Mortification Week: the winter party, the wet socks, and other stories to cringe over

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

1. The boss man

a shirtless man with a tie with the title "Boss Man"

the cover in question

I work in a small department library at a university, and came in to catch up on some work while the office was closed over the holidays. The office was totally empty, but there was one other person, a graduate student (who I do not supervise), who had also, unbeknownst to me, come in to work that day. I was listening to samples of audiobooks on my headphones while I caught up on some rote work, when the student saw I was there and came to ask me a question.

As she came over, I clicked on the audio player to pause so I could hear her and she caught a glimpse of the cover of the book, which was suggestive. There was no actual nudity or anything, but the book was a romance novel, and while the content was actually rather tame, the cover was … a lot. Of course she saw, however briefly, and was visibly embarrassed. I went to find her to follow up on her question just a few minutes later, and she was gone.

2. Overall I felt fine

I recently had an interview with a company about a position that I was excited about. I was just getting over being sick when I scheduled the interview, so I pushed it back a couple days just to be safe. On the day of the interview, I still had an intermittent cough, but overall I felt fine.

Toward the end of the interview, which was going well, I ended up having a coughing fit, with a deep dry cough that would not go away. The interviewer got up and showed me to the watercooler and told me to take my time, being very nice about it. However, I ended up coughing so hard and so deep I threw up on the floor a little bit, right in front of the interviewer. I did not know what to do, so I said something to the extent of, “Well, that just happened,” apologized, and asked where they kept the cleaning supplies. He said not to worry about it, wished me good health, and promptly showed me to the door.

3. The wet socks

When I was a receptionist at 19, I couldn’t afford a tube ticket and buses were cheap, but the commute was two buses with a walk in between and meant I had to allow about an hour and three quarters to get there, even though on a good day with smooth changes it was about 50 minutes. (On reception, 5 minutes late was like serious conversation offense.) So, I bought a cheap mountain bike off gumtree and cycled to work. They didn’t have a shower (I would just get changed in the toilet and spray some deodorant) so firstly I cannot imagine that I didn’t smell (though no one complained).

Worse, when it rained, I would hang my clothes off the radiator in the side office. After probably a month of doing this, the CEO had to politely tell my boss (office manager) that the office got used for client meetings and having wet socks on the radiator was not okay. All so obvious in hindsight…

4. Beanbags and puppies

I was interviewing for a job at a small publishing house. I was still in college and had never had an interview beyond, “Can you wait tables? Good. You’re hired.” The interviewer asked me what kind of office environment I preferred to work in. I said something like, “Oh … my dream office environment would have bean bags instead of chairs, lap desks that we could use on the floor, and office dogs to play with.” I remember there was a silence, and then the rest of the interview moved surprisingly quickly. It was on the way home that I realized that my idea of ‘office environment’ probably wasn’t what they were looking for. D’oh.”

5. The flatulence

I was only in my job for about a year when I had to present a marketing plan to all my colleagues in my department. Near the end of the presentation, I was cruising along when someone made a joke and we all laughed. 
Then I farted. And everyone started to laugh as if I would laugh it off, but I didn’t. I just pretended it was my shoe squeaking. Then came the red face, the stammering speech, the rush to finish things and the long, awkward silence for the rest of the presentation.

6. The ripped seam

Was informed of a stain of the back of my dress which turned out to be my butt through a ripped seam. It was an older lady who pointed it out and she wasn’t wearing her glasses. She actually poked me in the butt through the rip and said, “It’s……..uh………uh…….your buns…’s your butt.”

7. The winter party

My firm had a winter party. There were still pandemic restrictions on having indoor events, so it was outside. There was an outdoor ice skating rink set up in a tent with frosted plastic walls and next to it in another tent were heaters and tables and a serving hatch where we could order food and drinks on the company tab. I decided I wanted to do some ice skating first. I didn’t realize that there was going to be a “thank you for all of your hard work” speech from one of the firm’s partners until I looked up and saw everyone else standing and listening to the partner – and watching me bumble around on ice skates behind him through the transparent wall. No one said anything but I definitely felt as if I’d missed the professionalism mark.

8. The regret

Not me, but my ex. He was still an undergrad at the time. His interviewer asked him if there was anything he would have done differently, and his answer was that he wished he had gone on more dates.

9. The bad answer

I was in the final interview stages for a tenure-track teaching job at a local college. I was pretty much guaranteed the job if I didn’t screw up the last interview.

I was asked why I wanted the job. I said, “It’s really close to my apartment, so if I’m out late drinking the night before I can drive to work when I’m hung over without too much trouble.”

(I didn’t get the job, but I *did* get sober about six months later.)

10. The game

While I was on a phone interview about four years ago, I mistakenly left a basketball game on even though my TV was on mute. I thought I could contain myself, but during the last five minutes of the interview, something happened during the game that made me shout “WOOOOO!” into the phone. The interviewer made no remark, but I caught myself almost immediately and was mortified.

Lesson learned. Never watch sports during an interview, even with the TV on mute. Even thought I should have known better.

11. The pregnancy

I was at a work party, one coworker conspicuously not drinking a beer. Someone asked her if she was pregnant, she confirmed, and they said, “What are you going to do?!”

Umm, have a baby? She was married and got pregnant on purpose (and told them so!)

12. The boots

At my first office job, one winter I decided to wear ugg-like boots every day. My supervisor gently pulled me aside and told me those weren’t appropriate shoes for our business-attire office. I responded, “I have to stand sometimes and these are comfortable. Either I wear the shoes I want, or I don’t do any work that involves standing.” I then sat down and refused to do any work that required me to move for rest of the day.

13. The drinking

Back when I was first out of school I had an interview with an insurance company. It would have been a great job. The interviewer asked me something about how did I handle stress, and my answer…”heavy drinking.” I don’t even know why I said that, I’ve never been a huge drinker. I was trying to be funny I guess. Needless to say, I didn’t get the job.

14. The ugly bastards

Oh lord. Ok. Here goes. I’ll preface this by saying I was in my early 20s and never had anyone to mentor me about professionalism until I found this site. Which was obviously well after this incident.

Landed my “dream job” and I knew a fair amount of the people I’d be working with in a relaxed environment. It was my first day and my first team meeting. Boss introduces me to the team and mentions my connection to two of my male coworkers. For reasons I still don’t understand, I blurted out, “Nah, I don’t know these ugly bastards.” Cue the crickets and awkward silence.

Pretty sure my face is beet red just typing this. Ugggghhhh so cringe, so terrible, so bad.

15. The voicemail

My ex’s voicemail was, “If you teach a man to build a fire, he’ll be warm for a day. If you set a man on fire, he’ll be warm for the rest of his life. You know what to do!” WHILE HE WAS JOB HUNTING. It may come as no shock to anyone to learn that he was unemployed for four and a half of the seven years we were together.

I am wiser in my partner choices these days. My husband’s voicemail is, “You’ve reached (name) at (number). Please leave a message.” And he has a job. :-P

16. The puppy

I was working as a vet tech, and we had a gorgeous exuberant bloodhound puppy come in. He was only 10 months old but already well over 100 lbs. I was weighing him for his visit, and the scale was in the lobby. He jumped up on me and somehow managed to hook his dewclaws in my waistband. The owner pulled him back, and took my pants down with him. Even better, he got my underwear too. I mooned a lobby full of clients.

17. The B-52’s shirt

When I was 18/19, I worked as a classroom helper in a very casual alternative elementary school where jeans and t-shirts were the norm. I wore a B-52’s t-shirt almost weekly for the whole year — I had seen them the summer before and picked up a t-shirt with a great illustration of Cindy Wilson in space riding a rocket ship.

On one of my last days, a parent looked at my shirt and said, “Oh my god, is she riding a penis??”

Dear reader, she was. It was a vaguely-but-intentionally-penis-shaped rocket ship and I had not noticed at all for the entire year I worked in an elementary school.

{ 269 comments… read them below }

  1. OyHiOh*

    To be fair and acknowledge a person’s out of office humor, the quote in 15/17 shows up in Discworld novels a few times.

    Although a job hunting person would still be wise to change the voicemail message when expecting interview calls (or have a Google Voice or similar neutral phone number just for job hunting). Obviously, this person kind of enjoyed being unemployed.

    1. Princess Xena*

      I’m not sure if I’d want a hiring manager’s first impression of me to be a Terry Pratchett quote. Unless I was applying for jobs as a stand-up comedian.

      1. Rage*

        Jim Butcher also has Harry Dresden mention it in “Cold Days”: “I know it’s not thematically in tune with my new job and all, but I find it effective. Build a man a fire and he’s warm for a day,” I say. “But set a man on fire and he’s warm for the rest of his life. Tao of Pratchett. I live by it.”

        I’d be a little concerned that the Winter Knight might have been seeking a second job. :p

            1. yala*

              So long as you don’t mind things getting demolished a bit. Just a little bit set on fire.

      2. MsM*

        I mean, depending on the Pratchett quote, I’d put that as a check in the “pro” column.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      Usually you want to convey the impression of someone who will not generate exciting water cooler stories.

