Mortification Week: the declined offer, the obscene amigurumi, and more

It’s Mortification Week at Ask a Manager and all week long we’ll be revisiting ways we’ve mortified ourselves at work. Here are 17 more mortifying stories people have shared here over the years.

1. The declined offer

I interviewed for an internship in college. I really didn’t want the internship, but I needed it to satisfy some university requirements. The interview went okay, it didn’t feel particularly short or long – about a half hour by my estimation. The interviewer then asked me if I wanted to look around the place for a bit, and I said, “No, actually I have to go.” Looked at my watch and only five minutes had gone by. Her face was filled with disgust. I did not get a call back.

2. The perfume

My father’s story from a good 25 years ago. One time he’s telling us about what gifts they bought for all the staff. It was perfume (don’t get me started on the gendered nature of it, that’s a whole other thing) but one he didn’t recognize, and the salesperson from somewhere like Macy’s had “recommended” to him. He’s telling us this, and says it’s called something like “plah-sen-tay” like it’s French, he thinks (shades of A Christmas Story here). My mother and i start snickering. Really dad? She recommended it? And you said sure, sounds good? And he’s saying what, what? as we started laughing so hard we were crying and falling out of our seats at Boston Market … because he apparently had no idea he’d bought every woman on his staff PLACENTA perfume. Like something that had that in it, and it was maybe supposed to be a beauty aid? It was unclear, but we surmised that the salesperson had a truckload of this stuff to unload and could tell he had no idea what he was doing. He sits there horrified, and reflects, “Huh… i was wondering why people seemed a little weird about it. There was a lot of talking in hushed groups afterward.”

3. The TV fan

Way back in the day, I was unemployed for awhile, and was asked how I spent my days. For some reason, I launched into a detailed analysis of the formula of the Maury Povich Show. Inappropriate things were said. I just couldn’t shut up even though my brain was telling me to stop.

Somehow, I was offered the job. I still don’t know how or why. I didn’t end up taking it, I received another offer and was too embarrassed to work there.

4. The therapy session

A friend of my husband’s committed what I think may be the worst Zoom horror of all time … apparently he was on an extended, mandatory Zoom call (like 4 or 5 hours) with his entire company. Small financial office, but still a good number of people, as well as a client on the call. He had a therapy session (also remote) scheduled during this time. He did his therapy session, via phone, while still on the Zoom call, and was completely unmuted during all of it (I do not know why the person running it did not mute him, although from this thread it sounds like there are still many meeting-runners who don’t know HOW to do that).

But his therapy session consisted of half a session bitching about his coworkers and how stupid they are, at length, foul language and all. And the second half about an amazing date/sex he’d had with his wife. Meanwhile coworkers were frantically messaging him to tell him he was NOT muted but he didn’t get any of those messages until after the meeting was done.

It does make you long for the days of mistaken potatoes or cat-faces. Practically wholesome.

5. The amigurumi

I like to crochet amigurumi and other 3D items, the splashiest of which is a very large and highly detailed penis and testicles. When I say highly detailed, I mean, our friend the urologist was so impressed he showed photos of it to the other urology residents. This decorative item is usually on display on top of a cabinet. However, I moved it to the top of a bookshelf while dusting, forgetting that said bookshelf is in the background of my husband’s Zoom calls.

He spent half of a Monday morning all-staff meeting cheerfully answering questions (he’s a VP) before realizing what was sitting in the background. Most of his coworkers are fairly conservative evangelical Christians.

He video muted in horror and removed the offending objet d’art, hoping no one had noticed. Later that day, a coworker who had recently turned in two weeks notice–and thus had nothing to lose–DMed him a screenshot of his video feed with the decorative penis and testicles circled and annotated with “????” My husband tried to pass it off as a butternut squash. Luckily no one told the CEO, or if they did, he wrote it off as an inevitable consequence of employing secular Brooklynites.

I now make sure to replace all decorative objects in their proper homes while dusting.

6. The replacement

Just out of high school, I accepted a position at a real estate office doing their filing. It just wasn’t a great fit for me — I was bored to tears within a couple of hours each day — and after a few days, I could tell that I probably shouldn’t have taken the job. I had an interview at another company and ended up getting an offer, which I accepted on the spot, starting in a couple of days. This was still after I had been at the first job for less than a week and while I hated the position, I didn’t want to burn a bridge.

So I did what I thought would be the greatest kindness — the next day, I showed up at work and brought one of my good friends with me who I knew would enjoy the position more! I didn’t bring them as a potential interviewee, I presented it to my boss as, “I’ve accepted another job, but to not put you out, I’ve found my own replacement as well!” I don’t think my manager knew what to do, so let her stay and shadow me all day. It ended up kind of working out as they did officially hire her, but I still look back and am blown away by my own gumption. I can’t imagine showing up at my current job with a random person that no one has ever met and declaring them to be my replacement!

7. The baby

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

8. The chili peppers

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

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

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

9. The salted coffee

Had my first out of state, need to fly to another state, academic job interview. One of those dinner the night before, all day affairs with lunch and a presentation I had to do, straight to the airport at the end of the day.

Well my doctor ended up upping the dosage of one of my medications, that I take at night. Made. Me. ILL. The plane left at 6am-ish, so taxi ride to the airport around 4am. Almost threw up in the cab cause it was so hot and stuffy. Got the airport, went to the bathroom, threw up. Checked in, went through security, went to the bathroom, threw up. Got some gatorade, tried to drink it, threw up. Got on the plane. Was supposed to be polishing up my presentation and writing all the notecards. Spent the entire time, breathing through my nose trying to control the nausea.

…Went out to dinner with the hiring manager, felt way better, was able to eat some, but I was pretty out of it, and it was obvious I wasn’t asking questions they expected. I guess they expected more questions about the next day, but I’d done these types before so I pretty much knew what to expect and just couldn’t fake it.

Worst part: we ordered coffee at the end, which I still needed to go back to the hotel and work on my presentation, so I wanted the caffeine. Well there was this little jar and a spoon sitting on the table, waiter brought cream, so I added cream and sugar from the little jar. IT WASN’T SUGAR, it was totally salt. Then to make matters worse, I actually said to the manager, “Oh I just salted my coffee.” He, clearly surprised, offered to get the waiter to get a new cup. Nope, my poor shredded brain for some reason declined, then I proceeded to drink the salted coffee, declaring that it wasn’t that bad.

Shockingly I did not get the job, and I have to be the hilarious job interviewee who salted their coffee, stated so, and then drank it.

10. The paper

I once submitted an optional paper with the working subtitle “When Will I Learn Not To Volunteer For Things” still in the document. I realized straight away and emailed a fixed version claiming that I had forgotten to include the word count. I don’t know if my tutor ever opened the original, but if she did, she didn’t say anything and still gave me 100% – very gracious!

11. The whispers

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

12. The snoring

My coworker Dan came racing into an office I shared with three other people with a thrilled look on his face: “Come QUICK,” he whispered. This man was not one to be terribly excitable, so we were intrigued. We trooped out behind him and up to his own office, where a conference call was in progress. Dan had put it on speaker, but it was “Business business business” type chat. Nothing unusual. We looked askance… “Um, Dan… what?”


Then we heard it. On a conference call with at LEAST 115 people, and all of C-Suite for this particular client, some poor soul was sawing logs into his mic. Loudly. The rest of the team, CEO, CFO etc. was valiantly carrying on while someone was searching for the Global Mute and not finding it, so every few moments between statistical projections there was a loud “HOrKkkkKK snort” like a congested bear. Dan and the rest of us silently died laughing on the carpet. The admin couldn’t even put out the polite “please mute your phones” because of course, the culprit was in dreamland.

Best conference call ever.

13. The blouse

In the early 2000s, when I was in my early 30s, I worked as the chief of staff / senior advisor to a very senior government official. At the time, the department we worked for was involved in big, high-profile international trade dispute. One day, my boss was hosting a VERY. IMPORTANT. CONFERENCE. CALL that involved lawyers, diplomats, a whole lot of very important people. The speaker phone was set up in my boss’s boardroom with about 10 other people in attendance. My boss always sat in the same spot, at the head of the conference table, near the door.

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

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

14. The tea party

I am an attorney. During the pandemic, I was doing a hearing via Zoom against a particularly annoying opposing counsel. A friend called me after I had finished arguing and thinking I was on mute, I answered and proceeded to say, “Hey, I’m in a hearing, and [opposing counsel]’s argument is very boring.” The judge interrupted to say, “Sorry to interrupt your tea party, [my name], but you’re not on mute.” I was mortified but the judge and I had a good laugh about it later.

15. The distress

I think I have to quit my job and change my name. My work calls forward to my cellphone and I just opened a call on a meeting platform on my phone with video and audio enabled without realizing it … and I was in the bathroom experiencing the worst gastrointestinal distress. I’m pretty sure my boss just heard everything while getting a view of my bathroom ceiling. The call lasted 47 seconds before he hung up.

16. The zipper

I strolled in to work at my first professional job one morning, took off my coat, enthusiastically greeted my boss and had a longish chat with him about the day ahead. Then I walked down the corridor to the bathrooms and realised that I had completely failed to zip up my dress, which was open down the side from armpit to thigh. He was too polite to say anything but I still cringe ten years later

17. A hug, a rejection, and a goodbye

One day at work I got an email with the subject line “a hug, a rejection, and a goodbye.” Basically an independent contractor sent a company-wide email to explain that he had just been fired. Per the email, he had been focusing on honoring his emotions and if he needed a hug, he wasn’t going to deny himself. And apparently he decided he needed a hug and gave a guy in the bathroom a hug. Completely unsolicited. Said hugee was very, very, very introverted and possibly on the spectrum. He was very good at his job and very helpful, but it was absolutely understood that you emailed him your request – you didn’t go talk to him. And under no circumstances did you make him shake hands, much less hug. So the Hugee went straight to HR and complained and they fired the contractor immediately. When he went to get his personal stuff from his desk, he wasn’t escorted and had time to send this email justifying his actions. The email was quite detailed and completely oblivious to any wrong doing on his part.

The OMGs were audible around the office (of about 300 people, I think). And many of us started forwarding the email to our personal accounts because sure enough, once senior management got wind of it, IT deleted the email from the server and everyone’s work accounts. 15 years later, if I see someone from that job and say “a hug, a rejection, and a goodbye,” they burst out laughing.

