Mortification Week: the mud disaster, the dream lunch, and other stories to cringe over

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 15 mortifying stories to kick off today.

1. The exposure

This week I was woken up by a call from my manager asking where I was—our company meeting (virtual) had started. (I had managed to sleep through my alarms and was an hour late logging on.

In a panic, I jump out of bed, rush to my computer, and am pounding keys to try to get my computer and then zoom up and running as fast as possible. I am so stressed about this that I manage to not notice that, for the first time EVER my camera is on. And I am naked.

I drop to the floor PRAYING that my entire company has not seen me fully naked and spend what feels like hours (was like 30 seconds crawling on the floor with just my head slightly above my desk trying to figure out how to turn off a camera that I have never turned on.

A coworker did confirm that she watched it all and was laughing, but that nothing was shown that couldn’t be excused by claiming that I was wearing a tube top … still don’t know if that helps or not.

2. The naps

My company has a room designated for nursing mothers to pump breast milk, which can be reserved using the same system as our conference rooms. For some reason, though, management euphemistically decided to call this room the “Wellness Room,” and for several years before I realized the room’s true purpose, I — a young, cisgender man — would schedule time in the room to literally go take naps. I even used to refuse requests from my female colleagues with new children to move my block of time. What was I thinking??

3. The group call

Group audio call where VP said some smoke and mirrors fluff and I said aloud, “Yeah right.” I was NOT on mute and have a distinctive voice. Whoopsie ;-)

4. The group call, part 2

When chat systems were still kinda new, I was at work at a small-ish company. I was seated beside someone who was 1) loud, 2) repeated himself two to three times, and 3) was on a phone call. I messaged a friend, “OMG, make him stop talking! He’s repeated himself three times already! Even I know the answer!” Unfortunately, she was in a meeting, projecting her screen, with about 15 other people including our boss and grand-boss, and, well, I could hear the gales of laughter from my desk.

We all learned how to mute chat when in meetings after that.”

5. The group call, part 3

Many years ago I had a boss that literally no one liked. She was petty, rude, inflexible, and pretty much any other annoying trait you can think of. In a company re-org, three large offices had been folded into one so we worked at many different locations and didn’t really know each other.

One day we had a staff meeting that included about 15 of us in a conference room and everyone else, including the boss, dialed in from their locations. In the middle of our boss going on about some thing or another that we all needed to improve, someone joined late, pressed a phone key instead of saying his name, and didn’t mute. He was either talking to someone at his location or on another call at the same time.

We all got to hear him say out loud on the line something like, “Yeah, it’s another meeting with the old bag. Every meeting is literally useless.” He went on and on as the boss’s deputy, who was in the conference room with us, kept saying loudly, “You are not muted! Whoever is talking, your mic is live! Mute your mic! It’s a live mic! Mute your mic!”

As the insults continued to roll in via the clueless guy who must have not even had the phone up to his ear, both the boss and deputy boss just stopped talking as we listened to him complain about “all she ever does is yap yap yap, she doesn’t even understand our jobs.” Finally it stopped, and the boss said, “Did you want to go on? You have strong opinions about me, it seems.” Then a click and the computer phone lady said ‘*BEEP* has just left the call.’

We all sat in stunned silence. The man sitting next to me had been silently laughing for several minutes, his entire body shaking. I could feel the shaking next to me and when I looked at him when it was finally over I saw the tears running down his face. After a few moments my boss said, “Moving on” and continued like nothing had happened.”

6. The spill

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

7. The sample

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

8. The dream lunch

One time during an interview I was asked to name the person, alive or dead, that I would most want to have lunch with. I blurted out JonBenet Ramsay without even thinking of it. Shockingly, I did not get the job.

In my defense, that story was EVERYWHERE during my formative years and I really want to know who did it.

9. The AssMan

Once, long long ago, someone handed a resume back before online apps were a thing.

He had shortened Assistant Manager to AssMan several times.

Wasn’t hired for several other large red flags.

10. The outsourcing

My boss had asked me to do some follow-up phone calls, inviting donors to a gala for a client of ours. I felt awkward making these phone calls, and after a few, I was over it. I asked my friend (who had recently lost her job) if she wanted to make the calls, pretending to be me. I offered to pay her and take her out to dinner. I headed to the pool and took a secret day off.

She called one donor who was actually a close family friend of mine. I didn’t realize he was on the list. They small talked for about five minutes, him thinking it was me. When my friend eventually ask if he and his wife could come to the gala, he got confused – his wife had recently passed away. I even went to the funeral! My friend acted as if she just found out, saying she was so sorry to hear about his loss. I was absolutely mortified when she filled me in later.

11. Calendar entry reading "sex"The calendar entry

I decided to attend an on-campus lecture about sex trafficking and duly noted it on our shared work calendar.  See attached for how it actually showed up on said calendar.  That required some explaining… and comments about how it was marked as tentative. :-)

12. Tell me about yourself

In college, I once answered the question “tell me about yourself” with an entire family history and a talk about where I came from and my hobbies. Think along the lines of, “Well, I come from city, state and have 3 brothers and 2 nieces. My dog just turned three last week and likes to listen to me practice the trumpet.” I went on like that for a solid 2 minutes before they cut me off and continued the interview.

13. The mud

My embarrassing story just happened. I’m relatively new in my job, which is the first I’ve had with a more formal dress code and a conservative office culture. I bike to work once a week out of necessity which is very unusual in my area. Usually I bike in exercise clothes, and change and clean up when I get downtown before entering the building. I got caught in some unexpected rain a few days ago and I live on a dirt road. I was COVERED in mud head to toe. Like, I looked like I had just completed one of those mud obstacle courses. It was in my mouth. EVERYWHERE. And I was in town too early for anything to be open for me to clean up in before getting to my building. I ended up parking my bike by a river on a main road, climbing down the rocks to the water, and washing off my face, arms, and chest in the river before I changed my clothes. I still had mud on my face and shoes when I got inside. I was also so damp- I ended up asking my partner to bring me dry socks on my lunch break. But no one has said anything to me about seeing me in the river on their drive in, so hopefully I’ve gotten away with that. I’m not leaving the house without checking the weather again!

14. The grad student

I was still a grad student, so this was an on-campus, single first year course. There was another class right after mine. I regularly ran ten minutes over. Right there I am a self-absorbed ass. The grad student instructor finally comes up to me and says, “Please, you have to finish on time so my students can get seated.” I looked right at him and said, “Don’t be such an asshole, I’m not DONE.”


Yeah, I found him after class and apologized. A lot. And stopped my class scrupulously on time from then on.

15. The dirty talk

My first office job, aged 21, working in the same place as my spouse. They had a shared office and I worked on the line. I opened their door, thinking they were alone, and launched into the raunchiest possible list of things I was going to do to them— their office mate had bent down to fill a file box and heard everything. I was mortified. Spouse was mortified. Office mate mortified. I don’t think I ever entered that office again, and now as a rule won’t work with my spouse ever again (for other valid reasons lol)

{ 230 comments… read them below }

  1. The Original K.*

    #2: I had a boss who actually encouraged me (childless cis woman) to use the wellness rooms to nap (I struggle with insomnia, which she knew). They were the only rooms in the building with couches. You reserved them on Outlook like any other shared room, and she was like “if a room is available, go for it.” I didn’t go for it because there were two nursing women on our team and I knew scheduling was tough, but at least know that there are others who are fine with wellness rooms being used this way!

