Mortification Week: the creepy playhouse, the inexplicable insult, 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 14 mortifying stories to kick off today.

1. The kitty playhouse

This situation still makes me cringe. My first professional experience after college was a national service position, which meant we were poorly paid and always on the lookout for cheaper housing. My fellow service member “Robert” and I would email Craigslist listings to each other (on our work email!), especially if we found weird or funny ones.

On that fateful day, I found a creepy and hilariously awful listing. It was something like “Seeking 7 pretty kitty cat ladies to live in Meow King’s playhouse” and it was obviously some oddball fetishist offering low rent for women to pretend to be cats while living in his house. I forwarded it Robert.

An hour later I got an email from a partner organization’s director who I’d met and started working with earlier that week. His name was also Robert.

I had forwarded the creepy Craigslist with a message saying, “I’ve found the purrrfect place for you!” to Director Robert.

Director Robert was very confused. I hastily told him I accidentally sent the email to the wrong person, but I was mortified and I still had to work with him for the rest of the year. He graciously never spoke of it again.

2. The problem

Fairly mild one but it still haunts me. Years ago I was working retail at a small local store. I was stocking shelves around the corner from the door and register when I heard the motion sensor bell go off, meaning someone had walked in. I go around the corner to help her, right as she rounds that corner too. It’s a blind corner so neither of us saw the other coming. We didn’t quite run into each other, but almost, and we were both startled. She said, “Oh, sorry!”

I then apparently had a short-circuit in my brain, because I tried to say “You’re good!” and “No problem!” at the same time. Instead, what came out was a slightly halting “Your problem!”

She looked confused and offended and I had no idea how to recover. She bought her stuff in silence and it was so awkward.

3. The breast gymnastics

I work remotely and have a young child who I pump breastmilk for. One day I was participating in a company-wide, full-day performance review, so I had to pump while the meeting was ongoing. No big deal, tilt the camera up and all was fine.

Well, we went to take a break, so I turned my camera off (so I thought), finished pumping, but was having some issues and so I was engaging in “breast gymnastics” (which pretty much is exactly what it sounds like). Realized belatedly my camera was NOT off, after all. So I had vigorously shaken my boobs in front of our entire company, including the CEO and president.

Fortunately everyone had the good grace to have selective amnesia about it!

4. The slip

I was almost late to work, so I parked somewhat illegally, then took a shortcut through a grassy area rather than along a sidewalk. It had been raining, and there was a huge mud patch. I slipped and fell, then slipped and fell again trying to get up. It was like a scene in a movie, and when I finally emerged from the puddle, I was coated in mud head to foot. I abashedly made my way to my office and informed my manager that I was going to go to Target to buy some clean clothes (much faster than going home to change due to the length of my commute) and that I would be back soon. I was then late for the meeting I had scheduled that morning, and it turns out my boss had told them I’d “had an accident.” I’m pretty sure they all thought I’d shit myself, but I’m hoping they thought I was in a car accident instead. I wouldn’t have minded them knowing I had been wallowing around in mud like a hog.

5. The plumbing

Our office has very, very old plumbing. One day when I was quite new at the job, I was alone in the office and the pipes burst. Water/toilet content started leaking from the pipes onto the bathroom floor, then slowly spread into the hallway. I cleaned as best as I could and called our Office Manager. She arrives, stands on the large damp toilet patch, looking aghast. I liked her and wanted to show that I’d done all I could so, for reasons unknown, I said, “I tried to clean it but right now you’re standing on my pee.” Whut.

6. The insult

Fresh out of college I worked for a company with a famously petite male CEO. I’m a rather tall woman and back then wore heels every day; I had about 12 inches on the guy. We never had any reason to interact as he worked out of a different office (and I was the lowliest of the low). One day he was visiting and came into the break room while I was in there. He was looking for a coffee mug but when he opened the cupboard, he saw they were all on the highest shelf. He chuckled a bit, looked at me, and said, “Would you mind?” For some reason I will never understand, as I handed him the mug I said, “We moved them up there because we knew you were coming! Haha!” Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyy???? He took it in stride but I evaporated into a shame-filled smoke.

7. The sign language

As part of the orientation week for a new job, we had a party at Grandboss’s house for all the new people and their partners. I was coming back to full-time in-person work after a stint of staying home with my daughter for her first several years and doing freelance work and grad school. We had done sign language with our daughter when she was a baby, and a few signs remained in use in our family — one of which was the sign for thank you, in which you put your hand up to your mouth and then lower it, kind of similar to blowing a kiss. When my partner and I were ready to leave the party, it was still pretty packed, and Grandboss was way across on the other side of the room. I started to make my way towards him to thank him for the party, but it was like an obstacle course of food tables and people, and at one point he caught my eye. I just instinctively, without thinking, signed “thank you” to him. He looked quite confused, paused, and then blew me a kiss in return.

We worked together for a number of years, but I never had the guts to explain what I was doing. It was too mortifying. I think he would have been amused, but I just couldn’t.

8. The baby

When my daughter was an infant, I worked from home on Fridays while my mom watched the baby. It was a lovely set-up because I could nurse her and hold her occasionally while still getting my work done. One Friday, I was on a conference call – one where I was mostly listening, but would occasionally ask a question. After asking a question, I forgot to mute myself, picked up the baby, and said very loudly into my headset, “Uh oh! I think somebody pooped!” Never living that down.

9. The confrontation

I was in my early 20s doing field work with a (mostly) equally young group of people. I had recently had my heart broken and noticed that one of the men on the team, who had talked about his girlfriend back at home, was paying a lot of attention to one of the local women where we were staying. Internally, I was beyond angry. Externally, I cornered the guy one day and asked tersely if he was cheating on his girlfriend, and when he said no, they had broken up, I blurted out how relieved I was because “something similar happened to me recently and I would hate to be working with someone who would do that” or something to that effect. Well and truly, it was none of my business! He was very gracious about it.

10. The buttons

Ughhh it was my first day at a new government consulting firm. I am large busted and I bought a new suit, blouse, etc. My boss and grandboss were giving me an introductory orientation when suddenly they excused themselves. I heard them whispering and grandboss say, “You are going to have to manage her; deal with it.” They came back in and boss says, “Um … your blouse has … come undone.” Sure enough my top two buttons had popped open. I buttoned them. We began talking again. Five minutes later he sighs, “It happened again.” I look and am mortified to see my bra on full display AGAIN.

11. The singer

I was working in a lab for the summer and there was a separate closed off room specifically for working in cell cultures. I had wanted to try out for American Idol that fall so I spent most of my time when in that room belting out pop songs … badly. I don’t know why I had convinced myself it was soundproof but I had. At the end of the summer, I walked by the room while two people were talking in it and I could hear every word. Thank god no one said anything to me about it and I left shortly after that so I didn’t have to live with the embarrassment for that long.