{ 315 comments… read them below }

    1. MechanicalPencil*

      There’s a cross stitch pattern designer, Prudence Kitsch, who has one specific to fall about “decorative gourds, m-fer”, and my brain has somehow combined the “butternut squash” with that particular saying.

      1. NNN222*

        That is probably referencing a McSweeney’s piece called “It’s Decorative Gourd Season, M-fers.” I re-read it every fall.

        1. Fledge Mulholland*

          We have a fall party at our house with this theme every year! Glad to hear others love it as much as we do!

    2. Clobberin' Time*

      I am going to put the blame for this on Husband, though, for not having a virtual or at least blurred background. That’s like Zoom Safety 101!

      1. Lou*

        Not his fault! He wasn’t the one who forgot to move their large penis. How could he prepare for it!

    3. Media Monkey*

      exactly this. i am in the office and my eyes are watering trying not to laugh out loud.

  1. The Original K.*

    #17: who just rolls up on somebody IN THE BATHROOM and hugs them apropos of nothing? Even if the person you hugged is an extrovert… who does that?!

    1. Jzilbeck*

      That story jumped out at me…all I can think of is, “Ohhhh, no no no no no!!!!” That would freak me out and I’m a very huggable person!

      1. quill*

        People who hug me by surprise are not going to get a good reaction if they do it in the freaking bathroom!

    2. Lab Boss*

      I used to share a building floor with a lot of our sales team, who all came across as wildly inappropriately extroverted to the science team I led. Greetings, handshakes, a pat on the back while at the urinal, a playful kick under the stall door, “I left the seat nice and warm for you!”

      And after all that, my jaw STILL dropped at the sheer audacity of bathroom hug time.

      1. pancakes*

        I’m pretty sure not every extrovert is into potty humor. “I left the seat warm for you,” etc., is not something I’ve ever heard from the office extrovert!

        1. LittleMarshmallow*

          Our office introverts say that… the other day one of my colleagues handed a bolt she needed a nut for to one of our mechanics and said “it’s warm” because she had had it in her pocket and decided to make it weird. We (bunch of introverts) had a good laugh over it and devolved into a conversation about warm toilet seats.

          I’m very introverted but am one of the first people to break and giggle at potty humor.

          1. pancakes*

            I wasn’t trying to establish a broad rule so much as the opposite – I mean, by saying “not every extrovert is into potty humor,” my point was not to somehow also suggest that introverts cannot be, or any number of other rules.

            It is one of my least favorite things about this site that people often want to talk about how extroverts are and how introverts are. Categorizing people this way strikes me as totally unnecessary and overly rigid.

            1. Suzanne*

              Remember – introverts aren’t shy and non-social (like they are constantly accused of). It’s how they RECHARGE.
              Shyness and non-social are different things.

    3. Elenna*

      Apparently “honoring my emotions” = “ignoring everyone else’s emotions and preferences” according to this guy.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Suppress those emotions!

        Suppressing one’s emotions is, in many contexts, the correct action.

        1. LB*

          Yes! To paraphrase Miss Manners, we’re all born free, uninhibited, and bluntly honest… and we spend our childhoods being civilized so that other people can stand to be around us! (She said it more elegantly but that’s the point.)

          Toddlers have no problem honoring their emotions all over everybody else… Grownups can choose when and how to deal with said emotions.

      2. Kit*

        Yeah, I wish to honor my emotions about his ignoring consent and boundaries: What the everliving hell, dude? You’re lucky if they just fired you and didn’t also assist the poor huggee in filing a police report. Eesh.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          He’s lucky the huggee didn’t slug him, which is a normal response to sudden forcible bodily contact.

          1. it's-a-me*

            My response would have been to rotate the hugger into a stall and shove, before making a run for it to a public space, yeah.

          2. Industrial Tea Machine*

            Oh how the tables turn when the hugger becomes the slugee and the hugee becomes the slugger.

      3. Education Mike*

        Also touching someone against their will is not an emotion??? Wanting a hug is not an emotion. Maybe you feel lonely, sad, hopeless, etc. Those are emotions, and you manage them yourself, without nonconsensual touching, and usually not at work.

        I can only imagine this whole scene happening while the poor coworker is at the urinal, mid stream.

        1. pancakes*

          Yes, thank you Education Mike!

          (I’m not trying to sound sarcastic, your user name is funny!)

      4. That One Person*

        I hope he doesn’t take that attitude to dates or the club…or the courts. Always nice to see a good HR though and that email title is something lol

    4. Kit*

      I’m very extroverted and not opposed to hugging! I am absolutely opposed to being accosted in bathrooms! I would be honouring my emotions and judo-throwing him to the bathroom floor.

      1. anonymous73*

        Same. My husband and I were grocery shopping the other day and split up so he could drop something off at the UPS store nearby. I was in a zone and when he found me he slapped my butt. I was ready to punch him in the face until I realized it was him.

        1. Nina*

          The school of martial arts I practice emphasizes instinctive reactions to physical assault. After a couple of occasions where I was hugged unexpectedly from behind and my conscious brain didn’t quite catch up in time, people who know me don’t touch me until they know I’ve seen them.

    5. Jessica Ganschen*

      The proper course of action for honoring your emotions when you need a hug and you’re at work is to make note of that and hold onto it until you’re NOT at work and you can ASK to hug someone you’re actually personally close to.

      1. Elenna*

        Exactly. Honoring your emotions should mean paying attention to your emotions, not dismissing them, and figuring out what you can reasonably do *without violating others’ consent* to deal with your emotions.

        What this guy did is not called “honoring your emotions”, it’s called “being an asshole”.

    6. Lacey*

      Yeah, the fact that this person is an extreme introvert makes it even more traumatizing for them, but oh my goodness, there is no person on the planet who is ok with that.

    7. The Prettiest Curse*

      There was a fair amount of random hugging at my 2 non-proft jobs in California – which, being a British person, I found a bit startling at times. (In general, we’re not big on hugging or small talk with complete strangers.)
      But at least my touchy-feely colleagues never randomly ambushed me in the bathroom!

      1. LittleMarshmallow*

        At the plant I used to work at, if someone left their computer open people would sneak onto it and put meeting invites on their calendar to other people. One of the favorite subject lines was “free hugs”. “Unicorn hunt” was the top one though… I am bad about locking my computer and the number of “unicorn hunt” meetings I had on my calendar was ridiculous. We were a prank happy place… the febreeze wars of 2012 was quite a time.

        1. Yikes!*

          A stealth hug would not be welcome, but “Febreze Wars” sounds 1,000 times worse! Toxic chemicals like those in Febreze literally make me sick. The words “Febreze”, “prank”, and “happy” don’t seem to fit into a sentence together.

          1. Hannah Lee*


            The people who would merrily launch Febreeze Wars in a shared space rank right up there with the coworker I once had who LOVED April Fool’s Day and would repeatedly play idiotic ‘pranks’ on his coworkers, including messing with their office chairs. For example, loosening the tension of the chair backs so if they leaned back just a tiny bit they’d fall over, or messing with the height adjustment so if the person sat down onto a normal height chair the seat would immediately and quickly sink down 8-12 inches. Oh yes, it’s SO-OOO funny to cause injuries or make your coworker with spine and hip issues burst out crying when they wrench their body painfully and panic that they may have set back years of preventing damage by being super careful with how they move their body because co-worker Dan is an idiot.

    8. BurnOutCandidate*

      Valentine’s Day, 2009. A Saturday. I unexpectedly ran into a coworker in a public venue. This coworker, who was nice but very uptight, very rigid, and very, very reserved, enveloped me in a bear hug. I was left utterly shellshocked.

      1. Retired Merchandiser*

        I was at work one day intently doing an audit of the dairy case when I felt arms encircle me from behind. It was a store employee I hadn’t seen for a while. He about scared me to death. Another time I was at another store sitting down inputting data on my work computer when someone dropped a kiss on top of my head. It was a different store employee. Now I’m a friendly outgoing person, but random kisses are not something I am really into.
        Also, when I would work lower shelves, I would sit on my toolbox. At least twice a week some child would come up and hug me. Their parents would be mortified, but I thought it was kind of sweet. I would just say I guess they know a grandma when they see one.

        1. Rosamond Vincy*

          Kissed on top of the head?! Aaahh!

          As we were about to all leave the office to go on lockdown in March 2020, an older colleague of mine kissed me on the head and I think I recoiled in horror. And probably would have even without COVID! I still shudder thinking about it.

      2. learnedthehardway*

        I was completely surprised today when one of my most challenging clients hugged me as we left a very difficult meeting. THAT was not what I had expected.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        This happened to me one time at OldExjob when the president of the North American division of the global company that owned us visited the office. He was a friendly guy; I thought he was okay and we would say hi and chat (professionally!) when he came to town.

        That day, he walked into the office with my bosses to greet everyone. I said, “Hi Fergus!” and came around the front desk to shake his hand. For some bizarre reason, he chose to give me a ginormous hug right in front of everyone. He didn’t hug anyone else, only me.

        I didn’t want to embarrass him in case he was experiencing jet-lag related brain farts, so I just took it and didn’t say anything. But one of my coworkers asked me later, “What was THAT!?” I said, “I HAVE NO IDEA.”

    9. Blue*

      My first instinct was that firing seemed like an extreme reaction, but given the fact that this person ALSO decided to send the company-wide email about it, I’m gonna guess the hug was not the first incidence of poor judgement or boundary crossing…

      1. NeutralJanet*

        Right, the kind of person who writes a detailed email about “honoring his emotions” after being fired and doesn’t acknowledge that maybe you shouldn’t touch strangers randomly in the bathroom (I’m assuming the Hugged was a stranger, because otherwise the contractor knew that he hated any kind of contact and hugged him anyway) is probably not great at a lot of things.

        1. ferrina*

          Just as bad (or maybe worse) if he knew Hugged hated contact and completely disregarded that. What a horrible violation!

          1. Observer*

            Oh, definitely worse. Because that’s not just ignoring conventional boundaries because of some malarkey about “openness and connection” but a deliberate crossing of boundaries.

      2. MsM*

        If I were HR, I don’t think I’d want to have to sort out if any future hugs might be construed as non-platonic in nature in addition to just not being wanted, and how much we’d be held accountable for not having predicted that might happen.

        1. Observer*

          Yeah. This is not someone whose “pattern” of behavior is likely to be acceptable. And if anyone ever has a complaint about this guy, they WOULD lose if they didn’t fire him. Because maybe the first time was unpredictable. But once someone has done something so outrageous, you have to know that another outrageous action is likely. So, the only thing you can reasonably do is get rid of him.