    1. EPLawyer*

      Yeah if you don’t want people to use it for other than pumping, don’t call it a wellness room.

      1. Antilles*

        To me, “wellness room” doesn’t even convey that it’s intended for pumping – the name makes me think of yoga or gym equipment or other “company wellness” initiatives.

        1. Thorn*

          Definitely think that the company’s reticence around the naming was the real problem here, though mortification over not moving your time is valid.

      2. Lactating Librarian*

        There is a long, stupid history of impenetrable euphemisms being used for women’s health issues. Whenever I visit a new drug store, I like to make a game out of guessing “What Did They Call the Aisle With the Period Products In It?”

        Basically, don’t make lactating parents suffer because a room is poorly named.

        1. EPLawyer*

          When this was thing for me (hello menopause my friend) I just wandered the aisles until I saw familiar looking boxes.

        2. Thorn*

          I’m on a business trip today and started my period. I was DELIGHTED that the local CVS had a section labeled “maxi pads.” Hallelujah

        3. Anonymousse*

          Yes, this. Let’s not pretend it’s not because some are so offended or disgusted by “lactation room” or “nursing mothers” room. The world is so hard for mothers already. We have to clean it up so much that cost straight 20 year old guys have no idea that it’s not a napping room? Can people who have worked places with a “napping room” please come forward. What jobs do you get paid to nap at?

          1. The Original K.*

            I have actually heard of companies that have “nap pods.” Google and Ben & Jerry’s, to name two major ones.

          2. OP2*

            100% this. My company is headquartered in a fairly liberal city in a “Western” country, but our field offices are in fairly conservative Global South locations where it’s common for women to simply leave the workforce while they have young children. The sense I got upon finding out the room’s true purpose is that management was terrified that word would “get out” among our field staff that HQ had a room for nursing mothers and trigger a mass resignation in multiple offices for reasons of cultural sensitivity, and they thus named this room so no one could claim HQ had a “lactation room” even though that’s the intended purpose. After years of actually getting to know my field colleagues, I can nearly guarantee that they would *not* resign en masse in such a situation — but our C-suite still acts like it’s 1985 in many, many ways, and everyone from mortified 20-something men who just want to do the right thing to (more importantly!) women who need to pump suffers.

            1. pancakes*

              “The sense I got upon finding out the room’s true purpose is that management was terrified that word would ‘get out’ among our field staff that HQ had a room for nursing mothers and trigger a mass resignation in multiple offices for reasons of cultural sensitivity . . .”

              That’s terrible. Did many people really seem that tightly wound about mothers being present? Good riddance to anyone who’d leave a job on account of it giving mothers a private place to pump.

              1. OP2*

                Last June, our HQ management for the first time put out a fairly blasé internal statement in support of LGBTQ+ rights during global Pride month, and we immediately had a rash of resignations among longtime field employees. Things are weird here around any sort of cultural topics, and corporate management is very, very, very tightly wound about these things.

                1. OP2*

                  The flip side of this is that I — a cisgendered but *not* heterosexual man — am reasonably confident that HQ management, who are aware of my nonstraight sexuality, are not going to send me to one of our operating countries where it would be actively dangerous for me to visit. Double-edged sword, for sure, to management’s tightly-wound nature.

        4. Reluctant Mezzo*

          On King of the Hill, it was known as Aisle 8A (with the ‘ointments’) during the episode that Bobby’s friend…became mature.

        5. Vio*

          there was a recent controversy here when some supermarkets decided to actually name the aisles “PERIOD PRODUCTS”. most people supported the renaming but there were, of course, complaints of it being ‘improper’ and even accusations that the company were trying to “shame women out of buying them” of all things

      3. CoveredinBees*

        Yes, one of the many reasons I find euphemisms unhelpful most of the time. The term “wellness room” makes me picture a water cooler, maybe some healthy snacks, and a quiet space to meditate. Not pumping.

        Also, naps can get moved more readily than pumping (I speak from experience with both), so it should also clarify priorities in use for things like pumping or medical needs. e.g. A former colleague needed to give herself an injection on a regular basis at specific time and she had to wait for a period of time after because sometimes her blood pressure would dip, leading to fainting.

    2. Meow*

      I mean, depending on the size of the office, it does probably make sense to try to make pumping rooms multi-purpose. But everyone needs to be completely aware that pumping gets absolute priority. While OP was obviously in the wrong, at the same time, the more I think about it, it’s probably not reasonable to expect everyone to be conscientious enough about pumping to understand how difficult it is for people who are nursing to find and get adequate time to pump each day. I certainly didn’t realize how complicated it was until I had a baby.

    3. Katie*

      So my assumption is that the wellness room is not just a lactation room but for other wellness needs as well. Needing a nap because of insomnia issues falls in that category.

      I don’t know LW issues and maybe they did have legitimate reasons for needing these naps or maybe they just liked naps.

      1. The Original K.*

        I suppose they were technically for all wellness needs, but no one used them for anything other than pumping. I don’t think they were described as “rooms for general wellness” either.

      2. Slovenly Braid Cultist*

        I think it depends on a lot of factors. We have a ‘wellness room’ that is definitely intended to meet the criteria for accommodating people who need to pump and I think has been used for that purpose, but for the bulk of the time we’ve been in the space, there has not been anyone who needs that accommodation. It seems silly to think no one should ever be allowed to use that room for other purposes in the meantime!

        Taking a nap in the wellness room if it’s otherwise unoccupied seems reasonable to me. (I’ve done it when I had an awful headache.) The problem is really refusing to yield to people needing to pump, they should have priority in schedule.

        1. Mac*

          I just wish the OP would clarify if he knew the new moms wanted it for milk-pumping purposes, or if he thought they too were just interested in a little snooze.

          1. Hlao-roo*

            OP2 wrote he did this “for several years before I realized the room’s true purpose.” He thought the women wanted the room for a nap, or some other generic “wellness” activity, and because he booked it first why should their naps take priority over his?

              1. Anonymousse*

                I’m shocked no one talked to you. You still work there? You’re “that guy.”

                1. OP2*

                  I do still work here, yes, and mercifully, I am on very good terms with the woman who eventually, kindly and discreetly, talked to me about it. And since that time, nearly the entire rest of the office has turned over — although I suspect that some people still remember me as “that guy.” Twenty-some-odd me had far too much confidence about far too many things.

              1. catsoverpeople*

                How was he supposed to know what he didn’t know? It’s not LW2’s fault the purpose of the room was vaguely worded, and it’s not his fault it took several years for anyone to explain it to him.

      3. Artemesia*

        The thing ‘wellness room’ suggests to me is a place to go if you are sick. We really don’t want contagious people in the lactation room.

        1. Koalafied*

          If you’re sick, the place you go is home! We don’t want contagious people in the office.

    4. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      I get light-sensitive headaches, and the best thing I can do for them is to lie down in an absolutely dark room. If we had a wellness room with suitable light levels, I would absolutely book it for that if one came on and it had an opening. (Being able to do this was the best part about working from home.)

      It wouldn’t occur to me to do this in something labelled a lactation room, because that’s not what it’s for, which is a great argument for labeling things properly if you don’t want people using them for other stuff. (Although it would occur to me to just go sit in the supply closet or file vault with the light off, since I don’t need privacy, just darkness, and I’m long past caring who thinks I’m a weirdo.)

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes if something is called the “wellness room” I’m likely to go in and do the stretches my physio has given me but which I don’t want to do in public. I wouldn’t do that in a lactation room. If something has a purpose then name it correctly.