      1. LinuxSystemsGuy*

        At least in my industry you can get away with a level of “I do slightly weird and interesting things”. The trick is to keep them in the “*slightly* weird and interesting” category.

    3. Becca*

      I think what gets me most about that is not the casual tone or the message/joke itself (it’s a fairly common joke after so) but it’s such a non sequitur for an answering machine message even accounting for the possibility that the ambiguity of which aspect “you know what to do”is referring to was meant to tie them together.

      1. turquoisecow*

        Yeah, it’s a somewhat humorous joke, but what does being on fire have to do with leaving a voicemail message?

        1. ecnaseener*

          I think it used to be somewhat of a thing, when voicemail was newer, to have your message be a totally irrelevant quote (like people still sometimes do with email signatures).

          Unless I’m just taking Veronica Mars as fact. That’s very possible.

          1. Nina*

            No, that’s a thing. In 2001 my dad’s voicemail was me (then five years old with a lisp) reciting part of The Owl And The Pussycat.

          2. many bells down*

            Early 90’s, when I was in college, my message was just two verses of “Daydream Believer”

            1. Lily Rowan*

              Oh wow, I forgot all about that! I was also in college in the early 90s and we definitely held the phone up to a speaker to put a song on our voicemail!

          3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            Oh yes. Back in the days of tape recorder answering machines, I had a friend whose message was “remember that if words are silver, silence is golden”.
            With some other friends, we called him, got that message, and spent the next couple of hours making silly noises for a loooooooooooooong message to use up the entire tape so nobody else could leave a message, as a lesson to the friend that we were not to be messed with. We had great fun making weird and silly sound effects!

    4. Ana Gram*

      I called an applicant once and they had a ring back tone. It was a song called “Ridin’” by Chamillionaire about driving around with drugs in your car.

      I hire cops…

      1. yala*

        To be fair, “Ridin'” is more about NOT driving around with drugs in your car, but being profiled/stopped by cops who suspect you are.

    5. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      #15 submitter: yeah, my current husband is a Pterry nut and loves the quote. But ex was just absolutely baffled when I said “are, uh, are you sure you don’t want to maybe try something a little more professional, if you’re job hunting?” Like, his actual-facts response was “Why should I bother?” (To which I shouted “BECAUSE I AM CURRENTLY SUPPORTING BOTH OF US, IN BELLEVUE WASHINGTON, ON $13 AN HOUR AND THIS IS NOT SUSTAINABLE.”)

      1. Warrior Princess Xena*

        Holy crap. I’m familiar with Bellevue and even 10 years ago that would have been awful. I’m really hoping this was what made him an ex.

    6. Anony-mouse*

      I worked summer schools with very privileged and rich 16-17 year olds. We rang one girl to find out where she was and her voicemail was ‘if I didn’t pick up I don’t want to talk to you so don’t expect a call back’! We had a chat as to why that wasn’t appropriate but I have no idea if it got through

      1. Jessica*

        If it’s any consolation, not saying it wasn’t intended to be penisy, but I really do not find it all that obvious. It’s totally understandable that you never noticed.

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          Yeah. I’ve seen that print on various things and didn’t catch it until now

        2. LittleMarshmallow*

          Same… I mean, they may have meant it that way but really all rocket ships have a sort of phallic look to them. I think to a little kid it would just be a rocket ship and not inappropriate… sorta like how they put adult humor in like Disney movies and spongebob.

        1. Rain's Small Hands*

          Its FAR less phallic than the Bezos rocket ship. That thing could have had a bris.

          1. Phony Genius*

            IT DID! (When the passenger compartment separated from the rocket, that’s what I said.)

      2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        My aunt was older than her coworkers in the office. They were very nice to her, even included her on trips to Vegas, Atlantic City…she was welcome in their group. So the following was in no way malicious, it just well, happened…
        One of them bought a stress toy and took it to work. She saw them laughing at the little flesh toned, cylindrical man named Richard that she would squeeze when she was stressed out.
        My aunt also thought it was hilarious.
        She went to Spencer’s gifts and bought one….to include in my 16 year old brother’s Christmas gifts.
        I walked in on the tail end of her saying she would take it back to the store herself. I didn’t understand why if he didn’t want it, he couldn’t just give it to 11 year old me.
        Years later, shopping at Spencer’s myself, the incident came back to me and I finally connected all the dots.
        Poor Auntie!

      3. Beth*

        It doesn’t look specifically phallic to me; no more so than any other long object. I’d be giving the parent a bit of a Look.

      4. marvin the paranoid android*

        That’s way less obvious than what I was picturing. Now I’m wondering what was going on with the parent who called you out for it.

      5. Butter Bonanza*

        That’s not so bad of a shirt, I was expecting far worse. It’s a funny story though!

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I would guess none of the kids noticed.

      We were at the Boston Museum of Science for an optical illusion exhibit. One was the one you find by googling “optical illusion dolphins.” I was dubious, but my cadre of 8-year-olds said “Oh cool dolphins, dolphins are cute” and moved on to the next one.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I couldn’t either, until I found a New York Post article with them circled. LOL

      1. River Otter*

        When googling, I found this assertion:

        Interestingly, research has shown that young children cannot identify the intimate couple because they do not have prior memory associated with such a scenario.

        With no references.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Anecdotally, my observation of several actual children was that they saw dolphins and nothing else. (They just classed it as ‘picture that is on the wall because dolphins are cute.’) I would assume that they didn’t have a background of such images on which the optical illusion could draw, just like I wouldn’t “see” a train in an optical illusion if I had never seen a train before.

      2. AGD*

        Cognitive scientist by training here. Fantastic comparison! Indeed, kids only see the dolphins, because nothing in their background leads them to expect anything else.

        1. AGD*

          (I don’t have a citation for it, but I’ve definitely seen the image in textbooks on human perception.)

    2. Ann O'Nemity*

      I don’t think it’s that obvious if you’re not told. Until you look at the shading, and then it’s like… yeah.

    3. Be kind, rewind*

      Hahaha this is giving me Death to Smoochy vibes. “It’s a rocket ship!”

    4. Sad Desk Salad*

      Thank you! I wanted to see it without using certain words in my search engine. ;-)

      It’s not so bad! The kids certainly didn’t notice. My first thought was “rocketship.”

    5. H3llifIknow*

      THANK you for finding that! I was googling furiously. Fortunately, for the OP, it honestly isn’t that bad/obvious if I hadn’t know from reading the story :)

    6. E. Chauvelin*

      That definitely doesn’t strike me as any more phallic than the average rocket. And I can’t even see the dolphins in the other optical illusion if I look for them.

  2. Mockingjay*

    #12: I’m with the OP on this one. I’m from the era when heels were mandated for women in the office and decades later, have horrible bunions and thick callouses on my feet, permanently shortened hamstrings, and lower back pain if I don’t do yoga stretches daily. Go for the comfy shoes and boots with wide toe boxes (so the shoe matches the shape of a human foot, which is NOT pointed)!

    1. KRM*

      There are comfy office appropriate shoes! If your boss tells you that your Uggs aren’t appropriate, you don’t wear them anymore and you find comfy AND office appropriate shoes!

      1. quill*

        Uggs: not as bad for your feet as heels, but also not particularly good for your feet.

        (I say, as the person who has to check every office in advance that they need to let me wear whatever shoes I need, no questions asked, within safety limits. If you give an employer an inch in terms of your medical need to wear sneakers they’ll take a mile and specify that they have to be black or something… people, it already takes me a few billion years to find and break in shoes that actually don’t cause pain. You’re not getting me to shop again unless you are paying for the shoes and my time. Also, the places that I have needed specific shoes for safety reasons there was already a stipend for steel toe boots…)

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I have to wear shoes with ultra flexible soles, and Uggs are good for that. Depends on the problem you need the shoe to correct.

      2. Rain's Small Hands*

        Liberty flats, formerly made by Enzo and now made by Bandelino – saw me through about 25 years of corporate work. If you need more support, Naturalizer.

      3. Bee*

        Truly, there’s a HUGE middle ground between heels and slippers! (Which is what Uggs are, let’s be honest.)

      4. Elizabeth West*

        At OldExjob, our office building had a concrete floor covered with indoor/outdoor carpeting. I had some issues with my feet and this was just not doable for me, but BossWife told me I couldn’t wear sneakers or Crocs (business casual).

        I went to the Crocs website and found a pair of leather Mary Janes with the Croslite stuff inside them. I told her I found some shoes that worked and she said they were cute, where did I get them? The look on her face when I told her they were Crocs, haha.

        Sadly, they don’t have those nice shoes anymore. :(

    2. anonymous73*

      Would you also think it’s okay to wear sneakers in an office that requires business attire? Those as well as UGG boots are not appropriate. There are more options in between super casual and stilettos.

      1. Antilles*

        Depends on the style and gender I think. I own a pair of men’s black leather dress boots by Ugg and they’re pretty much exactly the same as any other pair of dress boots – and not that much different from black leather dress shoes either, except for the sides being taller.

        But I do agree with the broader point that there’s enough different options that if you’re told it’s not appropriate, you should probably look into finding an alternative that works.