          Keep in mind he did something that a lot of juries and mediators would consider to easily fall under the “severe” category of “pervasive or severe” harassment. Why would any reasonable HR take that risk?

      3. Observer*

        My first instinct was that firing seemed like an extreme reaction

        No, not at all. What is extreme is the idea that you get to just hug someone out of the blue. ESPECIALLY in the bathroom. That alone is so extreme that it warrants firing.

        When you add in the fact that he did this to someone who was known to be highly averse to direct contact? HR didn’t really have a choice. This is a person who is not suitable to work among people.

      4. Antilles*

        I think you’re probably right about the prior history. But surprise hugging someone in the bathroom is far enough over the line that I could absolutely see it being justified even if this was the very first incident.
        Especially since he likely certainly made that same argument to HR that he did in the email – at which point HR is hearing alarm bells go off about “wait, what is your next ‘feel my emotions’ moment?”

    10. Gerry Keay*

      Someone with a deep sense of entitlement and who gets a rush out of crossing boundaries, that’s who.

    11. Observer*

      who just rolls up on somebody IN THE BATHROOM and hugs them apropos of nothing? Even if the person you hugged is an extrovert… who does that?!


      The other ones I laughed along with the cringe. This one? No. Totally not funny. It’s not for nothing that HR fired him on the spot. Because NO ONE should be subjected to a random, unsolicited hug anywhere, much less the bathroom.

      That guy was a creep. No doubt about it.

      1. FrenchCusser*

        I had a friend commit suicide a few years ago, and some of my coworkers hugged me for comfort, but they all bloody well asked me first!

        Do not touch anyone in the restroom unless they’ve fallen and can’t get up.

        1. Cat*

          Even if they have fallen and can’t get up, you still talk to them about what you need to do and don’t randomly grab them!

    12. DrRat*

      I mean, seriously, I may be female but even I know enough about Guy Stuff to know that guys have super rigid bathroom etiquette, at least in the US. Rule 1: no eye contact with strangers. Rule 2: never stand at the urinal right next to someone unless it is the only one available. Rule 3: no conversation at the urinal, even if the guy next to you is your best friend, unless you are still in grade school. Rule 4: if you are heterosexual, the only physical contact allowed in the bathroom is if you are giving someone CPR after a heart attack.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        The location makes it so much worse. Not just because it breaches etiquette and consent, (forced hugging anywhere breaches etiquette), but because it’s a pretty sneaky place to hunt for a target; no one looks at each other.

      2. Al who is that Al*

        Additional UK Rules
        Rule 5: No Farting at Urinal until the Hand-dryer is going to mask the noise
        Rule 6: Stare straight ahead at all times
        Rule 7: If someone actually has the bad manners to talk to you, merely grunt and continue to stare ahead
        Rule 8 (Personal): In allegedly empty bathroom, do not do a massive fart, sniff and exclaim “Oooh Stinky!” then realise two of the stalls were occupied due to the laughter coming from both of them.

  2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    Well, at least the salted coffee gave you back some of your missing electrolytes.

    1. Elenna*

      IIRC a pinch of salt in coffee helps cut the bitterness so… there’s that, at least?

      1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

        Yes, food genius Alton Brown taught me this, and now I a a bit of salt to my coffee most days. But I’m guessing the OP put in way more than an pinch!

    2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      It was a trendy thing for a while too. So was butter in the coffee — don’t know how widespread either of those trends were but they lasted a hot-second in So Cal.

          1. Edwina*

            And good luck on their next cholesterol test, is all I can think any time I see someone doing this!

      1. Al who is that Al*

        Or you are Mongolian and put Yak Butter in your tea. I had a friend who went there and tried some, greasy and unique were the two words used.

        1. River Otter*

          Butter and salt! I had that tea at a Tibetan restaurant. I’m sure it was cow butter, not yak butter, but it was not a taste I was used to, for sure.

    3. allathian*

      I live near the shore of the Baltic Sea, which has brackish water (salinity 0.5-1%). Even when I was a kid, some people would put a bit of salt in their coffee, because they were used to boiling Baltic Sea water when they brewed coffee. Now the Baltic Sea is unfortunately so polluted that I wouldn’t recommend drinking its water, not even if you boil it first.

  3. Phony Genius*

    On #8, the CEO’s strange look was probably his reaction to seeing your face rapidly turn fire engine red, your eyes turn into slot machine reels (landing on the chili pepper symbol), and visible steam shoot out both ears.

    1. Jean (just Jean)*

      Excellent imagery! I’ll be replaying this in my head for quite a while. Thanks for brightening my early afternoon.

  4. kittycontractor*

    I still love #6. It’s so innocent, wholesome, and hysterical all at the same time. I can just imagine being the manager, being mystified and just going along with it.

    1. MsM*

      I mean, for a filing job that could be done by a high school grad, I’d probably just shrug and give OP’s friend a shot, too.

      1. LaLa762*

        That was exactly my take too! LW #6, I’ll bet you’re an asset to whichever company you work for now. Good thinking, girl!

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        This was literally how half the staff at my first “proper” job were hired.
        The other half were hired further to a conversation along the lines of “Boss, I can’t finish the spouts on time, because of the teapot design issues.”
        “have the issues been sorted?’
        “yes but the deadline is looming and even if we could put it back, which we can’t, we have the handles to do immediately after that, and then we need to assemble them and paint them for delivery on the 15th”
        “do you have a friend who could help you out?”
        “ah yes, my friend Rosie is looking for a job, and she has experience in handles too”
        “could you ask her to come in tomorrow?”

        (we went bankrupt, spectacularly, despite being the market pioneers and leaders…)

    2. FrenchCusser*

      I had a filing job while in college, too, for a collection agency.

      I often say it was the best worst job I ever had, because I learned so much about human nature there. The best collector there was the person who took the time to listen to the debtors’ sob stories, commiserate (most of the debts were medical in nature) and then set up a payment plan. Much better than the collectors who referred to them as ‘deadbeats’ and tried to strongarm them into payment.

    3. LittleMarshmallow*

      Right!?!? While bringing friend in was a little weird, if a temp that was leaving was like “hey, I found a replacement for you” I’d probably be like “alright, give me their contact info, let’s do this”.

      Hiring temps is hard…

    1. quill*

      It killed me during the first thread, and I need to get myself under control and back to work again now.

    2. mreasy*

      The phrasing “tried to pass it off as a butternut squash” slays me because I imagine the conversation the husband is having. “Oh, THAT old thing?”

  5. anonymous73*

    I was at work once and had a meeting with someone who I had never met and barely knew, and upon greeting me gave me a giant hug like she was my best friend. Regardless of introvert/extrovert/on the spectrum/etc. you do NOT hug random people at work, ESPECIALLY IN THE BATHROOM. I didn’t report her to HR, but it was so inappropriate and unprofessional.

    1. IT Manager*

      Had a project in a government agency located in New Orleans … all lovely, lovely people who apparently are all work huggers even upon first meeting. Quite surprising on my first day in the office!!!

    2. Hats Are Great*

      I always ask people, when we’re having that awkward goodbye at the end of a social event or a work trip, where the person is a newer friend/colleague and you won’t see them for a while, “Are we hugging people now?” Basically everyone looks relieved and says, “Yeah, I think we’re the kind of people who hug.” But as long as you ask in a sort-of light and puzzled tone, where it’s mostly acknowledging the awkwardness of not knowing quite how to say goodbye, people also feel free to laugh and say, “No, I think we’re firm handshake people.” (And then typically we give each other an extra-firm, mock-serious handshake, laugh, and depart.)

  6. Dame Judi Brunch*

    #3, that’s me!!!
    I actually said “sexy decoy” to my interviewers. Still in shock that they had offered me the job. I rolled for Charisma that day

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      If you google “amigurami” it will show you some adorable and safe-for -work images of little crocheted animals, and you can imagine the same technique used to reproduce body parts.

      Even in private mode I could not bring myself to search for “crocheted penis.” You can’t unsee some things.

      1. North Wind*

        Do you know of Noel Fielding? Some fan made an amigurumi (doll) of him, anatomically correct. So you could google for images of Noel Fielding and “woolen Noel” as he calls it. :) :) :)

      2. Reality.Bites*

        Well I googled it and I don’t want to unsee the results. What came up was in the realm of cute and cartoon-like, many with faces. If you don’t want to see a mauve, crocheted penis dragon (not dragon penis), well then, you may be dead inside. ;)

      3. LittleMarshmallow*

        I have a knitting pattern book called “knit your own Kama sutra”. It’s hilarious.

    2. Murphy*

      I crochet. While I’ve never crocheted a realistic penis, I totally see how you could. I suggest googling on a non-work device :)

      1. quill*

        I’ve done a bee, so I’ve done some fine detail work…

        Still trying to figure out how to tackle my next project, a trilobite.

    3. Jean (just Jean)*

      Create a tube, with one bulb at one end and two bulbs at the other? Use appropriately skin-colored yarn? Maybe use a stitch that doesn’t immediately communicate “I am yarn that was artfully twisted into a repetitive pattern using a crochet hook??” In other words, use a stitch that’s not so obviously visible in the finished product?

      I can visualize the finished item, but because my crochet skills are non-existent I can’t provide additional instructions. If I had to create such an object myself I’d probably go with papier-mache (and tempera paint) or maybe fabric. But (alas?) I’m not going to start crafting any reproductions of human genitals.

      1. Gel Pen Destroyer*

        Yes, and if the item was far enough away from the screen (it sounds like it was on a shelf), the yarn texture wouldn’t have been visible anyway – so you’d just have the shape and color.

    4. Princess Xena*

      Crotchet stitches can be very fine and convey a lot of detail – for a more work-safe idea of how delicate it can get, check out crocheted lace.

    5. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I’m suspecting it’s probably more “realistic” in terms of accuracy of the parts/structure, not “realistic” like someone’s looking at it and mistaking it for a real disembodied set of tackle.

      But penis crocheting wouldn’t be too (don’t say it don’t say it don’t say it) hard difficult. I’ve knitted a flamingo before, and crocheting is far easier to do funky shapes with.

    6. Mill Miker*

      And to add to all the above, since it hasn’t been explicitly mentioned, the crochet patterns make an empty shell, that needs to be stuffed like a plush toy.