        My company has a “prayer and reflection room” a “first aid room (with a couch in)” and a “new parent’s room.” That way we know what we can do in each of the rooms when we’re booking them.

      2. Minimal Pear*

        LOL, the very first time I had a migraine I was VERY light sensitive–and also in middle school. They literally just stuffed me in a pitch-black closet (with a cot!) in the front office until my mother could come retrieve me. (She’s gotten a few migraines, so luckily I knew EXACTLY what was happening to me.)

    5. H.C.*

      Our “wellness rooms” don’t do double duty as lactation rooms, so it’s really meant for decompressing, quick naps, etc. But yeah, given it’s vague name I can see how its purpose would vary from workplace to workplace.

    6. Lizzianna*

      When I was pumping, I know at least one person reserved the room for a nap every afternoon. He had a chronic health condition and would get fatigued if he didn’t lie down for 30 min after lunch. I didn’t mind sharing the space and working around his reservation. If someone else has been using the room without disclosing the reason, I would have given them the benefit of the doubt too. If non-nursing mother’s are monopolizing the room, that should be a signal that a company needs more rooms, not that we should take it upon ourselves to decide which needs are more “real.”

    7. OP2*

      OP2 here: We have a “wellness room” (intended for pumping and other medical needs, but pumping first and foremost) and a “meditation room” (intended for rest, use during Islamic prayer times for those who prefer to pray privately, etc.). There’s no standing guidance posted anywhere on which room is to be used for which things, but the company moved into this office only a few weeks before I joined, and apparently guidelines *were* sent out in an email just before they moved. Bad timing, and worse onboarding…

      At the time, I was perhaps too steeped in ideas of what “professional men” should do and didn’t want to reserve a “meditation room,” so I chose the “wellness room” instead. When someone finally informed me of the room’s intended purpose, I promptly changed habits (which really just meant drinking more coffee in a vain attempt to stave off sleepiness) and I’ll never live down the mortification! Ah, good times in the pre-Covid universe.

      1. Anonymousse*

        So you saw the fridge in there and wipes and assumed??

        This is just so funny to me.

        1. OP2*

          I mean, I’m not entirely sure *what* I assumed. I was 22 or 23 and fresh out of college when I joined this company — and I’m very glad to be able to laugh at my idiocy now! :D

      2. Jane*

        Don’t feel too bad – when I was pumping, the cool guys in the office brought a ping pong table into what was called the “relaxation room” because apparently calling the breast pumping room was too yucky to say. So, I ended up pumping in the handicapped stall of the women’s bathroom because the guys wouldn’t stop their game so I could pump. They didn’t believe that I couldn’t just wait (hours) until they were done. It will come as no surprise to anyone that they were fintech bros.

        1. OP2*

          A ping-pong table? How on earth did they get it into the office unnoticed — or did management sanction it? Now *I’m* the one with questions!

      3. Infant Feeding Lead*

        Memories of trying to find a room for a colleague who needed to pump, and being directed to get her to use the room that was generically named but, in practice, used for prayers. A senior manager who left at tbe height of the issue, assured me he would be watching the local news to find out if there were angry pickets outside tbe building. (It did not come to that). Extra hilarity because everyone complaining was not happy to say or write ‘breasts’, so heavy circumlocution was the order of the day.

        Reader – I was working in public health in the NHS.

    8. MCMonkeyBean*

      I think using it for naps is probably reasonable, but I also think if you plan to do so you have to recognize that unless you have like a medical reason that you genuinely need to nap it has got to be the lowest priority thing that room could possibly be used for and if people are actively asking you to please reschedule you should definitely do so! Unless for some reason they are asking you to reschedule your nap so that they can take a nap but I think it’s safe to assume that’s probably not going to be the case…

  2. Atlantic Toast Conference*

    “As far as the State of New York is concerned, you ARE the Assman!”

    (had to)

        1. Sunrise Ruby*

          Same here! I hasten to add, too, that a professional AssMan always has the best stories at parties.

  3. Bow Ties Are Cool*

    I have got to stop reading these while I’m actually in the office. I think I pulled a muscle stifling laughter.

  4. Heidi*

    OMG. The one about JonBenet Ramsay. I need help. I’m going back and forth between laughing and feeling like a terrible person for laughing.

    1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

      I think it’s just such a random answer and one they immediately blurted out that I’m finding hilarious. Not the tragedy…but yeah I feeling the exact same way. Feels wrong to laugh but also, I can’t stop.

      1. Missb*

        JonBonet Ramsey was a beautiful little blond girl whose parents had her doing child beauty pageants. She was murdered. No one knows who did it. IIRC, she was at home.

        1. quill*

          Ah. On the one hand, there is a very morbid interpretation, but also, if we’re resurrecting people for the span of an hour long lunch, maybe a kid deserves the time?

          1. LinuxSystemsGuy*

            I think what what this answer fails to convey is that this story was *everywhere* for *years*. She was killed in 1996, and it was at least 1999 before the major tabloids stopped mentioning it in every issue (most of them were weeklies). They were constantly publishing “theory as fact” stories about what monsters her parents were, how one or both of them must be guilty, or about random “mystery men” that must have done it (often but not always at her parents behest).

            Don’t get me wrong, the mainstream media wrote more serious articles and stories too, but the tabloids were *obsessed*. Since almost all grocery stores, convenience stores or pharmacies had all these tabloids displayed prominently by the cash registers you couldn’t avoid it. At the time saying you wanted to have lunch with JonBenét wouldn’t necessarily come across as morbid. More like “shallow” or “pop culture obsessed” maybe?

            1. quill*

              That makes a lot more sense. I was thinking, it might be thought of more as a true crime fanatic type thing. “I want to have lunch with the dead kid so I can solve her murder” type deal.

              1. Princesss Sparklepony*

                That was what I was thinking. Bring her back and ask her who killed her. I actually thought that was a cool answer. Somewhat altruistic in a way…

                1. catsoverpeople*

                  Same here! I’d ask the interviewee to explain that answer, at least, to get the full story of why they picked her name. Of course, being into “true crime” blogs, podcasts, TV shows and whatever else as a hobby is a lot more socially acceptable and trendy today than it was in the 90s / early 00s.

            2. Kacihall*

              I went to the same college as her brother. Ten years after the murder, my mother found out and basically wanted me to get gossip about it. I don’t think she meant this to be in a negative sense – just the OP, she just wanted more answers! (But it really is so ghoulish. The look I gave my mom meant I only got that suggestion once at least! )

              1. Clisby*

                Oh, gosh, and the tabloids published insinuations that the brother could have had something to do with her death. The whole thing was crazy.

              2. pancakes*

                Was she thinking everyone in the vicinity knew who did it or something? And keeping it to an open secret amongst themselves, somehow, for reasons? The story is lurid enough as it is without thinking many dozens of people (?) are protecting someone.

            3. Sam I Am*

              Yes, totally. Many Americans would immediately recognize a picture of JonBenet Ramsey, because you saw it *constantly* on magazine/tabloid covers and TV specials. I was a preadolescent kid in 1996 but I still have strong memories of this.

              In retrospect, it’s a really stark example of the “missing white woman syndrome,” where beautiful, young, white victims get tons of airtime, while crimes against BIPOC women and children are often ignored by the media.

