeting. I also printed out two dozen signs and hung them on the front and back of every door in that bathroom so no one would have a repeat incident.

      1. Elenna*

        Oh noooo!
        (I’m sure you meant the *doors* shifted slightly, but now I’m imagining that the floor moved up and down like one of those 4d movies at theme parks, jostling the doors out of place. Just to make the design of that bathroom even worse.)

        1. Mid*

          haha! Yes, I did mean that the door shifted, but the floors also had a startling amount of bounce for a tile floor!

        1. Not So NewReader*

          The part about the little wave did me in. I will have to remember to wave if this happens to me.

      2. Hills to Die on*

        I had a professor who told a story about accidentally leaving her mic on while she went to the bathroom. All 300 people in the lecture hall got to hear that. SHe said ‘and we all got to know each other a lot better that day.”

    3. anon24*

      One place I used to work had an all gender single bathroom with a lock on the inside that would show whether it was locked or not, but apparently at some point it was showing locked but not actually locking. This was discovered when one of my women co-workers was using the toilet and had one of our men co-workers open the door. Fortunately she screamed not to come in and it was laid out in such a way that all was ok, but after she was done they checked the door and realized the lock was useless. Even after it was fixed I was so paranoid using that bathroom that I used to kick the trash can against the door whenever I used it so that if it happened to me hopefully whoever started opening the door would hit the can with it and realize something wasn’t right.

      1. Dont be a dork*

        Once I knocked on a bathroom door and no one answered after a few seconds, so I turned the knob and started in. A) It was occupied and B) that person had not bothered to Lock The Door. I turned around and found a restroom in another building so fast I probably would have outrun the Flash.

  24. Panda*

    This is pretty mild, but I was mortified.

    I was in a two hour Teams meeting over lunch with a VP, a couple executive directors, and members of our legal team, sharing a document we were all working on for a more important meeting tomorrow. I was starving and Hubs brought in a sandwich and sat it right next to me. The higher ups were discussing the paragraph in question and they had been taking so long to discuss anything and had so far not needed me to do anything but move the document to the next talking point so I thought I had time to take a bite of the sandwich. Just as I took the bite, the VP says, “What’s your thoughts, Panda?” I reached into my mouth and pulled out the bite so I could talk, not realizing my camera was still on. While the document was still up, anyone could have seen me in the corner of the screen yank out that bite out of my mouth and plop it on my plate. I was beet red the rest of the meeting (and turned off my camera).

  25. Lizabeth*

    Back in the 80’s I was a green graphic designer interviewing with a small boutique ad agency. And just happened to mention how hideous a radio ad was that I had been hearing lately. IT.WAS.DREADFUL and insulting to women on top of it (think stupid blond voice – and even after all these years I remember it. A real estate ad for condos – Circle the circle at the circle. REALLY???). Guess what? That ad agency created it and the interviewer gleefully pointed that out along with the fact it worked because I remembered it. I pointed out right back at them that I was remembering it for the wrong reasons and that you couldn’t pay me to go visit the place based on the ad. Needless to say I didn’t get a call back from that place. And while it was awkward I learned to own my design opinions.

    1. Trina*

      I mean, I think that’s probably a sign it wouldn’t have been a good fit for you anyway! Besides, there are definitely some ad companies I’d like to give some feedback to regarding ads that have had the opposite effect from what they intended.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        We all remember the Shake Weight ads. But did we buy them…? (Goes off to look for the SNL sketch about it…)

      2. ferrina*

        Definitely. If someone I interviewed said “I think your product was insulting to women,” we’d be doing a deep-dive into the product and why the person feels that way (I want to hire people that can identify harmful stereotypes and unconscious bias!)

    2. OrigCassandra*

      Somebody definitely should have been mortified about this interaction, but I sure don’t think that person is you, Lizabeth.

    3. Former Young Lady*

      I did a similar thing in my very first office job. The guy training me turned out to be the lead actor in a local commercial I called corny and stupid. (Daaang, I am bad with faces.)

      He was very good natured about it, and we became work buddies over the next couple years.

    4. k bee*

      In a second interview, I ended up calling out how the organization’s main fundraising event (I didn’t know this was their cornerstone event) was harmful to its cause and undermined the people it intended to serve… its a common event that can be done well and inclusively with a few tweaks, but by-and-large doesn’t happen with those tweaks. They hired me anyway, kept doing it the bad way, and this year (6 years later) started to take the more inclusive approach with it. I only lasted 6 months there and in that time saw the complete turnover of two separate teams. Oh well.

    5. idwtpaun*

      Ages ago, I was interviewing for a job at ad agency and during the interview found out that they have the account for a certain pharmaceutical brand. I let the interview know that their TV ad, which was based around people saying in various languages that they take a certain medication, has the speaker of my native language say they shoot up with the medication as if it were a drug. I never got a callback for that even though I thought the interview went well and I sometimes wondered if this was a strike against me. Most likely, though, I was just the weakest candidate applying, since I was fresh out of college.

  26. Lexa*

    My worst one is this : I was doing an apprenticeship in a factory as a maintenance technician. I was 17 at the time I think. I was taking my job really seriously, and read a lot of stuff about proactiveness and being a go-getter. So something like 2nd week, I casually stroll to the big boss and go : “Y’all gotta stop the assembly line, I need to check something on that machine real quick”.
    Another manager pulled me aside and quickly explained that the line was only stopping for an emergency, and that I should wait for scheduled maintenance to do that kind of things. I have no idea how he managed to stay calm because I was so out of touch! I realized it some months later and I still cringe about it years ago !

    1. Becky*

      Eh…this one actually could go either way. I’m remembering hearing about the Toyota manufacturing facility rule that says anyone at any time can stop the line if they notice an issue. It leads to greater productivity and higher quality output in most cases.

      1. ecnaseener*

        Sure, but it’s still pretty funny to think of a teenage apprentice making a decree like that without having any reason to think this factory had a similar rule.

