Mortification Week: the fake accent, storm warning, and more

It’s Mortification Week at Ask a Manager and all week long we’ll be revisiting ways we’ve mortified ourselves at work. Here are 15 more mortifying stories.

1. The mistake

I once told a colleague in my field (“John”) that “it was great to hear” of another colleague (“Dan”)’s recent death … which was NOT AT ALL what I had meant to say! I had always liked Dan and was genuinely sorry and upset at his rather sudden death. John leads a professional organization in our field that had sent out a notice of his death, which was the only way I had known of it, since my own and Dan’s (large) employer hadn’t even notified me (to be fair, we worked on different teams, though within the same overall department). So what I was trying to convey was basically “it was a great service you did to let us know of his passing” … but it didn’t come out that way at all, and there was no time to explain or correct myself, as the elevator ride was ending. To this day I still think of that and wonder if John thinks I had it in for Dan …

2. The no

Our campus was hosting open forums for candidates for a director position. I was listening in on the zoom feed while in my office and the candidate answered a question nonsensically. I just snorted and said, “That’s a no from me, dawg.”

My boss came running over to my office to tell me to mute my feed. And yes, there were definitely people who heard it.

3. The storm warning

The early days of my career started at a small TV station. On my first day, I received training on airing severe weather notices and I practiced creating a winter storm warning as an example. A few hours later I was flying solo and a REAL severe thunderstorm warning came in. I proudly drafted the warning and sent it to air…without deleting the dummy winter storm warning in the queue. Viewers in about 30 communities had their programing interrupted by a winter storm warning on a very hot day (90F). And I received numerous angry phone calls from elderly residents. It was a scramble to answer phones, field angry rants, while also making sure the real warning aired! Explaining to my boss was mortifying and I was sure I’d be fired! But they ruled it an accident and now trainers are instructed to delete any drafts!

4. The misidentification

I worked for a stuffy CPA firm in a previous life. The receptionist calls me and says “(man’s name) is on Line 1,” where man’s name = my husband’s name. She says he had called earlier and mentioned that I hadn’t called him back. It’s also important to note that she and I didn’t particularly like each other for many reasons.

I answered the phone with “That b*tch didn’t tell me you had called.”

It wasn’t my husband. It was a client with the same name as my husband.

Thank goodness he laughed about it. I got the feeling he didn’t like her very much either.


5. The trafficking

I recently started a job in traffic engineering. I like it a lot better than design (my previous job), so during icebreakers in Orientation I announced that I was excited to get back into TRAFFICKING. Talk about a first impression! Luckily it got a lot of laughs.

6. The glass

It was my first professional job at a very formal bank. I was singing to myself because my man had just told me he loved me. Well, I wasn’t paying attention and waltzed directly into a plate glass wall, HARD. Like, bounced off the glass. Ah, love.

7. The phone call

Long, long ago, when I was applying for internships for the first time, I got a call back from a small consulting firm but somehow missed it and only realized about an hour later. As it was 2 PM, I figured it wouldn’t be wildly unreasonable to call back. One thing about me is that I used to have extreme phone anxiety, and my lack of experience with speaking on the phone only exacerbated this. I wrote up an entire script, rehearsed it to myself a few times, and finally mustered up the nerve to call.

For all my overthinking, I never expected to be sent to voicemail. So there I was, suddenly flabbergasted because my whole script had just gone out the window. But surely I could just say a simple “My name is X and I’m calling back about Y. Please give me a call back at…” Wrong. Totally wrong. I ended up saying, “Oh my God!” Then, realizing I said it out loud, said, “OH MY GOD” again and then hung up. Since then I’ve vowed to just hang up if I get sent to voicemail.

8. The rollerblades

Part-time job in a very formal privately-held company – so formal that women had to wear dresses or skirts and pantyhose. That’s right – women could not wear pants. Did I mention this was 1989? Anyway, everyone working there was old so I struck up a friendship with the young (hot) mailroom guy.

One day we got to talking about rollerblading and I told him I’d show him how to blade (he got a pair as a gift but didn’t know how to use them). We had planned to blade outside during lunch but it was raining, so we bladed around the mailroom, which had a concrete floor.

Of course who walks in but the president of the company. He immediately walked away. The mailroom guy and I just died laughing. Thirty seconds later my boss comes in and says, “I was told you were rollerskating around in here and I didn’t believe it, but here we are.”

I did not get fired. Instead I was given a bunch of projects to do so that I never had time to goof off at work again.

9. The dad

One evening, around 8:30 pm, I was dealing with a rough personal issue and I decided to call my father for moral support. When he answered I greeted him as I always do: “Hi, Daddy.”

In a voice somewhere between confused and horrified, he replied, “Did you just call me ‘Daddy’?!”

I looked down at my phone screen to see the name Dan. As in: My Boss, Dan.

(Which, in my defense, is right next to “Dad” in an alphabetical phone list.) I stammered an explanation and an apology and quickly hung up. We seemed to silently agree to never mention the situation again.

10. The massage

(This may not qualify but I had to include it anyway because the mental image is so funny.)

This doesn’t qualify since it didn’t happen at work, but it happened to my work colleague (and they have shared it at work many times): My colleague went for a holiday to a spa hotel and booked a massage. The therapist told them to undress and handed them a small piece of cloth and then left the room. Unfamiliar with this spa‘s customs, my colleague stripped totally naked and wrapped the cloth around their head as a blindfold. The massage therapist came back and was very astonished because what she had handed them was actually a loin cloth, meant to cover the privates.

11. The attention to detail

A long while ago, back when my cover letters were generic and my interviewing skills were even worse than they are now, I applied for a job online, with my cover letter as an attachment. Then I received an email from the hiring manager, asking me if I meant to send them a copy of my electric bill. I immediately responded with the correct document, but by then it was definitely too late. Especially as I had put “high level of attention to detail” in my cover letter. Unsurprisingly, I never got a response. That’s also the day I learned to not leave my resumes languishing in the downloads folder.

12. The wrong word

We use DISC profiles to help us better communicate in my office. We have everyone’s profile hung up, with their picture next to it. I had my new hire’s profile, but no picture so I said, “Oh hey new hire, I need a dick pic!” instead of DISC pic. I don’t think there’s a shade of red that compares to what I turned. I quickly corrected, but now I just say that I need a photo.

13. Shark Week

I had a coworker once IM me, “Are you excited for Shart Week?!”

She meant Shark Week.

I still laugh about it.

14. The wrong answer

When asked “why do you want to leave your current job?” at an interview, I responded with, “I don’t like the general public.” I was young and didn’t know any better… Didn’t get the job, surprising nobody. The interview feedback was that I was “too negative” about my current job.

15. The fake accent

I really struggled to find a job after graduating into the 2008 recession. I was living in an area with a strong regional accent, and convinced myself I was getting rejected at interviews because I lacked the accent. So, I did my next interview in (a terrible parody of) the local accent. It was awful. But once I’d started talking like that, it was impossible to revert into my normal voice. Didn’t get the job!

{ 248 comments… read them below }

    1. Phony Genius*

      I feel like I’ve read that one somewhere else, but there’s nothing wrong with reading it again. And again.

      1. KeinName*

        Indeed, I posted it in a comment recently, when Alison asked for mortified content. I am so happy it got selected!!! I always wanted this story to appear in a novel or standup piece of mine, but since I am yet to write any of those I consider it achieved here!

    1. Ann Stephens (NMRN)*

      That was me! I still cringe about it to this day – and it happened more than 20 years ago!

  1. Myrin*

    Just like the raisins’ walk from yesterday, I simply can’t stop laughing about the massage. I think what really makes it for me is the way OP described it: “The massage therapist came back and was very astonished”.

    (Unrelated, but aren’t Gravatars getting displayed anymore even with email addresses input or is this something on my end?)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Gravatars: It’s on my end! They broke last week and we haven’t been able to get them working again. Hopefully soon.

      The massage: I can’t tell you how much I love this mental image. WHY A BLINDFOLD?!

      1. Hlao-roo*

        That’s some “I can’t see you so you can’t see me (and we can both avoid embarrassment!)” playground logic.

      2. Large Pink Rabbit*

        To me, I guessed that they figured it was to block out light, so they could have a relaxing experience in the dark.