        1. Le Sigh*

          Yeah, Uggs makes a variety of shoes, some of which look like any other boot. I suspect the OP in this one was talking about the classic Uggs style that was all over my college campus in the 2000s and that some people practically made their uniform.

      2. Rae*

        Ugg’s is just a brand. I don’t think you can base a dress code by omitting specific brands over style.

        1. Martin Blackwood*

          This is something i just learned, but actually the style of Ugg™️ boots is a rip off of an indigenous Australian shoe style, also called ugg boots (yes, there was a whole copyright/trademark shebang about the Ugg ™️ brand).

          So, ugg boots are not exclusively a brand thing. Today you learned!

      3. Michelle Smith*

        I’m an attorney and wore sneakers to court for YEARS with literally no one having a problem with it. It wasn’t enough to stop me from being in excruciating pain, but it took the edge off enough that I could do my job. No one ever mentioned it to me or suggested I was unprofessional, because of how I conducted myself and did my work.

        1. yala*

          I think a nice pair of converse look good with just about anything tbh

          but also, I am Bad At Fashion

        2. Münchner Kindl*

          One Green Politican got instant fame when he turned up to the swearing-in ceremony as minister for a Bundesland (what would be a state) in a cheap suit and sneakers:

          Also, a journalist for prestigious ZDF TV news, Cherno Jobatey was known for years for wearing basketball trainers with a normal suit

          So it can even help your career to be practical about shoes.

      4. ceiswyn*

        I personally would, but that’s because I personally have permanent bone damage to my left ankle.

        In the correct footwear – which is professionally recommended £120 trainers or hiking boots – I can walk for 52.4 miles over uneven ground. In incorrect footwear, I will be in serios pain after a day of mostly sitting down. I have tested this experimentally.

        I’m not an unreasonable woman, I’m willing to keep a pair of ‘business’ shoes or sandals at the office for the occasional day when there are important visitors or meetings. But.

    3. metadata minion*

      Yeah, I realize why you can’t do that at work, but I’m so glad I work in an environment where I can wear sneakers. I have yet to find these magical business-casual shoes that have enough squish to be comfortable.

      1. GlitterIsEverything*

        I just did some shopping for more squish on my shoes. You might want to look at Skechers, they have some very squishy flats.

    4. Bucky Barnes*

      For the record, both Algeria and Dansko are pretty comfortable. Some are whimsical, but they have a bunch that are completely professional too.

      1. Cercis*

        And also completely out of the price range for any entry level (and even beyond) folks. Not that ugg boots are/were cheap, but were likely a gift for a holiday/birthday.

        Most of my professional life, I couldn’t afford more than $50 for a pair of shoes, no matter how long they would last. It just wasn’t in the range of possible. More than once, I had to go across the street to payless and buy a new pair of shoes because mine crapped out. Yeah, it would have been better to be able to afford the better shoes, but that’s just not how life works. $50 was about 5 hours of work after taxes and various deductions. I could manage that much, but just and it required literally skipping a lot of other things that month.

        1. quill*

          If we need Pratchett quotes for answering machines, I’d be tempted to go with the Samuel “Boots” Vimes theory of economic unfairness.

    5. LittleMarshmallow*

      I’ve worn steel toes at work for so long (15 years and counting) that it feels weird when I have to go to one of our corporate office buildings where I can wear regular shoes… like no, I wear steel toes at work!

      I do not wear heels under really any circumstances anymore though.

      Side note: keen makes great work boots for women! They’re by far my favorite brand and I’ve tried many over the years. Typically there aren’t many options for women and I have fairly small feet so it’s hard to find my size in mens. I definitely learned pretty quickly to size up on steel toes though after my first pair went really poorly.

    6. Luna*

      I trained in a job that involved anatomy and dermatology enough, so I have learned just what wearing high heels a lot does to the foot. All the more reason for me to rarely wear them, as the eventual deformities (yes, they *are* deformities) are really not worth any amount of looking good.

      Not to advertise, but I personally love Skechers shoes. Comfy, great form, and I can wear them at jobs with lots of standing and walking, and still be able to decently walk hours later. Doesn’t remove the discomfort of all the standing entirely, but enough that I don’t feel like my knees are falling off after two hours.
      Also, they tend to be available in fun colors!

      1. yala*

        Just thinking about how my mom was so excited by how comfy Sketchers were for everyday that she didn’t think to match them to the task. She had Mary Jane style ones she bought for our big trip to NYC. Tried to warn her… but by the end of the first day, she’d had to buy a new pair of shoes.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          This happened to me with Birkenstocks. They were supposed to be so comfy for walking. Not if you’re in L.A and walking from La Brea Avenue all the way up to Highland. >_<

      2. On Fire*

        Whereas I find Skechers and Toms both incredibly painful — they’re okay to wear, but afterward, I can hardly walk. A certain kind of Nike is perfect for me, but New Balance left me in agony. Feet are weird.

        1. Princesss Sparklepony*

          Toms are terrible. No arch support or cushioning. I don’t know how they got popular.

          Sketchers it may depend on the style or collection. I never gave them much interest when they were more teen shoes, but in the last (5, 10, ? years?) they branched out into more comfort shoes. And I finally had a reason and opportunity to try some on. They are really good. Good cushioning and good arch support – that arch support makes all the difference. But I want to say that they weren’t always that way, they used to be more fashion over function. Anyways, I bought a pair and they are now favorites especially since they are slip-ons where the heel back doesn’t collapse or cause a blister. I did buy a half size bigger since the original plan was to use them for flying. But they fit really well (maybe they run small?) and I wear them all the time during the winter.

          Finding a good shoe is a mythical quest and once you find one that works it is guaranteed to be discontinued.

      3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        When I was growing up, in Eastern Europe in the 70s, pretty much every woman wore heels all day long for all occasions. As a kid, I thought that bunions and other similar foot deformities, and surgeries to correct them, were all just a normal part of being in your 40s, because all middle-aged women around me were getting those surgeries. Thankfully, my generation escaped that.

    7. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Came here to say we should normalize 12!

      I had a herniated disc in my back five years ago, while we were still in-office and business casual. I had horrible sciatic pain all the way down to my foot. So until that went away after a month or two of PT, I wore a pair of slippers in the office, because office-appropriate shoes hurt me terribly. Then, I still couldn’t bend over for a long enough time to put office shoes on, and was still uncomfortable on any kind of heel, so I bought a pair of knock-off Ugg-like short boots and a long shoehorn, and wore the boots to work for another month or two. Not only did I never get in trouble, I got compliments on my boots. Which in hindsight makes me appreciate my workplace more. (And I just remembered a mortifying story from that time in my life, that I’ll post separately.)

  3. lb*

    In fairness to number 4, describing that environment does still answer the question – that’s likely going to be a more informal, flexible & creative space than a more traditional office. I mean, I still wouldn’t use that answer again, but I can think of a lot worse ways to answer!

    1. StitchIsMySpiritAnimal*

      How do you answer that appropriately? Are they looking for an answer like open plan vs office/cubicles, or buttoned down vs relaxed, or chocolate vs caramel?

      1. As per Elaine*

        You could say something like, “I’m looking for a collaborative environment where people are friendly and ready to help others, but people can still get heads-down quiet time to work on their projects, and meetings are well-run and cancelled if not necessary.” or something like that (maybe you want primarily independent work where you receive ample training and you work is spot-checked for accuracy, but you’re largely left to manage your own tasks and hours, or whatever).

      2. Jora Malli*

        I would think they’re looking for an answer like “I thrive in a collaborative environment” or something like that.

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

        Agreed, but I can imagine that pre-pandemic it would be less well-received even in collaborative creative environments where I’ve worked my whole career. The last 2+ years have really relaxed a lot of the old conventions of what’s acceptable/professional. Creative departments might have had funky posters on the wall or even wacky product samples scattered about, but people were still expected to sit at a desk for the most part.

        These days if someone briefly excuses themself from a Zoom call to let their dog out, or works on their laptop by the pool, I don’t really bat an eye anymore.

  4. PlainJane*

    #4, honestly, I’d hire you for that office description. Just laugh a little bit and say, “Well, we don’t offer puppies, but I love the idea.” It tells me you have a personality.

    This may be why I am not a hiring authority. ;p

    1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      I would have said, “Me too, me too, but I was thinking more along the lines of X and Y”

    2. LinuxSystemsGuy*

      I’ve worked in at least two offices where this answer would have garnered a response exactly like you describe. And they might have looked in to how we could get occasional puppies.

    3. LittleMarshmallow*

      If someone 5+ years into their career answered this way I’d be a little concerned because I would expect that someone that far in would know workplace norms a little better.

      If someone fresh out of school answered that way I’d probably rephrase my question and ask a couple leading questions to help give a little more clarity on what that question means and then would weigh it in there with the rest of the questions giving the questions appropriate weight for the role we are hiring. I wouldn’t just eliminate a new to the workforce person for answering that way.

      You’ve gotta give the young’uns a little grace. They’re still learning and if no one will help teach them how will they learn?!?!