              1. Irish Teacher*

                Yeah, I’m in Ireland and remember flicking through my Gran’s “National Enquirers,” which I found HILARIOUS when I was a teen and their having articles about it. I don’t think JonBenet really made much news over here – certainly I didn’t hear mention of it (our news sources tend to be less sensational anyway, so it would probably have been “six year old girl murdered in America”) – and the articles were clearly assuming you knew the background, so I got the general impression it was big news in America. I couldn’t quite make out the details beyond “child died and people are speculating if the parents or another family member are involved” both because it was the “National Enquirer” and I assumed their report wasn’t the most accurate and because they were assuming a certain level of familiarity with the case when that was the first I heard of it.

            4. Kit*

              Oh my goodness yes. I couldn’t provide an accurate count, but I’m entirely certain that the headlines – and just of national publications, not local ones! – saying something along the lines of “Who Killed JonBenet?” numbered in the thousands. I was seeing it in grocery store checkout lines for years after the fact, and honestly if a true crime special about it showed up on the TV even now I wouldn’t be surprised.

              I also get the abiding desire to know who did it, because it’s an unresolved question that was kept front-of-mind for so many people. Ghoulishly inappropriate in an interview, but comprehensible.

            5. Le Sigh*

              It was all across cable news, too. IIRC, she was found dead on Christmas Day, which probably on heightened everything. The video loops of her performing at pageants were near constant on cable news. And you’re right, the media made news out of this for years, cross-examining everything about the family, from mental health to how much money they had, whether a 6yo should be in beauty pageants, etc. I feel like that and the OJ Simpson murder trial are two of the big ones that are completely seared into my memory.

        2. Meep*

          She wasn’t naturally blonde. Her mother dyed her hair blonde. This girl was six when she was murdered.

      2. Fluffyfish*

        She was a very young child who was active in child beauty pageants who was horrifically murdered in the family home. The police mucked up the case from the start and they’ve never found the murderer. There’s a lot of suspicion on the family or at least someone the family knew based on the circumstances. And a lot of shade was thrown on the child pageant scene as well.

        Just a very sad story.

        1. Meep*

          The main problem is that they let the parents interfere and the parents were at least borderline abusive, but rich.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            And the crime scene wasn’t kept isolated. Friends & family walked all over the house while the investigation was happening.

            It’s very sad but also shows how not following procedures mucks up an investigation.

    2. Regina Phalange*

      Same. I gasp/laughed very loudly. I also have a very dark sense of humor…but I think it’s more just what a random and shocking answer it is.

  5. Mystery Squid :)*

    Okay seeing all these mortification week posts have made me realize I have a tale to tell from one of my first jobs post-college… I work in higher ed student administration and the university I work for uses google integration (so everything uses gmail, etc.) This also happened to be the university I attended, so I had been in the habit of checking my email and such at home because a lot of my personal stuff was still connected up to it and hadn’t been moved to a different personal account.

    Anyway, one evening I was watching an artist stream something on youtube and I decided I wanted to leave a nice comment in the chat. Youtube did the little popup thing prompting me to make an account and for obvious reasons, I was not gonna put my real name in there so I posted as “Mystery Squid” and went about my day.

    It was not until the next day that I realize I had been logged into my university email in another tab and (since google had recently acquired youtube) this had synced this new account/name with my university/work account…. I learned this because my supervisor came over and said ” what is your email again? I’m trying to send you something but the only person coming up is this Mysterious Squid person.”

    Cue the horrendous realization that I was now Mystery Squid at work. I went back to youtube and to my gmail profile to see if I could save myself and change it back, but because it was a university account and not a google one, all the name change locations were disabled. I was trapped.

    I ended up spending an hour on the phone with IT, quietly wishing I could crawl into a hole and sink into the abyss, letting them walk me through all of the “was your account compromised or hacked” procedures because I was too embarrassed to tell them that I did this to myself.

    The real kicker? They told me it would take 48 hours for the change to show up again. I had to carry on for the next two days emailing many dozens of students as a mysterious squid. Shout out to the web team coworker who, when I apologized for my sorry state, humored me and said he didn’t notice because it sounded like the google docs anonymous animal names.

    Fortunately, after the 48 hours was up, the embarrassment gave way to this being one of my best party stories.

    1. quill*

      Dying here because I just had to sort out my microsoft account, which was a similar level of bull but at least confined to my personal laptop.

    2. Books and Cooks*

      Ha! You’re not the only one who did something like this! When Google Plus started, I was annoyed at being forced to fill out a Plus profile, so I wrote my name in as “No No,” and basically put “NO” in every box I could. Didn’t think anything of it, until the next day when my agent replied to one of my emails with, “Who is No No?”

      (I still find it incredibly annoying the way Google etc. insist on tying all of your accounts together or trying to make you do so.)

      1. coffee*

        I really hate the way they then try to connect you to people you know on one platform to another platform. No thank you.

    3. MCMonkeyBean*

      This is hilarious, and at least it was a cute and inoffensive name you accidentally saddled yourself with at work!

  6. Meep*

    #14 – If it makes you feel any better, I had a professor who was consistently 10 minutes late and would drone on for 15 minutes after class was supposed to end. If anyone got up to leave to go to their next class, they were treated to another lecture about how disrespectful that was and how we didn’t value HIS time. After the third time, I stopped caring, because I had class clear across campus and this man didn’t care about my time. After I told him off, he was on time the rest of the semester.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I bet all the other students LOVE you for that. I love you for that and I’m not even one of those students.

    2. Rolly*

      “Sorry, I have another class” and leave. It’s basic. Kids/people should be taught to to this.

      “After I told him off, he was on time the rest of the semester.”

      Well done!

    3. Astrid*

      I’m wondering if I’m misremembering this one – for some reason, I thought the grad student didn’t realize they were in the wrong until someone else pointed it out to them. However, it came about, I’m glad they apologized and stopped running over.

      1. Meep*

        Yeah. He realized how wrong he was AFTER he got snarky, but he realized. In this case, I am mostly saying at least LW#14 wasn’t this guy.

    4. Foofoo*

      I had a prof that did the same and would lecture/talk down to us about how important his class was and nothing else we had should trump it. Someone tried to say that they had a job they had to get to and he went off about how his course was important because we could get BETTER jobs by being educated. Except he missed the point that some of us were working to PAY for college and without our jobs we couldn’t go to his class.

      Yeah, he was really caught up in his own ass and 10 to 20 minutes over was not unusual for him.

    5. Teach*

      Wow! If I was the next instructor coming in and got that bloated-head response, I would instead appeal to the students and ask them to please leave so I could teach my class. I bet they’d zoom out.

    6. MM*

      I cannot fathom how this is possible. I am still in agony about the single, solitary time I was late to teach, three years ago. Nor can I fathom blithely going over when the next class is obviously waiting right there. I’m flabbergasted.

    7. Vicky Austin*

      I remember when I was a senior in high school, and had just learned that in college, there are no bells to mark the end of the class like there are in high school. I asked my dad, “So what happens if the professor goes over time?” He replied, “One of two things happens. Either someone will say they have another class to go to, or someone will lie and say that they have another class to go to!”

    8. Very Social*

      Ha, I remember in college a professor complaining that we were all getting ready to go 5-10 minutes before the hour. Someone explained to him that he may have thought of the class as ending at 12 (or whatever it was), but our schedule said the class ended at 11:50, and we had other places to be at 12!

  7. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

    The JonBenet in one…the sheer randomness of the answer has me rolling.

    To be fair, that question is super weird to ask in a job interview, and I never understood why it’s ask or what person(s) they’d feel were a good answer. But a child murder victim, probably not on the list.