I have no idea why people put up with it and didn’t say anything about it. Hopefully none of them wrote you a letter about their awful loud coworker with a terrible singing voice!

12. The autocorrect

I was texting with a resident physician trainee and typed “…epi pen is…” and autocorrect changed it to “epic penis.”

13. The unmute

September 2020, the ultimate “accidental unmuted” nightmare. I had a quarterly one-on-one with my boss back-to-back with a departmental training session. One-on-one finished five minutes early so I signed on to the training session meeting. I thought I had pressed the mute button … except I in fact had UNmuted myself, turned my back to the computer (thus missing all the desperate texts asking me to mute myself), and preceded to animatedly recount the entire check-in to my partner. Highlights included my going on a whole tirade about how “obviously I deserve this promotion” (my boss had promised it might actually happen after they’d been promising it to me for three years), good-naturedly making fun of a friend coworker, and shit-talking the hell out of my nemesis coworker until I finally realized what had happened.

I missed the entire training session because I spent a half an hour with my face buried in a couch pillow wailing in embarrassment and anguish. Thank god only about five other people had also logged on early and heard it; my friend coworker who I razzed thought it was hilarious; and somehow no one heard the details of my shit-talking my nemesis coworker. As my boss predicted, it blew over quite quickly with no lasting repercussions, but I never had experienced the “wanting to die of shame” emotion until that day. Needless to say, I no longer gossip with my partner anywhere close to work meetings.

14. The typo

I once sent out an all company email about our upcoming Flu Shot Clinic. Unfortunately I titled the email Flu Shit Clinic and hit send before proofreading.

{ 213 comments… read them below }

  1. No Tribble At All*

    So what I’m really learning is: if you’re ever pumping or nursing, put a sticky note over your camera

    1. ScruffyInternHerder*

      Thanking the stars that my laptop did not come with a camera way back when this was relevant to me, because lord knows there were enough wild and crazy “whut” situations having to do with pumping!

    2. Rocket Raccoon*

      I once spent the first 5 minutes of a meeting trying to troubleshoot my camera not working… I had stuck a piece of electrical tape over it!

    3. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I’d recommend electrical tape, but really, the takeaway is to cover the little camera any time you’re not expecting or intending to be on it.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        I spent a zoom meeting (luckily with family) thinking my camera was broken when in fact I just had a new computer that had a built in camera shutter that was closed. Didn’t figure it out till like 2 days later!

        1. Liz*

          My camera hasn’t been working for months, and I’d noticed the lens has a weird red hue… reading this thread prompted me to look a little more closely, where I now see there is a little slider that turns the lens red when it’s covered. <>

    4. Katefish*

      This life hack does not work when you message the director of IT to come fix your computer now and that it’s a good time because you absentmindedly forgot you’re still pumping. Ask me how I know! LOL

      1. Gerry Keay*

        Yeah big same. There’s a fine line between witty humor and putting your foot in your mouth!

        1. allathian*

          Indeed. Reminds me of a call center job I had in college. It wasn’t bad as far as those jobs go, and thankfully I never said anything while the lines were open, but nearly all of my coworkers were about the same age, early 20s, and we joked around a lot on breaks or after work. At times it was like we only opened our mouths to change feet…

    1. MechanicalPencil*

      This is absolutely something I would mean to keep in my head and would thus promptly be spoken aloud.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        There’s a ton of not-tall powerful malr CEOs. Bezos, Zuckerberg, Gates… none are as tall as Warren Buffet’s 5’10”.

        (Side note: There are whole lists online of CEO heights…but I only saw the men.)

    2. stargazer*

      New hire at work, first day, she was shy and seemed really nervous. Our boss proposed going out to lunch and, at the end of a meeting with the three of us, asked me to pick the place. I immediately recalled MY first day, and how they made/let me pick the place to go to lunch because it was my first day, despite the fact that I didn’t know the part of town at all. So I blurted out, “Oh, we should make the new person pick. As, uh, punishment! For… working here!” The silence after that one was deafening. I meant to convey some sort of casual, fun, easygoing, inclusive, we-care-about-your-opinions-here vibe, with a side of “I had to do this too, we’re in it together!” But yeah, it was missing 100% of the context and it did not come across that way.

  2. Zoe Karvounopsina*

    I’ve been sending out committee invites to people who don’t know me, and Mortification Week has me on high alert!

    1. Pat*

      I know! These situations are why I obsessively proofread my emails, especially the ones I send to the entire company. This hasn’t prevented all errors, but it has cut down on them quite a lot.

      1. Zoe Karvounopsina*

        I recently sent out a series of similar-but-different emails regarding reviews of departments within my org. Despite straining every sinew not to, I used the wrong name for one department, and wanted to crawl under my desk and die.

        (Ie, the problem with obsessively proofreading everything is that sometimes my brain just reads what it wants)

      2. many bells down*

        I have my Outlook on a 10-second delay, because I only EVER see the typos after hitting “Send”.
        The downside is that if I close my laptop before that 10 seconds is up the email doesn’t send, which means I get to be mortified by insisting I’ve sent an email that’s languishing in my Drafts folder.

        1. Kacihall*

          mine is on a 30 second delay, because I am the same way. residual with forgetting to actually ATTACH documents I’m trying to send.

          1. Zoe Karvounopsina*

            So grateful that Outlook reminds you when you say ‘attached’ but don’t attach anything.

          2. MigraineMonth*

            2 minute delay here. Thank goodness it asks me if I’m sure when I try to immediately close out of outlook after sending something.

  3. soontoberetired*

    there’s been enough of accidents with blouses that reminds me my decision to buy nice pullover tops for works was always the right choice.

    1. Keyboard Cowboy*

      even if they don’t come open, for the well endowed, gaping between buttons is a serious problem!!! pullovers are definitely the way to go.

      1. Pippa K*

        Just pausing here to pour one out for the late lamented Pepperberry clothing line from Bravissimo. They’re the only reason I had any button-front work shirts at all.

        1. It’s Suzy now*

          Sad to hear Pepperberry is no more. I have a couple great items from there from a long-ago UK trip, and always hoped to return.

      2. Alisaurus*

        Duluth Trading Company makes some nice button-downs that have “No Gape” buttons – extra buttons placed “backward” between the regular buttons along the bust. I’ve worn these at most of my recent office jobs and loved them.

        1. Bread Crimes*

          God, yes, the extra hidden buttons in strategic locations are a real life-saver with those Duluth shirts at times.

        2. Dobby is a Free Elf!*

          Oh, now that is a stunningly fantastic idea. I don’t have the super-well-endowed problem, but I have broad shoulders for a woman, and button-ups tend to just not fit correctly. Either they’re huge below the bust, or they’re gaping at the bust when I sit down. Also, my mother-in-law delights in commenting on it.

          I’ve learned to buy men’s flannels, and I just don’t own button-up dress shirts, but that sounds like a potential actual solution!