      1. quill*

        I mean. You could, theoretically, not stuff it. This particular one may be recognizable if it’s not very rigid …

        Though in that case I don’t think you can pass it off as a squash.

          1. Constance Lloyd*

            I am currently knitting a qetzal bird for a friend of mine. It’s a bit chaotic at the moment.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          That would depend on the maker’s skillset though. I suck at crochet (just not my thing) but am a decent knitter, and my knit teddybear was way easier and faster for me (and better looking) than my crochet llama. I recommend circulars and the magic loop method.

        2. Fluffyfish*

          Yes I know as I do both. However it’s much less common for shaped items to be knit and typically more difficult. You don’t’ really find a lot of knit objects and the ones you do are fairly simple. For people not involved in yarn fun, they tend to not know there is a difference in the two. I have found one of the easiest ways for people to wrap their head around it is to given them examples of what you usually find as knit and what you usually find as crochet.

    7. Petty Betty*

      It’s not difficult. I make them in a variety of sizes (I’m not that poster). I make packers for trans men, novelty peens (with squeakers), all the way up to pillow sizes (yes, including body pillow sizes). You can crochet veins and add hair, or you can paint the details, it all depends on how detailed you want things and the size of the object you’re working with.

      1. Princess Xena*

        – with squeakers

        I’m dying of laughter and also dying to know what this would be used for. Novelty dog toy? Crochet’s maybe a bit too delicate for that I guess

        1. Petty Betty*

          Some of us are oversized juvenile (delinquents). We love squeaky body parts. Especially when they’ve been deemed “inappropriate”.

      2. Blarg*

        Do you share patterns? I’ve been on a blanket kick lately cause I’m too lazy to count/mark rounds, but could get back into ami if it made me giggle. :)

        1. Petty Betty*

          I found free patterns online. I did adapt one to add a pocket for a tampon holder for the packer, but otherwise, everything is available online for free.

      3. N C Kiddle*

        A few years ago I registered the domain name “buy penis here dot com” and I was going to put up an explanation of why you really shouldn’t be asking trans men where were going to get a penis and then next time someone asked me, give them that url. Crocheted packers sounds exactly like the sort of thing I wanted to use as an illustration for that project.

  7. Falling Diphthong*

    I appreciate that we have reached “… unlike extroverts, who like to be hugged by strangers in the bathroom–” “No! No we do not!”

      1. Rain's Small Hands*

        The world is a big place and I make it a rule not to judge others kinks lest I be judged….but I’m betting that the safest thing is to assume that no one wants to be touched in the bathroom. Or, for that matter talked to (those whole through the stall bathroom conversations that happen are really weird to me – unless you are saying “hey, this one doesn’t have any TP, can you pass some under the wall.”)

        1. mlem*

          Back in the Before Times, my work group would go out for a walk together, and we’d often stop at the bathroom on the way, and my colleagues would continue their conversations across stalls! It was terrible!

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            And here I was irritated that someone kept taking the stall next to me in an otherwise empty bathroom today at work. Now I know how much worse it could be.

      2. Mid*

        I was once asked for a hug in a bathroom by a rather intoxicated person who thought she was going to be getting engaged that evening, but was instead dumped on their 3rd anniversary, in the middle of a fancy restaurant that you needed to reserve a table at 6+ months in advance. I can’t say I liked the hug, but I didn’t mind since this person was clearly in distress.

      3. Zeus*

        I was once offered (and accepted) a hug from a drunk woman I was standing next to in line for the bathroom at a bar. But that’s a very different situation from a coworker!

    1. Princess Xena*

      I got the impression that the work calls were set up to auto-start. Which is a terrible idea for precisely the reason illustrated above.

    2. nora*

      A few weeks ago I was in the bathroom when I answered what I thought was a robocall confirming an appointment and it was…not. I am still deeply sorry to the scheduler whose day I probably ruined.

    3. The OG Sleepless*

      Our animal hospital did curbside during the main pandemic. People’s terrible behavior while they waited could fill a whole comment section by itself, but once I called an owner with an estimate for my recommended treatment plan. It sounded kind of echo-y on her end so I wondered if she was in a public bathroom. My suspicions were confirmed when I said, “So the cost for that is going to be [FLUUSSSHHH].” I had to wait until the flushing stopped and repeat myself.

    4. Curmudgeon in California*

      LOL. I have IBS. I spend a lot of time in the bathroom, to the point that I wish I could just buy a padded toilet seat and bring my laptop in there so I wouldn’t be interrupted so much by my own need to expel wastes.

  8. Dust Bunny*

    Salted coffee: When my first-grade teacher interviewed at my school, my kindergarten teacher showed her around, including offering her a cup of coffee. Which he salted by mistake. He was mortified but she laughed it off and took the job.

  9. NoiShin*

    I just remembered a mortifying story I’ve had in my (sadly) limited working experience. I worked for several years as a front-of-store attendant at Target. As anyone who has been to a Target knows, they have a uniform: khaki pants (or shorts if you work outside like I did), and a red shirt without a logo. Somehow, one day, I was in a rush and came in wearing the proper shorts…and my t-shirt. Which had a picture of a sloth on it and the phrase “Mondays got me like” printed above the picture.

    Yes, this was on a Monday. ONE AND A HALF HOURS before I noticed my shirt was wrong. Luckily, they had spare shirts for people who showed up out of uniform, and my manager actually didn’t even notice until I pointed it out, and HR only noticed when I asked them if they had any spare shirts. The one employee who DID notice I was out of uniform found the shirt so funny she didn’t say anything.

  10. Anonym*

    The baby-still-having lady in #7 was far weirder than the OP! To remain frosty to someone because they once said something odd? Get over it and learn to laugh, lady!

    1. Gel Pen Destroyer*

      It definitely would have been easier to say “Well, they aren’t a baby anymore” in a jokey tone.

      That being said, the defensiveness combined with the immediate jump to “they’re in a gifted program” makes me suspect that there was more to it that OP doesn’t know about (e.g. the mother had been encouraged to give up the child at some point, or whatever) – so OP may have inadvertently waded into very touchy territory.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Yeah that’s quite possible. But still, it sounds like such an obvious misspeak the grudge isn’t warranted, even if being chilly and shocked in the moment may be.

      2. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

        The only thing I can think of is the OP knew this lady from church. Having grown up in an evangelical church, there were people who massively overract to anything that would suggest a child was unplanned/unwanted. They’d spin standard healthcare questions into “doctors are forcing women to get abortions!!!” as part of their anti-choice propaganda. And standard STI pannels taken at annual exams? Well how dare they suggest adultery! So maybe this lady was kinda like that? IDK, but I agree it’s a weird thing to get upset over an awkwardly phrased innocent question.

        1. Reality.Bites*

          Yeah, if someone said “Do you still have her?” to me I’d realize that clearly their words got scrambled somehow because that’s just not something someone would say even if trying to be rude.

          1. Oh geez*

            I would assume it was a misspeak for something like “Do they still live at home?”

            If it’s been that many years, easy to kindly assume a stranger is fuzzy on the exact number of years and doesn’t remember if they’d be old enough to be at college or not.

            1. Books and Cooks*

              That was my thought, too–that they were trying to ask if she was still at home or how she’s doing these days, but just worded it badly. To immediately get frosty and defensive to a question like that seems like a Her Problem, not an OP Problem. (And to be frosty forever after like that? Pfft.)

      3. tamarack and fireweed*

        Yeah. If there’s no actual harm done then I judge her for getting up on her high horse about it. People should realize that young people who have no children have to learn the right sorts of things to say about someone else’s offspring. “Do you still have the baby” doesn’t mean ” …. or did you leave it at a consignment store”, but is a clumsy way to inquire about the kid.

      4. LittleMarshmallow*

        It’s possible, but some people are just easily frosted. This sounded more like that.

      5. Still Anon*

        Yeah, the only way that would be a *terrible* question is if the child died rather publicly and the whole church knew about it or whatever (which is why I don’t ask those questions but I know that’s unlikely)
        But even then, even a grieving person should be able to deal with the fact that not everybody hears about everything and people aren’t mind-readers. (I personally hate it when people are like “but didn’t you read the newspaper my old grandmother *died* you’re a bad person to ask me what’s up” – have known some of those and they strike me as very immature).

        1. I Speak for the Trees*

          I’ve been in a similar situation. Back in the days that Yahoo was the main search engine, I moved to a new town and found myself in need of a dentist. After a quick search, I called the number of what was listed as an office and got literally screamed at my the grieving widow of the deceased dentist. At one point she even called me “evil.” She kept insisting that “I should have known he’d died nine months ago” and essentially refused to accept my apology and excuse that I’d found the number online.

          1. Books and Cooks*

            Oh! This just reminded me–I have one!

            I worked for a printing company whose owner was also higher-up with a big nationwide Tipline organization (like, if you have information about a crime, call in a tip). So we did a lot of free work for local law enforcement, including missing children posters and the like.

            The local county sheriff was very popular–it was a large county, and this was a highly populated tri-city/tri-county area, and our office and my home were both in the county his office covered–both with the public and other enforcement agencies, and had been head of the Sheriff’s Department for years. He had cancer, and unfortunately died, though iirc the death was more sudden than expected, so it was something of a shock to everyone. It was a fairly big story in the tri-city area, that Sheriff Lovely Man had died, and there was a big funeral and everything.

            About a week later, my boss asked me to send a fax to the Sheriff’s Dept. He had apparently written the fax before the Sheriff’s death, or had used the form we hadn’t updated yet–I don’t remember the exact circumstances. All I know is that, even as something tingled in the back of my mind telling me that something was not quite right, I went ahead and wrote out, in all caps, TO THE OFFICE OF SHERIFF LOVELY MAN. ATTENTION: SHERIFF LOVELY MAN, and sent it off.

            About five minutes later I got a phone call from the Sheriff’s Office, informing me that as Sheriff Lovely Man had died, perhaps I could not send faxes to his attention? Because it had upset a number of employees there.

            I apologized profusely (I really felt awful about it) and re-sent the fax with the new Acting Sheriff’s name. I was so embarrassed for days. I mean, our office regularly dealt with this office and these people; we had done print work for them for a long time and had done some for his funeral.

            (In retrospect, I do think they were maybe a little snippy about it, I mean, it was an innocent mistake, made first thing in the morning by someone who had never actually met or spoken to Sheriff Lovely Man…but it was still foolish of me to do.)