    1. Jora Malli*

      I super side eye people who ask this question in job interviews. What information are they getting from that answer that will give them insight on what kind of employee I’m likely to be? It’s incredibly useless.

      If you’re on an awkward blind date and you’ve run out of things to talk about, then sure, ask them this question. But in a job interview? No thank you.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Yeah, for me I might answer it with some dead uber geek, like Nikola Tesla or Albert Einstein, but if it caught me off guard I might name some current affairs person, like Volodymyr Zelenskyy, President of Ukraine.

        But as an interview question the level of signal to noise is really low. It tells you very little about the person.

    2. pancakes*

      It is a silly and bad question, but I wouldn’t assume that people who ask it have a particular answer in mind. It’s a way to see how candidates handle a small bit of unstructured time that isn’t focused on their qualifications or work history. I’ve been asked similarly silly questions before taking part in focus groups.

      Fwiw I’m not sure I’d say Jon Benet Ramsey is a categorical no, either. It doesn’t seem like this person said their thinking was to ask her who did it? It would still be a risky answer, but not quite as risky as just saying her name and leaving it at that. It’s not intuitive what state she’s meant to be in. Maybe I read the anecdote wrong, obvi.

      There are some lines of work where a bit of gallows humor sometimes comes with the territory, but even then, probably best not to try it during the interview stage.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah, honestly I think it’s kind of an interesting answer to a weird interview question.

    3. urguncle*

      Our HR software has “get to know you questions” that are sent as company-wide emails when someone new starts. It does not tell you that this is the case. It’s not my style, but the intention is that they’re probably good ice-breakers. One recent new hire put that one of the people he wanted to have dinner with was Werner Von Braun. Sure, you can say, maybe it was because he was an integral part of going to the moon. Well, that was part of it, but this person specifically mentioned his, erm, work history. He seemed really embarrassed and thought it was only going to his boss, but I’m still questioning why that would be ok.

      1. FisherCat*

        I got asked this question once, on the spot, and said Woodrow Wilson. I have no idea why. I’m not particularly interested in presidential history or the Wilson administration, and I’m pretty sure there’s 40ish people out there somewhere who were in that room and assume I have similar opinions to Woodrow Wilson (shudder) because I panicked when put on the spot.

    4. Yoyoyo*

      A former job used to have us to group interviews where the candidate would attend a team meeting. It was the type of job that attracted people right out of college and quickly burned them out, and it was not a paragon of professionalism. My team of people in their early 20s was OBSESSED with always having to ask the candidate, “If you were a candy bar, what would you be and why?” I cringe thinking back on it.

    1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

      It was sperm in the bag. And then what she said to the doctor. ;)

      1. kittycontractor*

        Alternative spellings! TBF I had to (quietly, thank god) say it out loud to catch it.

      2. Yeah... I'm staying anon on this one.*

        Depending on the logistics of things, the bag may have only had an empty sterile container. My experience is that a sample needs to be collected less than hour before it’s delivered, and depending on distance to the clinic, or work arrangements…

    2. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      I read it a couple of times when it was first posted and just didn’t understand it. This time I finally got it!

      1. Katiekins*

        I only got it this time because Alison helpfully titled it “the sample.” Before that, I was thinking more along the lines that Fleapot, above, was.

    3. Hen in a Windstorm*

      He had porno in the bag so he could jerk off “in the back” of the office so they could get a sample.

  8. Eusapia*

    The stories about comments in meetings reminded me of my really lovely former boss who once took a phone call while we were both in a meeting with the highest executives in the company. The meeting had run over time by at least 30 minutes at that point. The boss had left the room, but we all clearly heard him answer the call by saying, “I’m sorry, I’m in a meeting that is just going on and on and on…”.

    The room burst out laughing (luckily the bosses had a sense of humor). He came back unaware that we’d heard anything, until one of the execs said “Well, I don’t want to go on and on and on about this topic, but…”

    1. PhyllisB*

      This reminds me of a story a friend told me. She had a team wide conference call every morning at 7 am. One morning she fell asleep during the call. She woke up when she heard the boss say, “Do you hear snoring?”

  9. Lifeandlimb*

    #2: Not your fault. They should not have called it the “Wellness Room”. What are we, 10? Do we still call our periods “Aunti Flo” or “The Curse”??

    1. Princess Xena*

      I mean, I do, but that’s more because I find it far more amusing to imagine them as being the Annoying Aunt Flo.

    2. Kaye*

      I wonder whether Wellness Room will ever catch on as a euphemism for the place you go to express breastmilk (the same way that bathroom, restroom, lavatory, water closet, and indeed toilet have all been used as words for the place you go to excrete bodily waste). But as things stand I wouldn’t blame anybody for being misled!

    3. anonymous73*

      Calling it a Wellness Room isn’t a problem if it’s to be used for other purposes. The problem here is not letting the employees know the purpose of said room, and emphasizing that women who need to pump get first dibs.

      1. Clorinda*

        It would be so simple to add two sentences of instruction on the calendar for the wellness room.
        “People who need this room for pumping breastmilk have priority in scheduling; if you are not a nursing mother, your reservation may be preempted without notice.”

        1. Books and Cooks*

          This was exactly what I was thinking. This is really the company’s fault, more than the OP’s. There should have been some kind of sign or a notice in the scheduling software that either said what you suggested, or at least made some comment to the effect that if you are asked to reschedule and you are not a nursing mother, you should allow the change.

          I wouldn’t necessarily expect a young single man (or a young single woman, for that matter) to immediately think, “She must need to pump,” if s/he received a change request, instead of thinking something like, “Oh, s/he must want a nap, too,” or something. And if no one explained any of this to the OP, how is he supposed to automatically know? (I’m curious why no one ever talked to the OP about this, either, and told them to stop refusing to reschedule?)

          1. OP2*

            The company had moved into this office mere weeks before I joined, and apparently an all-staff email went around before the move outlining the intended purpose of the new office’s various rooms (“wellness room,” “meditation room,” “team areas,” etc.) but of course I missed that. The outline had not yet been added to HR’s new employee onboarding — hence, I missed it — although I think it has since then.

            For my own sake, I had a very kind colleague gently and discreetly mention it to me after realizing what I had been doing, and I immediately made the adjustment in my use of the room: that is, I stopped using it.

    4. A Simple Narwhal*

      We have wellness rooms on every floor of our building. Yes, they’re primarily for pumping, but it’s also for prayer, a private moment, and yes, the occasional nap. So I don’t think calling them a wellness room is wrong or juvenile per se, but #2 should have been informed that pumping absolutely takes precedence over pretty much everything else.

      1. Geek5508*

        Our campus has both Wellness Rooms and “Mothers’ Rooms”. they are usually right next to each other

        So we do not have any scheduling conflicts

    5. OyHiOh*

      Ours is equally euphemistically called a “family room.” The people who need it for its actual intended purpose block off “family time” in Outlook. When not used for it’s intended purpose, it’s a backup small conference room, which to my mind is the worst of all possible worlds. It’s not comfortable, but there’s a fridge in the corner, and you never know if someone is going to come knocking on the door because they forgot to check the booking schedule.

    6. Everything Bagel*

      My company has Wellness rooms, but they are able to be reserved by anyone, nursing or not. You could go in there and meditate. The rooms are only able to be reserved for a half hour at a time. As long as it’s not reserved, why shouldn’t someone take a nap in there? I wouldn’t expect someone to hog it for a nap though when there is someone else who needs to express milk.