          1. Alisaurus*

            I’d highly recommend looking into Duluth shirts for just that reason. They work for office wear but are designed for active work, so there’s a lot of extra room/gussets/etc built in. The shirts still look lovely and tailored, but the design is incredible for those of us with broader shoulders/larger busts/both/etc.

        3. Trillian*

          Hunting for press-studs to close a bust-level button-gap gave me one of my “the world has changed since I was young” moments. My mother was an avid dressmaker, so sewing supplies were like grocery to me. Until I went looking for them a few years back. No specialist sewing shops, and the department stores only stocked a few colours of thread. I found them, but it drove home that sewing, even basic repairs, is no longer routine.

    2. Zoe Karvounopsina*

      At the start of the summer I put on a beloved and comfortable linen shirt dress, looked down, and discovered that my enormous tracts of land had just plain torn the fabric.

      1. Jo*

        We had so many instances of women on Zoom meeting with unfortunate camera angles while leaning forward or half-standing to adjust a camera. Way too many accidental cleavage shots.

        1. Zoe Karvounopsina*

          Occasionally I discuss Renaissance history with my housemate, and we regularly go “He married her for her huge…tracts of land.” Also, “So, what first attracted him to the teenage heiress?”

    3. Lucy P*

      Makes me want to petition the fashion industry to do better with anything that buttons. I’ve had buttons fly off in the middle of a conversation (the blouse was a loose fit but it still came off). Button holes that were too loose so the buttons kept coming un-done. Gaping. Blouses that I put on for the first time running out the door only to realize that, for the office, it really should have been designed with one more button at the chest area.

        1. allathian*

          I’d also dress like Katharine Hepburn if I had her figure!

          There are also button-down shirts with a hidden zipper instead of buttons, this is a revelation for me.

      1. ScruffyInternHerder*

        Or different placement. Like that could have been adjusted a half inch up and a half inch down and it would be FINE. Or more buttons. I’ve added buttons to a few of my button downs…and I have a shirt dress that I said “screw it” and slip stitched (might not be the correct term here, but you cannot see the stitching from the outside of the dress) the plackets together the full length.

        1. AngryOctopus*

          Literally just did this with a button down I tried. Love the shirt, hate the gaps (and I don’t even have huge tracts of land! Just broad shoulders).

        2. dryakumo*

          My favorite button downs have hook and eye closures in between the buttons in the chest area. They’re a lifesaver and I never have to worry about gaping! Sadly they’re limited stock as they rework some of the design, but they’re from Maya Kern and have super cute patterns (I’m also a devotee of her midi skirts).

      2. Aggretsuko*

        This is why you have to get ladies’ shirts with Spandex, or buy Fashion Tape and tape your shirt up.

      3. Oobles*

        RIGHT? like, women and others have been in possession of boobs since before clothes were even a thing, how have we STILL not solved this problem?

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          They’re too busy making sure that all tank tops/sleeveless blouses have 14″ armholes to show off your bra/sideboob.

    4. Ellis Bell*

      This really brought back the days before I abandoned stiff fabric and buttons. I remember stapling one blouse shut just to get through the day “because it’s not like I’m ever going to wear it again”. I remember passing that tip on to another woman who was busting out of her shirt, and she was really grateful because it was the only way to stop button shuffle. Why, can anyone tell me, do these shirts behave so well in the shop dressing room or in your bedroom mirror?

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Probably because when you sit down the shirt gets all moved around in ways it doesn’t when you’re standing up looking in a mirror.

      2. Elisa*

        Because the buttonholes stretch slightly as the fabric relaxes for the first time. If you’re handy, sew up a tiny bit of the buttonhole with matching thread. If you’re not, a tailor or drycleaner can do this fix for you.

      1. All hall safety pins*

        This is the way.
        When I used to wear button-down shirts, I always used a safety pin just in case. Sometimes more than one. Since the button band usually has extra layers of fabric, I would just make sure I didn’t grab the outermost layer with the pin, and fasten it on the inside of the shirt. Sometimes this was fiddly and took some time to adjust just right, but it invisibly prevented that dreaded gap (and as a bonus would help hold the short closed in case of button failure).

    5. Dragon_Dreamer*

      Before my blobectomy, I took to doing a quick running stitch in matching thread down the front of blouses after I buttoned them. Done in the right spot, it worked nicely. At the end of the day I simply pulled or cut the thread, and no harm no foul.

      My friends who knew about this practice thought it was hilarious that I was stitching myself into my shirts, but it worked!

      1. Trina*

        Thank you for adding “blobectomy” into my “this isn’t the official word for this but it SHOULD be” vocabulary!

      2. Lenora Rose*

        It’s historic! There are whole stretches of time when a lady’s maid would stitch her into really formal outfits…

    6. Miette*

      HARD SAME. I also wear a cami underneath just in case–no way are these big gals going on tour again!

    7. Ally McBeal*

      Yep. I haven’t bought a button-down in YEARS and likely never will again unless I suddenly find myself flat-chested or in possession of so much money that I can have shirts custom-made. It doesn’t help that I have a very short neck and torso (and arms, and legs, and overall body) so collared shirts don’t fit well or look good on me anyway, regardless of my relatively small (B-cup) chest.

    8. anon24*

      I’m a broad shouldered 34E. The rare times when I brave wearing a button up you’d better believe I have another shirt on underneath!!!!

    9. Lenora Rose*

      Yeah, it’s been years since I had anything snugger than a cardigan with front buttons.

      I’m liking some of the alternative solutions I’m seeing in this thread, though.

  4. Medium-height tales*

    #2 reminds me of a story I heard where someone playing soccer knocked over an opposing team’s player and hurt her pretty badly, tried to say both “Are you okay?” and “I’m so f***ing sorry”
    …and ended up saying “Are you f***ing sorry?”

    1. Cendol*

      I laugh uncontrollably whenever I think about that story. I just choked on my coffee, remembering–thanks, lol!

    2. Susan Calvin*

      I’ve made it through all of Mortification Week with dignified chuckles so far, but this one broke me. Literal lol. Congrats?

  5. Pastor Petty Labelle*

    Just coming here to say that a lot of mortifications would disappear if we had a decent way for women to pump, or you know enough leave that they could stay home.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I think relaxing “professional” dress standards and allowing the rank and file to fit their clothes to the body instead of trying to fit the body into arbitrary clothing would go a long way, too.

      1. Stay-at-Homesteader*

        I don’t want to derail on this but also, that’s absolutely not a reason for parents to not get more leave. And from a practical standpoint, most working and pumping parents only need to pump at work for the first year, even if they breastfeed beyond that. Not an inordinate amount of time for work to accommodate them for pumping.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          However, if they’re already working for home and could very well pump during the meeting, at home and in a setting they can presumably adapt to their own needs, it’s not on the employer if they forget to turn the camera off.