            But at least they didn’t scream at me, like the dentist’s widow you spoke to! That was ridiculous of her!

    2. Fluffyfish*

      Honestly for a few of these, yes it was mortifying, but the other parties actions or reactions in the story were not how one would expect a reasonable person to respond either.

      OP1 for example – if the interview was 5 minutes, then the interviewer was not great and it was probably a really good thing didn’t want to work there. Come on looking at someone with disgust because they don’t want a tour after a 5 minute interview that you gave? Go forth in peace OP.

    3. metadata minion*

      Yeah, I would have expected the person to laugh and maybe gently tease the LW about it the next time they ran into each other. That’s just such an obvious foot-in-mouth statement.

    4. Purple Cat*

      yeah, I would have laughed and said “Only some days do I want to give him away. Most days he’s a keeper”.

      1. ferrina*

        “Nah, she escaped and is working for an evil wizard plotting world domination. She sounds pretty happy.”

    5. Slow Gin Lizz*

      That one reminded me of the time a friend (and bless her heart, I can’t remember which friend) asked me if I’d adopted my cats. Pause one sec and we both laughed at the absurdity of the question. Neither one of us was mortified, but then, it’s not quite as odd a question as what OP asked. That being said, I agree that the mother in the story was far weirder than OP’s question!

      1. DrRat*

        I would have been so quick to reply, “No, we couldn’t have kittens naturally so they are test tube kittens”

      2. N C Kiddle*

        That doesn’t seem like such a ridiculous question because one of my friend’s cats is the daughter of one of his other cats, born in his house, so I doubt he’d say he adopted her. Also if I heard someone ask that I’d think they meant formally through a shelter, rather than buying one through the small ads or taking in a stray.

    6. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      Yes! It’s one of those “dumb” questions that I’m sure all humans ask at one time or another — it’s like the comedian Bill Engvall and his “here’s your sign” schtick.

      My best friend and I went to Mammoth, California to go skiing. We’re in the gift shop looking at stuff, she turns to me and asks why there are “fuzzy elephants” everywhere…

  11. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

    #10: If I had a dollar for every time I accidentally submitted a paper titled “Witty Title Goes Here”, I could at least have a very nice multi-course dinner and a couple of cocktails on the proceeds. Only one instructor ever commented on it though, and she thought (or at least told me she thought) it was the best title ever. Otherwise, they politely ignored it on the regular.

    1. Kit*

      Hey, that’s a perfectly decent title in my book, too.

      It also reminds me of a game of D&D where someone was playing a character who was rather more socially adept than their player. At the conclusion of a session, their brain had clearly given up the ghost, so they rolled a Charisma check and announced, “I say something witty!” (They succeeded, and we all agreed that whatever they had said, it was quite hilarious.)

      1. Rain's Small Hands*

        Its easy to play the strong character, or the dexterous one, or the one with a high con….its much more challenging to play a D&D character that is more intelligent, wise or charismatic than you. (As I currently play a bard – I DON’T sing).

        1. quill*

          Also, it’s hard to play a character who definitely doesn’t know things you consider basic IRL. One year into a STEM degree I played a fighter who was essentially two armored fists and an attitude. DM did not think it realistic that I was trying to figure out how dangerous his acid trap actually is. ;)

          1. astral debris*

            Yesssss! One of the guys in my D&D group is a high school science teacher, and he’s not normally “that guy” but I fondly remember one time back when we were playing in a Star Wars campaign, the DM was using technobabble to explain how and why our party was suddenly in dire peril and he knew just enough science words for his explanation to make kind of the opposite of sense. Science Teacher started correcting him and pointing out “Okay, but if you’re saying X is true, then that necessarily means Y would also have to be true, so that would actually mean that we’re not about to die?” and wouldn’t let it go, causing the DM to eventually exclaim, “This isn’t science fiction! Star Wars isn’t science fiction, it’s space fantasy. SPACE FANTASY, OKAY?!”

        2. Critical Rolls*

          Charisma is easier to play than smarts. You can paraphrase with charisma (“I sing a little song about the charms of the tavern,” “I flatter the guard until they relax and chat with me,” etc). But nobody escapes doing dumb things with their definitely-too-smart/wise-for-that character.

          1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

            once played in a party with a very intelligent guy who had rolled a 1 for his character’s Intelligence and a -1 for Charisma. So he did incredibly stupid things AND people hated him. He had a great time — for instance, deciding that we needed to haul a 400-pound boulder with us everywhere because it was important to his religion.

    2. Kacihall*

      Once in college, had a group paper due in OBHR. I think existed but Google docs did not and sharing files was pretty much done by emailing it back and forth to the group. When the final draft was done, Chris set the title to ‘Finished Sh*t B*ches’ and sent it to the group for a final approval. Then it was submitted to the professor without changing the title.

      I’m very glad he had a sense of humor about it.

    3. Cat Tree*

      I have a strategy. Any draft or filler text gets highlighted bright yellow until I put in the permanent stuff. Especially useful when using a previous document as a template and I just start with the whole thing highlighted.

      1. Books and Cooks*

        I put it in curly brackets–you know, these: { }. When I’m working, a lot of the time I’ll reference a character from earlier in the story, or from a previous book, or I’ll need my MC to repeat a particular specific phrase or something that was in a previous book but which I don’t recall offhand. So I’ll write it like: “It was Fergus {Lastname},” or “She dug her fingers into the dirt, letting her power slide into it, through it, as she whispered, “{magicwords}.” (I leave the punctuation out of the brackets so I can just do a find-and-replace without needing to fix or double-check the punctuation.)

        That way, I can just do a Search in the finished mss for curly brackets–I never use them otherwise. (I do use regular brackets fairly often, for a specific purpose, so I have to use the curly ones for this.) It works fine, but I did once have my agent point one out to me, which was embarrassing.

  12. Madame X*

    Accosting someone in the bathroom for a hug is would not be welcomed by most people. Not wanting to receive an unsolicited hug has nothing to do with introversion or extroversion. It is simply a matter of respecting people’s boundaries (and common sense).

    1. Reality.Bites*

      I’d venture to say most people don’t even want a hug in their bathroom at home from a loved one if they’d just used it for the same reasons one does at work.

      1. KoiFeeder*

        The only appropriate time to hug someone after just using the bathroom is if you are being mind controlled by cholera viruses and trying to transmit them to others.

        1. Yikes!*

          Is it too early in our relationship to say “I love you”? (Yes? Well, I LOVE your joke.)

      2. Allornone*

        There have been a couple of times when my significant of eight years will be going into the bathroom of the apartment we share to shave or brush his teeth (not do other business) and I will give him a quick hug or kiss. But, even then, in my/his home, with someone I’ve known very well for a decade, who I’ve loved and has loved me for almost that long, I will ask first. Otherwise, it’s just weird(er).

    2. tamarack and fireweed*

      Not wanting, sure. But as a 50-50 intro/extro who lives with a 100% intro I’d wager I’d be able to handle an unexpected, unsolicited, unwelcome hug better than my partner, who would be extremely upset whereas I would be just rattled.

      1. Madame X*

        I don’t doubt that different people might have a different level of response to the unsolicited hug. I’m mostly extroverted and I would not respond well to an unsolicited hug from a stranger in a public restroom. ( it’s also possible that the hug could be triggering to someone who experienced any sort of significant trauma the past).

    3. Observer*

      Accosting someone in the bathroom for a hug is would not be welcomed by most people. Not wanting to receive an unsolicited hug has nothing to do with introversion or extroversion.

      Completely true. That alone would be enough to get him fired with decent HR.

      But, when you are dealing with someone at that level of “introversion” (I don’t really think that this is the right word), it’s even worse. It gets to the point of “so self centered they are dangerous”. Like story of the idiot who TOSSED and axe at someone because he “didn’t mean anything, I just wasn’t thinking.” This idiot would be the one “honoring his emotions” by trying to push something on someone with a deadly allergy to it, too.

      1. Madame X*

        I’m not sure how your example has anything to do with introversion or extroversion. That’s a matter of physical safety.

        1. KoiFeeder*

          As Observer said, the introvert/extrovert dichotomy is probably not the best way to conceptualize this.

          I’m professionally autistic. Despite years of social skills therapy, my ability to predict what people are going to do and interpret unexpected actions is not very good. Even if I recognized the person hugging me as a coworker, I don’t think I would even recognize the situation as described as being a hug. It would be deeply frightening and upsetting for me- possibly even traumatic if they didn’t let me go the second I experienced distress and especially if I had to escalate to a physical altercation to be released. But that isn’t related to my own introversion, it’s related to the fact that it would be an inexplicable and terrifying experience for me.

          1. Madame X*

            This is what i was getting at with my first comment. This is incident has more to do with being able to read and understand social cues rather than the whole introvert/extrovert dichotomy.

            1. Observer*

              I agree – which is why I said that “introversion” was probably the wrong word.

              My point was that when you KNOW that someone has this level of trouble – whether it’s simple aversion to direct contact or problems with reading a situation, a hug like this would go from “deeply unsettling and wildly inappropriate” to “traumatic.”

              And this guy is too self-centered to care about that.

          2. Ellis Bell*

            Yeah I can see why the word introvert is being used, but that relates to a lack of social energy, whereas I think the type of person who is most badly affected by random hugs would describe it more as a lack of social comfort or social safety.

    4. Anonymous for this*

      Anonymous for this post because while I didn’t write in about #17, I can corroborate that it is 100% true because I was there (at the company, not in the bathroom) when it happened. I think that perhaps the word “introvert” was used to avoid too much arm chair diagnosis of a coworker.

  13. Ann Perkins Knope*

    I’m sorry, I’m really feeling like people are not giving “I remember you had a baby! Do you still have it?” the respect and attention it deserves.


    1. Dark Macadamia*

      This one made me laugh the hardest. It’s like if you tried to teach a robot to make small talk and it got the tone down but not the content!

    2. Silly Janet*

      I agree; I love this one! And the woman could have played it off in a funny way like some commentators said upthread.

  14. Julia*

    I have to admit that for me, #4… strains credibility to the breaking point. Particularly as it’s a “friend of a friend of the storyteller” kind of story. I just cannot imagine an *entire company* putting up with an unmuted person rambling about incredibly personal and damaging stuff for the length of a full therapy session, which is typically at least 30 minutes. Even if you don’t know how to mute a participant, as a last resort you’d of course end the Zoom call and circulate a new link to the participants. At about minute 8 I’d hope almost everyone had left the call even if the host were inexplicably soldiering on.