      1. Jora Malli*

        I was brought up super religious, so sometimes when I’m feeling dramatic I pull out Rachel’s line from Genesis and say “the time of women is upon me.”

      2. Kacihall*

        I got in the habit of saying I was broken. Only to my husband and best friend, though, because I realize it has all sorts of weird connotations. But mostly I just really felt like I couldn’t work or do anything because that week was terrible so I may as well have been broken.

    7. kiki*

      An old company had a wellness room that was used for pumping. I don’t think “Wellness Room” is used as a euphemism for pumping, it’s that the room is also available for other purposes like prayer, a place to lie in the dark whilst having a migraine, etc.

      I do agree that it wasn’t LW’s fault– when companies opt to make the room multi-purpose, they need to explicitly call out that certain folks have priority and have systems built in to handle that.

    8. Books and Cooks*

      …I sometimes still say, “Aunt Flo.” I didn’t know that was weird.

      Sometimes I say, “time of the month,” or something, but usually I just say “period.” I’m not really comfortable using the more vivid euphemisms, personally; using them always feels like I’m inviting people to envision the lower half of my body awash with a sea of blood like the elevators at The Overlook, but that’s just me. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with them, and if other women are comfortable saying them that’s great, but…they’re just not for me. I tried using “surfing the crimson wave” once and felt so stupid that I barely finished getting the words out (and then basically ran away the moment I could). I guess I just lack the proper insouciance to make those euphemisms work.

    9. Bartimaeus*

      I had a friend, originally from Azerbaijan, who referred to her period as the Ottoman Invasion…

  10. Richard Hershberger*

    #6 is reminiscent of the story, perhaps apocryphal, of the mother who was a guest at a diplomatic dinner, during which she absent-mindedly cut up into bite-sized pieces the dinner of the person seated next to her, who was a foreign ambassador.

    1. Mom Errors*

      I’m the one from a prior mortification week who licked my thumb and then wiped the schmutz off a colleague’s face, before we sprang apart in horror. I apologized for weeks.

      Sometimes you just can’t turn off the mom-ing.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        So glad my mother never used spit to clean me. According to her, “Cats luck their young. I don’t!”

        1. ReallyBadPerson*

          Your mother and I are in agreement. I never once used spit to clean my children (nor ever ate food off of their high chair tray!)

  11. fleapot*

    Ah, #14, at least you apologized! As a grad student instructor, I had a course booked after an undergrad faculty-taught seminar, and the professor was *unrepentant* about twenty students and me waiting in the hallway.

    The official timetable always left ten minutes between blocks (i.e., running 12:35–1:25 and 1:35–2:35, instead of 12:30–1:30 and 1:30–2:30), but he insisted that he had the room to the half-hour mark and would frequently go a little beyond that. I would have taken “screw off, asshole!” and a real apology over the condescension.

    (Especially given that my work effectively subsidized much, much higher salary. The whole power dynamic was uuuugh.)

  12. Heather*

    “Wellness room” has me ROLLING. Your company was setting people up to have that confusion happen!!

  13. CoveredinBees*

    OP1, you poor thing! Literally living out many people’s stress dream. Including mine. Glad it worked out ok.

  14. Julia*

    Oh man. #2 made me actually do a cringe face. This went on for *years*? LW, you are a better man than I for being self-possessed enough to share that rather than squirreling it away forever.

    1. OP2*

      Years. Plural. Yep. (Although not anymore, thanks to a very kind colleague who gently and discreetly filled me in.)

  15. Heather*

    I was a graduate assistant in the admissions office of a college when I was about 22. I did all sorts of unprofessional things, like walking around the office barefoot. One time, an important administrator came in to the office and went to the back to have a meeting. Pretty soon the phone rang and someone said something like, “I’m looking for Vice President Smith. Is she down there?” It didn’t occur to me that that was the visitor in the back, so I said no. Simple mistake. Pretty soon, though, another co-worker came to say to me: “VP Smith said that her assistant called trying to track her down and you said she wasn’t here? They’re all sort of irritated by the confusion.” So I decided to go apologize to Smith, and my apology consisted of saying, “I’m so sorry! I guess I had a brain fart.”

    1. kittycontractor*

      To be fair, if she didn’t introduce herself (and you had never met her) or didn’t say anything to you, that’s on her not you. Just because she a VP doesn’t mean everyone (in a college no less) will know who she is. I just met the Pres. of the national corporation I work for (talking billionaire). I didn’t know what he looked like until we were introduced.

      1. Heather*

        I agree with that!– I didn’t think it was fair to be irritated that I didn’t know who she was.

      2. Gumby*

        During a summer internship at a large-ish company I worked in building 4. And though it was a tech company so many people in my department worked later hours, apparently the official company hours went until 5 p.m. after which the front desk was not staffed. (This was pre-cell phones being everywhere.) I had made plans to have dinner with my uncle around 6. When he got to the company, he stood outside Building 1 kind of perplexed about what to do as I hadn’t realized the front desk did close at 5 so had told him to check in there. Someone walked by and found out who he was looking for and then called my desk.
        “Hi, this is Bob Cook”
        “No, really. Who is this?”
        “It really is Bob Cook and your uncle is here at reception to pick you up for dinner.”
        “Okay, thanks, I will come right over.”

        Things of import in that short conversation: 1. Bob Cook was the CEO of the company. 2. I had no idea that the CEO of the company was named Bob Cook. I just didn’t recognize the name and for some reason assumed it was someone lying about their name? Not sure what I was thinking really. 3. The CEO of that company noticed a person standing outside reception, had a conversation with him, looked up a summer intern’s extension, and made that call. Which was really really nice of him (and he had a great reputation as CEO within the industry). Also, I am so glad that I at least accidentally sounded like I knew who he was.

  16. slp*

    Oh boy, I have one I have to share! It was a slow day at the customer service desk, so a black coworker and I were discussing books- I mentioned to her that I had recently read and really enjoyed Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None”, and Googled it to show it to her… only for the original title, which I didn’t know about and which contains a racial slur, to pop up… I apologized so many times, and she seemed to understand it was a mistake and brush it off, but I still think of it often and cringe!

    1. Purple Cat*

      OMG, I had no idea there was originally a different title to that book. Just looked it up. Wow.

    2. The Tin Man*

      OH NO

      I thought it was going to be “Ten Little Indians” so my thought was “That’s not great, but not the worst”. Incorrect, it was so much worse.

      1. Artemesia*

        She wrote during a very racist era and was also anti-semitic and racist herself. Lots of her books unfortunately include this especially since she was a big believer in genetic evil. I had forgotten how much worse the original title of Ten Little Indians’ was.

      2. Elenna*

        I also thought it was “Ten Little Indians” and I was like “oof, but it could be worse” and then I saw this comment and looked it up and, uh, yeah. It’s worse.

  17. TyphoidMary*

    #7 ha, I do love a good vulgar pun!

    In your defense, though, plenty of trans men get nervous going to the OB-GYN because they’re afraid of how staff/other patients will treat them, so I actually don’t think your approach here was a bad one!

  18. Still too terrified*

    #3 Group audio call where VP said some smoke and mirrors fluff and I said aloud, “Yeah right.” I was NOT on mute and have a distinctive voice.

    Funny how these posts trigger things.

    15 years ago when large group conference calls were just under way, I waited on my phone for the call, an HR panel of executives, to start talking. The audio began and the group hosting the call was laughing and chatting and I muttered out loud, “those dummies don’t even know they’re not on mute”. Then I realized that they were also so dumb that they also didn’t mute the listeners, including moi, which I was dummy enough not to mute myself.