  5. Just Me*

    re #8 – once upon a time I worked in a job training program for young adults. We frequently conducted interviews so that a) they could practice and b) we had a sense of their goals to place them in paid internships and apprenticeships. Still, the clients were told that these were REAL interviews and they had to take them REALLY seriously. I once overheard my coworker ask this guy, “So, what do you feel is your greatest weakness?” He promptly said, “Beautiful women!”

  6. Dust Bunny*

    16: I never had this happen but more than once we’d carry a cat or small dog under our arms and it would nervous-poop in our pockets. Sometimes we didn’t realize that, though, until hours later after we’d been carrying stuff in the pockets all shift long.

    I still have my veterinary assistant name tag. It has a magnetic back so if an animal climbs your shirt it won’t rip your scrubs open and flash everybody.

    1. The OG Sleepless*

      No, but it sure will fall off if a dog is flailing in your arms, and I always seem to stick mine back on upside down!

    2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      This story delighted me and I could totally see it happening to me. The only downside to elastic waistbands

    3. Princesss Sparklepony*

      Not a vet tech, but I was traveling with a paralyzed mini dachshund. Had to carry her through the x-ray. She decided that was the time she had to poop. I had her in one hand and my other hand full of a lovely swirl of brown soft serve… luckily it wasn’t liquidy. Somehow no one wants to help a woman with a hand full of …..

      I have had her drop some nuggets into pockets as well.

  7. Choggy*

    Speaking of answering machine messages, at one time many years ago, mine was the song “Tell me what you want (and nothing more)” from CC Music Factory. My friend had to tell me “not” to use that as my message. ;)

    1. knxvil*

      Chiming in to say that my roommate during my first year of college was unamused when I routinely changed our shared voicemail to a clip from the Beastie Boys favorite, “So What’cha Want?”

      1. She's Crafy*

        In college (back in the land line days), my roommate and I had some sort of Beastie Boys spoken interlude as our voicemail message. Good times!

    2. Antilles*

      I had a friend in college whose voice mail message was timed to sound like he’d actually answered the phone and was talking normally – “Hey this is Keith, how’s it going? (waits 5 seconds) Ah cool, I’m doing well over here. What did you think of the game last week, crazy wasn’t it? (waits 5 seconds). Gotcha! Just {blank}-ing with you, leave a message!”.

    3. Dust Bunny*

      My best friend and her freshman roommate had a Godfather-type message on their voicemail: “Leave a message and we’ll have our people call your people”, etc. It was brilliant, though. They had to change it because people kept calling at all hours to hear it and would be disappointed when someone actually answered the phone.

    4. Bucky Barnes*

      My answering machine message in college was Phil Collen from Def Leppard introducing himself and saying “There’s no one home at the moment so we broke in and we’re having a party.” I was thankfully not interviewing for a professional job at the time and was just employed at the student paper. :)

    5. Em*

      I once had:

      “Hello, this is Emily’s phone,
      unfortunately she is not home!
      You’ve done this before
      and you know the score:
      name and number, please, at the tone.”

      I changed it when I started looking for work.

    6. Jessica*

      My neighbors in college in the ’80s had an answering machine that allowed a certain amount of time for your outgoing message, then had the beep tone, and if you rambled on too long in your message, it would overwrite the beep. So we did that on purpose and recorded a message that went something like:
      “Hi, Name and Name aren’t home right now, but we’ll return your call as soon as we can. Please leave a message after the screams. [at least five seconds of the three of us screaming].”

    7. Huttj*

      I had “Sorry, I’m not home right now, I’m walking into spiderwebs. So leave a message and I’ll call you back.”

      Not sung, at least.

      1. Thistle*

        My college roommate had an audio clip from the movie Hard Core Logo as her voicemail greeting. The quote was the voice of actor Callum Keith Rennie saying “I can’t come to the phone right now, I’m eating corn chips and masturbating. Please leave a message.”

        She got some very confused messages from friends trying to reach her who were not sure if they had reached her phone.

        1. kitryan*

          My sister’s bf had some woman’s voice saying something I couldn’t make out and I hadn’t had to call him before and legitimately thought I’d entered the wrong number. Leaving phone messages is stressful enough! Unpopular opinion: Save that stuff for your ringtone!

          1. kitryan*

            got cut off midpost- the ringtone thing is a joke, since I know many people hate custom ringtones as well (I like them but that’s just me) and there’s plenty of ‘inappropriate ringtone’ stories too.

    8. TiredButHappy*

      My flatmate’s answering machine message in the mid 90s was just him screaming. Like “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA! *beep*”

      The messages would usually have a giggle and a message. Or a hang up.

      Then he changed it to “SPEAK! *beep”” when he was looking for a job, which was a vast improvement.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        My message on my phone right now is something like “Hi this is Rebel’s phone, I’m no digital native and don’t always get notifications that you left a message so please don’t leave a message. I do answer text though!”
        Most people then text me, but some have left messages. I’d forgotten about the message and was wondering why everybody would be laughing as they left their message, I remarked on it to a friend and she let me know, but of course, not being a digital native, I have no idea how to change my message to something more professional.
        Once I got a message from a guy who really sounded strained, it was a police officer calling about an accident I’d witnessed, because the victim was pressing charges. I’ve only now realised that the strained voice was because he was trying not to laugh.

    9. Fledge Mulholland*

      My friend in college had the entire George Constanta “Greatest American Hero” answering machine message. It was hilarious the first time, but really annoying to wait through the whole thing to leave a message every time after, which we did in those days before texting was really a thing.

      1. ectotherm*

        Mine was the Gear Daddies singing “and I lock the door and unplug the phone…. ain’t no one home”

    10. Big Bank*

      All of these anecdotes just make me think of the Seinfeld episode where George is avoiding his girlfriend so she doesn’t break up with him, so his vm plays him singing “believe it or not, George isn’t at home, please leave a message at the beep. I must be out, or I’d pick up the phone. Where could I be?”

  8. Anoneman*

    Removed. Please stop using different user names to post the same comments; you have a history of posting conflicting opinions with the intent to inflame and it’s not welcome here. Please do not continue to attempt to comment here. – Alison

    1. Important Moi*

      I have always wondered if this is the type of thing is monitored, especially since you don’t have to register to post here.

      I have seen comments with different names but the same “voice.”

      1. ladyme*

        Yeah, I do that because I don’t want too many personal details under the same screen name. I hope that doesn’t get blocked because someone wanted to troll.

  9. quill*

    Dog related wardrobe malfunctions have to happen occasionally to lab techs. They’ve certainly happened to me, but usually it’s “dog seeks affection: pants no longer fit to wear due to drool / fur / mud”

    1. Narise*

      I walked into a vet’s office with one of my two Saint Bernard’s in tow. The tech was finishing paperwork and turned to ask what I needed and she had two large paw prints on her chest perfectly placed, one on each breast. I didn’t know what to say so I’m like you have something on your shirt. She shrugged said yeah dogs are dirty this time of year. Not sure when she realized or if she didn’t have a change of clothes.

    2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      I had to take a cat through airport security. They have you walk through the detector and “wand” you. Miss Sula was having none of this and decided to hide in my shirt. Problem was it snaps which all snapped. She he was fat, and she’d pulled down my bra trying to escape to safety in my sleeve. There I was, 3 days before Christmas, 1/2 naked, bleeding, with a yowling cat, standing at a TSA X-ray. Only thing I could think to say is, “Can I put her back in her carrier now?”

      1. Cat Lady*

        Taking my cat on a plane was my biggest fear in moving cross country. I had no idea he couldn’t stay in the carrier through security. When the TSA agent told me I’d have to remove him I just froze, I’m sure with the most horrified look on my face. At that point I’m just imagining him running loose through JFK for the rest of his life.

        Thankfully the agent immediately offered to have someone take me to a private room for the screening. And kitty was so freaked out by the unfamiliar environment that, for the first time in his life, he immediately went back into his carrier without a struggle. If you ever have to travel with her again, I *highly* recommed a private screening room.

      2. Princesss Sparklepony*

        Traveled with a small dog. She decided to nervous poop into my hand going through the TSA machine. No one wants to help out a person with a dog in one hand and a nicely swirled portion of brown soft serve in the other…. I’ve blacked out how I recovered from that….

    3. ceiswyn*

      One of my vets lost a pair of shoes to my cat’s projectile diarrhoea. Fortunately, she seemed to think it was worth it to get him well again. At least, she’s one of my FB friends now, so I don’t thiiiink she’s holding any grudges…

  10. Essentially Cheesy*

    #6 – the hokey pokey coworker should be more mortified about poking you in the butt than you ever were. Who DOES that in the age of basically “don’t touch your coworkers”?

    1. PP Halpert*

      It was innocent. She was a friend. She had been walking behind me and mentioned it and I asked her what it was because I couldn’t see it myself (it was a black, form fitting dress and I have a very pale Kardashian-sized backside, lol). She leaned down with her face even with my buns and couldn’t quite process what she was seeing without her glasses and gently poked at it thus making finger to buns contact.
      I repost the story anytime it comes up on my social media account because of how many people (including me and the coworker) thought how funny it is. I was delighted to see it here at the end of Mortification Week!