    I’m guessing that this was in fact 30 seconds or so of therapy rambling, and it got inflated somewhere between the friend telling the husband and the husband telling LW. Think about how incredibly long 30 seconds in this context feels, though. Might as well be half an hour.

        1. Lyngend (Canada)*

          VeryVery very normal for the bitchimg. Was a big part of my therapy while at à toxic work place recovering from a decade of untreated major depression.

          1. pancakes*

            Sorry, should’ve been clearer – I don’t think bitching about work is at all abnormal, but the combination of the second half along with the uninterrupted flow and length of the call seem off to me.

    1. UrbanZoom*

      I am also sure this one is a 2020 Urban Legend, akin to the person who bought the chihuahua that turned out to be a large rat!

      1. look, sometimes nightmares do come true*

        I am the commenter who posted it originally; it is a true story. If people don’t choose to believe it, that’s fine, I can’t reach through a screen and change your mind, and also, who cares? But I relayed exactly what I was told, and based on the consequences to my husband’s friend, it happened pretty much as described.

    2. mreasy*

      A lot of people are terribly tech inept on zooms! I have experienced, not this, but some pretty ridiculous stuff that the meeting leader didn’t know how to mute.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Mistakes can happen, though. I recently got blocked from a group Zoom by accident—the host clicked the “Nope” button instead of the one to let me in. The meeting had already started, and she couldn’t figure out how to let me in without scrapping it and starting over. So I just skipped it.

    3. Big Bank*

      Definitely seems stretched for length, but we definitely soldiered on for 15 minutes on a departmental meeting while a person, oblivious, chattered on the phone and watched TV. At that time we were on WEBEX and the offender could not be identified in the joiner list because they called in anonymously. There were multiple, increasingly annoyed pleas from the department head for anyone who knew who it was to help make it stop. He didn’t know how to mute other people’s lines, so finally he got exasperated and terminated the town hall. But yeah, it went on a while because I think he (and we) thought surely they will realize any second now and we can get back to the town hall…

    4. look, sometimes nightmares do come true*

      IDK, obviously I wasn’t on the call. I was told it was the whole therapy session. I also don’t think (from what else I was told) that “whole company” was a particular large or technologically ept group. Who knows? Maybe people did start bailing on it but the last/most important didn’t. Maybe “whole company” is 8 people all of whom were paralyzed with horror and indecision. If nitpicking the probabilities sparks joy, have at it!

      1. look, sometimes nightmares do come true*

        /particularly large or technologically ept group

        not particular. grr.

        1. pancakes*

          Why not hang up and start a new call, though? For no one to have said “let’s all hang up and reconvene, I’ll have [assistant or whatnot] circulate a new number,” there’s more than just a lack of tech skills there, there’s a lack of leadership.

          1. look, sometimes nightmares do come true*

            I have no idea! Nor does anyone who wasn’t there. I have met and experienced some seriously technically inept people? They were paralyzed by horror? They were furious and wanted to collect information to hang him with? Who knows.

    5. Yikes!*

      Yes, it strikes me as extremely unlikely that the meeting host or anyone else would not have said “Whoever is on another call, we can all hear you, you need to mute yourself” (or “end the other call” or “leave the meeting” or whatever). A company that would allow loud trash-talking of multiple people on a Zoom call to continue strains credibility.

  15. lazuli*

    I really, really, really wish that everyone would set up Zoom and other video conferencing meetings so that everyone’s muted and off video when they join the meeting!

    1. anonymous73*

      I’ve found in my many years of working in an office, that many of the people that are responsible for setting up and running the meetings rarely understand how they work. And this is way before Zoom.

    2. Jazz and Manhattans*

      Pretty sure you can do this in the web conferencing settings either globally or individually. They’re all so different tho.

    1. Purple Cat*

      Absolutely. Especially if this was early or pre-pandemic when so.many.people were struggling technologically.

      1. Code Monkey, the SQL*

        That’s my story! And it actually happened in, I want to say 2017 or so, when Zoom/conference calling fluency was lower and we were all still in the office together to listen to the poor person catching up on sleep in front of many of their bosses.

  16. Reality.Bites*

    Just wondering if Alison’s mentioned a reason why there are 17 items in the mortification posts. It’s such an uncommon number for a list that I was wondering if it has some deep or amusing meaning.

    1. A Genuine Scientician*

      By using a prime number, these anecdotes are protected from predators anticipating their cycles and increasing their population numbers in anticipation of bountiful prey. Non prime numbers would synchronize with any factors of their cycles, but prime numbers will not because they have no factors other than themselves.

      Wait, no, those are periodic cicadas. Never mind.

        1. quill*


          *Cicada noises continue.*

            1. quill*

              *Starts a drumline, because Disturbed The Invertebrate is touring YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD TREES THIS SUMMER!*

      1. River Otter*

        Genuinely curious about this–

        Doesn’t that hypothesis presuppose some evolutionary pressure that prevents predators from developing a synchronized cycle?

        1. A Genuine Scientician*

          Not exactly.

          It does make synchronization much less likely via random chance. If another species happened to develop a synchronized cycle, they might specialize on the periodic cicadas. But they’d have to get extremely lucky to get a set of mutations that synchronized to that particular prime number — and, don’t forget, different periodic cicadas have different prime number cycles.

          Predator satiation can also be accomplished through other means, like masting events in various plant species, or short duration synchronized eruptions of species like mayflies.

          1. River Otter*

            Synchronization wouldn’t happen by chance, though. It would happen when enough ancestral predators whose life cycle coincided with ancestral cicadas managed to outbreed the other ancestral predators–which could happen if those ancestral cyclical predators had a more plentiful food source than ancestral non-cyclical predators.

            However, it seems like most cicada predators are not cyclical at all. Evading predators by only emerging every 13/17 years only works if there are not predators in the right stage of life to eat them in the majority of emergence years. Since most predators breed continuously (well, annually, anyway), so there are always plenty of predators at the right stage of life to eat the cicadas. How does the “avoid life cycle synchronization” hypothesis account for that?

            1. A Genuine Scientician*

              The goal is not to avoid predators altogether.

              The goal is for a species with little to no defensive ability to produce so many individuals at once that predators are unable to consume them all before the individuals are able to reproduce. It is an instance of predator satiation, similar to the masting events in the comment you most immediately replied to.

          2. quill*

            Keeps Cicada Killer Wasps that hatch every year from relying on periodic cicadas for food, so when you have cicada eruptions there is not enough wasp to destroy the population. Wasp numbers stay (relatively) low because with multiple periods of cicadas the math works out to “we have annual cicadas every year and if we eat too many the year before, we starve.”

        2. Anonymous, my colleagues know about the cicada eating hens*

          There are cicadas with different length cycles. Also for the 17-year cicadas, there are different broods, so they emerge at different years.

          There are cicadas every freakin year around here. They have already started…my chickens love them.

    2. Aqua409*

      I just figured that how many posts she was going to make and divided up the stories and came up with 17.

      1. Cat Tree*

        Huh, I always thought I was the only person to have a favorite number. (Mine is 32.)

        1. Expelliarmus*

          Mine is 2 because I was born on the second day of the second month of the year! And on top of that, I was born on a Monday, so it was the second day of the calendar week as well haha

  17. Despachito*

    OP2 – I remember that when I was a kid, we would use a lip balm that was actually called “Placenta”.

    1. pancakes*

      Wow, that is a pretty utilitarian name, haha. I wonder whether the dad gave them some sort of serum or hair product? I can’t quite imagine a perfume having that name since the idea of those products, from what I understand, has never been their scent.

    2. Sloanicota*

      I was confused by that story. Is that the name of a perfume or an ingredient? Strange.

  18. Despachito*

    OP 13 and 16, I feel for you.

    I once had a meeting with an important client. I was wearing a dress that was a hand-me-down from my future mother-in-law. It was a smart looking wrap dress, but as my MIL-to-be was a bit bustier than me, it opened up a bit too much at the cleavage, and I had to use a safety pin to make it look like a decent V-neck.

    You probably already see where I am heading. In the middle of the meeting, the client discreetly nudged me … the safety pin lost its battle and revealed the front part of my torso down to the waist. Not the fondest of memories, actually.

  19. Forgetful*

    I’ve been so enjoying these posts, and I just remembered I have a good story to share.
    Even though I’m pretty young, I have a terrible memory (which is partly ascribed to medication I take). Some years ago, I was contacted by an organization in Europe to speak at their conference. I gratefully accepted their invitation and had plenty of email exchanges with my point of contact. I also met him when I arrived at the conference and he showed me around. So it’s fair to say I knew this person pretty well by the end.

    A year later I met my European colleague again at a different conference. I didn’t recognize his face right away, and staring at his nametag, I blurted out, “Hi! your name sounds familiar, have we met before?”

    He said “yes!” in a very offended voice, and even though I quickly twigged to my mistake, I was unable to achieve any kind of smooth recovery, and he left me obviously still miffed.

    Later that afternoon I was sitting at a table next to a very important industry person, whom I knew a little and had struck up a friendly relationship with. Still mortified by my error, I thought “at least I’ll turn this into a funny story” and related the incident to her, to much laughter, and at the end, she said, “that was a great conference, I enjoyed your talk.”

    I turned to her, surprised, and said “Oh, you were there too?”

    “Yes,” she said, obviously miffed. “I gave the keynote.”

    1. The OG Sleepless*

      Do you have prosopagnosia by any chance? I’ve done that kind of thing my entire life, and did not learn until I was an adult that most people could remember what other people looked like.

      1. Yikes!*

        That was exactly my thought! I have a mild version of it too. When I have goofed like Forgetful, then explained it as a “me” problem, people have been much more understanding.

    2. Liz*

      Ohhh, my sympathies! My memory is OK but I have moderate face blindness, so I could absolutely see myself doing something like that.

  20. scurvycapn*

    #17 reminds me of two separate stories working as a vendor for state government. On the bathroom side of things, numerous warnings about using the bathroom down the hall when the other was being cleaned did not stop one guy, who ended up being escorted out of the building and having his access to the building revoked. Most of the developers for that vendor were here on visas, so using the bathroom may have sent him back to India.

    The other was someone who was let go and sent an email to hundreds of people from a personal email address. She complained about the wrong approach management was taking, how they’d ask the contractors to log no more than 40 hours on timesheets, to make it look like the project was better under control, etc. I talked to a few co-workers and they also got the email. I think I interacted with this person once in my life. I’d love to know what management thought of that one.