    I quaked in fear for about a month because people who were signed in to the call were listed, but either they didn’t hear me or they didn’t figure out who I was.

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      We had one last year for an all-directorate meeting re a court judgement in relation to a social care case. There had been a lot of confusion around this meeting because the announcement had gone out insisting that we all prioritise it, but giving no context to what the meeting was about, and while some people would have known, a lot knew nothing about it and had been surprised and confused to get the email, and it was then 45 minutes before anyone picked that up and sent out an explanation (which had allowed a lot of time for panicked speculation about what it could be). So there were people joining the call in the moment who were a bit wound up, and someone venting frustration was heard to say “My arse!”

      This could have gone unnoticed by a lot of people as it was early enough on that everyone was still getting settled, however some guy, thinking he was privately messaging his friend, sent a message saying “Hey, Tangerina, did someone really just say MY ARSE?” Yes, he sent that to the entire directorate, meaning those who’d missed it certainly knew it now, and derailing the chat into who might have been the culprit.

    2. MCMonkeyBean*

      Haha, that one is pretty hilarious honestly!

      I am hyper-vigilant about whether I’m on mute lately because of an *almost* embarrassing mishap that thankfully did not happen. I still feel mortified of the *potential* many months later! I was on a team meeting and it devolved into discussion of the covid vaccine and a couple people saying they weren’t getting it or they weren’t sure, and I was like “I don’t want to hear this” so I actually turned the sound off on my computer for a minute. I turned the volume back on a bit later and they were still talking about the vaccine so I shut it down again and *almost* said something to my husband about how I didn’t want to hear them say stupid things about the vaccine and they were going on for ages, but thankfully I remembered just in time that turning off my speakers is very different than turning off my microphone!!

  19. ZSD*

    For “the sample,” was this for fertility treatment, do you think? Is there another reason a cis man would need to “come in the back” at a gynecologist’s?

      1. ZSD*

        Well, this happened in the ’90s, so I’d say there was a much higher chance that a male-presenting person was AMAB. (Keep in mind that the OP said they “couldn’t figure out for the life of [them] why a man would be there,” whereas today, I think someone would assume a man who arrived was there for the same kind of care as other patients.) And if he was in fact a trans man, then I’m even more baffled as to what the purpose of the visit would be.

        1. ZSD*

          That is, what the purpose of a visit involving the paper bag, etc., would be. I understand why trans men normally go to the gynecologist, which is why I specified “cis” in my original comment.

        2. SJ (they/them)*

          OOF. ok. I’m just gonna,,, i’m just gonna leave this alone. Wish you well.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      That’s pretty much no one’s business and requires some inappropriate assumptions

    2. Artemesia*

      Probably for artificial insemination and he might need to produce the sample on the spot. Or it could be part of fertility workup to check the quality of his sperm.

      1. ZSD*

        Thanks! This is what I was curious about. I’ve never tried to get pregnant, so I’m unfamiliar with what sorts of purposes such a visit could be for.

    3. NotARacoonKeeper*

      I’m going to figure that you mean this question earnestly, and respond as such.

      First, trans people have always (*always*) existed! Western societies are just being (somewhat) more accepting now, meaning that there is more visibility among the general population, and more safety in being visible.

      As such, this man could have had a uterus and been trying to get pregant – a man gave birth this week, and he and his partner are sharing their story publicly (and he’s not close to being the first!). Highly recommend googling for a ready on this, as it’s a good reminder to check our assumptions and language. It’s also neat to watch a man with a beard labour! (This is all video that the couple has released for this exact purpose, so I don’t feel creepy recommended it). The man in OP’s story could also have been seeking non-reproductive care, perhaps had non-sex-binary reproductive organs (i.e. intersex), or was maybe just delivering sperm as the OP suggested. The world is so much less binary than we like to pretend.

  20. SJ (they/them)*

    Ah, I wish #7 had been edited a bit. Leaving “i couldn’t figure out why a man would be there” without some sort of editor’s note about how this is actually not weird or unusual, as a trans guy is pretty ouch.

  21. The OG Sleepless*

    #10-my dad passed away very suddenly at the age of 68. Heart attack, just went from perfectly healthy to dead. The next day, with visitors thronging in the house, I put myself in charge of answering my mom’s landline phone. In the midst of dozens of calls from old friends expressing their condolences, I took one phone call from a B&B my parents stayed at regularly, confirming their reservation for that weekend! I told the lady who I was, and as gently as possible I said, “I’m really sorry to have to tell you this, but my dad passed away yesterday.” Of course, the lady was absolutely mortified. She didn’t do a thing wrong, but imagine having that happen when you’re just calling your reservation list!

    1. smeep248*

      I work in customer service and have dealt with this on many occasions. I usually end up crying with the person on the phone…..

    2. Lentils*

      Heh, I work at a small law firm and one of our attorneys died very suddenly last summer. I cover phones when the receptionist is busy and there’s a dark humor in telling the telemarketers asking for my deceased colleague (who are the only ones who ask for him) “I’m afraid he’s no longer with us.”

    1. Velawciraptor*

      Well, one can’t assume consent in advance. Of course it would be tentative. :)

  22. Irish Teacher*

    Honestly, that what person alive or dead would you most want to talk to just sounds like a question with…really no good answer. Pretty much any well-known person is going to have some degree of controversy; if they’ve done anything notable, there is likely to be SOMEBODY who disapproves of them. Finding somebody who has no connection with a war (which could be seen as indicating the candidate is pro-war or very much into their country being powerful), isn’t connected to any political party or religion, is connected to any scandal, etc…it doesn’t leave many people. It’s a fun question between friends or online, but at a job interview? When you don’t know anything about the person’s views? It would be hard to find somebody who wasn’t in some way controversial. At least Jon Benet Ramsey didn’t do anything wrong herself (because she died too young to have the chance) so they couldn’t think you were admiring somebody problematic.

    As regards the Grad student one, I have a bit of a story from when I was at college. Not sure if Roddy Doyle is well-known outside Ireland? He’s an author. Anyway, he came to give a talk at my college and towards the end, he was giving autographs and stuff and one of my lectures had a class in there next and basically came up and told him to get out. A little more politely than that, but she was pretty clear. He carried on giving autographs out in the foyer.

    1. Critical Rolls*

      And if you don’t immediately think of well-known people, it’s kind of an invitation for sadness? Like, “I lost touch with my 2nd grade best friend” or “I would love to see my nan one more time”? Just… not a valuable question and also not a fit for even idle chat at an interview.

      1. Princesss Sparklepony*

        That was what immediately came to my mind for a non-offensive person to offer up for this question. Nobody doesn’t like Dolly!

    2. The Prettiest Curse*

      That’s no way to treat Roddy Doyle, WTF?
      And you’re right, it’s not really a question suitablr for a job interview.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        I think she just sort of spoke without thinking, but yeah, it was rather unexpected.

    3. AnonPi*

      I’m still trying to figure out who came up with the “if you were a muppet which one would you be” question. Like, what insight do you think you can possibly gain, that you couldn’t from well reasoned questions? That I don’t like to share my chocolate chip cookies with coworkers? I’m grouchy and don’t care if I smell?

      1. Books and Cooks*

        Wow, someone really asked that? That really is ridiculous! I’m only familiar with like three Muppets myself, lol, so I would be doubly stumped, but yeah…what is that supposed to say about a person?