      3. I should really pick a name*

        Speaking for myself, when I’m lying on my back for a massage, I close my eyes because looking at the RMT while he’s standing over my head just feels weird.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes I shut my eyes as well and when I’m on my back the therapist usually puts a weighted blindfold over my eyes which I quite like because it makes sure that I can relax into the experience.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I am a frequent massage getter and always have my eyes closed because it’s more relaxing that way, but the image of someone thinking they were supposed to blindfold themselves and then lay there nude and uncovered will never stop cracking me up.

          1. Noblepower*

            These are all gold, but I snort-laughed at that image and am now worried about uncontrolled laughter at my next massage.

      4. Professional Human*

        How ironic. The LW was wearing the blindfold, but it was the masseuse who never saw it coming.

      5. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Serious: Maybe he’d been given eyeshades in bright rooms before.

        Silly: “…Avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you—daft as a brush, but very very ravenous)” -Douglas Adams

    2. mli25*

      Probably even funnier to me as I am getting a massage this afternoon. I am quite experienced and know that the cloth is for covering MY privates, not my eyes.

    1. ursula*

      I LOVED this also because for some reason the phrase “It’s a no from me dawg” lodged itself in my brain many years ago (I don’t even watch american idol or whatever) and to this day is the thing I ALWAYS think but never say out loud when I am feeling super skeptical about something. I’m glad there’s at least one person out there with the same type of brainrot as me

      1. Ama*

        Me too! I said that to my husband about something the other day. I also did not watch Idol (although I did read all the TWoP recaps back in the early days, so maybe that’s how it got stuck in my head).

        1. SpaceySteph*

          A TWoP reference in the wild! That was probably my favorite website ever (sorry Alison, but there’s no competing with its presence in my formative years) and I am frequently sad they are gone. Sometimes I watch a show and imagine how good the recaps would have been as a companion.

              1. goddessoftransitory*

                I miss it so much–I did a whole series of posts creaming The Following and it was such fun! (Same for Under the Dome, hee.)

      2. beep beep*

        It’s from American Idol?? I’ve known that phrase for forever but never knew its origin, apparently. Goes to show how memetic it is, I guess.

        1. Heidi*

          Randy Jackson used to say it all the time. He was the middle of the road judge. It was kind of a softer message than the, “You should sue your singing teacher” feedback that Simon was giving.

  2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    #7 could be me.

    I cannot leave a coherent voicemail on the fly. I have to organize it before I call. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve called a number, gotten voicemail, hung up before the beep, composed my script, then called back to leave the voicemail.

    1. Anon in IL*

      Many phone systems will let you press # (pound sign) while you are recording a voice mail. It gives you the option to delete your voicemail and start over. Has saved me more than once.

      1. nonprofit llama groomer*

        I’m always paranoid that the recipient might still have a way to hear the original mortifying message, so I usually just leave the OMM.

    2. Elsewise*

      I once overheard a (male) coworker in a call center leave the voicemail “Hi, Maggie, this is Maggie… wait, I’m not Maggie, you’re Maggie.” AND THEN HE HUNG UP. This was a professional call center worker with years of experience, so you’re definitely not alone.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        That makes me feel better about my first time calling out of work, where I said to my boss’s voicemail: “Hi, Hlao-roo, this is John… uh, I mean hi, John, this is Hlao-roo. I’m snowed in so I can’t come to the office today.” He graciously never mentioned it to me.

      2. Katherine*

        The thing I have done MORE THAN ONCE is leave the number I have just dialed rather than my own number on the message.

      3. goddessoftransitory*

        All I do all day long is answer the phone, and it is SO EASY for your brain to suddenly wander off into a meadow and leave you sputtering over something you have said thousands of times.

        1. Princess Sparklepony*

          When I had jobs where I answered phones and especially when they were temp jobs – the first thing I would do was write out the name of the company on a post it and put it on the phone. That saved me so many times! Otherwise I’d be hemming and hawing trying to remember the name of the company I was working at for the day.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, as a young adult I worked too long in outbound call centers to have phone anxiety, but I hate leaving voicemail, and no doubt it can be heard.

    3. MissCoco*

      The other day I called a patient and left a HIPAA compliant voicemail (aka not that much information in it). I had my script ready and went though it smooth as butter, then got to the end “have a nice day! . . . (it’s dawning on me that I have not left the offices number in case she had questions). . . ummm the phone number for [our office] is 123-1234, bye.”

      It was so awkward!

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        The script I ended up using as a template starts with “My name is Sola Lingua and my voice number is 555-555-1234. I’m calling to…”

        I cut my teeth in tech support (not quite call centre, but close enough in some ways) and had peers who would happily leave a 5 minute, detailed voicemail that wouldn’t include those details until the very end. Since I was listening to what they were saying (and not just filtering mentally for a phone number), I generally had to listen to those voicemails twice before I could return the call, and resolved to never let myself become one of those individuals.

        1. Lenora Rose*

          I often have to go back to the start to get the name and number when it’s done your way… but at least I don’t have to listen to the *whole* message again.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            I repeat it at the end, too, just in case I’m dealing with someone who’s ready for it.

        2. Princess Sparklepony*

          What always annoyed me when getting voice messages is people slurring their phone number or speaking too fast. So when leaving a message, I leave my number – I leave it at least twice making sure to be clear when I leave it. I figure if I leave it in the message 2 or even 3 times, people can double check without replaying the message.

    4. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      I once launched into a long involved message and at one point realized that it only applied in X circumstance, at which point I said of course if Y applies, please don’t bother listening to this message, oh but if you’re listening to me right now it’s too late isn’t it I’m sorry for wasting your time and I will shut up now.
      And then I just hung up. Luckily the client didn’t listen to all of it because he had réalised about Y already, but perhaps he was being kind to me…

    5. Ally McBeal*

      Neither can I, and it’s a hazard in my line of work – I often have to leave messages inviting people to an event for a company they may or may not have heard of previously, so I not only have to explain all the event details (location, date, time, etc.) but also a quick synopsis of the company. I literally write up my elevator pitch in a text doc and then do my best to adlib with enough enthusiasm that it doesn’t sound like I’m just reading it.

  3. Maxine*

    #13 Does “Shark Week” mean something else than women’s monthly? Because I have never heard someone ask that upbeat.

    1. The Editor-in-Chief*

      It’s the Discovery Channel(?)’s annual festival of all things shark: “documentaries” about megalodons, etc.

      It took off as a euphemism for periods *because of* the annual bloody shark-fest on TV.

    2. Alex Rider*

      Shark week is a week of shows just about sharks on the discovery channel. The only thing on the channel during the week is about sharks.8

    3. Heidi*

      I don’t think people fully realize how huge Shark Week was back when it first came on the Discovery Channel. It was the late 1900s, and we would watch documentaries about sharks for hours. It was actually awesome in a “you had to be there” kind of way.

      1. Bossypants.*

        And the building would have a HUGE inflatable shark on it: the huge mouth and teeth on the side facing the street, and the tail, etc, obscuring the view of all the apts behind it.

        I’m late to the menstrual term but that’s the best!

      2. Alisaurus*

        “late 1900s” – I know it’s true but it just makes me feel so old to put it that way. Hahaha

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          “You kids don’t know how long WE had to wait for information about large carnivorous fish! Why, there was only ONE WEEK where that was available, ya whippersnappers!”

      3. Frank Doyle*

        I feel like Shark Week is just as big, if not bigger these days? I hear about it constantly when it’s coming up and ongoing.

        1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

          NatGeo Channel has copied it with Sharkfest, which was on last month — their Fest lasts the entire month of July.

        2. Unkempt Flatware*

          Well, now that we have streaming and on-demand services, we don’t have to take vacation that week like we used to. I now don’t say to my friends or family who want to see me, “ON SHARK WEEK?!?!?”. It used to be quite The Thing.

    4. DannyG*

      TV Discovery Channel, all sharks all week long . Shark Week is back starting July 23rd, 2023 on Discovery.

  4. NameRequired*

    I think everybody should have a monthly allowance of “that’s a no from me dawg”s to be utilized as needed

    1. ConstantlyComic*

      I totally agree! There are so many situations where I feel like I could use one.