  27. Reality Check*

    I was working as a waitress in a fine dining restaurant and was serving a table of 4. I had picked up their dinners from the kitchen and was trying to grab the tray stand, when I put my hand at the wrong pivot point under the tray, causing it to wobble, and I lost one of the dishes. It crashed on the bar and eventually the floor. So: 1. Messes on the bar are the bartender’s problem, so she was Not Happy I dumped a dinner there. 2. Whatever lands on the floor is the busperson’s problem, so they were Not Happy about cleaning that mess 3. I had to tell the customer that I dumped their dinner on the floor, so they were Not Happy they had to wait for the new one 4. The chef was Not Happy he had to make the dinner again, and 5. It was the most expensive item on the menu, of course, so the owner was Not Happy about that.
    Good Times.

    1. Dasein9*

      Ugh, but yeah. I once had someone pick up one of the 3 16-oz frozen strawberry margaritas that was ON MY TRAY while I was leaning over to serve the fourth to the lady in the back corner of the booth. All three ended up on his very nice suit. Because balance.

      I think the restaurant did pay his cleaning bill, and he certainly tried to shame me for it, but I maintain to this day that catastrophe was all on him!

      1. Reality Check*

        Yeah. Rule #1 – Don’t snatch anything from a server’s tray. Because balance.

    2. Meow*

      This just reminded me of when I was a busser at a steakhouse that did buffet brunch. Our dishes were tremendously heavy, and a table of 6 would have tons of them. I was finishing up a table, walking through a busy dining room with a tray on my shoulder, and a guy chooses that moment to stand up from his seat and knocks my tray with his head. Dishes everywhere. It’s the only time I ever lost a dish, which is saying something, because I am notoriously uncoordinated.

  28. Pants!*

    This was close to 20 yrs ago and I still think about it. I was carrying things from one building to the next and my pants started slipping, right as I managed to get the door open my pants fell to my ankles. My hands were full with equipment I couldn’t just drop. GAWD!

    1. RedFacedMrs*

      Sorta work, as my husband is a pastor and we were at a pastor’s conference.

      I almost never wear dresses. I own a couple pairs of underwear that are too loose and should be trashed.

      I wore a dress to the conference, and discovered the underwear issue about 5 minutes into the meet and greet. Walking across the room I feel everything sliding down. Clapped my knees together and awkwardly beelined for the bathroom. I investigated the problems, and found no good solution, other than going commando. I wasn’t brave enough to try that, so I awkwardly stumbled around the entire time, trying to be discreet about yanking my underwear up every dozen or so steps.

      I finally told my husband I was tired and going to sit until the service started.

      That underwear hit the trash the minute I got home!

      1. wine dude*

        I sometimes do the wedding officiant thing. My last one I some managed to leave the hotel without a belt – and without noticing. When I got to the venue the effect of which was a bit amplified by some recent intentional weight loss and it being a warm day. I managed to get through the ceremony by keeping my legs wide apart and a discreet hand behind my back…

  29. ScienceLady*

    I was a teacher, teaching sixth grade science. One time, my kids were a little giggly in my usually best class. I gently reminded them to settle down a few times, and when it continued, sharply scolded them and told them to get it together. They were subdued the rest of class and it finished fine. When I got back to the shared teacher office, my colleague gasped and immediately alerted me to the fact that my pants had a 3-inch rip. In the butt. And I was wearing, uh, non-coverage underwear. So yeah, I essentially flashed a class of students. I had to teach the rest of the day, so my colleagues and I STAPLED MY PANTS TOGETHER and I continued on the rest of the day. Oh, middle school. The mortification just never stops.

    1. Sarah*

      Needing to use office supplies to remedy a wardrobe malfunction definitely qualifies as top tier embarassment in my book! Oy!

      1. Dasein9*

        And Alison could probably get a column out of just office supply wardrobe hacks alone!

    2. Dark Macadamia*

      Also a middle school teacher and I hemmed a skirt with a stapler when I saw it coming apart at work. Fortunately not a wardrobe malfunction that time but I tucked the same skirt into the back of my tights once!

      1. Teacher, too*

        I feel like these stories really show how resourceful teachers are when provided with the bare minimum lol

  30. Deanna*

    My Scottish Dad and his male fellow Scottish co-worker were posted to the American branch of the company for a while. One day while working they found that they needed a rubber AKA what us British folk call an eraser. So off they went to the walk in stationary cupboard to rumage about looking for one. An American coworker walks in and asks what’s up.
    “We’re looking for a rubber” My dad replied.
    The American co-worker was stunned and was backing up slowly out the cupboard when my Dad’s co-worker, realising what a rubber referred to in the US, quickly explained that they were looking for an eraser and NOT a condom.

    Mortifying for Dad at the time, but a very funny ancedote for the rest of the family!

    1. Jessica Ganschen*

      For some reason, I can never remember that “rubber” is slang for a condom. My first instinct is always to ask, “A rubber what?”

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        It strikes me as old-fashioned slang, from back when condoms were kept behind the counter & people had to ask for them. (But cigarettes were often in vending machines that nobody watched.)

        1. SunriseRuby*

          I haven’t heard “rubber” since the mid-to-late 1980s. People finally grew up and became comfortable with using the word “condom” instead of a silly slang word because of the AIDS epidemic.

        2. DrRat*

          I went to the sleaziest possible casino last time I was in Vegas just to see how bad it was, and omg, it was bad. BUT….they still had cigarette machines! I was so excited I took a photo. It was like finding an apatosaurus.

      2. Deanna*

        This story happened in the late 2000s and when I heard it, it was the first time I learnt that a rubber can mean a condom in the US and I was about 18 at the time. I still never hear a condom being referred to as a rubber.