      2. Indigohippo*

        I’m one of those women, but once the baby is older you can just feed mornings and evenings without any need to pump during the working day. In the UK so with one year of leave with both my babies I’ve never needed to pump since by a year baby eats enough solids and can drink cows milk. Pumping is not especially common here, lots of women I know have breastfed for 18m – 2yrs without pumping. Decent leave allows this, though I recognise that’s a privilege even here (everyone has the statutory right to 52 weeks of leave but statutory pay is minimal, and in my experience it’s only a certain kind of professional workplace that pays good money on top of what the government pays. I’m an academic, so certainly privileged in this regard).

      3. Lenora Rose*

        I nursed for well over a year with both kids and by a year, you’re not pumping anymore, because it’s often down to first thing in the morning and last before bed, and everything in between is solids.

    2. Rose*

      There are many, many women who don’t want to take that much leave. Pumping and working isn’t some incredibly tricky task that we as a society can’t solve for.

    3. Veryanon*

      I remember reading a story about a female actor in a show I enjoyed about 2 years ago. The costume she was supposed to wear was very form-fitting and difficult to easily get in and out of, and she was breast-feeding her infant at the time of filming. The costume designer solved the issue quite ingeniously by making the chest covering easily removable so she could pump as needed. I wish all womens’ clothing was designed this way.

  6. Donna Noble*

    #10 I worked in admin in a men’s correctional facility. I had a shirt I loved and wore at least every other week. I’d been working there for about a year and a half. New boss transfers in, I am sitting down with him; during the conversation, he keeps glancing at my chest. I am about to say something then he says “your shirt is see-thru”. First I grabbed my cardigan, then immediately went to have a conversation with EVERY women I worked with regularly. Nobody told me until the new boss was looking at my boobs?

    1. Hlao-roo*

      Reading #10, I was impressed that the grandboss gave the boss a quick coaching lesson in “sometimes you’ll have to have awkward/embarrassing conversations as a manager” and the boss let OP#10 know instead of letting the wardrobe mishap continue. It’s a shame your coworkers weren’t willing to do that for you.

    2. HBJ*

      It’s possible it had thinned with washings so it wasn’t see through at the start and had built up so slowly no one had really noticed until a new person saw the change all at once.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        I can see that; also, sometimes something isn’t see through unless light hits it a certain way.

  7. Amber Rose*

    Once I was assisting a customer (a quite slender woman) and we were chatting about her weekend plans to attend a baby shower.

    As she was leaving I said, “I hope you enjoy your baby shower!” and I realized as she drove away with a frown that I implied I thought she was pregnant. D:

    1. goddessoftransitory*

      I don’t see why; I mean, she was talking about the baby shower! I wouldn’t assume anything other than what you clearly meant. If she did it was kinda on her.

  8. Dust Bunny*

    I hope what we all take away from these posts is that no matter what mortifying things we do or say, we’re very much not alone.

    1. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

      I am always heartened when people I admire or are higher up in the chain do something spectacularly stupid or mortifying- not because I want to revel in their misery, but because it humanizes them and gives me confidence that, at some point, I too will be older and wiser and still not perfect and not only that, life will go on just fine.

      Also, I don’t gloat or anything like that- I leave my comments to myself and/or help them out with whatever happened. I don’t want people to think I’m going around telling coworkers, “Oh, good! You had this weird thing happen! You’re human too!” ;)

  9. Emotional support capybara (he/him)*

    Being on the receiving end of the Flu Shit Clinic email would have made my whole week, lol.

    1. lyonite*

      I’m imagining a place you can go when you have the flu to complain about how sucky you feel.

    2. Tangochocolate42*

      My son’s primary school sent out a weekly newsletter including the phrase ‘make sure they are all wearing their new shits and ties’. I still cackle thinking about it!

  10. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    Peers and coworkers think I swear in foreign languages to show off, be eccentric, or because I’m playing with language, but the real reason is that I’ve near-missed on things in the vein of #10 or #12 enough times that I’m terrified to have those words in my personal dictionaries.

    1. AngryOctopus*

      My first boss was Italian and she used to swear a lot in Italian. She sadly refused to teach me what the words meant though. She was probably trying to be professional for a young lab tech, but I could really use some Italian swear words a lot of the time! They sound fancy but match my regular swearing habit!

    2. linger*

      Until I reached DGAF age, my go-to swear was the scientific name for the Common Ostrich Shell (Struthiolaria papulosa). It just sounded right.

  11. Jo*

    Does it count if I was mortified on someone else’s behalf?

    Long ago I hosted very technical class with about 60 government attendees. The expert I hired arrived looking anything but professional. His suit was wrinkled. He’d obviously gained weight at some point but not sized up his clothing and also looked badly in need of dental hygiene. I kicked off the program and later returned to check on progress. The presenter was standing at the front of the class, both hands in pockets of his too-tight pants, his zipper fully unzipped and gaping. Luckily he was wearing underwear, which we could all see. Apparently that had been the scene for an hour. I sent a male colleague discreetly let him know as soon as possible.

    Dreading the class reviews, I figured we’d have a complaints. Not so! This guy really knew his stuff. It was a niche area and badly needed. The class didn’t care one bit how he presented himself.

    1. not bitter just sour*

      This guy really knew his stuff. It was a niche area and badly needed.

      That’s probably why he could get away with dressing like that. Also being a man

    2. linger*

      David Attenborough voice:
      “And here we see an adult male presenting … his niche area …”

  12. NoOneWillSeeThisComment*

    #7 is especially odd…seeing as, exactly for this reason…you should start the sign at your chin, not mouth.

    1. Zoe Karvounopsina*

      I can see it, happening from a distance, across a crowded room, with someone who doesn’t know the context…

      1. opsignlanguage*

        OP here. Yeah, I possibly had my hand a little too high, but it was mostly the factor of being across a crowded room. I mouthed “thank you” while doing it and wasn’t touching my mouth, but he clearly thought it was a kiss.

      2. Phony Genius*

        Or maybe he didn’t see the whole sign, only noticing it part-way through the motion.

    2. Alisaurus*

      I was also thinking of that reading the letter! Although I can see the boss interpreting it that way from across the room, the description of it makes me think the sign was just done incorrectly…

      1. AngryOctopus*

        Or the boss doesn’t know any sign language, so they thought the only thing it could be was blowing a kiss.

    3. Ex-tutor*

      For people who aren’t familiar with sign language you can get a lot of odd interpretations. Back in college I TA’d and tutored math for students who ran the gamut from hearing/HoH/Deaf, and when I started work had a habit of signing especially if I was getting into a deep explanation. The people who did baby sign at least usually realized what was happening, even if graph theory doesn’t tend to come up a lot with babies, but some of my other coworkers just thought that I was an *extremely* expressive talker.