      1. Books and Cooks*

        Omg, this makes it even better! I already lost it at the gentle poking and, “uh…your buns…it’s your butt,” but knowing that her face was right down there makes it even funnier!

      2. MM*

        Almost this exact thing happened to me, but it was a ripped pair of pants (how I didn’t notice the rip getting dressed, I don’t know), and the person who pointed it out and ended up poking me in bemusement was an Arabic professor who’d just finished giving me an oral exam. (This was during my Master’s.) She and I had never met before that day, but as she was walking me out she clearly saw the problem and felt duty-bound to inform me. Her (English) words seemed to sort of fail her, because she just went, “You have…you…your body” and poked me very gently on that spot. I can still hear her voice saying it.

      3. Drawer full of cake*

        Your story always makes me think of a time when I used a sharpie to “fill in” the hole in a coworker’s black tights. It was a weird moment.

        1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

          Back in the day – in this case, during WW2 rationing – sometimes women who couldn’t get stockings would draw the “seams” on the backs of their legs.

    2. Bluebell*

      I pointed out a rip on my postal carrier’s shorts last month. I brought some painters tape out so she could cover it, but said “I think I’ll let you put it on. “ We both smiled.

    3. Luna*

      Same, I would probably more say “It’s right on your butt” instead of immediately poking. But at least it’s a case of someone immediately pointing out what a problem was? Like when your skirt is stuck in the waistband of your underwear or you have toothpaste residue on your face.

    4. UrsulaD*

      I once got a bad pair of scrubs from the machine with the whole crotch torn open. I didn’t notice until the end of my shift when I sat cross legged. I yelped and my coworker turned and saw my underwear before I could cover up. Do I need to mention I was wearing my fuchsia pair that day?

  11. I'm just here for the cats!*

    12 I was with you until you stopped working for the rest of the day! Like really what does the type of shoe matter? I could see if someone was giving a speech and was on stage where shoes would be more noticeable. But unless i can find a supportive shoe that works just as well as my Sketchers shoes I am not changing my shoe choice for work!

    1. Ray*

      It’s pretty innocent in my opinion unless it’s some sort of insider thing with the band.

      1. urguncle*

        I mean, their biggest hit is about an orgy house. I think…it might be intentional.

  12. Madame X*

    6. The ripped seam
    She didn’t have to touch your butt to tell you that something was on your butt. That was weird on her part.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Or it was a funny misunderstanding between friends, with whom more physical contact and adjustments for nearsightedness are normal.
        *points up several posts*

        1. Princesss Sparklepony*

          She may have thought it was something she could fix. Either brushing off some chalk that was on the dress or adjusting the dress to hid the mark/hole.

    1. PP Halpert*

      I’ll clarify that I asked her to investigate. I am an assistant and was seconds away from some VIPs coming in to the room I was setting up for a meeting. I think when she was processing it, she thought it was something that, instead of a stain, was something stuck to my dress and thought it could be gently removed.
      It was innocent. She was a friend. She had been walking behind me and mentioned it and I asked her what it was because I couldn’t see it myself (it was a black, form fitting dress and I have a very pale Kardashian-sized backside, lol). She leaned down with her face even with my buns and couldn’t quite process what she was seeing without her glasses and gently poked at it thus making finger to buns contact.

      1. Madame X*

        oh thanks for that clarification! Makes more sense that you asked her to investigate. From the description above, i thought she was a work colleague you barely knew who took it upon herself to poke you (though of course she did not know that it was not a stain)

  13. fort hiss*

    #17, your story reminds me of one time when I wore a Night Vale shirt that said “You won’t sleep when you’re dead either” to an elementary school in Japan. It was Halloween, and it wasn’t like anyone would be good enough at English to understand it. I just needed a black shirt for my witch outfit. (Being an ALT is wild, y’all.) I forgot I was teaching the 5th grade Filipino student who spoke pretty fluent English that day… she asked me what my shirt meant and I had to try to explain it. Awkward… not wildly inappropriate but awkward. LOL

    1. Apt Nickname*

      I once sent a 3rd grade child to school in an AC/DC shirt. It wasn’t until he got home afterwards that it clicked that it said “Highway to Hell.” That was designated as an at-home shirt and he was only allowed to wear the “For those about to rock” shirt to school.

    2. Nessun*

      Ohhh I have difficulty explaining Night Vale quotes to nature Engliah-speaking adults!! I’d have had no idea how to even start that conversation.

  14. River Otter*

    “The interviewer asked me what kind of office environment I preferred to work in.”

    What is this question getting at? This would flummox me completely. “I’d like a chair. And a desk. With a computer, provided by you. Indoors is a must.” I know that’s not what they want to hear, but that’s all I got.

    1. DisneyChannelThis*

      I think it’s meant to be more like do you prefer working collaboratively in groups or alone on projects with less interaction; several tasks at once vs very focused single task at time; do you like clear deadlines or hate them; etc. Where there’s not a “good” or “bad” answer, just depends on the type of work available and what you enjoy. I agree there’s better ways to ask it. My last job interview actually didn’t ask just informed “This role has many simultaneous projects where you need to track and manage your own progress”.

    2. Antilles*

      IMO, it’s basically a mix of corporate culture and working style. Here are some ways to think about it:
      -Do you want something with lots of collaboration, where you spend tons of time interacting with others? Or do you prefer more independence where you basically get a task and then run with it?
      -Do you want an office environment where everybody’s chatty and people will regularly stop by your office just to chat about, idk, last night’s ballgame or whatever? Or do you want an office environment where people just go about their business and someone only walks into your office when they have a specific project need?
      -Do you want an office where people regularly get lunch together and are friends? Or everybody does their own thing?
      -Do you want an office where people are blunt with criticism or one where it’s more indirect?

      1. River Otter*

        Both those answers make sense, and I would never ever have put that together from “office environment.”

        Curse my literal, spectrum brain.

        1. LittleMarshmallow*

          Don’t worry… I was asked in an interview once “where does crude oil come from”. I looked my interviewer right in the eye and said “the ground?”.

          He laughed.

          I actually got and loved that job! Buncha nerds. Definitely my people.

    3. Overthere*

      I’m changing my name for this response. I always ask this question. I do preface it saying it’s intentionally vague and there is literally no wrong answer. It’s also my closing question. After they answer I’ll highlight some of the different answers I’ve gotten and why I ask the question. If it’s an interesting answer I might ask a light follow up question or two, but generally don’t.

      It gives me a little bit of insight into the candidate. I’ve had some surprising answers over the years. From memory here are some of the responses and what I took from them.

      -I like a quiet environment (tells me that this person likes to get to work and focus)
      -I like a lot of collaborative work (this person wouldn’t be a great fit for a mainly solo transactional role)
      -I like a lot of teamwork -similar to above it’s probably my most common answer (generally works well with others- this one I don’t get a lot out of)
      -I like teamwork but also need time on my own to process things (this person is likely happier in a solo role, but operates effectively in a group)
      -I don’t like it when the office is cold (I can’t stand them when they’re hot – but no wrong answers! This person is probably a little inexperienced and may not be ready right away for a job in the spotlight)
      -I don’t want to work with coworkers who will stab people in the back (This one told me there was a story or series of stories in the job they are leaving. Might have some residual ‘issues’ (can’t think of the word I’m looking for issues isn’t quite right because it sounds like they had the problem and not the environment… sensitivities again isn’t the right word, but you know what I’m after hopefully))

      I could go on, but the OPs answer to this would indicate to me that they are pretty informal, looking to have fun in the workplace and a little non-conventional. Which again, isn’t a bad thing if they also have the skills and experience I’m looking for. I might be a little bit more on the lookout for polish and professionalism if I hired them but it wouldn’t be a ‘black mark’ against them.

      1. Overthere*

        Adding… I don’t use this question to try and divine a candidates deep dark secrets by what kind of tree the relate to or what kind of animal they’d be.

        I really do like to get a sense for their priorities in a job and a little bit about their preferences. Now when I say there’s no wrong answer I have used the answers to probe a little deeper if I think there is a mismatch with the job I’m hiring for. But that’s for as much their benefit as it is mine. Nobody wants a job they are miserable in.

        For example the backstabbing answer guy… If I knew the role would have a lot of interaction with people like this (luckily my workplace doesn’t have this culture) then I probably wouldn’t hire him. He knows the signs… he’s not going to be happy here. I was able to explain that some teams have a more liberal approach to including other departments in their explanations when things go wrong. But they are the exception and for the most part everyone just jumps in to fix things when something goes wrong (which is very true). This allowed him to make an informed choice if he could live with that.

      2. River Otter*

        Vague questions like this are not friendly to anyone on the spectrum or anyone who is extremely literal for any other reason. If you ask me a question about the office, you will get an answer about the literal office. And since I am on the spectrum, I will assure you that there literally *is* a wrong answer.

        1. short'n'stout (she/her)*

          I think it’s more that coming up with an answer about the literal office environment (rather than something more about office culture/work style) demonstrates that the interviewee doesn’t have a lot of experience in office jobs, so hasn’t learned office-style corporate-speak.