    2. Jack Russell Terrier*

      I gave my husband about 5 literal ‘get out of date night’ passes. We have standing date night every Friday and he’s an introvert so this is a way for him not to be ‘tortured’ on the rare occasion he has nothing left after work.

      This really doesn’t happen often but on one memorable occasion, he stalked in, grabbed one of the passes, hand it to me and headed straight off upstairs to boil his head. It was actually pretty funny.

      1. Enai*

        I’m assuming he didn’t literally stick his head in boiling water and also that you didn’t mean “boil yer head” as in “fsck off”. What, pray tell, did he do, and why do you call it boiling his head?

  5. aubrey*

    “I don’t like the general public.” – I feel that, #14. I remember how shocked I was when my mother told me I just had to lie about liking working with people in interviews when I was a teenager and my only options were retail.

    1. High Score!*

      I’m guessing every single person who has ever worked with the public agrees with this statement!

    2. Sara*

      One of my first professional interviews was for an internship in college. When asked what my five year plan was, I honestly told them my goal was to work as an ESL teacher after college and get paid to travel – which had absolutely nothing to do with the job at hand. My aunt’s friend who got me the interview called me later and gave me the feedback that even if its not true, you should tailor your responses to the interview at hand. Oops.

      1. BottleBlonde*

        As a former internship program coordinator, I’ve heard it all in interviews. The most memorable was the very sweet candidate whose answer to “where do you see yourself in 5 years” was that she hoped by then to be a stay at home mom married to a (preferably well-to-do) husband.

        1. allathian*

          Awww, poor young thing.

          It would probably be more prudent to ask “where do you see yourself *professionally* in 5 years,” especially when you’re hiring interns. By definition, they don’t have a lot of professional experience and many of them would undoubtedly appreciate some gentle coaching.

          That said, this question has always thrown me for a loop, because most of the time I’ve had no idea. I work to live rather than live to work, and I’m not particularly interested in a career if it means becoming a manager.

          When I interviewed for my current job and they asked me about my 5-year visions, I said something like “I could easily see myself working for you doing the same job, just with some more skills and experience than I have now.” My then-coworker told me a few years later that this was what decided them to hire me rather than another candidate, because they’d had a lot of turnover in recent years in a position that takes at least 3 months of training before you can work without constant supervision, and they’d spent 6 months trying to find a good hire (I’m in a niche field, and the skill profile at my employer’s also a bit different than elsewhere).

    3. Ellis Bell*

      It’s so weird how we know it’s pretty, um, challenging, to work with the general public and yet we’ve agreed en masse to never admit it.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        It’s the fear of being *that* part of the general public ourselves, maybe?

      2. Warrior Princess Xena*

        “I hate the core aspect of this job” isn’t something interviewers want to hear, even if everyone at the table knows that “I’m interviewing here because I like having money for food and shelter” is the most likely reason why someone is there.

      3. H3llifIknow*

        When I decided to quit teaching and went to a Temp Agency to try to get my foot into the corporate world, they asked why I was leaving teaching and I said, “Well, I’ve come to realize I don’t LIKE other peoples’ children.” They laughed but were like, “yeah maybe don’t say THAT to the client(s) if they ask!”

    4. Bee*

      Hah, right, I feel like “I no longer want to work with the general public” should be a VERY understandable reason for a job change!

    5. Liane*

      My new Interview Terror:
      I will get asked about my strengths and answer, “Although I despise the general public, I am a customer service rock star.”
      Both are true but not an answer I should give.

      1. Kacihall*

        I can never go back to in person customer service. I have a very effective customer service persona (which I sometimes didn’t get turned off if I met my husband for dinner right after my shift before his shift and creeped him out) but I have only done phone and email contact with customers since 2015. The habit of flipping off the phone or grousing about the last call has gotten very ingrained and I’m worried I wouldn’t be able to turn it off in front of customers again.

        1. This_is_Todays_Name*

          I feel you! I’ve been WFH for 3 years now… I dread when I have to go to an in person meeting and people can SEE MY FACE. I have zero control anymore over what’s happening on it and my eye rolling is out of bounds!

          1. Wired Wolf*

            One of the reasons I didn’t mind when we were required to wear masks (I still do mask occasionally because of air-quality alerts) was that customers couldn’t tell when I was scowling at them. Now I have to watch my facial expressions…but most of my supervisors/managers tend to ignore any slips (I know one of them wishes he could insta-ban some of these jerks).

        2. goddessoftransitory*

          Oh, I could never face customers again–if my job ever decided to make Zoom a feature I’d nope out with a quickness. It’s hard enough to keep my Phone Voice on sometimes, let alone my facial expressions (and sometimes, hand gestures.)

          1. Le Sigh*

            I just never, ever again want to deal with a full-grown adult throwing a nuclear-level temper tantrum over, I dunno, someone forgetting to take the security tag off or being unwilling to return shoes with visibly worn soles 60 days later. Or letting their kid pee in the dressing room and then not even telling us, so we can find it as a fun surprise at closing time.

            I still do client-facing work, which comes with it’s own serious headaches. But at least I’m making more than $7.15/hr pre-tax (and have benefits) to do that.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          To me that depends on the role they’re filling. I can laugh and appreciate the sentiment if I’m hiring for something in a back office. But it’s probably worth a follow-up question about interaction with co-workers in other departments!

  6. Roy Donk*

    I can’t remember if I have ever commented about this on Mortification Week posts before, but here goes, my mortifying work story: once when I was very new to the work world, I was asked to arrange for a conference call (back in the before-Zoom times) for some very important people around the country, which involved me securing a 1-800 number and then sending it out to all these folks. The team in my office all gathered in the conference room at the appropriate time, and then began to wonder why everyone who was supposed to call in was late. After some awkward waiting, an admin assistant rushed in to let the head of our team know that one of the VIPs was on the line for him, urgently. He left the room to take the call, and came back in with tears streaming down his face from laughter. Turns out I had inadvertently transposed some digits in the 1-800 number and directed all our VIPs to a phone sex hotline.

      1. Roy Donk*

        It was some sort of a free hotline that had a recorded message, something like “if you’d like to talk to hot singles, call 1-900-blah blah”.

        1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

          I believe some of the 800 numbers used to let you pay with a credit card as well as listing 900 numbers to call. (Some people used to block all 900 numbers from their home phone lines to avoid charges. I remember one of my mom’s friends having to come over and use our phone once when she needed to call a 900 number or some reason.)

          My friends and I used to have an ongoing project to see how many different phone sex 800 numbers we could find, because before the internet unsupervised 12 year olds only had so many ways to entertain themselves without going outside. Almost every vaguely naughty 7-letter phrase we could think of went to one, and there were a few different common pre-recorded messages you’d get but most of them went to the same place. (We’d just try numbers and hang up once we knew which message we got this time.)

    1. Conference call*

      This absolutely happened to me! Luckily (?) it was the client who had sent out the wrong number, not me. Here I was gathered in an office with the senior partner and few other attorneys, we call into the conference line, and it was a phone sex hotline!

  7. CarolineBingley*

    I was once at a conference while on my period. Something irritated my nose and I sneezed toward the end of a breakout session. I thought I was secure but low and behold the sneeze caused not only get a giant red spot on my dress but also on the chair I sat in. There was no way to discretely get the chair out of the room and clean it. I decided to set through the next session until the room was no longer in use and then try to clean it (I did leave my stuff while I went to fix my dress ASAP).

    1. Late Bloomer*

      Another period mishap here. It’s spring of my senior year in college, and I’ve flown to Los Angeles for an interview at a very exclusive private school. For interviewing purposes, I’ve purchased a lovely lightweight wool cream-colored suit. After dinner with a group of potential colleagues, one of them is driving me to the airport for my trip home. He offers to drive me around to see some sights first–there’s plenty of time–but as we approach the airport, I can tell that time is running out on my last tampon change. It may be too late. I hope he’ll drop me outside airport so I can back away from him. But no, he comes inside and watches me as I go up an escalator waving goodbye. And yes, when I made my way to the bathroom, there was an unmistakable red splotch on my cream-colored skirt. (Fortunately, I only had a carry-on and so could change clothes.) I was not disappointed when I wasn’t offered the job.