  13. Slightly Bemused*

    Number 2 is an urban legend, repeated on twitter, Reddit, where else. Did you really fall for it?

    1. Zoe Karvounopsina*

      Rule 1 of commenting is to be kind, and give letter writers the benefit of the doubt.

    2. oh ye of little faith*

      No, I’ve definitely had a brain derailment and smashed phrases together like that and unintentionally insulted someone.

    3. Valancy Trinit*

      I’ve “your problem!”ed people like, three to five times in the past year alone. I don’t consider it remotely mortifying, but surely it’s repeated so often because it actually happens.

      1. Laika*

        Yep, I “your problem!”ed a customer nearly a decade ago and STILL tell people about it. I loved seeing it in an AMA post! There are dozens of us!!

    4. MondayMonday*

      It actually happened to us one time due to an English as a second language situation. It was a medical provider, and my partner explained his issue that needed treatment and the person said “That is your problem.” We all laughed hysterically when they realized what they said and quickly corrected their English.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        I scrolled back up, thinking it might be one of the really specific ones, but no, a very easy slip that I have no doubt has happened to people. Even if some people on twitter or reddit have been proven to have lied about it (and it sounds like a hard thing to prove as a lie because it’s the sort of thing that nobody except the person who said it is really likely to remember), that doesn’t mean this poster is lying.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Yeah, it’s a very common verbal slip, like a spoonerism. Or like saying “you too” when a server tells you to enjoy your meal or someone wishes you happy birthday.

    5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Yeah because no one in the history of ever has accidentally switched/smushed two words together, except for that one Reddit guy, bless him. Yes, I “really fell for it” and now my life savings are gone.

      1. Zoe Karvounopsina*

        My savings are gone, my trust in people is destroyed, I will never feel happiness again…oh, no, wait, I felt bad for someone for a couple of minutes, and it will not affect my life.

        (I see this on Reddit, the idea that you need to ‘catch the fakes’ and I just think…why? If it isn’t hurting anyone, for example asking them for money…why? And sometimes, life really is that strange.)

        1. Irish Teacher*

          I think it’s that a significant amount of people think they will look foolish or naive if they believed something that turns out to be untrue.

          It’s a feeling that benefits actual scammers as the flip side to “I must call out everything that could possibly be untrue so that nobody thinks I believe it” is “if I do ever get caught out, I can’t possibly admit it, for fear of looking foolish and having people laugh at me.” Which means scammers go unreported. I think it also fuels a lot of science denial and continued support of celebs or politicians who were disgraced, that people don’t want to admit they didn’t “figure out” the information before it was even discovered.

          But it also leads to people being assumed to be lying as a default, so that they don’t look as if they believed anything that turned out to be untrue. Even the language used. “Did you really ‘fall for it’?” implies that if it is a lie, the people who didn’t call it out have failed in some way or that the person lying has “won” some contest against them. Whereas in reality, if somebody is proven to have been lying about something so minor online, they look a bit pathetic and it says nothing at all about those who didn’t consider that anybody would be lying about something so minor.

    6. Dek*

      Is it an “urban legend” or just an anecdote someone shared? It’s also not particularly uncommon for people to smash two phrases together when feeling flustered.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I sometimes smush two words together, which has the advantage of being too incomprehensible to be insulting.

        “Sure-kay.” “What?”

    7. Ally McBeal*

      Seriously? I jumble phrases several times a year, usually while the caffeine is still kicking in. Granted I usually stop myself and say “I meant ‘you’re good, no problem,’ not “you’re [a] problem”… but most people barely even notice, or understand what I’m trying to say in context.

      Are you really so perfect in your speech that you’ve never jumbled a phrase?

    8. CommentKoi*

      Well I was the OP on that one and yes, it really happened to me. I’ve seen plenty of other people post similar short-circuits of their own, so I think it’s just a common type of stumble, which is why you see it a lot. (I’m honored Alison chose to publish mine!)

      1. allathian*

        I have absolutely no problem believing that this happens to people and more than once.

        But I’m old enough that I’ve mostly run out of fucks to give. When I was younger, many of these things would’ve mortified me to the point of never wanting to show my face at work again, but if I mess up now, I apologize sincerely and move on. I’m old enough to have messed up lots of times, and to witness others mess up as well, and to know that it really isn’t the end of the world. Also, the bigger the fuss you make about the mortifying incident is, the longer it’ll usually be remembered.

        It also helps that my self-confidence isn’t fundamentally tied to being liked. I don’t go out of my way to annoy people, and I’m invested in building good relationships, especially at work, because it makes things much more pleasant all around. But I don’t bend over backwards to try and please coworkers who obviously don’t like me. Currently there are no such people that I’m aware of, but there have been in the past.

  14. Aeryn Sun*

    I once had a coworker send me an email, on accident, that was a true crime article about a coworker murdering another coworker with the subject line being like “Something to think about.” I was a little concerned at first, especially since this coworker and I had had some disagreements recently that left me a little frustrated. After a minute of shock I emailed her back, saying “I don’t think you meant to send this to me?” and she didn’t, she had meant to send it to a buddy with my same first name who she presumably talked true crime with. That is still just my most memorable weird work email thing.

  15. Relentlessly Socratic*

    Someday, women will be allowed to just, I dunno, have breasts in the workplace. I (f) was going to a meeting in DC a number of years ago with my (f) VP. As I entered the federal building and went through the metal detector, it went off. I said, conversationally, to the (f) security person “oh, it’s probably just the underwire in my bra”

    My VP said “too much information”

    Um, Lady, the guard is coming at me with a wand to swipe my whole body, I assure you, that was completely relevant information.

    1. NotRealAnonForThis*

      Reminds me of a conversation I had with a TSA agent on a business trip:

      “Its probably the underwire in my tank. No, I cannot take my tank off, I am not wearing anything underneath it.”

    2. virago*

      About 10 years ago, a sheriff in my state publicly apologized to women visiting the county jail who had been told *to remove their underwire bras* before entering the facility.

      He specifically apologized to two defense attorneys who were told they couldn’t be admitted while wearing underwire bras. The women refused to take off their bras and wrote a letter to the sheriff about it.

      In the US, denying an attorney access to their clients in jail violates the clients’ constitutional rights to representation.

      1. wickedtongue*

        At jails and prisons, not only will underwires bar you from entering to visit a prisoner…so will not wearing any bra at all…it’s a no-win situation.

        1. virago*

          Anyone who’s been through an airport since 9/11 would think, “Oh, if I set off a metal detector, they’ll scan me with a wand.” (Aka a handheld metal detector for those not familiar with the technology.)

          Not in this case. Several county jail officials had not been offering the wand option to the women visitors (family members; mental health workers; attorneys, etc.) whose underwire bras set off the metal detector. The options were as you described — and as you said, that’s not a real choice.