          1. River Otter*

            I think you are right about Overthere’s thinking, but Overthere is projecting. I have plenty of experience in offices, and none of it made me less autistic.
            Being literal is not unique to spectrum people, nor does it mean a person isn’t ready for the spotlight.
            This really is a variation on the “what kind of tree are you?” question. There is a lot of projection and underlying assumptions going on in Overthere’s interpretation of the answers. I hope they can do some reflection to ask better questions and make their interview process more inclusive.

          2. E. Chauvelin*

            Yeah, I’ve been working in a “professional” level job in my field for over ten years, and I’d give you an entirely different answer if you asked about “office culture” or “working style” than if you asked about “office environment.” I’d know not to mention puppies because unless they specifically asked for my “dream” office, I would assume that I should stick to something more realistic. But I’d probably say that I’d like it relatively quiet and be able to wear headphones when working independently if I don’t have an office of my own (which I’ll probably never have in my field unless I go into management), that I’m not a fan of open floor plans and that ideally I’d like my own desk/computer rather than a hot desk situation.

      3. Lab Boss*

        You tell them there’s no wrong answer, but your interpretation of some of the answers aren’t positive ones- your interpretations don’t sound terribly misguided but you’re also drawing some deep conclusions about the candidate from a simple answer to an extremely ambiguous question. I would gently suggest that maybe you’re not as far from the “what kind of tree would you be?” style of personality-test question as you think you are.

      4. Snoozing not schmoozing*

        Your first example answer might be someone who likes to nap at their desk.

      5. sb51*

        See, I’d assume “office culture” means this stuff, and “office environment” really is more about the physical space (especially since I’m in a tech field where hybrid setups and fads in open offices vs traditional come and go and people do care and will turn down jobs over them).

        Especially since right now a significant fraction of people have serious COVID-related concerns about coming back into offices and I do want to make sure people can have those addressed (and if they need additional accommodations see if those are possible).

    4. Ann O'Nemity*

      Collaborative vs independently. In a private office vs open space. In the office at all or would prefer remote. Any of those would be useful information for the interviewers.

    5. Adultiest Adult*

      I would love this answer! And possibly remind myself to ask questions in a slightly less literal fashion. I did have to retrain myself to stop telling people to “pull up a chair” when I meant “take a seat” after more than one person dragged a waiting room chair across the room to follow that direction!

      1. River Otter*

        “And possibly remind myself to ask questions in a slightly less literal fashion.”

        Thank you.

    6. That One Person*

      Strikes me as a good reason to be ready with follow up questions or alternate wording on the interviewer’s part. I’m with you and the puppies OP as far as answers go though seeing examples of other answers I have a better idea of what they’d be looking for now, but can’t promise I would’ve interpreted this according to expected answers initially.

    7. NervousNellie*

      I feel like any honest answer here is going to go over like gravy on a ice cream sundae, so maybe this is one of those questions that is intended to test schmooze skills?

      1. River Otter*

        “I feel like any honest answer here is going to go over like gravy on a ice cream sundae”

        Am autistic, can confirm.

  15. DivineMissL*

    #12 The drinking – I actually made this same joke at an interview about a month ago, to be an EA to one of the VPs at a state university. One of the panel asked me, “How do you handle stressful situations?” and I joked, “Uhhhhh…whiskey?” and they all laughed; then I gave them my real (appropriate) answer. Later, when I met with the VP, she came in and said, “I hear you like whiskey. You’re going to fit right in here!” I was offered the job! But I was also highly qualified and interview well. Sometimes you have to know when it’s safe to deploy a joke!

    1. 1-800-BrownCow*

      You can never be too careful though. I tend to make jokes when I’m nervous….which of course, interviewing makes me nervous. Years ago I was interviewing at a company and I had a panel interview before meeting with the department manager. The 3-person panel all had a sense of humor and were all joking with me throughout my interview. It went great! Next, I met with the manager, which I was extremely nervous because he ultimately would decide to hire me or not. One question he asked, my mind blanked, so I made a joke to break the tension and give me a few seconds to come up with an answer. Except he obviously did NOT find my joke funny at all. I honestly don’t remember what I said, but I can say it wasn’t inappropriate or anything that would make me look bad or appear unprofessional. Regardless, I did not recover well from that. Later, one of the people from the panel gave me a quick tour of the facility and I asked how they liked working there. They replied that it was great except the department manager had no sense of humor and did not take jokes very well. Yeah, they could have warned me ahead of time! Needless to say, I did not get the job. But it may have been a blessing I didn’t because the facility shut down a few years later when the company was bought out and manufacturing was moved overseas.

  16. FalsePositive*

    For, 7. The winter party, I’m sure it’s not very comforting, but I suspect you were far more entertaining than the opening remarks.

  17. Been There*

    I just have to say the fact that most of these had a post titled “the flatulence” just gives me faith in humanity that while the whole world seems to be divisive, we can all agree farts are funny

  18. Wendy Darling*

    The last job interview I went to I had a full-on asthma attack, and I have coughing-type asthma so this manifested as me just coughing so much I couldn’t talk for like 20 minutes. Every time I tried to speak I had another coughing fit. Usually if I drink some water and wait it out these little fits go away, but this one would not quit and I finally just had to tap out for a minute and use my rescue inhaler. Embarrassingly, I’m pretty sure this was triggered by an allergy to some fragrance one of the interviewers was wearing, though I blamed it on environmental allergies (how my interviewer smells is part of the environment right???)

    Fortunately I did not vomit, but I did spend like a third of a job interview coughing. During a global pandemic. The main symptom of which is coughing. So, you know, there was that.

    I got the job, though. I start a week from Monday.

    1. Anonymous for this one*

      I was on an interview panel and we were close to the end of a full day of interviews. I had eaten something for lunch that I had never had before, and midway through the last interview I could tell that my lunch was not agreeing with me and I started to realize I had food poisoning. But not the vomiting kind. The other kind.

      So I’m sitting in an uncomfortable chair in my boss’s office with my boss, the other supervisor at my level, our HR director, and a complete stranger whose qualifications I’m supposed to be assessing, and I’m just breathing as slowly and calmly as I can and trying not to poop myself. We ended the interview and as my boss was walking the candidate out, I literally took off running down the hall to the bathroom. By some miracle, I made it there in time, but it was close.

      1. Also anonymous for this one*

        Just in case…

        I have found that rhythmically tightening/flexing my buns–like, ‘left, right, left, right, left left, right right, together, left, right, &c” adding an occasional tightening of, uh, the middle part to the rhythm, and doing it at varying speeds from slower to almost like a fast “wave,” really helps in those situations. It can be a little tricky to do it subtly, but not impossible (especially if you have a chair with armrests so you can lean on them a little, to help keep your upper body steady). I once made it through almost two hours in the car after a friend’s bachelorette night (so, you know, with the assorted lower-digestive issues that a mild-ish hangover can give) that way–I had stupidly declined to use the bathroom when we stopped before leaving town to head home, and even more stupidly got some fries and a large Coke. The introduction of fluid to my system set off my lower intestine, and by the time I realized my mistake we were ten or fifteen minutes along the highway, which happened to be one of those flat-stretch-across-the-middle-of-nowhere type roads, with no rest stops, gas stations, nothing for miles.

        Breathing helped, too, and I was able to spend most of that time relatively comfortable (but yeah, when we finally found a rest stop I leapt from the car like I was on fire). Something to do with taking the pressure off, maybe, and focusing your mind/body on something else in that area?

        Not sure if this is a common thing that everybody knows anyway, but just in case…it really helps me when I have issues in that department.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Something similar to the OP’s post happened to me (I didn’t barf but did not get the job). It taught me to ALWAYS make sure I have my water bottle with me—I can’t count on them offering me anything.

  19. Avery*

    Not strictly work, but #5 reminded me of when I was making a school presentation–community college, so class full of adults… and farted right at the beginning of the presentation.
    I just kept going as if it hadn’t happened, but I’m pretty sure it was too loud not to notice.

  20. It's a Beautiful Day*

    The vet tech one reminded me of once when I was a vet tech there was a client that I had a huge crush on. One day he walks in the front door of the office as I was on my way out with a trash bag full of used kitty litter that I had thrown over my shoulder. I was also going out to break down the cardboard boxes for recycling and had put a pair of scissors on my back pocket – blade side up. As I was saying hi to him and trying not to blush and/or be a total idiot, the scissors ripped through the trash bag and dumped used kitty litter all over my feet and the floor all around me. I thought I would die.

    1. SAS*

      Aaahhhhhh noooo!!!!

      I’ve got to admit I really hadn’t ever considered the variables in mortification in different industries until this week!

  21. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    I guess I missed the call to submit…

    For my first 3 years in the workforce, across 3 different offices/employers, my email signature was at least 20 lines; a sequence of non sequuntur quotes intended to form a hilarious conversation when stitched together.