    2. The OG Sleepless*

      Somebody in my family, who will not fess up to it, was doing a craft project of some sort on our patio table that involved maroon paint. A drop of dark red paint dripped onto the seat of one of the chairs, unknown to me until I had a guest over who discreetly let me know there was “something” on one of the chairs and she was afraid to sit on it in her white pants. I didn’t realize how bad it looked until after she had left, and I urgently texted her to let her know it was dried paint.

  8. Dust Bunny*

    We were helping a young friend of ours with her resume. Somewhere on there she wrote that since she had worked in restaurants and in the student affairs office in college she had “a lot of experience servicing customers”. We have no idea how many resumes she sent out before she asked my mom for help but she definitely got more interviews after Mom helped her edit.

    1. mlem*

      A lot of companies in my area have been advertising their *servicing* of customers over the past 10-20 years, and I still shake my head every time.

    2. Former Prof*

      So, so many students writing on Aristotle’s theory of friendship wrote “In a friendship of pleasure, friends pleasure one another,” that I started warning them not to do that beforehand, which meant having to explain why.

  9. Jojo*

    LW 7, oh, I felt this one in my bones.

    LW 15 I’m picturing you trying to attempt the Delaware County, PA accent (Think – Mare of Eastown) and giggling. I know Kate Winslet got a lot of praise for her attempt, but she didn’t actually nail it.

    1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      I lived in Philly for 20 years, so the “attytood” accent is also what I thought of.

    2. CeeCee*

      On #15, I was picturing someone from southern US who’s trying to speak to someone from northeast or northwest US. Has there been a stigma in the US on certain regions?

      1. The OG Sleepless*

        I was picturing somebody from outside the South trying to fake a Southern accent! We’re pretty used to having people make fun of us here in the South, so that wouldn’t generally go over well.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          Law & Order has (at least) one episode where the other lawyer was dressed up in a fancy suit and bolo and my mom said, “Oh, they’re gonna say he’s from Texas.”

          They did, but the accent was Deep South. Augh! Not the same thing! I looked up the actor and he was from . . . not Texas. One of the Georgia/Alabama/Mississippi triad.

          1. Alisaurus*

            NCIS:NOLA (back when I watched the first, like, 2 seasons or so) had a character from Alabama with a very distinctive correct accent because Lucas Black is from there and uses his real accent, and I remember seeing so many people complaining about his “fake” Southern accent. I was like, “Well, you’re certainly not from the South.”

            1. nonprofit llama groomer*

              My husband just started watching NCIS:NOLA a few weeks ago and I said something about his accent being crazy. We live in the South but not the Deep South and I was not raised in the South, so this is a very interesting fact!

              I have a lot of relatives from Texas and spent a lot of time there growing up and I can usually identify a TX accent from other southern accents.

            2. Pat*

              My friend from Arkansas told me a long time ago that there’s no such thing as a “southern” accent.

              1. I love all the cats*

                Right? I have a friend from Arkansas and he says not only do Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, the Carolinas, Georgia, etc etc each have their own distinct accent, but there are differences WITHIN the states, i.e. Little Rock’s accent is distinct from Fayetteville, etc etc. We (non Southerners) just can’t hear it. Now my mother was British, we lived in London for a while when I was a kid, and I can tell you almost exactly where any English person is from as soon as they open their mouth! So it’s just what you’re used to!

              2. Alisaurus*

                Oh 100%! I’ve lived in the South my whole life, and there are definitely different regional accents. Even within each state, there are individual accents. Where I lived previously, there were probably 5 distinctive accents for areas all within a fairly small radius.

                Same as when I lived in Ireland, and my friends there told me they could tell when someone in a movie was faking an Irish accent because otherwise you could pinpoint exactly what town/area of the country they were from.

      2. Large Pink Rabbit*

        “Has there been a stigma in the US on certain regions?”

        Sadly, yes. Appalachia, Texas, Deep South, Pittsburgh, Brooklyn… most strong regional accents are viewed negatively, and accents associated with poverty especially so. So, JFK Bahston accent is ok bc it’s upper class, but a Southie accent will be looked down on.

        1. Panicked*

          I grew up near Pittsburgh and nothing makes me feel more excited than when I hear Pittsburghese in public! I’m in the south now, but I can hear a “yinz” from a mile away! I think it’s definitely one of those accents that you can’t really pinpoint unless your from the area.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            My mom’s family is from Southern New Jersey, which sounds like Philadelphia but not quite. I can’t do the accent but I can hear it a mile away.

    3. NYCRedhead*

      I was also assuming the distinctive Philadelphia accent and would love to know from the OP what it was!

      1. Junior Assistant Peon*

        That’s my guess. Movie and TV actors often try to imitate it by doing a NYC/Brooklyn accent (like saying Joisey for Jersey), which is definitely not the same thing.

  10. Another Traffic Engineer*

    #5, as a fellow traffic engineer, I completely understand this story both from your perspective and the perspective of the other engineers in the room.

    1. Yet Another Traffic Engineer*

      Agreed. I was just thrilled to see another one of us on here. There are dozens of us! Dozens! :)

  11. Palliser*

    This is my favorite email series–thank you! It’s such a relief to hear that many people’s brains short-circuit under the right circumstances. I’ve also enjoyed the mental trip down memory lane of my own mortifying behavior, some of which I really ought to have been fired for.

  12. Raisin On Way To Moon*

    #4 reminds me that I once worked in an office with a secretary who couldn’t stop talking. One of those people who’d even narrate what she was doing if no one was around to listen to her. One day I had a difficult project to finish, my earplugs had gone missing, and Secretary had a captive audience in the form of a new hire she was “training.” I meant to use the interoffice IM to text, “I can’t focus with Secretary chattering on, so if you need me I’ll be in the conference room. God she drives me batty,” to my team partner. Sent it right to Secretary.

    1. Relentlessly Socratic*

      I received an outlook invite to a new hires bonding session (apparently we had them 1x a year at OldJob), when I had been at the org nearly a year. I forwarded the invite to my colleague who started around the same time I did with “WTF Seriously??”

      Friends of AAM, I did not know at that time that forwarding an outlook invite COPIES THE SENDER, who was, of course, HR. I tried to recall the forward, but, of course couldn’t. I walked down to the sender in HR and apologized for my lack of professionalism–and she said she never bothers to read the outlook responses (whew).

      If we’ve all learned one thing from mortification week, electronic communication is not to be trifled with.

      1. THE PANCREAS*

        I did something similar, although mine was…sort of complimentary? I forwarded an invite to my boss for a learning session with an associate VP with a comment like, “You should go to this if you can. [Trainer] is actually pretty good, if you can believe it.” Yeah, exec assistant to all VPs in the unit also got to read that message.

        1. Jenny F Scientist*

          I once invited 34 colleagues and the associate dean to my child’s dental appointment via zoom (the miracle of the internet copied something somehow?) AND six people responded yes before anyone emailed me to ask WTF.

      1. Raisin On Way To Moon*

        @Seeking, I immediately texted, “Secretary, I’m sorry! I didn’t mean for you to see that. I’m just swamped” and hightailed it to the conference room. She responded something like “LOL just tell me to keep it down that’s what everyone else does!” but we never really got along after that.

  13. ConstantlyComic*

    Saw a couple of other people sharing their own stories here and just remembered one that happened to me:
    I was making a “the library will be closing in X minutes” announcement over the PA. The announcements are scripted, and the last sentence is “If you need to call for a ride, please call now so your ride will be here before closing time.” Only I, clearly very much wanting to go home, said, “If you need to call for help, please call now…” Once I finished the announcement, I realized what I had done, my need to fix my mistakes kicked in, and I got back on the PA and said, “Good evening, when I said ‘if you need to call for help’ a moment ago, I meant ‘if you need to call for a ride.’ Thank you.”
    Afterwards, one of my coworkers who works on our second floor told me that she hadn’t even noticed the mistake until I got back on the PA to correct it.

    1. Phony Genius*

      One thing I have learned over the years is that some mistakes are best left uncorrected.