    2. londonedit*

      I did the same thing, but on a family holiday to the US when I was about 7 or 8. We were at one of those arcades where you won tickets that you could exchange for a prize, and when it was time to leave I decided I wanted to exchange my tickets for one of the packs of fun shaped *erasers* they had as prizes. I was quite shy but my mum encouraged me to go up to the counter by myself, so I went on over there and said in my most polite voice ‘Could I have a pack of rubbers, please?’ As you can imagine, the woman behind the counter nearly lost her actual mind, and it wasn’t until my mum came over to see what the commotion was that she explained I meant *erasers*. I’d never heard the word before!

    3. annie nony*

      Many, many years ago I was tutoring ESL, and had this fairly sheltered, muslim teenage girl as a student. Of course schools in my home country continue to insinst that teaching the queen’s English comes first, and anything else is just dialects, so ‘rubber’ in the office supply sense came up at one point, and I felt compelled to explain this cultural difference because I knew she might spontaneously combust if she ever had to find out the hard way.

      Her response? “Oh, so I need to make sure to say eraser or people might think I’m a pervert!” – Reader, I briefly pondered trying to unpack all that, but decided it was above my paygrade.

    4. Al who is that Al*

      While working on the rigs off Aberdeen, I said to a couple of bluff Texans whether they “wanted a fag?”
      Purely unintentional but the look on their faces….

      1. Deanna*

        Funny you mention Aberdeen, because my Dad lives near Aberdeen and worked alot in Texas for an oil company! If there’s ever an open thread about cross-culture clashes then me and my Dad would have stories for days.

      2. DrRat*

        A big, buff good looking dude from out of town (friend of my late hubby’s) was visiting my city during gay pride. He was mostly unfazed by all the googly eyed looks he got from guys. However, there is a small ferry service that runs to an island nearby and he really wanted to try it, as he was a desert boy and had never been on a ferry. His unfortunate phrase, spoken loudly and enthusiastically as a group of gay men walked by? “I really want to do a ferry before I get home!” He only realized the unfortunate interpretation as it became clear that there were going to be several volunteers.

    5. Asenath*

      I was car-pooling with some co-workers, and for some reason the conversation turned to odd place names, and someone mentioned one that could also refer to a sex toy. One of the people in the car didn’t know the sexual meaning of the word, and asked about it. The rest of us were so taken aback; we looked at each other and no one was willing to explain. I’m sure that as soon as the woman got home she asked someone who explained the term to her, and I don’t remember the discussion ever being resumed.

    6. KatieP*

      We had some British gents on secondment at one of my former employers, and one of them smoked. At one point, they told a coworker that they were going to take a smoke break, but what they said was, “I’ll be back in ten, I need to blow a .”

  31. PrairieEffingDawn*

    Years ago I was having a conversation with my boss, I’d been at that job for a couple months. It was around 3:00 pm so I’d eaten lunch a couple hours earlier, and mid sentence a piece of a peppercorn that was stuck in my teeth rolled back into my throat. It was so spicy that mid sentence, voice ceased to come out of my mouth. From my boss’s perspective it was for seemingly no reason. I went from talking at full pitch to a whisper. I wasn’t able to cough it out and recover so I had to just walk out of the office unannounced and drink some water.

    1. noncommital pseudonym*

      I had just finished eating a bag of flamin’ hot cheetos when my boss walked into my office to discuss a rather tricky situation with a junior colleague who reported to me. A couple minutes into the conversation, but mouth kept getting hotter and hotter, my water bottle was empty, and my eyes were starting to water. I finally said, “Excuse me for a moment, could I go get some water?” When I came back, I explained, and she laughed, saying, “I was wondering why you were getting so emotional over this topic! I didn’t realize it affected you so deeply.” Nope, not emotion, just hot cheetos.

  32. Rapunzel Ryder*

    Once in a committee meeting about ten years ago someone mentioned that they were glad it ended on time because they needed to leave to finalize their divorce. They said it so flippantly that I thought they were making a joke, so I laughed. Apparently they did not think it funny and pointed out to the full committee of about 25 people that I laughed about them getting a divorce. I was young and beet red so everyone brushed it off but I still wake up at night thinking about it.

    1. Kate, short for Bob*

      Oh no, that was on them. Making that remark flippantly? Jerk move to make you feel bad about it.

    2. Zephy*

      If it helps, ten years after the fact: that’s an incredibly weird way to announce to your colleagues that you’re getting divorced, which is itself a weird thing to share with coworkers.

    3. Ann O'Nemity*

      Similar story. A coworker left a meeting saying he was going to “put down a horse.” It was said so casually and so unexpectedly that a few of us laughed. (I think it was a few of us? I hope it wasn’t just me.) Turns out he owned horses outside the city and was in fact going to meet the vet to euthanize one.

    4. Bad bad bad*

      My first college roommate, on the first day we met and moved in together, told me in a dry and deadpan voice that her brother had gotten hit by a truck. It was so unexpected, especially considering the tone, that I did one of those startled laughs like “wait, what?!” She never forgave me.

    5. Migraine Month*

      I laugh when startled, even when it’s completely inappropriate. My manager once mentioned that one of my coworkers (white, female) was being “uppity”, and I was so shocked I laughed. As soon as I realized what I was doing, I explained that was NOT OKAY to say about anyone, and furthermore I didn’t agree that the coworker was out of her lane.

  33. MerBearStare*

    This was back in 2017. I was at my old job, working for an association management company, and I needed to send my association’s instructors a link to register for a conference. The conference was a month away at that point, so I was emailing this to them in a hurry. About an hour later I get a call from the association president, who’s a very nice man, and he says “I tried to use the link to register, but it sent me to YouTube.” Instead of sending them a registration link, I sent them a link to the cerulean blue scene from The Devil Wears Prada. I just say “Oh God,” he laughs, and then I get off the phone to quickly send a “Don’t use that link. Use this link!” email.

    After I sent that email, I was telling my work friend what happened. I have a loud voice and it was an open office, so basically my whole unit heard and started laughing. It was even mentioned on my last day. Fortunately I had a good relationship with all the instructors and none of them check their email that quickly, so I didn’t get in trouble and none of them seemed to know what happened. And hey, the ones that did notice got to watch the best scene from a great movie.