    On my personal email, with recruiters, and on my work emails…

    “This looks remarkably bad…” – Egon Spengler
    “Are you a god?” – Gozer the Gozerian
    “Damn!” – Barney the Dinosaur
    “You have to help me; I can’t make decisions!” – President Skroob
    “When someone asks you if you’re a god, you say YES!” – Winston Zeddemore
    “It happens to me all the time…” – Henry “Indiana” Jones
    “No, you fool, we’re following orders…” – Dark Helmet
    “… That’s not funny.
    I know. That’s why we decoded them twice.” – Down Periscope
    “… They must have come from McDonalds.” – Sr. Dev from Job #1
    “Plus, he’s a lefty.
    Well, it’s so hard to find a lefty…” – Dharma and Greg
    “… What did you do, Ray?” – Peter Venkman
    “I don’t know–I’m making this up as I go…” – Henry “Indiana” Jones
    “… It’s … the … Stay-Puft Marshmallow man…” – Ray Stantz
    “I see it mostly as irritating the hell out of Bill Gates” – Michael Cusumano
    “That’s gonna cost me” – Tommy Callahan
    “Even in the future, nothing works!” – Dark Helmet
    “So … you have to go … down to the bar… and have a drink with all your friends…” – Ian Gillan
    “Well, why not? It worked on Blazing Saddles!” – Achoo, son of Asneeze

    1. knxvil*

      +1 for the reference to Robin Hood: Men in Tights!

      “A toll is a toll, and a roll is a roll; if we don’t get no tolls, then we don’t eat no rolls. I made that up!”

  22. Free Meerkats*

    Regarding #3, there was an Engineering Tech here who will always be remembered as “That guy who put his socks in one of the lunchroom microwaves to dry” after a day in the field, even though he’s been retired for at least 5 years.

  23. Agile Phalanges*

    Re #15. My EX-husband had me help him with his resume once, after we were already exes. Dear readers, the first line (after his name and info) was “I am a rock star in everything I do.” (He was and always has been in sales-y waiter-y types of jobs, so maybe that’s more appropriate there, but yikes.) His personality very much matches that statement, even though reality very much does not.

    1. SAS*

      Omg I’m dying with laughter. I suspect you’re a much more generous person than I am (as demonstrated by helping your ex with this) but I wouldn’t have changed it and just let that choice of his play out in his job-seeking endeavours.

  24. River Otter*


    I used to bike to work in Texas. We did have a shower, but that did not help the sweaty biking clothes. I hung them off a hanger in my cube to dry.

    This was 20 years ago when I was an intern, but I would probably do the same thing today.

    1. Biking To Work*

      #3 seems a good tie-in to the earlier question about how to make companies more green: make it actually possible for people to commute via transit, foot, and bicycle in non-mortifying ways. Provide people with space to change and hang damp clothes, for a start.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        I live in a very bike-friendly city, and our offices have a ton of bike parking and 2 showers (with lockable doors) on every floor. I prefer walking to work, but it’s good to have options.

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        We had a shower at work, it was great. I did have to move all the cleaner’s equipment the first time, and the cleaner was not happy with his new storage space.
        I started cycling to work when we no longer had the sales department on site, so no clients ever came. I would wash out my sweaty T-shirt, and hang it over the ventilator or radiator to dry for the home ride, and kept other clothes at work to change into.
        Other clothes also included slippers for winter and flip-flops for summer.
        One day I had to go to head office, and an intern asked me “are you the lady who wears slippers at work?” at which point I realised I was a rich source for gossip.

  25. 2 Cents*

    Share in the mortification that just happened!
    I was on a call with the vendor, who was presenting, when he switched his screen so I could see another aspect of the product. Up pops a document “How to Use Your Rabbit Vibrator.” Cue frantic clicking on his side. (He claims it was leftover from a previous client presentation today.)

  26. Bunny Girl*

    #16 – Haha puppies can be the best source of embarrassment. I went into a client room with the cutest chubbiest golden puppy who was very excited about life. I crouched down to say hello and he grabbed my mask with his teeth and pulled me off balance so I face planted right in front of his owners.

  27. MsM*

    So, on 8…did he make this observation while the relationship was still a going concern? And if so, is that why he’s an ex?

    1. Beth*

      I’m remembering the Scalzi truism about the Failure Mode of “clever”. (Google if you aren’t already familiar with it.)

  28. Winner Winner*

    For #17 – My mom went to Amsterdam, and gifted me a shirt with a bird on it. I thought it was a cool shirt and wore it around for a few days before one of my friends pointed out that the bird was smoking weed on the shirt… it wasn’t subtle. I have no idea how I missed it.

    1. Lizzie*

      That reminds me of a friend I had in college. Who was from another country, a VERY conservative one. And she had this shirt with a fisherman, waist deep in water, and a fish in front of him, under the water. She was MORTIFIED when it was pointed out the fish just wasn’t there, he was um, orally pleasuring the fisherman! I believe that shirt went straight into the trash!

  29. Antares*

    I just got reminded of another one…our interns that year were both big into plants, and so am I. I was like, let me show you my plants! As I was showing pictures on my phone, a text popped up from my partner that very clearly said “I was thinking of you this morning, and had to touch myself in the shower.”

    I have never dismissed a notification so fast.

    1. Rocket Woman*

      Definitely went to show a coworker a picture of my (should have been) puppy and had an … eh hem *inappropriate* photo … of my partner in the view. I’ve never scrolled higher in my camera roll so fast in my life.

    2. Calvin blick*

      One time my girlfriend had a mysterious skin condition, and they tested her for syphilis, and of course the text saying she didn’t have syphilis came in right as one of my co-workers was reading something on my phone. Thankfully I muted the notification pretty fast, and also fortunately it wasn’t a positive test for syphilis

    1. OyHiOh*

      And could so easily be solved by including in the event invitation language to the effect of we are gathering in the hospitality tent for drinks and welcome remarks by X and Y. After remarks, we will disperse to enjoy dinner and ice skating

      Voila, no mortification moments for anyone. I get wanting such events to feel informal and fun but seriously, let people know what the agenda is, even if it’s loose.

      1. Warrior Princess Xena*

        This was actually my story! I had been in a professional office for a whole entire 3 months by that point, much of which was virtual. The partner speech was scheduled, I just wasn’t tremendously interested in attending and didn’t realize that if the people who are essentially the C-suite in the office are giving a speech the expectation is that you are present and paying attention (or at least, if you’re not paying attention, be remotely subtle about it). Additionally, I had a deep personal dislike of being the ‘rebel’ in any group when it comes to social behaviors. I have since gained more self-confidence but the double hit of natural shyness and being pretty new in the office made for a very awkward moment.

      2. The Prettiest Curse*

        It’s always good to include that info in emails, but as an event coordinator, I’ve found that either:
        1. People don’t read the email.
        2. They read the email, but then completely forget the contents by the day of the event.
        3. Even if you have handouts or a Giant Freaking Sign with the relevant info, they will ignore it and do whatever they were going to do anyway.

        Frankly, every time someone actually pays attention to something that was in the pre-event email, I nearly fall over in shock…

      3. Princesss Sparklepony*

        Easier would be to keep the rink closed until after the speeches were over. There’s always someone who doesn’t read the emails.

  30. Laura*

    I had recently moved into a town house and the doorknob to my bathroom fell off one morning. I set it aside and proceeded to take a shower. The door somehow shut and I could not get it open without the knob, which was just outside the door. I had my clothes, but no phone and definitely no tools! My roommate had already left and this bathroom had no windows. I was trapped!
    One of my coworkers thought it odd that I had not shown up and was not answering my phone. His mother lived near me so she was sent to check on me. I was able to yell at her that I was trapped, but it was hard to hear. She called the cops and they busted through the front door, charged up the stairs, and then stuck the knob in the door and opened it.
    Obviously everyone at work heard this story, including the very cute guy that came to our office once a quarter. I was beyond embarrassed at the time.

    1. Books and Cooks*

      It’s embarrassing, but IMO it’s pretty great that your co-worker was concerned and sent someone to check on you! Imagine if he hadn’t, especially if you didn’t have a roommate!

  31. no one reads this far*

    If you haven’t been pantsed by a dog, do you even work in the animal care industry?

  32. nora*

    Re: #15.

    Well after being available by cell phone most of the time was considered the norm, I dated a guy who finished college with an army background and a prestigious degree. He was also almost completely unreachable by phone most of the time. He’d leave it off, or forget to charge it, or lose it, and of course he did not check his voicemail (if he even had it set up). He was trying to get an economics-type office job, and gave his parents’ landline as his contact number. His mom recorded the outgoing message. He didn’t understand why he wasn’t getting interviews.

    For what it’s worth I don’t think he ever really understood why I left him either. OP, cheers to making better choices!

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Punch line: He broke up with me. (I subsequently had to talk him out of taking it back, because I think he expected me to object.)

  33. ok*

    LW 1: at a previous job I had, we had shared work stations. My boss was always leaving open the e-books she was reading, which were very purple-prose romance novels. It was extremely awkward to unlock the computer and have phrases like “pulsing member” right in your face.

    She also got mad when a coworker started joking about it, “oh L’s been on the computer, better be careful what you might see!” Well maybe don’t read explicit romance novels at work

    1. Observer*

      That’s not just mortifying.