      1. umami*

        This! I just had to train a new person in our communications office on this – we don’t recall messages unless there is an egregious error in it; most things you can just send out an update and no one will notice there was something wrong. But once you recall a message, people get interested in what was wrong with it lol. Once an email went out from CEO’s office to about 12,000 people that had all the draft information below it, and I love how the exec. assistant who had sent it out handled it when I immediately alerted her. She just said, well, they get to see behind the curtain, I guess!

        1. Gigi*

          The most annoying thing that has ever happened to me was sending a company-wide, all-users email that the CEO asked me to recall for a trivial reason. There’s an option that alerts you by email whenever the recipient allows/denies the recall. I forgot to uncheck it. For weeks afterward I was still getting tons of those emails. It was incredibly annoying since I already had an overfilled inbox! (Although I did get to see who was nice enough to let the message be recalled and who wasn’t. If you ever get a recall notice, remember the person who sent it can tell if you’ve insisted on reading the message anyway!)

    2. Stripes*

      Your coworkers didn’t notice because they’ve heard the announcement a billion times before, but it was probably good to correct just in case there really was someone there that day who was gonna get in your way of closing while waiting for a taxi.

  14. Snoozing not schmoozing*

    #8, in 1989, I also had a job that required hose and skirts/dresses. It wasn’t unusual then. I sure wish we’d had a place to skate, though.

    1. goddessoftransitory*

      I loved #8 and the image of those two young’uns skating around the mail room!

    2. Lurker*

      In the late 90s, the first job I had after college required no open toed shoes and no bare legs. (Prior to that I worked as a lifeguard which had a very different dress code! heh). No one mentioned this to me in advance and I showed up for my first day with an ankle length skirt, bare legs, and dress sandals. The receptionist pulled me aside and told me. That was just the tip of the old fashioned iceberg at that place.

    3. Raisin On Way To Moon*

      Even just in 2001, I came to work with a streak of pink hair and my boss told me I was “lucky” he didn’t fire me. 22 years later he’s in Heaven and their staff is FULL of visible tattooes, piercings, side-cuts, the works.

  15. The Taking of Official Notice*

    9 is why I changed my dad’s phone contact entry from “Dad” to his full name. A former boss’ last name is “Dade.”

    1. Elsewise*

      I called my veterinarian, Dr. Moore (fake name) once to refill a prescription, waited for the typical “Moore Veterinary Clinic, is this an emergency or can you hold?” and instead got “Hey, Sweetie, how’s it going?” Turns out, Moore VC was in my phone right next to Mom. I’m just glad I didn’t call my vet and ask for life advice!

      1. The OG Sleepless*

        I get asked for a surprising amount of life advice, and I might have welcomed the chance to shoot the breeze with a client who didn’t need any vet advice at the moment.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      I worked for, it happened to be a veterinarian, yes, but their phone number was similar in number composition both to my home phone and to the veterinary clinic at which I had worked previously. I did not actually give any clients my own number or the number to the wrong clinic (not really a competitor since they were in different towns, but still) but I had to work really hard to get it right for the first couple of months.

    3. Expelliarmus*

      I put everyone’s full names in my contact list, with specialized emojis for family and close friends. People think I’m weird for not having my parents under “Mom” and “Dad”, but I’ve never been in a situation like OP #9!

      1. Alisaurus*

        I also put my family in my contacts under their full names and also am thought of as weird for it. ;)

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          Same! Not my husband – he’s in there under his normal nickname, which is a shortened version of his middle name, because he only uses his legal first name at work and I can’t say it without snickering. But there is no “Mom” or “Dad” in my phone, just Rod and Sharon.

      2. not a hippo*

        My solution is to put the name of my workplace before anyone’s name and so far it’s worked because if I see CAPITAL LETTERS I know I’m about to text/call someone from work and not my dad.

        I have sent texts meant for my friend Dan* to my dad though
        *Not his actual name

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I do that too, because it helps me find people when I’m blanking on a last name. There are a LOT of repeatnames on my life!

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Apparently autocorrect has turned off today. My kingdom for an edit button.

      3. allathian*

        I put everyone with their full names, even my husband. Although he has ICE in front of his name. That way, if someone finds me injured or ill to the point that I can’t use the phone to make a call, they can call him using my locked phone, just like they could call emergency services. This system is EU-wide and probably works in most other European countries as well, but I’m not sure about the US.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          ICE works here but it’s too often forgotten when someone gets a phone. I’ve more than once run across people who don’t know the acronym as anything other than
          U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement!

      4. This_is_Todays_Name*

        My kids don’t use Mom or Dad in their phones, either and I asked once why, and my son said, “Because my friends are dicks and if they get hold of my phone they’ll send you guys messages pretending to be me.”

    4. MigraineMonth*

      My phone company had a really terrible voicemail transcription program, leading to such gems as one message starting: “(my first name) is dead.” It was… surprising.

      I played the voicemail, which started: “(my first name), it’s Dad.”

      1. SpaceySteph*

        My grandfather has something about his voice that does not work with transcription services. Idk if its the pitch or his New York Jew accent or what, but it says the most ridiculous things, I can’t even guess what he meant from reading the transcript.

        1. Petty_Boop*

          When I use voice to text without proofing, I get a lot of “Mom, are you having a stroke?” responses from my son!

    5. EvilQueenRegina*

      I had it the other way round once – my dad changed his number, and he’d sent the new one to me but had sent me the same text that he’d sent other contacts, so instead of “Dad”, it was signed, let’s say “Henry”. I had another Henry who I’d worked with in a previous job in my contacts, so I thought the sender was him and replied referencing an in-joke from that job. A few days later I got a text from Dad who’d had no idea what I was talking about.

    6. Jenny F Scientist*

      When we moved to Small Town ten years ago we had a land line. Its number was one off from the local hospice…. who had just sent out a letter to 300 elders with our number printed on it. So many rightly confused people called us asking for hospice… (I told them all the correct number.)

    7. Penelope*

      Me too. My former boss’s title (which is what we all called him) is very, very close to the very beginning of the alphabet. My brand-new-at-the-time husband’s name occurs immediately after it. (Think Aardvark and Abilene.) In the days of flip phones, when you just hit the left button to get to the Contacts list, then scrolled down to the name you wanted, I was very, very used to hitting the Contacts button and immediately hitting Send to dial hubby. And then my boss (Aardvark) gave me his personal cell phone number.
      Yes, at 10 pm one night, when my husband was driving home from work and I was **anxious** to see him, I called to leave him a “please hurry home, I have plans for you” message.
      I found religion again that night when my boss greeted me with “Penny, I’m so glad you called. I was just about to call you.”
      I IMMEDIATELY changed boss’s name to His Name from Aardvark–moving him to directly below my mother on my contact list. Somehow, that was safer.

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        In college, my dad was dating a woman with a name that started with the letter A, and she was in my brand-new cell phone for the rare times I might need to call her.

        My brand-new cell phone was a present from my dad, and he paid the bill, so the phone was under his name for caller id purposes as well. (I still can’t get his name off of my caller ID even though the phone bill has been in my name for many years and he is not even slightly on my account, which is a mixture of annoying and convenient at various times.)

        Anyway, it turns out that this particular phone was capable of going to the first person in your contacts list and calling them without actually flipping it open if you held down the little joystick “ok” button juuuust riiiight, which happened in the entropy of my purse shortly after midnight one night.

        Neither my dad nor his girlfriend were amused once they figured out what happened, and for a very long time thereafter the first contact I’d put in to each new phone was AAAAAAAAAAA and I’d put in my own phone number as the phone number for that contact.

  16. Tesuji*

    #15: I’m very sad that the ending of this one wasn’t “… so I somehow managed to get this job, and was therefore forced to continue speaking with this accent for the next two years.”

    1. Alisaurus*

      I suppose if there’s a letter here about a coworker randomly starting to speak with an accent, one stopping isn’t that out of place either.

      1. Ah Nawn E Moose*

        Well, “stopping” in this context is really just starting a different accent, so it definitely does happen!

    2. Martin Blackwood*

      This was like, the C-plot of a fanfiction I reread recently. Not two years, but I wanna say like three months before he got found out.

    1. didi*

      OP for #8 here – i could tell you a lot of stories about that place! Definitely good retro sitcom material.

    1. Sanity Lost*

      When I was young and foolish, I wore my “Bodice of Mans Ultimate Destruction” to my college classes one day.