    1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      At least it wasn’t the horse head scene from The Godfather?

  34. Lexa*

    My most recent one is this : I’m waiting for my boss, and meanwhile I’m stretching the back of my neck, and this particular stretch looks a bit like I’m in prayer. So my boss comes in and jokingly asks “Who are you praying to?”. Only I have auditory processing disorder so I heard “Who are you waiting for?”, so I answer in all seriousness “You, obviously”. There were like 5 seconds of uncomfortable silence and eye contact, and then he left on some pretense to come back later, and only then the understanding kicked in ! Fortunately we’re all socially awkward yo different degrees in my little startup, so it wasn’t a really big deal.

  35. Delta Delta*

    I’m a criminal defense lawyer. One day many years ago I was wearing a pair of fully lined dress pants. I think I’d been in practice about… 2 years? Still definitely in my 20s and still looked like a high school cheerleader (people often thought I was 10 years younger back then)

    I had a hearing with an incarcerated client who was transported to court that afternoon. This was a guy who had Seen Some Things and was stuck with the newbie lawyer. I went into the holding cell with him to discuss the hearing. I dropped my pen, and crouched down to pick it up. Just as I crouched we both heard the loudest RIIIIIP noise and I realized it was my pants. I had to turn around and ask the client to tell me if my tush was hanging out of my pants. He, sheepishly, had to look at my butt, and told me everything was fine. I was really embarrassed, but kept my composure, finished the conversation, and left the room. I went into the bathroom and found out it was just the lining of my pants that ripped away from the waistband. I told the client, because I figured it was better than leaving a mystery, and that it would be better to own my embarrassment.

    A week or so later I went to the jail to see someone different and the guard who checked me in said something like, “hope your pants don’t rip today!” Apparently word got around.

  36. Little Mermaid*

    Do you know how you sometimes will make a typo and not realize it until you see it copied in an email reply? That happened to me but with a graphic.

    At a previous job, my boss shared news to the staff about an exciting accomplishment via email. People were responding to everyone on the email chain with celebration gifs/pictures. I wanted something more unique so I went to Google Images and found a very artistic sketch of a woman’s/shoulders with her hair dramatically swirling around*. It was similar to the woman in the Starbucks logo but with more hair. I sent it off.

    It wasn’t until it was sent back to me in a reply all that I noticed that all that in all that swirling hair, the drawing included the woman’s very naked breasts peeping out from behind the hair. It was like an optical illusion. It wasn’t obvious at first but once I saw them, it was all I could see.

    Luckily, everyone laughed off my mistake.

    *I don’t know why I was looking for an image like that but it made sense at the time.

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      When working at the agency, I was translating a document about different kinds of leather. I happened upon a glossary that gave me a couple of useful definitions right on the first page. This was last century, we didn’t have bookmarking and favourites options on browsers back then, I couldn’t copy the text into a file. So I decided to print the glossary out. The boss came over to fetch his own document from the printer, but my glossary was still spewing forth. As it was in English, and I was the only person translating into English in the office, he brought it to me, horrified, asking me not to print up personal documents on the company printer. As from the second page of the glossary, it started explaining which leathers were the most lickable, or suitable for BDSM accessories…

  37. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

    Brand new to corporate workforce after getting out of teaching and the youngest in the company by thirty years. I (cis-female, mid-20s at the time) was in a great mood and just got finished talking to a rather relaxed coworker who had her whole office in hippie decor and didn’t pay attention as I greeted the corporate HR lead (mid-50s cis male) with “What’s up, Buttercup?”. There, in the middle of the hall with all the doors open he proceeds to chew me out for unprofessionalism and inappropriate workplace behavior. Everyone heard, I was mortified. Was I in the wrong? Yes, but nobody has ever so thoroughly humiliated me in my whole life. So, when offering corrections, please take someone aside and do it in private!

      1. Anon today*

        If he doesn’t want to be called buttercup then she needs to respect that. It’s like when a man refers to a woman as honey, it’s up to her if she wants to be referred to that way. Oh wait, only women are allowed to have boundaries around here I guess.

        1. LizB*

          He’s perfectly within his rights to not be called buttercup, but chewing her out when it sounds like this was a one-off random occurrence is way overreacting. “Don’t call me buttercup” or “What a strange thing to say” with some side-eye is the max reaction needed here. And I do think the commentariat here would say that the first time your coworker calls you “honey,” tell him simply not to – but also, there’s a long history of men using nicknames for women for sexist reasons that just doesn’t exist for a woman using one for a man. Everyone’s allowed to have boundaries, but context does actually matter.

          1. Anon today*

            If someone doesn’t want you to use a pet name you simply don’t. This isn’t a CoNteXt thing. Context doesn’t matter full stop. He probably shouldn’t have publicly corrected her like that but you don’t get to use some vague history of something or another to defend actions that target individuals.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          He way over-reacted. A simple, “That’s not appropriate” would have been enough here.

        3. What even*

          “What’s up, Buttercup?” is the same type of saying as “See ya later, alligator!” It is fine not to want to be referred to as Buttercup or an alligator, but the first time someone calls you that, the appropriate response is to just tell them. There’s no need for yelling.

          A man calling a woman ‘Honey’ has connotations that Buttercup and Alligator do not.

          1. Anon today*

            No, it’s not any better because they rhyme but I agree the yelling is unnecessary. I’m not sure why people have to calculate the “connotations” of something, decide if it’s equivalent before they are allowed to be bothered by it. If someone is bothered by something and wants you to stop you stop. Not weigh out some sort of vague historical thing or buzzword that gets thrown around and keep doing it. Stop defending the actions of people who call people names they don’t want to be called by just because it doesn’t meet your arbitrary standards of being equivalent to sexism.

    1. Seeking second childhood*

      A quick pointed statement is all he needed: “That is an inappropriate way to address a mnager.”
      As described, he then went on to a heated condemnation, which yes is an inappropriate response to an inappropriate comment by a junior employee.