    1. Curmudgeon in California*

      Oy. The reason for no more than 40 hours for contractors is that they are hourly, and it takes special approval to pay overtime. That’s how it is where I am now, and I’m a contractor. I end up juggling my hours to accommodate weekend work, but still keep it under 40. The person was obviously oblivious.

      1. Princess Xena*

        Maybe it was a situation where they were actually working for more than 40 hours but management didn’t want to catch flak for overtime so they weren’t approving?

      1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

        I think it’s that he kept using the bathroom while the cleaning person was in there…a lot of custodians are women… in college I worked as a custodian and yes, even with the giant cart and an A-frame sign out front, men would enter and try to use the bathroom while I was in there.

        1. scurvycapn*

          Spot on. Signs were put up on the bathroom doors because it kept happening. The offender did it again and got a warning. He did it yet again and was let go.

          1. River Otter*

            Ahhhh … I thought the warning was NOT to use the other bathroom while bathrooms were being cleaned … and I was like, “So he can’t pee for the duration of cleaning???” bc I am a reasonable person who assumed he was not using the restroom while it was being cleaned.

            Guessing this was not the only thing he did that was off.

        2. Despachito*

          It was likely a very different situation but I remember more than once needing to go… only to find the ominous cleaning cart outside, and I… just needed to go. And it was very stressful trying to find another bathroom (I think it was in a mall or a train station, so not a familiar place where it would have been easy to find another bathroom), so I sort of feel for the bathroom offender.

  21. sharon g*

    I don’t like hugging my friends and family. I sure as hell don’t want some weirdo contractor hugging me in a bathroom. My anxiety would be off the charts. Ick.

  22. Rachel*

    I would also go to HR if some random person hugged me in the bathroom!!!! Like what is that??? Did they wash their hands???

  23. Antares*

    Oh no, I missed mortification week! My husband and I were both working from home, and our new cat jumped right in front of the camera in a meeting. He threw him away really quick, and got 5 private messages of people saying…did you just yeet your cat across the room??? (To be fair, he’s very throwable.)

    1. Dust Bunny*

      One of my cats is a light brown tabby with a brilliantly multicolored posterior. She 100% flashed an all-office Zoom meeting in 2020 when we were working from home.

      (The other cat has discreetly dark-brown unmentionables and is grouchier/less inclined to hold her tail upright. She did come to a department meeting once, but it was face-first. I think she was curious about all the new voices.)

      1. Yikes!*

        Once? Mine have to be locked in a bedroom (with food, water, litter, treats, big window to watch the birds) when I’m on an important Zoom or else everyone will get to see both of them strolling in front of the camera or poking me with a paw.

  24. Dawn*

    Oh. My. God.

    I think I would HIT someone who gave me an unexpected and unsolicited hug in the bathroom. Hard.

  25. All Het Up About It*

    But WHY did this guy need a hug IN THE BATHROOM?!?! Like what had just gone down that he had to honor his “need for a hug” right THEN?!?!?

    1. Books and Cooks*

      I imagine boss didn’t realize at first, and then maybe thought it would stop quickly, and then was probably trying to figure out how to disconnect/log out? If it was one of those autocall/autoanswer things, figuring out how to end it early might have taken a little bit.

      I’m just disappointed that the OP wasn’t in a position to be able to yell, “And that’s what I think of our competitors! {OP’s company} all the way!”

  26. AHardSell*

    My first job out of a college was at as an editorial assistant a publisher. Mostly this meant sitting behind a computer, but once or twice a year I’d be sent off to conferences where we had an exhibit hall table selling books. A woman came by wanting a book on teapot painting. “Great! We have just the thing!” I said, grabbed a teapot painting book off the table, and started to tell her how it covered priming, design work, glaze colors–all the details.

    “I don’t need to buy that book,” she hissed at me. “I’m the author.”

    She did not appreciate my attempt at a quick save by saying, “Well, then you’ll be very happy to see how seriously we take promoting your book!”

    To be fair to me, while she was one of our better sellers and her picture was on the back cover, we had hundreds of authors currently in print. Expecting every employee to recognize her on sight was a bit much.

    1. Dawn*

      Speaking as someone who does multiple “creative” things, you’d think she would be appreciative of the fact that you went for her book right away.

      Sounds like she was just a generally nasty person.

      1. Princess Xena*

        I’d be over the moon if the very first book the staff grabbed were my book! Not grumpy with them.

    2. Pisces*

      A man went into the visitor center at a nature preserve, and asked a staffer about a particular bird he’d seen.

      The attendant didn’t recognize the species, but said he could still help and pulled out a book by the ornithologist Roger Tory Peterson.

      The visitor looked disappointed and said, “That won’t help. That bird‘s not in there. I’m Roger Tory Peterson.”

        1. Yikes!*

          Yes, I’d be both disappointed and flattered. If I were a neologist (someone who makes up new words), I might say I was “flattapointed” or “disaplattered”.

    3. Books and Cooks*

      There’s no need to add a “to be fair to {you},” in this one! She was a jerk; it was absolutely a bit much to expect you to recognize her like that. Unless she was literally in your office every day to work on the book (which I can’t imagine, unless the house you worked for was truly tiny), or unless she was JK Rowling or a TV/movie celebrity as well, there’s no reason to expect anyone to recognize a writer at first sight! I’m a writer; my agent and editor know what I look like and would recognize me right away, but I wouldn’t expect anyone else at either office to do so (the few times I’ve visited I’ve always introduced myself to the desk/assistant etc.), and I certainly wouldn’t expect it at a convention or conference, when they’re seeing tons of new faces.

      And yes, I would have been THRILLED to see a representative of one of my publishers recommending my book first off, and pushing it like that! Especially in a way that indicates she’s actually read it and loved it!

      (In fact, I was once doing panels & signings at a very large genre convention. I was standing outside chatting with some people, when another person came up to me and asked if she could take a picture with me. I was confused, but said, “Sure,” and then, “Can I ask why?” Yeah…because she loved my books and knew who I was. I felt really bad, and really dumb. It just genuinely didn’t occur to me that a reader would have seen me or my picture and would want a photo with me! I tried to explain that, but I still think I made her feel weird or uncomfortable, or at least that she thought *I* was weird and/or uncomfortable.)

    4. Yikes!*

      She sounds awful! I would have been delighted if I were in her shoes, and thanked you for recommending my book (I’m a published author). Authors with large publishing houses know they are one of MANY. Unless she’s as famous as Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, it’s unreasonable for her to expect someone working a trade show booth to recognize her.

  27. Ancient Llama*

    I’m sure it’s been said already, but it would be something special if there were any “both sides” stories. Like someone else wrote in about how they were mortified when:
    – work once gave them all Placenta perfume,
    – they woke up once to find 46 DMs notifying them they had snored through a conference call “with at LEAST 115 people, and all of C-Suite for this particular client,” or
    – they tutored and let people do optional assignments they thought were helpful, but once got a papar titled “When Will I Learn Not To Volunteer For Things.”

    And I have multiple self-mortification examples. I am glad AMA does this to remind us we are all human. I hope to enact the lesson to myself that a little grace to others when they do something mortifying is my best response.

    But I proably will fail and you’ll see a letter from someone asking how to respond to me someday.

    1. Dr Sarah*

      Huh, I actually came here to say… am I misremembering, or is that just what happened with #4? I’m sure I remember reading that story from the point of view of someone who either was in the Zoom meeting listening to that therapy session or knew someone who had been!

      1. pieces_of_flair*

        I have a vague memory of this as well, but I just figured I’d misremembered the story.

        1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

          Alison pulls most of these stories from comment threads so you may have already read it in a past AAM!

          1. Ancient Llama*

            I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: your username makes me smile, a thousand miles wide.

  28. Tara R.*

    Gah, these have brought back a deeply-repressed memory. I was 20, interning in a small satellite office for a huge company, and a bunch of corporate folks and bigwigs had flown to our city to do some gathering at a nearby conference centre. A few of them stopped by our office to do meet and greets, but for the most part it had nothing to do with us. Until my boss, Ned, told me that they’d borrowed a projector from us for a meeting but forgotten one of the cords, so could I run it over to them?

    I was pretty thrilled about this as it was a 20 or so minute walk both ways in the sunshine, so I went off on my way. The conference centre was huge, and being too shy to ask the staff for help I decided to check every single door on every single floor. It took me about half an hour to finally find a door with our company’s name on the whiteboard.

    I rapped on it once, opened the door, and found a very small room with about 8 older men in it, all dressed very formally in suits, discussing something intently. They all looked up and stared, baffled, at this 20-year-old girl wearing a band t-shirt and denim shorts triumphantly holding up a cord.

    One of them came over and asked me to leave as this was a private meeting. I explained I had been asked to bring them this cord. I kept saying “Ned sent me”. They clearly had no idea who Ned was, which was inconceivable to me as clearly Ned was the most important person in the world, being my manager. They very impatiently told me they did not have a projector and did not need a cord and could I please leave. So I slunk out the door, only to find three rooms away a much larger, more informal gathering with a non-functional projector and a guy saying “They said they were sending someone over!”

    When I told him I’d accidentally stuck my head into the other room, the guy actually gasped and said that the CEO and execs were having some sort of “top secret” meeting. I’ll never know if this is the topic that I walked in on, but a few weeks later they laid off thousands of people.

    Ned asked me what took me so long and I was too embarrassed to tell him the story so I just said I got lost on the way to the hotel, which was a tall landmark that was clearly visible from our office. :/

    1. Dr Sarah*

      I now want this to be on a sitcom with an extra scene in which you *go back to* the top secret meeting to say “Sorry, can I have the cord back?” All filmed from the POV of the people in the fancy-schmancy meeting with this girl in shorts popping in at inopportune moments.

  29. Blinded By the Gaslight*

    Not my story, but one told to me by the person who did it: she was a cocktail waitress at a hotel bar popular with local business people. The bartender gave her a heads up that the gentleman at the table she was serving was the owner of a popular brand of jarred hot peppers. Being a spunky, charismatic kind of cocktail waitress, and having built a jovial relationship with the guests at that table so far that evening, when she checked on them after learning this new information, she said to Mr. Pepper, “Sooo, I hear you’re the one setting asses on fire all over town!” There were some shocked faces and odd reactions, so she said, “Aren’t you the Pepper guy?” thinking maybe the bartender played a trick on her or she had the wrong person. He confirmed he was Mr. Pepper, and everyone relaxed and laughed.