          The jail officials in question either were ignorant of the technology available to them, or they were eager to boss women around in a prurient manner. Or both. And none of these scenarios is a good look.

          1. TootSweet*

            Or a third option: the possibility that the wire can be removed and used as a weapon or could be fashioned into one. I work in correctional health care; you’d be surprised at what can be made into a weapon.

            1. allathian*

              Yes, that was my guess, too. (Watching The Wire currently and the shenanigans they get up to in jail…) But even so, it should be explicitly stated to boob-having visitors that they need to wear a wireless bra. Although that said, I have a hard time understanding why no bra at all would be unacceptable.

              1. goddessoftransitory*

                Not having your breasts “decently restrained” could cause problems with male prisoners, maybe?

  16. pen15hahaha*

    #12 made me LOL, confirming that despite living in the body of a middle-aged woman, I possess the sense of humor of an 11-year-old boy.

  17. Legally_Brunette*

    Oh, OP#5, I feel for you!

    Some years ago, as I transitioned from a career in law to one in law enforcement, I was starting 7 months of mandatory live-in training. The first part of training was at a well-known former military base in the South, and between climate and some personality issues, I was already counting down the days until I was free when this mortifying moment happened.

    Anyone ever spend time in lowest-bidder-built buildings? Not the swiftest to begin with, and, coupled with this being on the lowest spot on campus with extremely questionable plumbing, ultimately led to a reverse-pressurized toilet incident I will never erase from my mind. A neighboring stall flushed, creating a geyser in my stall – while I was using it. It’s exactly as horrifying as you’re imagining, I promise. The event created a temporary level of insanity, wherein I RETURNED TO TRAINING (as opposed to begging illness and a Silkwood shower, stat). That was 9 am, friends. When my sanity finally returned, post-shower, I decided to go to the on-campus medical clinic for reassurance that I wasn’t going to die from some kind of weird infection. The doc seemed overjoyed at this consult, as he said, “Normally all I get are STD cases – they really run rampant here!”

    Verdict: a clean bill of health, but mentally scarred in multiple ways from the experience X(

      1. Legally_Brunette*

        @Fran, I was old enough that I probably held in my shocked Pikachu face, but it was 100% not what I expected from that grandfatherly man!

        1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

          Yeah, that’s what I was thinking. I’ve never been stabbed by an underwire myself, but I’ve heard plenty of stories. If it can hurt someone by accident, it certainly can do worse on purpose.

  18. Galadriel's Garden*

    On the “oops I am in fact not muted” front, a couple years ago I was on a 1:1 call with a teammate via Teams and a timer was going off on our Alexa (because laundry just has to get done sometimes, you know?) – which is located on our first floor, and my office on the second. I thought I’d muted myself but had apparently double clicked it…so my poor coworker was treated to me screaming, “ALEXA!! STOP!!!!” at the very top of my lungs so that it heard me and stopped ringing.

    He is a cool guy who took it in stride and found it hilarious, but I was ready to crawl into a hole.

    I also once had my phone on ring instead of vibrate, which it basically *never* is, and my husband called me while I was midway through a training call. His ringtone is the sax intro to “Careless Whisper,” so my two colleagues learned quite a lot about my sense of humor in a very short span of time that day.

    1. LimeRoos*

      So you’re gonna laugh at this – I first read this without reading your name, and was like, I’d love to be friends with this person cuz the ringtone is hilarious. ::Facepalm::

      But also, that’s hilarious XD and now I have that song stuck in my head.

      1. Galadriel's Garden*

        HA! My online presence and IRL presence are basically the same, I’m glad that we vibe across all mediums <3

        1. LimeRoos*

          <3 Same!
          Also, somehow the sax from Careless Whisper always makes me wanna watch The Lost Boys.

    2. MigraineMonth*

      I frequently screen-share with coworkers. Once I got a message two hours later that I was still screen-sharing. I don’t think I’d done anything embarrassing on my screen for the previous two hours, but I spent quite a bit of time worrying.

    3. AmberFox*

      I once forgot that my phone was not on mute and had a friend message me in the middle of a team meeting. The message tone was Sterling Archer screaming “RAMPAAAAAGE!” and it was loud enough that everyone on the phone heard it. Thankfully, the team was pretty chill about it, but I am still, several years later, mentally squirming about it.

    4. Lucien Nova*

      My ringtone currently is an 8-bit version of Careless Whisper put together by a musical friend, so I love your sense of humour. :D

  19. thatoneoverthere*

    #8 – reminds of a funny situation. I worked for a small non-profit. We would have virtual zoom board meetings, as most of our board members were spread out throughout the country. One lady signed on, on her cell. She was bringing her dog into the vet. All while describing her dog’s poo to the receptionist, then asking them to express the dog’s anal glands. Someone finally spoke up and said “Jane, you may want to mute”. I died of 2nd hand embarrassment. Meanwhile I look over at my Executive director who is laughing so hard he is crying. It was especially funny bc most board meetings were tense and the board was notoriously difficult to deal with!

  20. Alan*

    My boss once called me and said “I need you to do something for me.” Intending to say “Go ahead” so she could give me the details, I instead said “Go away.” Luckily (or maybe unluckily), I have a reputation for being rather sarcastic so she ignored it.

    1. AngryOctopus*

      At my last job we used to reflexively say “no” or “forget it” when friends came to ask questions. Works well until the new guy comes over to ask about ordering and keeping backstock and doesn’t know you’re kidding.

  21. not a hippo*

    I used to work at vet clinic and we’d play music in the back. One time, one of the techs put on her playlist on her phone and then got pulled into an exam room.

    So we’re doing our thing when suddenly NIN’s Closer came on, completely uncensored and very loud. We were all scrambling to get her phone and turn it it off but it was locked so we weren’t able to do a thing.

    So mortifying.

    1. Emotional support capybara (he/him)*

      Oh lord, one day I was playing my “work safe” playlist which was my default playlist with (I thought) all the naughty stuff plucked out of it. I was just doing my thing, went to the other side of the room to do something that involved running a noisy machine for a few minutes, turned off the noisy machine, and heard:

      “You know the seven, don’t you? That you can’t say on TV?”

      Yep. George Carlin’s “Seven Dirty Words.” And there was a customer on the premises, and George was one second away from listing those seven words.

      I have never moved so fast in my life as I did to unplug that aux cord from that MP3 player. The customer did not hear a single one of the Seven Dirty Words and the playlist got another comb- through for bad words.

  22. Alisaurus*

    #10. Commented this in a sub-thread above, but I highly recommend Duluth Trading Company’s button downs. They have extra “No Gape” buttons placed backward along the bust area to add extra closure there. They’re designed really well and I’ve never had issues with the buttons coming undone (plus DTC caters toward active jobs so there’s a lot of thought put into the design for movement – I have worn theirs in multiple offices and love that I don’t feel restricted in their tops the way my large bust/wide shoulders make me in some other shirts).