    2. Dennis Feinstein*

      That reminds me of the time I (female) told my boss (female, 10ish years older than me): “Don’t you worry your pretty little head about it”.
      She took it quite well, luckily for me.

    3. Migraine Month*

      I’m pretty sure I have accidentally told several coworkers that I love them while ending calls. Which leads to the incredibly awkward “Do I call back and explain that I didn’t mean to say that or just go die mortified in a corner?”

  38. LaverneD*

    On my first day as a new assistant professor at a small liberal arts college, I was prepping a lecture about “adultism,” which is the thing that adults do where they think they’re better than kids. I went online looking for an picture or image of this concept and eventually clicked on a link that brought me to a huge, graphic photo of a penis (graphic design circa 2002, with lasers and flashing lights). [Apparently adultism is also a fetish? Should I bring this up in class?]

    I started sweating in my office because I opened up porn on my new computer and wasn’t sure what to do. I figured I’d ask my department head what to do, as uncomfortable as that was given our new working relationship, him being much older than me, and his not understanding what I was telling him. Eventually he decided I should tell the dean about how I opened up a porn site to see what she wanted me to do. After another mortifying conversation with the dean, she said she would let me know if IT came to her about this.

    I tried to do the right thing but in retrospect should have just left it all alone…

    1. Cat Tree*

      In about 2009 I was a newbie to the workforce and I was tasked with finding the chemical formula for a certain molecule. I googled. Turns out there is an adult film star with the same name as this chemical. Google filters were not as good back then.

      1. Muddlewitch*

        I was a fairly new employee when a new bar /public house called The Thomas Lloyd opened across the road.

        Someone wondered out loud who Thomas Lloyd was, and I volunteered to google the name.

        I’m SURE they didn’t name the pub after a p*rn star, but I was mortified!

      2. Butterfly Counter*

        Oh yes. This happened to me as a grad student in the computer lab. This was early-days Google, so I was curious about a friend of mine. I found out the hard way she shared a name with a VERY famous porn star at the time.

        I sure didn’t tell anyone about that, though!

        1. No longer working*

          I’ve been trying to locate a former coworker/friend of mine… unfortunately there was a convicted (and executed) murderer with the same name.

      3. AcademiaNut*

        Way back in they day when it took time for images to sloooowly display themselves on the screen, a colleague was searching for a LaTeX manual, and clicked on a promising looking search result.

        1. Writes everything in TeX*

          Oh, that’s just brilliant

          (LaTeX, for those who don’t know, is a typesetting markup language popular in academia, usually pronounced “la-tek” in my experience. After a few years of that, it would never have crossed my mind that latex is technically spelled identically; I’m honestly amazed I’ve never done this myself. )

    2. Uranus Wars*

      Oh goodness this is giving me flashbacks to my first job out of college. This was a small company ~ maybe 20 people, and the internet was still novel (circa 2001) to many of us. I completely forgot about this until reading yours…

      About 6 months after I started, all employees got an email about appropriate use of work computers and that they were monitoring the websites we were visiting.

      I remember thinking “what dumbass watches PORN on a work computer”. Fast forward two weeks when my boss needs something and I searched my history for the website. Imagine my surprise when it turns out I was the porn watcher. Very very OTT stuff. Apparently a virus got into my computer and was visiting allllllll the sites. I sprinted to IT mortified. Luckily by then they had worked out it was a virus. Thank goodness for time stamps!

      1. JustAnotherKate*

        One of my co-interns at a federal agency years ago (law students) managed to not only fill his screen with SUPER inappropriate images but to shut down the entire agency’s systems for a whole day by typing in whitehouse dot com instead of whitehouse dot gov. Not everyone believed it was a mistake but the guy was MORTIFIED.

        1. ScreamingOverHere*

          Ah. We found that little difference at one of my early jobs. Someone was looking up something at work for their kid’s project, back when it was likely no one had internet at home. Oops. We all remembered after that, that dot gov was a thing!

        2. wine dude*

          I did that many years ago, while showing an older friend this new thing called the internet, and all of the cool things she could look up for her grandkids. I typed in nasa dot com instead of nasa dot gov. Complete mortification ensued. It took me half an hour to clean up the mess. I think friend never touched a computer after that.

        3. Short Librarian*

          As a middle school child in the late 1990s and living in Wisconsin, I tried searching for the website of a local politician in order to do a school report. Since it was still the early days of the internet and I was a child, I didn’t know about the differences between a [ dot ] com, and a [ dot ] gov. But I was savvy enough to know that many websites just used their subject’s name in the URL. So I just typed his last name and [ dot ] com in the address bar. The politician’s last name was Obey (pronounced O-bee) and the website I found was not kid nor work appropriate.

  39. Joyce+To+the+World*

    I had a dress blouse that had an odd side affect of color changing when the wearer became hot. I am always hot. I would forget and ended up wearing it to several interviews since my usual working attire was much more casual. So embarrassing to be wearing a shirt that is different color under your arms and any warmer area. After about 3 times I came home and just threw it away.

    1. Delta Delta*

      Remember Hypercolor clothes? Seemed fun until your otherwise blue shirt was bright pink in your armpits because bodies are naturally warmer there.

      1. londonedit*

        Yep. My mum refused to let us have those, even at the height of their popularity, because she thought they were disgusting for that very reason!

      2. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

        Oh, god. I remember how those were banned from every school in my region like five minutes after they came out, due to boys deliberately holding their junk to leave a handprint there, then bragging it came from one of the girls. The boys were ALSO grabbing Hypercolor-wearing girls’ chests (consent not invited) to leave their own handprints over the breasts they could brag about.

        The lesson I learned about Hypercolor is that Dudes Ruin Everything. :/ I always wanted one of those shirts, but was too afraid to ever wear it outside my bedroom if I’d gotten one.