      Was this a small place? In a lot of offices, this would be an absolute HR issue. Many years ago I was dealing with a computer issue at a small org and realized that one of the staff had a number of inappropriate images. I don’t recall details (I also didn’t have to look at the actual images once I realized where they were from and the titles also tipped me off.) When I spoke to the director I pointed out that even if he was looking at those pics after work (a possible situation as this was before home access to internet and / or a decent smart phone was a fairly reasonable default assumption) this was a shared computer in a shared space, and no one should have to stumble on this stuff.

      They took care of it.

      1. ok*

        It was a tiny office but HR was pretty useless. Maybe someone talked to her, I don’t know. Not my circus anymore!

    2. squirreltooth*

      Fun fact: romance novels are huge in ebook partially because readers like to avoid being judged by bystanders. Some books have sex in them, just move on.

      1. Observer*

        The issue is not that the manager was reading that stuff. The problem is that she was leaving this stuff in people’s faces. That’s not something people should have to “move on” from.

  34. ChemistryChick*

    Hahahaha omgggg I’d forgotten I’d posted my mortification experience. My face turned red again just reading it.

    1. Warrior Princess Xena*

      Same here! Though I think I originally posted mine in the December party thread, not the mortification thread

  35. CoffeeFail*

    I just spent more time than I should have looking for a picture of the B-52s shirt.

  36. DoYouReadAudiobooks*

    #1 I read that Boss Man book….err, listened to it. It’s a good book if you’re into funny, smut reading haha

    1. Aww, coffee, no*

      I read (and enjoyed) it too, after someone here commented something about it. I think I went and looked up the image on Amazon and then got intrigued by the synopsis.

  37. Gray Lady*

    Oh, poor #1. I have had that kind of lingering cough that hangs on for weeks after I’m no longer actively sick, and once or twice I’ve actually thrown up a bit from it. But there’s just no way to reassure someone that you’re not either at death’s door or spreading some nasty contagion when you’re in that state.

    1. kupo!*

      I had one of these coughs in high school. I suspect it was whooping cough; I’m part of the age group that probably got an ineffective vaccine variant, so it swept through my school like crazy. For *months* I had the most horrible coughing fits that I could only stop by holding my breath for as long as I could manage, and then slowly forcing myself to breathe through my nose. This was super concerning to people– understandably, as it presumably seemed to an outside observer that I was just dying. But yeah, convincing people that I was actually mostly okay, just frustrated, and that I was no longer infectious…. that was an uphill battle.

      1. kitryan*

        I have this issue too – my throat gets really easily irritated and stays that way absolutely forever. So, whenever I get a respiratory illness I don’t sound too bad while I’m actually ill/contagious, but when I’m on the mend and ready to come back, I’m still coughing and sound like a lifetime smoker.
        I try to defuse things when I get tired of saying ‘oh, I’m fine, it’s just aftereffects’, by joking that no one’s ever doubted that I’ve been ill when I’ve returned to work after calling in sick, instead they keep trying to send me back home (and explaining the issue, when appropriate).
        Masking/pandemic has had mixed results on this front – I’ve gotten sick much less but I’m worried about being in public with any ‘symptoms’ upsetting others, if/when I do get a cold or when allergies are acting up and I’m also worried that all of this is likely to make covid worse for me so I’ve been very risk adverse, which is stressful/depressing.

        1. AntsOnMyTable*

          Whenever I have exposure to a certain allergen I have a cough that lingers for about 3-5 days. I was exposed, had that cough, and then at work I kept assuring my coworkers I knew why I had that cough and I didn’t have covid. I had covid. I felt so bad.

    2. Princesss Sparklepony*

      I’d never had the throw up thing until just recently. I got Covid with a cough (bad flu version, not hospitalized version – yay vaccines!) and the cough went on for a month or so. And for the first time ever I had the coughing so hard I’d projectile vomit. That was a surprise the first few times… Living on cough syrup for a month!

      When I first got it, it lowered my voice quite a bit. I had to make some calls to get help, let people know, cancel stuff, etc. Everyone called me sir. I decided to find it amusing.

  38. Seeking Second Childhood*

    OP#2 I’m hoping that “recently” going to an interview when feeling even a little under the weather, you contacted your in-person interviewer before entering their building and asked how they wanted to handle the sniffles. Best if you tell them you’ve tested negative. We are still in a pandemic. Variants are still forming, and the new one re-infects within weeks. Vaccinated people are still going to the hospital. There are still no vaccines for newborns. And transplant recipients still have no good anti-viral drugs that can guarantee they are safe.
    Or “recently” was before March 2020… because pre-pandemic was both yesterday and a lifetime ago.
    I would hire someone who had to postpone due to possible symptoms — but not someone who blew past my covid-risk boundaries.

  39. Blarg*

    Pearl Jam’s old logo, known as the Stick Man, which appears on shirts and stickers and all over the place … has a very prominent and large penis. Which you don’t see until you see it and then you can’t unsee it.

  40. Reality.Bites*

    In the late 1990s, Miicrosoft was using a “hand” mouse pointer a lot. The one that looks like an index finger.

    I bought a t-shirt with that while at a conference in San Francisco and wore it the next casual Friday.
    Only the one I bought didn’t have the index finger up. I never noticed! Once I did, I immediately told my boss and apologized, and asked if I should go home and change, wear it inside out, or what. There were no public-facing roles in the office, so he said to just not wear it again.

  41. Fierce Jindo*

    For #3, I really think the blame lies with the company paying so little that you couldn’t afford to take the tube in to work!

  42. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    My mortification story, that the discussion on #12 reminded me of – I threw my back out, and after being allowed to WFH for a couple of weeks, eventually had to come back into the office with a herniated disc, that I was getting PT for. As one of the ways of dealing with the pain, I would fill a gallon ziploc bag with ice, bring it to work (it was winter, so the ice survived the commute well), and sit at my desk with this DIY ice pack behind my lower back. I was double-bagging the ice and had a spare ice pack, that I kept in the office freezer and changed out when mine would start to melt. But one day, I was deep in the zone for work and lost track of my ice pack, and, when I got up from my chair at 7 pm to go home, the ice had melted and leaked out, leaving a large wet spot on the seat of my chair. The cleaning team was already in the building and I was worried about what they’d think – that I’d been WAY too immersed in work and didn’t get up to go to the bathroom on time? I wrote a note for the them, explaining the ice pack and assuring them that this was melted ice, then went home.

  43. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    I have one about a dog at a vet, too. 15+ years ago, my sons (10 and 13 years old at the time) and I brought our recently neutered Sheltie puppy to the vet for a checkup. The puppy was nervous and scared of everything. I was at the front desk with my back to the reception area, while my sons helped the vet techs get the dog on the scale. I heard gasps, followed by something my older son said, followed by laughter from all the vet techs. Turned out, the dog was terrified of being on the scale, and peed on it. My 13yo then said, in a deadpan monotonous voice, “The dog has no balls, both literally and metaphorically.” RIP Sparky, we miss you. You were such an adorable nervous wreck.

  44. Ms. Carter*

    I have a new entry for mortification week that is happening (not to me) as I type. An acquaintance is on a conference call and just sent over a zoomed-in screenshot of the tabs the presenter in her meeting has up. One is titled…”How to Top During A—l.”

    If I was that presenter and realized I had left that tab up, I would simply move to Antarctica.

  45. Justanothersmalltowngirl*

    I am reminded of my own tale of mortification when I replied to an email thread from my phone (not something I normally do) and it involved my boss, boss’s boss, and a couple of colleagues. One of my senior colleagues, who I work very closely with and have for many years, is named Molly. Molly and I are famous as a duo in our work, and occasionally get comments that I’m her work daughter because of our ages and close dynamic in her mentorship of me.

    I typed in reply to this email asking about a task that it was something Molly was going to handle when she returned…except my phone decided to correct Molly to… MOMMY. I emailed a half dozen people, including the ED of our org, that mommy would take care of it. Thank GOD everyone found it deeply amusing, but it was horrifically embarrassing as I had already been trying to stifle the work daughter commentary and obviously this fed into it.

    When I went to text my husband what had happened, my phone did it again, and I disabled it from ever changing a word to “mommy” again.

  46. Vio*

    no 15 is one of my favourite Pratchett quotes. but I’ve certainly never used it on an answerphone… I’m imagining how it would go over in a job interview though (for comedy reasons only, of course)

  47. HereToRead*

    I am a teacher. In a team meeting this year, I was trying to share about an experience with a particularly difficult parent. In my mind I was going between ‘they chewed me out’ and ‘the ate me alive’… But what came out was ‘They ate me out!’.

  48. Anongineer*

    I was an intern at an engineering firm while living on my college campus. I had a party to go to after work, so I thought I would save time and do the whole “day-to-night” look. This would have been fine if not for the 6″ wedge heels I insisted on wearing (I drove to work! I could have changed them in the car!).

    Ended up flat on my face with a sprained ankle. I stick to flats now haha. Thankfully they still hired me after college!

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