      Watching the guys trip up and down the stairs, over their own feet, over their girlfriend’s feet (that one got Gibbs slapped), and the guy who walked into the glass wall…twice was hysterically funny.

      But I realized that I needed to use my powers for good and never did that again. I didn’t want anyone to get seriously hurt.

  17. Baron*

    #11: you know, if that had been me, I think I would have just said, “Yes, I did mean to send you a copy of my electric bill.” Let them think I’m extremely eccentric rather than slightly disorganized.

    And the mystery of why my career is in the shape it’s in has been solved!

  18. redflagday701*

    Then, realizing I said it out loud, said, “OH MY GOD” again and then hung up.

    This one got me. Could not stop laughing.

  19. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

    #10 the massage: “ Unfamiliar with this spa‘s customs, my colleague stripped totally naked and wrapped the cloth around their head as a blindfold.”

    What kinds of spa customs WAS he familiar with?

    1. Polyhymnia O’Keefe*

      Any massage I’ve gotten in recent memory, you strip and then get under a sheet on the massage table. Your whole body is never exposed — the massage therapist moves the sheet around to expose the part they’re working on (working on the back, the sheet is around the waist; working on a leg, the sheet covers under the opposite leg, when you flip over so they can work on your front, the sheet comes part way up the chest, etc).

      I mean, I’m positive I wouldn’t think it was a blindfold, but I’ve never had a massage with a cloth so small that you’d think it was one!

      1. UKDancer*

        I’ve had a few in spas in Europe where they give you fairly flimsy paper thong underwear to wear but I’ve always been expressly told by the therapist to put the paper knickers on so it’s been fairly obvious.

        UK spas tend to go more for you wearing your own knickers which to be honest i prefer.

        1. londonedit*

          Yeah, in my experience you strip off to your underwear (sans bra if you wear one) and arrange yourself under the big towels they give you, usually lying on your front. Then when the massage therapist comes in, they arrange the towel so that it covers most of you except the body part they’re working on, moving the towel around so you’re never completely exposed. When they need you to turn over on to your back, they lift up the towel and hold it in front of them like a screen, and then they put the towel back over you so it covers your torso. I’ve never been given any sort of underwear to put on – and definitely not a loincloth! Not sure what I’d think if I was given some sort of small cloth, but I definitely wouldn’t go with fully nude plus blindfold!

        2. Mister_L*

          European here. When I visited a massage therapist because of the pain in my shoulder and upper arm I had to strip down to the underwear and lie down on the table. She then put a towel over my butt / upper legs unless she was working on that area.

  20. CeeBee*

    I once worked at a very prestigious Mergers & Acquisition firm. This was in the early 90’s. I had become familiar in my role as EA to the owner of the firm, a little too familiar. My boss asked me to get a file for a company we had just pitched. I asked why. He said the firm that had initially gotten the business had to back out and we were being given another “bite at the apple.” I do not know why I said what I said, but I replied, “kinda like sloppy seconds?” WTF???? whyyyyyyy??? I am currently getting hives just thinking about this then.

    1. InsufficentlySubordinate*

      I think I would need to instantly learn how to be invisible or at least pretend.

  21. Addison DeWitt*

    Most of these are just like accidentally calling your boss Daddy. Let me offer one that is way weirder than that.

    My first business trip at my ad agency, I’m in a small town in the western part of my state with the #2 guy in the creative department (our client was out in corn country). We’re hanging out in the bar of our hotel– I’m all of 23, and not much of a bar guy, but I’m going along with what he wants to do. And again, this is a small town, wouldn’t even expect it to have a hotel bar.

    Or… a hooker in the hotel bar. But that is precisely what the attractive but not exactly young female he is chatting up does for a living. As I find out when he asks if he can borrow all of the cash I was issued for the trip. I’m torn between “I have to do what the higher authority person says” and “Oh my God, I’m going to get fired because of someone else’s prostitute.” But he convinces me to hand over the cash.

    They go off together and I go back to my room to, I dunno, watch HBO or something. I can hear them sort of rustling around next door. The next day he peddles me a story about how they never actually Did It, he tells me a not-untouching account of the work she does to put her daughter through school. Do I believe any of this? Who knows. But at least I got my money back before I had to file my expense report.

    Years later I told my #1 boss the story (we are Facebook friends to this day). Not sure what he thought, but mostly, I suspect, guilt about exposing my innocent self to such debauchery at my first job.

    1. goddessoftransitory*

      Oh dear. “I have to borrow cash from my subordinate to pay this sex worker” doesn’t really resonate with confidence, does it?

      1. Addison DeWitt*

        Yeah, I kind of think he found the only way you COULD need that much cash in a small farming town…

  22. Couldnt Pick A Username.*

    oh man #1 reminds me of my own. A coworker had died. It was rather tragic. I went through the service and waited in the line to give my condolences to the loved ones. I got up front, told one woman I was a coworker of the deceased and she said ‘thank you for coming’ and I said… ‘oh it’s my pleasure’….. after an awkward pause I said ‘um, you know what I mean’ and moved the heck on.

    1. Irish Teacher*

      You could have said way worse. At my dad’s funeral (well, it was the removal, but same thing really), a friend of his came over to shake my mother’s hand and sort of chuckling, said, “well, it’s all over now!” My mum was quite shocked. My brother and I saw the funny side.

      1. Enai*

        “At least the deceased isn’t suffering anymore” is one of the more common sentiments after protracted illness. So is “well, that sure is the end of my relationship to X, what with them being dead”, so please allow an ESL person to ask: why is “It’s all over now!” so offensive?

        1. frystavirki*

          To me “it’s all over now!” sounds a lot more like you’re glad you don’t have to put up with the person anymore, like something you’d say if you finally passed that awful calculus class you’ve been suffering through. The tone of “at least the deceased isn’t suffering anymore” is a lot different.

          1. allathian*

            Yes, this. People who have been caring for family members who are suffering and whose health is more or less steadily declining also often feel very guilty that they’re relieved that their family member has finally died, even when the dying person has stated that they want to die. I strongly suspect that that’s what my dad felt when his mom passed, even though she had been a difficult person and a far from ideal parent, even by the standards of his childhood (40s and 50s).

            When you’re feeling guilty about your feelings of relief, it doesn’t help if someone essentially says “good riddance” and that’s what “it’s all over now” probably sounds like to a grieving person.

            1. Enai*

              Okay, if it sounds much like “Good riddance!” I understand the consternation. I thought “it’s all over now” sounded more wistful than glad.

              1. Ace in the Hole*

                It could sound like that in the right tone, but this is a phrase where tone is absolutely critical.

                “It’s all over now” in a somber, sad tone would sound mournful. “It’s all over now” while chuckling would come across more flippant, like “whew, glad we’re past all THAT nonsense!”

          2. Irish Teacher*

            Yeah, this. There was also some context, that the friend who said it was somebody who’d done a lot of favours for my dad, so “he won’t be annoying me to drive him to church/his doctor’s appointments any more” would have actually made sense, plus while my dad hadn’t been in great health for a while beforehand and I suspect “he won’t suffer any more” was what his friend meant to say, he hadn’t actually been seriously ill, just old. The death was rather unexpected, so it wasn’t a case of him dying after a long illness or anything like that.

        2. londonedit*

          As a native English speaker, I’ve never heard of ‘Well, that sure is the end of my relationship to X, what with them being dead’ being expressed as a sentiment when someone dies. I’m not sure that would come across very well!

          ‘Well, it’s all over now!’ definitely has connotations of ‘Thank goodness that’s over with’, which in turn has connotations of ‘Phew, I’m glad he’s finally dead’. I’m sure the person in question meant it in a ‘Well, at least he’s no longer suffering’ sort of way, but it’s absolutely an awkward way to put it and there’s a huge risk of it being taken in completely the wrong way.

          1. Enai*

            ‘Well, that sure is the end of my relationship to X, what with them being dead’ often takes the form of ‘well, that was the last breakfast at X’s home’ or similar. I’ve never heard it being said in so many words, but I have absolutely encouraged a grieving acquaintance to eat the last meal my neighbor made and stored in the fridge for him, after all a) she hadn’t made it to be left to spoil and b) it was the last meal made by her he’d ever get. Leaving it uneaten just to not deal with her unexpected death helps precisely nothing.