  40. Throwaway123*

    When I was an intern, we had these really expensive Herman Miller chairs at work that my manager would go on and on about how much they cost. One day, I didn’t notice I got my period and I stained the lime green fabric. I threw a bunch of papers on top of the stain ran out of work to change. When I came back no one was around so I tried to clean it. The lime green fabric was ruined. For some reason, I thought the next step would be to CUT out the stain. So I did. I cut out a HUGE hole. I then got duct tape and covered up the large hole. I ordered a seat cushion on Amazon for next day delivery. I left work and covered my chair with more papers and files. I was too ashamed to tell anyone or ask my male manger for a new chair. Time went on, I became an employee and I sat on this runined chair with the cushion for five years. Then opportunity: renovations were happening on our floor. The whole department left leaving only four people on my floor. Over the holidays, I switched out my chair with one of the chairs from the department that left. No one ever knew.

    1. President Porpoise*

      I did that for a friend once. Not ripping up the chair, but managing some sneaky chair shuffling. My friend unexpectedly started her period and it turned out to be exceptionally heavy. The chair was ruined, as was her skirt. She enlisted my help to acquire covering materials for her and her chair (I keep several dark cardigans at my desk b/c I’m always freezing), and I was sworn to secrecy. For a week or so, she continued to use the soiled chair, stain concealed with a blanket. Now, our office operates on a 9/80 schedule, and I had opted to work on the Fridays that most people took off. I also usually get to work pretty early, so I was the only person in the building. I noticed that someone had vacated a cubicle a couple rows away, so I went and swapped the chair in the vacant cube (which was a pretty nice one) with my coworker’s gruesome, bloody chair – now sans blanket – without fear of discovery.

      The chair was replaced by Facilities by the following Tuesday – so, apparently, all the cloak and dagger was totally unnecessary and we could have had it resolved with a minimum of grossness if either of us had been less young and easily embarrassed. Ah, good times.

    2. Period Tracker? what's that?*

      I stained a conference room chair in the big boss’ personal conference room, in a high level meeting I was only at bc my boss was out of town, when I was in my 20s and not tracking my period yet. It happens! Next time I think I’ll scribble over the blood with a Sharpie or something, as if that is better (well, it’s less biological).

    3. Victoria, Please*

      Whyeeeee can they not sell replacement chair seats, or even just fabric covers…..

    4. Still Mortified*

      Years ago I had my monthly conference with my then supervisor and I was sitting in one of her visitor chairs – fairly cheap standard office chair with grey cloth cushion – and I thought maybe I had started my period. I finished up my meeting and went to the bathroom and not only had I started but it had stained my underwear and skirt. I had to then go back into her office and let her know why I was taking the chair (it had totally stained it too!). Those types of chairs are difficult to clean but I did my best. It ended up joining the similarly stained chairs in the large community conference center as people would just clean as best they could and then swap out for an unstained chair. My supervisor was an older woman in her late 50s-early 60s so she was very matter of fact about it. I was very embarrassed.

    5. Azure Jane Lunatic*

      Oh nooooooooooooo! I’m glad you were able to resolve it in the end!

      My Herman Miller chair was medium grey, and mesh. I had PCOS (and more to the point, undiscovered endometrial cancer) at the time, and managed to bleed through a tampon, a washcloth sewn into my underpants, a pair of shorts, and my skirt (fortunately for me, it was black). I was working late so pretty much no one was around to notice, I put some paper towels down on my car seat and made an emergency trip to walmart, and fortunately work had a shower-bathroom for the benefit of bike commuters so I could wash off. The stain got less distinctively shaped after I swiped at it with cold water and some paper towels. I was then calm enough to tell our night janitor that I was so sorry but my chair had a blood stain. He was able to make it go away.

  41. chellie*

    My husband is chronically, irritating early for Everything. He dates that to the time that he was late for a Very Important Meeting, sat in the only empty chair, and found himself on the panel of presenters.

    1. Yoyoyo*

      I am also chronically early but am getting better about it, but I was late to my very first leadership team meeting as a new manager because I didn’t realize the parking situation at that building would be so dire and circled around for awhile. I walked into a packed room, where the COO gave me a very warm hello and invited me to sit in the only open seat, right between her and the CEO. Mortified.

    2. ferrina*

      I had an interviewee who showed up 50 minutes early to a 9:30am interview. I was the only person in the office, and it was sheer luck that I had decided to come in early that day. When I told her she was too early, she asked to sit in our lobby for 50 minutes. We didn’t have a lobby- we were a single open suite with a handful of conference rooms! (which she could see just from the open door). I told her where the nearest coffee shop was and told her to come back at her interview time. She got the job and did okay, but years later she still stood by that ridiculously early time.

  42. JanetM*

    Does being clumsy count? A couple of years ago, I came out of the little kitchen, caught my toe on a couch in the hallway, and went flying (technically, I think I might have taken two giant, ungainly steps, but it certainly *felt* like I was airborne). I landed hard enough to deeply scuff my elbow and do some damage to my shoulder. With three witnesses. Fortunately, I didn’t hit my head on the floor or the wall. Also fortunately, I didn’t hit or go through the glass wall.

    Everyone was very kind. They helped me sit up, let me sit while I recombobulated, then helped me up and to a chair. The CISO found a plastic bag to make an ice pack for me, the CIO’s admin assistant called the HR manager and got me the information for our worker’s comp carrier, somebody texted my direct manager (who was out of the building in a meeting), two people offered to drive me to the ER if I wanted, and they all checked on me while I waited for my husband to come pick me up.

    (I did not go to the ER; I went to a worker’s comp clinic as dictated by our carrier. Several x-rays later, I was scheduled for six weeks of 2x/week physical therapy. I still don’t have full mobility in that shoulder, but it continues to improve slowly.)

    1. wendelenn*

      If we could upvote, I’d give you one for “recombobulated”. This is a word that needs to happen.

      1. Lightning*

        If you ever fly out of Milwaukee WI, keep an eye out for the “Recombobulation Area” just after security :)

      2. Remote Office Custodian*

        Fortunately, it’s already a word! The Milwaukee Airport has a “Recombobulation Area” immediately after security. It has benches and tables to give travelers space to put themselves back together.