  23. MidWasabiPeas*

    One function in my industry is Count. Counting takes place in a Count Room.

    Remove one letter from Count…then distribute that in a company-wide email.

    1. Zoe Karvounopsina*

      *looks at current UK Chancellor of the Exchequer…*

      It once happened on national radio while he was Health Secretary.

    2. Juicebox Hero*

      One time a grocery store chain near here put out a printed flyer, advertising a 2-count pack of something, only they forgot the O. Every flyer handed out in the stores, stuck in people’s newspapers, had the c-word in it. Oops.

  24. justpeachy86*

    As someone who worked for a short tyrant for a time… “we moved them when we heard you were coming” just hits different. What a golden line.

  25. Alisaurus*

    #7. I have 100% signed stuff at coworkers across the room as well, with lots of confusion ensuing! I am not fluent in ASL, but my family and I know some, and we’ll often use it to communicate rather than shouting across a room at each other or if we need to communicate quickly and are too far to even shout (or at, say, a shopping mall or a party where there’s too much noise). Thus, my go-to action in similar situations at work is to sign… but it only works if they also know ASL. lol

    I have also said random phrases in Cajun French before realizing nobody around me knows the words now that I don’t live in South Louisiana.

  26. CatMouse*

    So many mortification stories involving video/audio that I now obsessively check that I’m muted before I say anything I don’t want people to hear! I could be on mute the entire time, but husband pops in and I frantically double check I’m muted

  27. Chocoholic*

    I forgot about this until now – the first day of a new job I was working for a NPO that had a main office and 2 locations in town. I was getting a tour of one of the locations when my co-worker pointed out to me that a bird had pooped on my shoulder. Glad it was just on my clothes and not in my hair or something, and it was a jacket that I could take off for the rest of the day.

  28. NetNrrd*

    Worst unmuted call I’ve been on was a big call with several of our folks and a bunch of vendor folks and someone on the call from the vendor side should’ve had his speakerphone muted – he was also on another personal call talking about his very contentious divorce, complete with insults and complaints and the folks in the conference room on our side were just staring at each other awkwardly.

    1. Zoe Karvounopsina*

      Mine was when I tried to discreetly let someone eating and drinking next to the mic know that they weren’t muted, and she said, very coldly, “I know.”

  29. Ho-ho-holey hose*

    Okay there is where I have to say that most online meeting platforms have a way to mute other participants! Please please if you have a co-worker enacting a mortifying moment, feel free to mute them! They can always un-mute themselves later!

    1. Secondhand Embarrassment*

      Sometimes that option is reserved for the host/cohost of the meeting. I know there have been times I am dying of secondhand embarrassment for someone who should be muted but I can’t do anything about it!

    2. Heather*

      Yes it is AWFUL when someone is accidentally un-muted and the host is vaguely saying in their direction, “Fred, I think your mic is on.” Host– mute them! We are 3 years into this Zoom thing, figure it out!

  30. iNot*

    This mortification just happened. I was at a division-wide meeting and we were playing various icebreakers. One required you to pair up with a person and you got to ask up to two provided questions. The questions ranged from “What fictional world would you want to live in” to “What’s a skill you want to master?” One colleague asked me “top or bottom” and without missing a beat I replied “switch.” He looked at me and said “I meant top or bottom question” and I just wanted to die. Like obviously why would that have even been one of the questions provided? Thankfully we’re cool with each other and had a good laugh about it. But I couldn’t look him in the eye the rest of the day.

    1. Zoe Karvounopsina*

      I just had one too! A colleague bought her daughter in, I did not know she had kids, looked over, saw her holding a toddler and said “Is she yours?”

      Yes. Yes she was. (In my head, she could have been holding someone else’s child.)

  31. Abogado Avocado.*

    #14 — I laughed myself silly! And thought that anyone who’s had the flu might have hoped the clinic was as advertised.

  32. Nanc*

    Someday in the [probably] not-too-distant future someone bored and surfing for online porn will key in “epic penis” and stumble across this post and will go down the rabbit hole of flashing on work calls, duck club, and Hanukkah balls and will start a side gig as a porn script writer. . .

  33. CzechMate*

    #2 Reminds me of when I worked in retail during college. It was a store at the mall that sold moderately expensive consumer goods (think each product is in the $100-$600 range). The mall sold had a lot of famous American brands and was on a highway so many foreign tourists would stop in. I was a Spanish major and on one of my first days a customer approached me asking if I spoke Spanish. I was very proud that in Spanish I was able to explain the different products, help him select what he wanted, and check him out. I was standing at the cash register feeling excited that my degree was helping me in a practical way when the man came very sheepishly back into the store. In all my excitement I’d put his product next to the register and sent him out the door with an empty bag. Fortunately, I was able to use my college Spanish to apologize profusely.

  34. Oobles*

    Has science yet discovered a blouse solution for large-bosomed folks? I completely gave up on them a while ago, since even if the buttons are strong enough, you still get those diamond-shaped gaps where it pulls open between buttons. Only solution I encountered was to buy three sizes up, but then the rest of me is just swimming in this shapeless, baggy expanse of fabric.

    1. Hlao-roo*

      A commenter upthread mentioned that Duluth Trading Company makes a “No Gape” button-down shirt with extra (hidden) buttons.

    2. Fitz*

      Size up and get the parts needed tailored down. I am on the edge of needing this for tops (only do it for specific types of tops), but I do this for all my pants.
      Realistically, this is just what happens with ready-to-wear clothing (which is a fairly modern change). Things generally don’t fit particularly well unless you’re lucky enough to have measurements close to that of one of their fit model’s (for any size).
      No amount of adding buttons is going to fix fundamental fit issues; it just prevents embarrassment from flashing.

  35. perstreperous*

    No.4 reminds me of when I had a client meeting years ago in the middle of a mild winter in England. It was clear after a few minutes that our visitor was insufferable then, for some reason, he decided that we should go outside to continue the conversation.

    For reasons lost to time our office was surrounded by a dry moat (no water in it, but plenty of mud because of the weather), about six feet deep; he insisted on going to the edge of the moat despite me telling him not to do so, and not doing so myself. He slipped, rolled down the bank to the bottom and ended up completely covered in sticky brown mud; best of all was that his glasses came off, revealing two white eye surrounds like an inverted panda.

    At that point he threw a massive strop, stormed off to his car trailing mud and drove off with the members of our office and surrounding offices, who saw all of this, in hysterics. I didn’t see this myself, but someone told me he smashed through a barrier during his getaway.

    We never saw him again and, next time, the client sent a normal person.

    1. allathian*

      Oh dear… He was insufferable, insisted on going out, insisted on standing on the edge of the moat… Weird!