            I do agree that ‘Thank goodness that’s over with’ is a sentiment you can feel but probably ought to express only to a select few people, even if tge process if dying was uniquely horrible and the deceased a uniquely bad person.

          2. AnnieB*

            “well, that sure is the end of my relationship to X, what with them being dead” is making me laugh but also feel inappropriate about laughing. what a line

  23. Jzilbeck*

    #5 reminds me of a mandatory training notice we got several years ago. It was for human trafficking awareness. But for some reason, the person who sent out the email made the subject line: UPCOMING HUMAN TRAFFICKING EVENT. It definitely was attention grabbing, but perhaps for the wrong reasons….

    1. A Genuine Scientician*

      Until it got renamed, I used to have to go through mandatory Sexual and Relationship Violence training every 2 years at my university.

      There was always the worry that pointing out how poorly named that was would cause someone to think I didn’t take the problem seriously.

  24. Okay here's mine*

    After finishing my MLIS in 2016, I was doing the customary circuit of academic all-day interviews with presentations to the faculty & staff.

    I work in a technical part of LIS, so I was speaking about how users interact with databases and search interfaces and intended to say something along the lines of “Of course many people in this room have been working with computers for decades and have seen the evolution of user experience design in computers, but often collegiate users only recognize modern design”

    My nerves at being new to the field and not the most experienced presenter yet made me look at a room full of senior librarians and faculty at a STEM institution and say, with the full-chested confidence we all put on for professional presentations, “Of course many people in this room are older than computers”

    OOF. And yet, I got the offer!

  25. Dovasary Balitang*

    #8 – I like to imagine the president walking off so he could laugh privately.

  26. Pikachu*

    #6 – was once at a comedy club with a GIANT mirror wall in the bathroom. The way it was laid out, the mirror reflected the hallway you walk out to exit.

    I wasn’t really paying attention and I turned the wrong way. Walked straight into the reflection of the hallway. I swear I bounced off like a racquetball.

    I also once ran into my own screen door trying to rush outside to save things from getting rained on. And I was jogging, as much as you can do through the house. Knocked the whole thing off the tracks.

    I consider myself extremely lucky that I was alone both times. But at least I can tell you all!

  27. Sanity Lost*

    #11 is something my oldest son would absolutely say. He is NOT a people person and at 6’7 and with an RBF, he looks it. Fortunately, he is a fantastic cook and loves working in the kitchens. His job has no problem with that and do occasionally have him… discourage… those who were a little emphatic about cussing out the front house staff. For some reason, they never wanted to continue their tirade with a grumpy giant glaring at them :D

    He is also an absolute marshmallow with kids and dogs. The littles think he is the best jungle gym ever!

  28. EvilQueenRegina*

    If it’s any consolation to #3, the Met Office once sent out an alert of an amber weather warning for snow in London and the south east. That was the hottest day of 2016 so far.

    1. londonedit*

      And in the opposite direction, there’s Michael Fish’s famous ‘Apparently people have been contacting us asking whether there’s going to be a hurricane – well, I can tell you no, there isn’t going to be a hurricane’ declaration on the weather forecast, just before the 1987 hurricane.

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        The Michael Fish incident is the only reason I have any concept of that storm having even happened – I was five at the time and don’t remember it (I would have been at school when the infamous forecast aired, and wasn’t living in the worst affected part of the country).

  29. Fonctionnaire*

    Most Canadian public servants are required to be bilingual, with many of the Anglos among us working on strengthening our French language abilities. To help share best practices for language training, and succeeding with our second language testing, there is an informal Facebook group. Today, the group channel featured someone sharing the following experience, which seemed very fitting for mortification week:

    My mortification is your gain. You’re welcome.
    PSA: When referring to your female cat, it is acceptable to say “Mon chat”. Please do not use “ma chatte” during a work meeting with external stakeholders and senior management. While grammatically correct, it is not common usage and, in fact, is more commonly used as slang for a different type of kitty.
    I’ve also (now) heard a similar slang for “ma chienne”.
    TUTORS: please, please, inform your students of these double entendres. I have referred to my girl kitten this way in several tutoring sessions and never been corrected.
    Ha ha, all very funny… But still.

    1. Enai*

      Yes, frequently language programs are weirdly sanitized and do not protect the students from running straight into traps such as these. The mortification ought to be the tutors’.

      1. wittyrepartee*

        Ah yes, be very careful about telling people about how enthusiastic you are about eating tofu in Chinese. Not great!

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Can you be more specific? Just the safe phrase at least. My teen is studying Mandarin…and does enjoy eating tofu.

    2. allhailtheboi*

      I’m half-French but English is my first lamguage. I have been telling people I’m ‘excitée’ (aroused) for 22 years. I’m aware of the meaning, but my mouth moves faster than my brain!

      1. Humble Schoolmarm*

        I teach grade 7 French and trying to explain to 11 and 12-year olds why they are not “excitée pour les vacances” is…challenging. Doesn’t help that English is also my first language and I make that goof myself sometimes.

  30. Never Knew I Was a Dancer*

    These are all so so terribly great to read.

    And they also underscore a key truth in life:
    1) The microphone is always on unless you’ve triple checked, and even then, it’s probably still on.

    2) The camera is always on and your only hope of salvation is maybe, MAYBE a camera cover

    1. Katherine*

      Why, oh WHY does business meeting software not come with push-to-talk functionality, as is standard for gaming voice software? I understand if youre presenting for a length of time you would want to switch that off, but for most people it would be a godsend.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        And why are laptop camera covers not in a contrasting color!? had a sticker on my old laptop but the slider is too tiny on this one. I’m seriously considering a silver Sharpie or a dot of white paint.

        1. Petty_Boop*

          I cut a small 1/4″ or so square of the adhesive part of a sticky note and it fits perfectly over the camera and doesn’t obstruct the screen at all.

      2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        Zoom does – I think it’s by holding down the space bar without turning off mute first, but I tend to be speaking or not speaking for extended periods in Zoom meetings rather than interjecting so I don’t use it myself.

    2. Kayem*

      I use an antique USB webcam clipped to my monitor that is pointed at the corner behind the monitor and unplugged unless I’m in a meeting. As a matter of practice, I assume it’s on even when it couldn’t possibly be. I’ve walked into my office on my knees many times, just in case. I’ve seen too many naked spouses appear on my screen to trust that it’s not somehow going to magically start transmitting the one time I walk in before getting dressed.

      1. Anon for this*

        About a year into COVID we were on a teams meeting (we usually use zoom, so weren’t as familiar with the screen sharing function) and I said something really terrible about the client who was speaking to a colleague via text. My other colleague, who was in the group text thread, suddenly shared his whole screen and blithely continued a presentation while the other client team saw my awful comment. The leader of the client team messaged me about what I’d l written and I still couldn’t get my colleague to stop sharing his screen.
        I had to apologize to the team and we got fired and I still have cold sweats about it. Not funny-mortifying, just WTF was I thinking, I guess I’m pandemic burnt-out mortifying.

        1. This_is_Todays_Name*

          Did something very similar. I typed “Ughhhh I wish “Karen” would stop coming to this meeting. She’s such an obstacle to progress and so unpleasant to work with.” … and then closed out the briefing I had up but promptly shared my chat screen w/o thinking. Fortunately, nobody said anything except my boss wh o very quickly “took over screen sharing” so I still hope she didn’t see it–even though it was true ;)

  31. knitcrazybooknut*

    Voicemail issues: Long ago, my coworker was taking a business trip/vacation to far away lands, and the prep work at the office was officially A Lot, especially on the last particularly busy day. So for the next two weeks, her outgoing voicemail consisted of:

    “Hi, you’ve reached Jen at…..shit!”

    She clearly messed up her script and never got back to fixing it before she left. I don’t think the tech at the time could handle her fixing it remotely. I can tell you that every one of her coworkers in the department called that line at various times to get a good laugh!

    1. RetiredAcademicLibrarian*

      I swear, every time I recorded an out of office voicemail, the first attempt ended with an “ah…shit” when I screwed the script up. Fortunately, I never left with the first attempt still recorded.