    2. Seeking second childhood*

      A long ago co-worker tripped and face planted in another co-worker’s lap. Years later people still insist they were having an affair. And neither works here anymore.

    3. Sirelle*

      My boss managed to trip over and severely sprain her ankle right in front of the external health and safety auditor. Surprisingly we actually passed!

    4. owen*

      if being clumsy counts, there was the time i was in week…3? of my new job, in a conference room with my new coworkers, and went to push/slide my chair back from the table to get up but instead somehow…. tipped it? and fell, backwards, right into the door. Headfirst. Which was glass, and see-through, but fortunately the building was mostly deserted (we were the only people on that floor except for one other guy)…

      Except i hit LOUDLY. People on the floor above us came to the railings of the atrium and looked down to see what made all that noise.

      Fortunately i have a very hard head and did not get a concussion, just a rather large egg which was mostly hidden by my hair if i braided it right.

      But I’m hoping clumsy doesn’t count too hard :D

      1. ScreamingOverHere*

        Oh clumsy counts?? Lol.

        I had just returned to the office after my last round of physical therapy (about 6 months worth) after a car accident.

        I walked into the bathroom and slipped on some water in the floor. I went down, arms flailing, and after slowly getting up, had to go tell my grand boss (who literally hated me) that I’d just reinjured myself on a wet floor and needed to go to the doctor. She was confused…you just got back from therapy, I thought you were done?? Nope, hurt again.

        Ended up juggling 6 more months of PT. Still hurt sometimes, 20+ years later.

  43. Leah*

    I once spilled my drink into a vendor’s lap while at lunch – and then I started automatically wiping at his groin with my napkin. I am a woman and a mom, clearly, and he was a young man. We both nearly died.

  44. Anon for this*

    I write fanfic. This is a part of my life that I have kept very very separate from any other part of it. I was on a lunch break and working on a story. I had copied a whole lot of text from said story with the intent of moving it to another part of the document when a coworker on Slack DM’d me. They wanted to know how I had phrased something on an email and I went to go and copy that text. Except I didn’t and pasted in the fanfic text into the DM and hit send automatically.

    At least it wasn’t erotica.

    1. kupo!*

      I accidentally typed a password into a Slack chat instead of the VPN login window I thought I had targeted, and I thought that was pretty bad! If I sent someone fanfiction, I think I might just pack my bags and move away…

      1. comityoferrors*

        Oh no, I just realized my own mortifying moment. I was presenting my screen to my employees and logging in to our software. Usually it autopopulates the user ID and starts on the password field. But this time it didn’t, and I typed my password in to the ID field, fully visible to all. That’s bad enough no matter your password, but my best friend and I have a running joke where we come up with the crudest penis-related passwords (that we then translate to 133t$p34k#–we don’t share our actual pw, just the base phrase). Thankfully none of my staff are internet nerds the way I am, and I deleted it pretty quickly, but it doesn’t take much to figure out what “D1ck____” is referring to.

    2. SJ (they/them)*

      I HAVE DONE THE FIRST HALF OF THIS except I miraculously didn’t hit send. Also mine was in the chat of a large team meeting aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.

      I insist on both a work and a home laptop now, and never the twain shall meet.

    3. Anonagain*

      Oh my god, I live this dual life too and this is one of my nightmares! It somehow gets more and more stressful the higher I get in my organization.

    4. Elenna*

      …oh god.

      My coworkers think my main hobbies are hiking and sometimes baking. In fact my main hobbies are playing video games (mostly Stardew Valley), watching people play video games (also mostly Stardew Valley), and reading fanfiction (mostly not of Stardew Valley). I have very carefully avoided imparting any of this information to my coworkers.
      (I do also enjoy hiking, though.)

      1. Anon for this*

        This fanfic episode aside, I’ve tried to keep everything separate. Every once in a while the streams threaten to cross. Like when I realized a very popular podcaster with whom I have interacted on various social media platforms a lot is the child of our narcissistic director.

    5. Turtlewings*

      In a similar way, I once very nearly sent a chunk of my fanfic (a fairly romantic chunk, in fact) to a guy on a dating app. Fortunately I caught it before hitting “send.” I guess that would have been one way to find out real fast whether he would be tolerant toward my hobbies…

      1. ScreamingOverHere*

        I actually hit send, in a chat to a guy I was seeing.

        His only response was that a certain described activity wasn’t physically possible with his body type.

        Couldn’t have been too bad, since he married me :)

    6. I am also anon for this*

      Oof. This is nightmare material for me. I don’t write anything too NSFW, but at the same time…I’m not comfortable with anyone in my real life knowing about this. I have a folder on my computer titled “Delete unread if I’m hit by a truck,” and I pray that in that scenario, my next of kin respects my wishes.

  45. RedHeadFred*

    In my early 20’s, I was working as a new receptionist in the OB/GYN clinic when a gentleman came in for his appointment. I couldn’t figure out for the life of me figure out why a man would be there, but tried to be cool about it. The doctor had requested I page him when the patient arrived (this was back in the 90’s), so there is this very nervous guy with a small paper bag that he set on the counter. I call the doctor and announce to everyone in the waiting room “Mr. Smith is ready to come in the back.” After he left, the other receptionist had to explain to me why the guy turned bright red… Apparently, I’d named the exact reason why he was there.

    1. SJ (they/them)*

      noooooooooooo aaaaahhhh oh nooooo!

      (and also just fyi for the future, and for anyone else reading this, there are indeed men who require ob/gyn care :)

  46. Sarah*

    A guy was checking into my campground with his girlfriend. His best friend was getting married and he was the best man. Making small talk, I said something about having just been maid of honor for my best friend and how much fun it is. She had a very complicated dress and it took two of us to get it on her AND get it off. Remembering how much we struggled with that, this gem falls out of my mouth – “at least you don’t have to help the bride out of her dress at the end of the night!” To which his wife replied, deadpan “I certainly hope not.” Wanted to crawl under the desk and die.