  36. spuffyduds*

    During the worst of covid I worked for an institution that was, among its many other problems, ridiculous about requirements for documenting work from home. My direct reports (experienced, hardworking professionals) had to send me emails when they clocked in first thing, when they went to lunch, when they returned and when they signed off for the day, as well as a writeup of what they’d worked on during the day.

    The sole time I ever enjoyed this enforced micromanagement was when one woman tried to send me a morning email reading “Clock in, 8:59” and left the “L” out of “clock.”

    1. Pam Poovey*

      lol makes me think of the time I was pitching a piece to my editor about a fundraiser for the Russian band Pussy Riot when they were in prison.

      Except in my subject line I forgot the word “Riot” and just sent an email that said “a concert for pussy”

      Thankfully my editor thought it was hilarious.

  37. Elbereth Gilthoniel*

    #8 You are not alone!
    I did that too. During the pandemic, I was doing the childcare and work at the same time (as everyone else), but with a new infant. On a work meeting, I thought I was muted and picked up my infant and said something like: “Who wants kisses, mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah”, making a bunch of kissy noises into my mic.

    Friends, I was not muted. I was notified that I was not muted by a c-level staff (luckily not my boss) also on the same call.
    I think I had mentally blocked that out, but reading #8 brought it back to mind!

  38. also large-busted*

    #10. Whenever I buy a button-down shirt, I put matching thread in the ol’ sewing machine and run a row of stitches from the bottom button up to the 2nd button from the top. Only way to keep shirts from popping open at untoward moments. Or gapping.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, I guess that works if the shirt’s neither too stiff nor too tight to get your hands in the sleeves…

      1. calonkat*

        allathian, you can also add additional buttons or velcro dots on the inside, the big thing is that button downs are notorious for popping open or just having a gaping hole between buttons on large chested women. So if you wear them and have a different body shape than the mannequins that are used for sizes, you learn how to make them work. And easy to button = easy to come unbuttoned on it’s own (as I have also learned.) I never go to a conference without a sewing kit and safety pins of varying sizes. I’ve not needed them (yet), but I’ve saved other people!

  39. Moodbling*

    i have naturally curly hair. when I was growing up, family members would call me “corky,” like short for corkscrew, to describe my tight curls.

    two coworkers were having a conversation behind me, and I’d been recently mentioned, so I was partly listening. they were describing a person not present, and called him “quirky.” but I misheard – I thought my coworker was calling this man “corky,” like curly haired, and he IS a curly haired person. But as I kept listening, corky didn’t make sense in context.

    stupidly, I tried to clarify. I said “Are you calling him quirky or corky?”

    Unfortunately, one of the people in the conversation – who happens to be fat (as am I!) – heard “porky” and was horrified that I would call someone porky.

    because I would never call someone porky, it took me SEVERAL minutes to figure out why she was so upset with me.

    … I did explain, but I think she avoids me now whenever she can.

  40. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

    Re: epic penis

    One of my co-residents texted an attending physician (prior to starting a week of liver transplant call) that he was going to be his “lover man” for the week. Oops.


    Something about “I’m pretty sure they all thought I’d shit myself,” made me collapse crying into a ball.

  42. Lalaith*

    This isn’t my story, but the sign language one reminded me of it.

    My husband’s friend, “Wakeen”, is a teacher. One day he was walking down the hall of his school, and saw the principal, the school nurse, a student, and the student’s mother having a conversation. The nurse is saying something like “[Student] is NOT sick, he does NOT need to go home,” basically this kid has been lying to try to get out of school. However, the student’s mother is hard of hearing, so the student is translating the conversation in sign language… and saying the exact opposite of what the nurse is saying.

    Which Wakeen knows, because his own parents are hard of hearing, and he’s fluent in ASL. No one else in his school knew this before this point.

    So Wakeen walks up to the group, turns to the student’s mother, and signs “Excuse me, I’m sorry to interrupt, but…” and tells her that her son is lying his ass off. The color completely drains out of the kid’s face. The mother stands there for a moment, taking all of this in, and signs back, “Thank you, I’ll be taking him home now.” Wakeen signs, “I think you’ve misunderstood, he’s fine, he doesn’t need to leave.” She signs, “I know, I just need to have a talk with my son.”

    Not the way that kid wanted to play hooky, I’m sure!

  43. Sage*

    #10 – the open blouse

    I felt this soo much. Once, I arrived home after a job interview, and then I saw that one Button on my shirt was open. I still wonder now when that happened.

    And that is why I either use a hidden sexurity needle, or the shirt I bought tailored on my body proportions.

  44. Pam Poovey*

    I had something very similar to #10 happen. Feeling quite stylish in my Nooworks jumpsuit with the three buttons on the front. I was facilitating a breakout group during a meeting and notice the middle button was wide open. And of course the bra I was wearing underneath was both lacy and cleavage-y. No idea how long it had been open.

  45. B*

    Number 13 is why I’m glad I work somewhere that the conferencing software lets you mute OTHER people. Saves the effort of getting someone’s attention to get them to mute themselves whether the noise is embarrassing or just annoying

  46. StarCruzer*

    poor “I Hit Send.” I had a similar experience.
    When I was interning at a Fortune 100 company, I was supposed send out a notification to several hundred employees that a favorite perk was returning–onsite yoga sessions. I sent a test to manager (we were sitting in a conference room together) and he gave it the OK. A few minutes later he looked confused, then I heard him sigh. He started to get feedback on the email. There was a misspelling in the subject line: I invited 600+ employees to “Sign Up for Toga Sessions Starting Next Week.” We got emails from random employees all day with Animal House gifs. I’m retrospect it’s absolutely hilarious but at the time I was terrified I would be fired.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I’d be legit disappointed that I couldn’t wear a toga to work.

    2. calonkat*

      I have a minute delay on my email after sending far too many emails with: misspellings I caught as it was closing; second questions I only saw as it was closing; attachments I promised, but forgot to attach.

  47. DramaQ*

    I was talking to a coworker the other day about being out on vacation. His number is in my phone in case he needs to ask any questions and that way I’ll answer rather than ignoring it. We were joking about how my husband would wonder who the hell is “D” and I blurted out “It’s no secret my husband knows all about us!” Silence and then “So there is an us? When was I going to find about it?” I turned so red as he fell onto the floor dying. I so did not mean to imply I was having an affair and it’s okay because my marriage is open.

  48. Whoops*

    #7, I’ve done that as well – not with a grandboss, but with the head of my department when I was in grad school … I was too far away to say thank you so I signed it, and my (admittedly a little kooky to begin with) professor just kinda shrugged and blew me a kiss back. I’m betting we were both confused and I’m kind of glad to read that it’s happened to someone else, too!

  49. goddessoftransitory*

    The Buttons is why I quit wearing button down shirts in college and God willing, will never don one again.

  50. Elizabeth West*

    11. The singer

    Oh dear. I was that coworker once upon a time. No one ever said anything there either, but I’m sure they were tired of it!

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