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        Hmm, I probably shouldn’t admit to them in an interview that I would probably be Miss Piggy…

    4. Emmy Noether*

      I think the safest bet may be to go ancient history. Like Sokrates, Hypatia or Charlemagne. Obviously those people also held opinions and/or did things that are no longer acceptable, but we don’t tend to think of them as controversial, exactly. No-one’s going to think you’re pro-war because you want to talk to Charlemagne or Julius Ceasar.

  23. Rose*

    #12 is so relatable; as an autistic person, “Tell me about yourself” is the absolute worst question ever. It’s so vague that there’s no obvious starting point, and you can answer it literally and thoroughly, yet still be penalized because you didn’t do it “right.” It’s a neurodivergent’s nightmare. I know it’s part of the standard script, but please, just ask what you actually want to know

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      Elevator pitch — 1 minute.
      For a job interview … A sentence or two about the work history that aimed you at this particular job, a sentence or two about why you applied for it, maybe one sentence about a neutral hobby or side interest that might add a bit of uniqueness to their first impression but doesn’t dip into controversial topics.

      If they want more than that, they’ve got the whole interview to ask you more specific questions.

    2. anonymous73*

      In a job interview, they’re asking for a consolidated history of your work experience.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        To be honest, I might well miss that, even after many years in the workplace and over a decade of near constant interviews. It would seem to me to make more sense to say something like “tell me about your career to date.”

    3. Curmudgeon in California*


      I struggled with this question for a couple decades, until I learned to always add the unspoken “and your career progression.”

      But I always have to think about it, because otherwise I don’t have a clue where to start.

    4. MCMonkeyBean*

      I honestly think that one wasn’t even really a bad answer–sometimes they do want to know a small amount of personal info too! Though 2 minutes is probably too long to be giving personal history for. But the sentence included in the example I think would actually be fine and cute, though you would then hopefully add some education and work experience info to it after.

      I think my go-to structure for that question is to say: where I’m from, where I went to college and what I studied, when I started my career and why I’m looking to move jobs.

    5. Very Social*

      I am, as far as I know, neurotypical, but that question has never made sense to me! I remember being utterly baffled when meeting a new boyfriend’s friends for the first time and one asked me that. Thankfully I don’t think I’ve ever been asked in a job interview.

  24. Killer Queen*

    I guess I can share my story. It’s really not THAT bad but it was so embarrassing at the time and I still look back and cringe.
    So I was working an unpaid internship that was very part time during a school semester. In a one-on-one with my boss he asked me what I wanted to do after school. So I go off on this diatribe about how I want to start a career and get married and have kids some day. He gave me a funny look and it hit me…he meant after the semester because it would be summer break. What did I want to do in terms of the internship, not my whole life lol.

  25. Weaponized Pumpkin*

    I had the same experience on “tell us about yourself” in my first “professional” interview for an internship while a college student. I was mortified, but also a little defensive — no one told me that! At 21 I had a I knew a lot about work norms but no one had told me how to interview. Thankfully the interviewer treated it as a kind teaching moment, letting me know that in interviews what that means it’s about your work background not personal.

  26. Just Me*

    #5 Are there any updates on this!?! I feel like I would be so mortified I might actually quit my job (or he might get a stern and private Talking To.)

  27. cucumber*

    Oh good God, I have a good one. I have a day job in an office, but teach group fitness classes on the side. My second day every instructing alone (without a master trainer helping me along) I was having so much fun, everyone seemed to be enjoying it, music was loud and energizing etc. I felt great, and then out of NOWHERE a huge wave of nausea immediately hit me and I threw up all over myself, the floor, and my work out equipment in front of the entire class. I’ve never been so mortified in my life – my regulars and I all laugh about it now, but whew, that was a struggle.

  28. Curmudgeon in California*

    #1 makes me glad I always sleep in a t-shirt or scrub top and pajama bottoms. I started this when I first had roomies. (Also, I find sleeping nude has me sticking to myself in hot weather.)

    1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      That is why I’m not a naked person. It’s not about propriety, I just don’t like sticking to myself!

  29. desiree*

    #13. not quite sure what kind of a bike you’re riding but can i suggest adding a pair of fenders. They won’t stop all of the mud but will help out a lot.

  30. Kevin Sours*

    As a software dev the typical dress code has been “please wear clothes”. But even when I was working at a consultancy with a more conservative office culture I’ve never really worried overmuch about going from bike to bathroom to get cleaned up for my day. Rain happens.

  31. JelloStapler*

    #2- OK C-suite, all together now. Say “Lactation”. Again. “Lac-Ta-Tion”… Not a dirty word. Use it.


    1. OP2*

      Amusingly, at the time the company moved into this office, four of its six C-level execs were women. And yet…

  32. Anonymousse*

    Man, those poor women waiting to pump! I empathize with them because it gets painful. I see you used the present tense…your HR needs some serious revamping if no one spoke to you or immediately made the purpose of that room known.

    1. OP2*

      Our entire HR department has turned over — along with lots of other folks — in the last year and a half or so, and the word is that they now do clearly state the intended purpose of each room (“wellness room” = for nursing mothers, “meditation room” = for prayer if you need it, etc.) during new employee onboarding. I certainly do empathize with my colleagues who need to pump, and after learning the room’s purpose by way of non-HR folks several years ago, I don’t reserve it at all anymore.

  33. Zeus*

    Re #6 (The Spill) – I was once in the reverse of that situation at my first job, having lunch in the lunch-room with an older coworker. I got something on my face and she automatically licked a napkin and used it to wipe my cheek. It was a good few moments before either of us realised this was weird!
    She apologised profusely and explained that she had her young granddaughter staying with her, which was apparently bringing out all of the mothering instincts that she’d forgotten.

  34. Wenike*

    For #8, I had a college application that asked us to choose one of two topics for our essay: “If you could bring only three books with you to school, which ones and why?” and “If you’re having dinner party and you can invite any three people, living or dead, who would you invite and why?”. I chose to answer the books for the essay but I had an interview thing for a scholarship and one of the questions asked of me was the other (since they knew I’d answered the books). My choices? Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. In my defense? This happened in Spring of 1999, so it was still very recent news for discussions. I figured it was either going to be the most icily polite and formal meal of all-time or it was going to be the exact opposite, but it’d be fun as a witness! Actually made the interviewer laugh and got the scholarship, so sometimes shocking answers can work out!

    1. catsoverpeople*

      I love this! I posted up-thread that I would have at least asked LW8 for more information about that answer. I agree with you, too, that picking a relevant news item (and that was MAJOR) even if it’s scandalous is one way to stand out in the crowd!

  35. Rob aka Mediancat*

    Re #11, I remember reading about a book publisher, apparently a staid and conservative man, who in the 1940s had to make a decision on whether or not they were going to let Ernest Hemingway use the f-word in one of his books. (Very different time.)

    So, to remind himself to discuss it later, he put it on a things to do today list.

    Just the one word.

    Then, apparently, after he went to lunch, his secretary came in, saw the word on the list, and said “Do I have to remind him of EVERYTHING?”

    1. Banany*

      #11 – When I worked for a federal government agency I shared a pod with a lovely, conservative older gentleman. One day when he was away from him desk someone from accounts came by quite flustered looking for him to query an invoice he’d sent for payment. It was a hefty invoice was from a contractor for ‘hookers’. It turns out the invoice was for storage…and not what everyone through it was for. My colleague was mortified when he found out what accounts thought he was trying to spend government money on and never quite lived his reputation as the person to go to for questionable invoice approval!

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