    When she told the bartender what she’d said and the weird reaction she got, he fell to pieces and told her Mr. Pepper was also gay.

      1. Blinded By the Gaslight*

        Thankfully, she said they later became friends and had a good laugh about her critical lack of context. But yeah, MORTIFYING.

    1. pancakes*

      Oh noooo. People like her are a reason to avoid talking about liking spicy food with strangers! I don’t ever want to hear the butt pain jokes, and much of the US hot sauce industry thinks they’re the height of wit.

  30. LinuxSystemsGuy*

    Alright, no one else is supporting #12, so here I am. I was “on call” as vendor support rep. There were about six of us in the department, spread across the US, with one person “on call” per week. When on call, our job was essentially to taken after hours help desk calls and try to help based on our general knowledge of the product and whatever documentation existed for any given customer. If we couldn’t fix the problem our first point of escalation was the “owner” of the customer. Since our company was notorious for one-off “special snowflake” installations, we often had to escalate. There was always something weird in any given install.

    To give you an idea, I was on call in the neighborhood of 50 times across the over five years I worked for this company, and I maybe got ten calls. It was not common. Of those ten calls I maybe had to escalate four. So even less common. All this to say we didn’t live our lives expecting to be called for escalation, but it *could* always happen

    So I got an on-call at around 11EST. I tried to solve the problem for an hour-plus. It was a little after midnight EST when I was forced to call my colleague in CA. It was only 9:00 his time, but he was out with his wife and some friends. He seemed… off , but not horribly. He said he’d need an hour to get home (I’ve been to San Francisco, this did not seem unreasonable). I continued to flounder for a bit over an hour with the customer not really sure what weirdness was causing their issue.

    Finally my coworker joins the meeting! I have the happies. He proceeds to immediate explain all the things I couldn’t figure out, and the situation improves immediately! Until the customer has to spend like two minutes checking something connected to, but not a part of, our system. During this wait, my coworker passes out. Hard. Snoring, not responding to prompts, just gone.

    We eventually muted him, but thankfully his initial five minutes gave me enough info to fix the problem relatively quickly. Half an hour later, we verified the problem was fixed, and ended the meeting. With my coworker snoring away in the background. The customer was cool, so there were no repercussions. Other than my periodic ribbing.

  31. ENFP in Texas*

    The hug story reminded me of this. It’s not work-related, but it was mortifying.

    I had become friends again with one of my ex-boyfriends. After five years of “wanting to kill him” were out of my system, I remembered that we had fun and were friends before we had started dating, so we talked via email and phone because I had since moved to another state.

    One Christmas I was visiting my hometown, and he and his new wife wanted to meet up for dinner. I thought it sounded like fun, so we picked a restaurant and a time.

    When I got there, I saw someone that I thought was him (keeping in mind I hadn’t seen him in 15 years and had never seen his wife), so I went up and gave him a huge bear hug from behind.

    Yeah… it wasn’t him. I wanted to die of embarrassment. Fortunately the guy was a good sport about it as I apologized prolifically.

    My ex and his wife got a really good laugh out of it when they showed up about five minutes later!!

    1. Vicky Austin*

      That at least was an honest mistake. The bathroom hugger, on the other hand….

  32. Brittney*

    On #7, I met someone that one of my friends knew one time, and they had recently had a baby, so I was congratulating her and asked how old baby was and she said something like 3 weeks and I blurted “Oh wow! It’s still FRESH!”

    She looked at me like I had 3 heads and I might or might not have literally run away after that.

  33. Whyblue*

    #13 – love the way she used the stapler to fix the blouse…talk about problem solving skills!

  34. Josephine*

    I was living in Australia and coming from a Nordic country I didn’t handle the heat very well.
    On one of the hottest days after work, I saw a guy wearing a thick Burberry scarf. I don’t know why it annoyed me so much but it did, maybe it was the heat. I texted my boyfriend to vent. Except I texted my boss instead… The texts included me saying I saw a guy with a scarf and how stupid it was and it included capital letters and multiple explanations points. The last text I sent said, “you think you’re so cool but you’re NOT!!”. I quickly apologized to say I meant to text my boyfriend. I hope I was quick enough and he didn’t see a message from me pop up on his phone that said “you think you’re so cool but you’re NOT!!”. I was so embarrassed.

  35. Al who is that Al*

    Suddenly remembered one that happened to my wife (Gloria) during Covid. High level conference with most of the companies European Offices on Teams during the pandemic. Gloria is at home in the UK. Camera view is of her and the top of a leather chesterfield sofa and the wallpaper, so normally no need to blur. We have Bengal cats, basically like a cat but delightfully not. Skip, our youngest but biggest Bengal is fast asleep on the to of the sofa, stretched out. The meeting goes on for a while, Skip stays fast asleep (when Bengals sleep, they really sleep). the leather sofa is a tiny bit slippy so gradually as the minutes pass he starts to very very slowly slip off the sofa. While Gloria is talking to the European factory chiefs, having gained enough momentum, Skip disappears off the back of the sofa.
    Gloria realises all the people on the call are staring at her. She says what? and gets various replies in French, German, Czech etc accents going “ze Kat, it iz gone!”

  36. Avery*

    Late to the party, but I only remembered this incident last night:
    Some weeks/months back, my boss called me and asked how I was. I said “good” or “fine” or some such, but didn’t reciprocate with the usual “And you?” I figured my boss would want to just cut to the chase–she never calls just to exchange niceties, after all–so I’d skip that part of the social script.
    There was an awkward pause for a couple seconds before my boss said that she was recovering from Covid, actually.
    I really should have taken the extra second to ask how she was doing first…

  37. stitchinthyme*

    The sheer number of horror stories I’ve heard that revolve around not being muted during a conference call has made me extra paranoid about making sure I’m muted at all times if I’m not actually speaking in the call. And even so, I still make sure not to say a word that isn’t intended for the meeting, or if I absolutely do have to speak to someone else who’s not on the call, I keep it short and safe for work. Just in case.

    1. Blinded By the Gaslight*

      Same. And I have stickers over my camera so I don’t accidentally flash people or reveal my disheveled, half-dressed, work-from-home appearance, LOL.

  38. Xaraja*

    I completely forgot about this story! I thought it was funny but I’m sure my boyfriend was embarrassed. We had just started dating, long distance, and we were on Google chat (back when that existed) all day long. I worked evenings and he worked a day job, in IT. One day, in the middle of the day, I was just getting out of the shower, and putting on some body lotion, and I sent him these two messages:
    All over
    Now you have to understand, we were sending THOUSANDS of messages back and forth during every day. So I have no earthly idea why he had his Google chat up on the projector in a meeting so that everyone who was in the meeting could see any messages that came in as a pop-up! Hell, I don’t know why he was signed in to his personal Gmail account on his work computer! But anyway, he quickly chatted back to me telling me that his whole meeting had seen that message and to hold off messaging for a while, and I did and I’ve been laughing about it for like 14 years ever since.

  39. MillennialHR*

    When I was in my early 20s, I was working at a very casual office job. I didn’t really have much managerial oversight and often worked late hours to accommodate interviews. A guy in the office (late 20s) was also working late (6pm) one night so I stopped in to chat with him about the upcoming Christmas holiday. I had a medical problem at the time and needed to sit so in my youth and lack of professional experience…I sat on the other desk in the room because there were no chairs.

    The guy was really awkward but said nothing about me sitting on the desk. I wasn’t dressed inappropriately or interacting inappropriately, but he did tell me he was gay during our discussion. I’m a woman and an ally, so I was supportive and thanked him for telling me.

    The next day, his supervisor calls me into the office – his supervisor and I were equals in the company structure and were friendly outside of work as well and I had met his kids and wife. He told me that my “sexual advances” had made the guy very uncomfortable. I was shocked and horrified – I hadn’t meant for anything to come across like that! I avoided him like the plague after, even though he attempted conversation with me so I just politely smiled and walked away.

    When he quit (with no notice, two weeks after his accusation), he told his supervisor he could tell he was “hurting me too much” and every time he looked at me he “saw my pain”. Nah, my dude, you just embarrassed me and made me realize how very important professionalism is!! My boss called me into her office after he left and asked that I make sure I let them know if I see him following me in his car or hanging out around the office and I needed an escort to my car for two weeks after he left. I am still horrified and embarrassed that sitting on his desk led to all of that! Now that I’m older and understand professional norms, I haven’t sat on a desk since!

    1. Yikes!*

      I’m so sorry that happened to you! I wonder if he gained any insight as he got older or if there were other unfortunate incidents in his future? Some men (of any orientation) perceive that women are hitting on them even when they aren’t. It’s why so many young retail workers have stories of men thinking the workers were “into them” when the workers were simply doing their jobs with normal customer service.
      (Of course, there are women who will also mistake interest in them, but it’s disproportionately men who mistakenly see sexual advances that simply aren’t there and would not be seen by anyone else.)

      1. MillennialHR*

        I hope he did learn as I did over the years since – I think he may also have been a little nervous about professing his sexuality in a professional environment and that may have led into it too. I hope now he’s feeling more confident in himself and realizes that if he’s uncomfortable and can speak up when he is too!

  40. GlitterIsEverything*

    All these Zoom stories managed to revive a memory I must have tried to bury…

    Sometime late 2020, my company started doing mandatory all-employee meetings by Zoom, typically right after clinic finished. At the time, we had around 450 employees.

    Most of the time, these meetings could have been an email. So lots of people just turned the meeting on and let it run in the background.

    One meeting, someone clearly had her phone / tablet set up next to the bathtub while she was taking a bath. She had a pseudonym on her Zoom profile, and the camera was directed away from her face. Which was ok-ish (I mean, in a Zoom meeting of several hundred people, what’s the likelihood this one person’s feed is going to be visible, right?). UNTIL SHE STOOD UP. Full-screen view of her nude body from behind. Ok, ok, this is bad, but it’s survivable.

    But then she walked away from the tub, picked something up, and WALKED BACK INTO THE TUB. Full frontal nudity from the shoulders to the knees, visible to any one of 400+ people who might have her feed as part of their view.

    It was clear the next day that she was the 3rd or 4th person to get on the call that night, because most of us were new enough to Zoom at that point that we didn’t know we could change our views, and most of the clinic was talking about it.

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