  47. IT Lady*

    Customer at a furniture store when I was a front desk person made a comment about their kid calling them a twit. I spoke before my filter said stop, and said to the customer and in front of our office manager, “At least they didn’t call you a twat.” I still lay awake wondering how I wasn’t immediately fired sometimes.

  48. k*

    Two from my first real job out of college… I had a long drive to get there (1 hr+), and had never really done much driving outside of my local area beforehand. Clearly I did not have a great concept of how highways work/are named, because one day when a coworker asked how my drive had been, I cheerfully responded, ‘oh it was great yesterday! I took *I*-[Number] instead of [Same Number] highway, and it was so scenic!’ She was kind enough not to ask what the hell I was talking about, but I still cringe every time I think of it… but also how did I confuse myself into thinking the highway I took everyday was a different route??? I think I just got on at a different exit?

    That job was also a temporary position, and when I was leaving, my coworkers added fake agenda item to a meeting to get me to attend a meeting so they could surprise me with a goodbye cake. I was SO touched by how sweet they were, but I was also an incredibly awkward shy person who hadn’t talked about myself very much during my time there, and no one involved in the cake planning was aware I was vegan. I thanked them profusely and took over cutting and serving pieces to everyone, sweating buckets and hoping to god no one would notice/ask why I wasn’t eating my own goodbye cake. At the end of the meeting, they gave me the leftover cake … I think I just kept giving pieces to everyone else I ran into that day!

    1. Beth*

      I love your method of handling the cake that you couldn’t eat! You showed tact, grace, and generosity. Go you!!

  49. RFlaum*

    There was a bug that was making our website misbehave. I took a look at the code, and exclaimed “What idiot wrote this!?” My boss said “Uh… that would be me.” Fortunately, he thought it was funny and just laughed it off.

    1. Web Crawler*

      Yeah, I’ve learned a lot about not asking that particular question out loud. Either it’s somebody else who I risk offending, or (more often) it’s me and I have to acknowledge that I’m the idiot twice over.

      1. Ama*

        I am a big fan of “I’m not sure how this happened, but we need to fix [mistake]” That way even if I’m positive the mistake was made by the person I’m talking to, they are more motivated to help me fix it instead of getting defensive.

    2. Free Meerkats*

      My wife was sitting in the dentist chair and the dentist said, “What idiot did this bridge? It’s total junk.” She let him know that *he* did that bridge. He then redid it for free.

    3. Brooklyn*

      That’s what Blame is for. For grumbling under your breath while you search through the history trying to figure out what mud for brains wrote something, and then pretending you didn’t when you realize it was you.

      I’m not speaking from experience doing this on a call in front of my grand manager. I am specifically not speaking from any such experience.

    4. kiki*

      The best is when you ask “what idiot did this?” and then it was you one year earlier. One of my favorite managers told me that every time this happens, you should give yourself a pat on the back instead of feeling ashamed– it means you’re improving!

  50. mortified*

    I was the keeper of the office chocolate stash. I had figured out years before that not only did it make my boss easier to deal with once he had something sweet to eat after running around all day, it also meant that I knew everything that happened in the office as people stopped by periodically. Everyone contributed chocolates but on this particular day, someone had added a ton of the good stuff (Reese’s! Snickers! Twix!) while I had been away from my desk, so I was curious who had done it. A couple friends and colleagues stopped by and I asked them whether they were the chocolate fairy.

    Guys, one of those friends was very black and very gay (and thankfully out at work). To his credit, he blinked once and said, “Well, it’s always been me.”

    It took me at LEAST a half minute to catch on while he and another friend were howling so loud there were tears streaming down their cheeks. Naturally horrified, I apologized over and over but the kicker was that this was overheard by a senior Nigerian colleague who wanted to know what was so funny.

    1. lady_sparrow*

      This reminds me of an incident that has become famous in my family! When he was a kid my younger brother(nicknamed Mr T) took forever to eat, to the point where we would be sitting around in restaurants waiting for him to finish. One time we went to a Japanese place and he did the usual, so after waiting for him for a bit my father asked, in a tone of great exasperation, “Are you done yet, Mr T?”

      The waiter refilling his tea cup at that moment gave him SUCH A LOOK.

  51. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    Interviewed on campus with an interesting company, and then they invited to come visit their offices. 1 hour plane flight from Ohio to DC, very early in the morning. Full day of interviews, then a flight home at 5pm. I had laid out everything I needed the night before – suit, shirt, tie, portfolio with extra resumes, etc. I even polished my shoes. But I did not lay out a pair of socks.

    When I got dressed that morning at 6am, I reached into the sock drawer and pulled out one black and one dark blue. I didn’t realize it until several hours later when I was sitting down at the group overview session at 8:30. So for the entire day I was terribly self-conscious about not having my pants legs hiked up, about crossing my ankles when I was sitting down in a group, etc.

    But I got the job offer and worked there for 10 years, so all’s well that ends well.

  52. Chantal*

    I used to work in the office of an animal shelter. Once when trying to figure out a computer problem I said to my boss, “Well, that’s one way to skin a cat.” Oof.

    1. Zephy*

      There are so many expressions that REALLY don’t land well in a shelter environment. Besides that one, you’ve got “can’t swing a dead cat without hitting X” to mean “X is ubiquitous to the point of being impossible to avoid” (I’ve mostly replaced it with “can’t throw a rock without hitting X”).

      Bully mixes were really common in the community where I worked at the local animal shelter; besides that, we would occasionally get in owner-surrendered dogs whose people equated food with love and that extended to animals as well. I had to almost physically stop myself from using the term “fighting weight” to express that this fat bully mix was on a special diet to help him get back down to a healthy weight for his size. (He was a very good boy, the best kind of squareheaded baby with absolutely nothing going on between the ears, just love and elevator music.)

      1. jane's nemesis