    2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      When I was in elementary school, my best friend’s family’s voicemail message was a pretty standard “You’ve reached the Placeholder Family, please leave your name and number after the beep” type thing, but then, at the very end, featured the mom yelling “[4 year old kid’s name] DON’T SPILL THAT MILK!” beeeeeeep. It took me several times before I realized this was part of the recording and not someone picking up the phone “live” in the middle of the greeting playing, which meant I left some odd “hello? hello? Are you there?” messages for a while. (They probably assumed I was doing this because I didn’t “get” answering machines rather than because of their message.)

      They eventually re-recorded it after I told them, but that was several months later.

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        When I was about 14, something went wrong with our answerphone, so it was playing our prerecorded greeting, but also started replaying previous messages that people had left on it. Unfortunately, the first message it was playing was a joke message from my grandad that just said something like “Boo!” If people called and were unexpectedly greeted with that, they were taken by surprise and hung up; there were a couple of times where no one had got to the phone in time and the answerphone had kicked in, and when I’d heard Grandad’s old message I’d thought it was him calling. He was then very confused when I tried to return the call, because he hadn’t tried calling at all. Eventually, one of Mum’s friends asked who was the male voice on the answerphone and we figured it out.

  32. SereneScientist*

    #2 omg, I have 100% done this before. In a prior role, I was the lead trainer/onboarding person for our US teams and there was a new hire that was going through our various programs and….not doing super well. In one training follow-up where we were looking at the completed training assignments, his came up and was….not good. I hadn’t put myself on mute and audibly groaned, saying, “C’mon man, that’s not good enough!” It was incredibly embarrassing and I apologized to him privately afterward. That said though, he didn’t last past his probationary period, so….I guess that was that.

  33. Penelope*

    #2: But were they offered the job, despite your no?
    (and if they were, did they take it?)
    Inquiring minds need to know!

  34. stratospherica*

    #6: you just reminded me of one that I witnessed pretty recently.

    We were having our departmental end-of-month meeting, where we go over organisational/personnel changes, new staff introductions, some work-related topics and also commendations for high-performers. We’d gotten to our departmental commendations, and one guy got an award, and had to give a speech.

    He clearly looked very nervous and like he hated every minute of being up there (there are well over 200 people in our department, and he wasn’t speaking his native language), and by the time he finished I suppose he had greyed out. He turned to walk off the stage, but didn’t look where he was going, so he walked full force into the bottom of one of the TV monitors that had been suspended from the ceiling, with enough force to almost knock him over. Halfway back to his seat, he touched his forehead and shouted “oh crap!” – there was blood. I feel like everyone there was just in a state of shock and tried desperately to continue the meeting while he was being tended to at the back.

    I saw him later and he had a bandage over his head and was being wheeled around in a wheelchair (hopefully just to collect his things and have the rest of the day off after seeing the company doctor…). Half a month later and he’s still here which is honestly pretty major, as I would invent a new identity and move across the country to avoid being perceived ever again lol

  35. Katherine*

    I have 2: an unexpected work crisis meant I had to work late and I’d been distractedly texting with my boss and my husband. My husband asked a question that was easier to answer via phone so I mashed my most recent text message and called and when someone picked up I said “hola amor” and a voice said “….amor?” Yep, I’d called my boss. So I said “Aw crap!” And hung up. And then immediately accidentally called him back and repeated the entire sequence.

    Just yesterday: so my boss tends to operate behind the scenes unless there is some kind of issue that requires him to get personally involved and throw his authority around. Yesterday I was talking with a colleague from another agency who mentioned she’d never met my boss, and what I wanted to convey was that that was a good thing because we’d never had an issue that required his intervention, but what I said was “trust me, you don’t want to.”

  36. Blueberries*

    I was writing to a very established and impressive member of a committee I’m on. We haven’t communicated loads so are still very formal in email – I meant to write “asked”, instead I said “I’ve assed so-and-so.” and sent.
    Noticed shortly after and quickly emailed back “I’m so sorry, *asked!”
    And much to my mortification she replied with “I assumed ;)”
    The winky face killed me.

  37. KatieP*

    OMG, the name one reminds me of something that happened a couple of decades ago. I’ve been working for my current employer for a long time, but I was in a different department (for example, Teapot Painting), and my employer is HUGE. And there was another woman in a different department (let’s say, Llama Grooming Education- yes, my employer works with teapots and llamas) with my same first, middle, and last name. What a coincidence! We got phone calls and emails for each other all the time.

    Well, one day, my husband has a question about how to groom a llama. Google says to email @ for help with llama grooming questions. So he does. It says, “Hi, dear, I didn’t know you were in charge of llama grooming education!” and he goes on to ask his question.

    And he signs it with my pet name for him!

    My name-twin forwarded his email to me with the comment, “I think this is for you. I’m quite sure I don’t have a, ‘Pookie.'”

    I have no idea if she stopped laughing long enough to answer his question.

  38. greenfordanger*

    In respect of #6, “the glass”, I have a good friend who worked for the same small, northern Canadian government that I did. One day she was flying back to the capital city from another town. The aeroport was very small but very busy and was crowded with people from extremely remote communities, miners, outfitters, backpackers in for a remote hike etc. She looked around and thought – in a way that she admits was smug and objectionable – something along the lines of, “I’m definitely the most sophisticated traveller here. I bet everyone else think I’m a senior public servant. They must be wondering who I am and why I’m here.” In the midst of what she called her self-delusion, she realized that almost everyone had boarded She jumped up to go through the door and walk across the tarmac but missed the door – which was open -and smacked into the wide glass frame surrounding the door. Her nose started shooting blood but most amazingly the glass cracked. Staff rushed to help her and the flight was delayed while she was cleaned up. “I didn’t look so sophisticated and self-satisfied then” she says. The next day I flew into that same community aeroport and the broken glass was covered with plywood. By the time I left the following week, the glass door surround had been completely redone and it was drywalled, painted etc. I thought that was the end of the story but she did tell the story to a lot of people and when I went back to the community a few months later, on entering and walking through the door. I noticed, tacked to the bulletin board a hand made sign which had an arrow to the door and said, “The “My Friend’s Name” Memorial Door Surround” . The sign stayed up for at least three years.

  39. Sled Dog Mama*

    Regarding #9, in the days before cell phone contacts lists, my parents required that we answer the phone with some version of “Sled Dog household” because the phone number was very similar to the local lawyers office and people mixed them up all the time, (it was something like our number was 555-1234 and the lawyer was 555-1243). One day I answered the phone to my very surprised father who had been attempting to call the lawyers office, he tried to cover by asking for my mom but when she burst out laughing about 2 seconds after I handed her the phone I knew what happened.

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      I had that with a local dental surgery, which happened to be the one my family was registered with. I don’t think anyone in my family ever actually got through to home trying to call the dentist, but I do remember Mum once trying the number, getting the engaged tone and then realising she was calling herself.

  40. Lady Kelvin*

    #3 I’d much rather see a blizzard warning on a 90 degree day than an nuclear missile warning when tensions with North Korea are already at a high. And then to take 45 minutes to tell folks it wasn’t real because you forgot your twitter password…

  41. Allura Vysoren*

    #7: Oh god this one could’ve been me. If I have to make an important phone call where I might have to leave a message, I write out a script for both if they answer and if I have to voicemail.

    My phone anxiety was still at its peak when I was in my late teens and my mom made me call the person who was giving me my driving test to ask her if I was allowed to have anyone in the car with me during the test. The first time I called, I got voicemail. Tried again about five minutes later, panicked and hung up when I got voicemail. Tried again immediately, fully intending to leave a message this time.

    Except she picked up. I immediately launched into my rehearsed “Why I’m calling” speech and she cut me off to say that I was repeatedly calling her cell, she was administering a test, and she’d call me back when she was finished. My terrified self blurted out, “I’m so sorry, I thought this was an office number.” She was very sweet and I did pass my test.

  42. The Formatting Queen*

    I know I’m a couple days late here but… #9, the Dad/Dan mixup – I had a boss named Dan for 8 years. My Dad’s name is also Dan. I checked EVERY SINGLE TIME I sent a text and while there were some close calls, amazingly I never sent anything to the wrong Dan.

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