Mortification Week: the hangover, the French onion soup, 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 13 mortifying stories to kick off today.

1. The hangover

The company I worked for had an annual 3 day “retreat” 4 hours out of the city. On the second night I drank A LOT (I was trying to unwind after a lot of personal and work drama in the previous 12 months). The next morning I was very unwell but had to get on the bus for day 3’s activities. The bus had to stop multiple times all morning so I could be sick. I stayed on the bus instead of going to the big lunch. I huddled in the corner during the 4-hour journey home. I was too unwell (and young and arrogant) to be embarrassed at the time, but I cringe so much looking back.

2. The French onion soup

I had just been promoted and my new boss invited me to lunch to discuss the job and any suggestions I might have. Having been a faceless drone for most of my short career, I was beyond excited and desperate to make a good impression. Above all, I wanted to order something tidy and easy to eat so that I could spend the lunch hour being insightful, witty, and bristling with helpful contributions. I ordered french onion soup. While channeling the business version of Dorothy Parker/Oscar Wilde, I quickly swallowed a spoonful of soup and discovered to my horror that the glob of rubbery cheese now nestled in my stomach, was attached via a rope of the stuff to the glob still in the soup bowl. While gagging and choking, I bit and gnashed at the rope like a demented shark, hoping I could finally swallow it and be free. A memorable first impression.

3. The nerds

I was at an in-person interview for a coordinator-type job at a science-focused think tank, feeling quite confident, and the interviewer said “The people you’d be working with are very focused on lab work; this team tends to be pretty introverted and quiet. How do you feel about working with a team like that?”

What I planned to convey: “These are my people! I was one of the ‘nerdy kids’ growing up, I’m fairly introverted myself, and I relate well to other introverts. I enjoy people who are really passionate about a topic– that describes me and most of my friends. I think I’d fit right in with this team.”

What I actually said: “Oh, I have a lot of experience with nerds!”

I did not hear back from that job.

4. The paper gown

I had a workplace injury and had to go in for an MRI of my ankle. While I was waiting I was texting both my BFF and my boss about different things. Once I got called in I was given a very unflattering paper gown that didn’t even go close to covering my ample bottom so I took a mirror selfie with my very low lower back (no cleft showing but there were mere millimeters to spare) with all my back tattoos on show, and sent it to my BFF with the caption “you would think in 2023 we would have something better than paper gowns that would barely fit a toddler” … you know where this is going.

I sent it as a reply to what I thought was the last text from my BFF but I inadvertently sent it to my boss. Within what seemed like nanoseconds my phone rings and when I answer it is just my boss laughing his butt off at my expense. He tells me that he is adding my spectacular fail to the next company newsletter and may even pop it on the big screen in the foyer that shows all out company achievements. He thought it was the funniest thing ever.

Thankfully I have a really good relationship with my boss and we got a good laugh about it. He did bring it up in our team meeting and we all shared a laugh at my expense but it was a heart stopping moment there between hitting send and him calling when I realized what I had done!

5. The indelicate question

First real job on the oil rigs, one of my colleagues came into the mess after having talking on the satellite phone and announced to everyone that his wife was pregnant, I burst out with “Oh no! Was it planned?!”

6. The culture divide

I was a Brit new in the states. I was gathering stationery and asked my boss very loudly several times for a rubber. His face turned progressively red before he spluttered “what!?!?” … and then I realised. We never spoke of it again, and I quickly learned the correct US terms!

7. The flowers

I was working for an insurance company and travelled a lot for my marketing job. I returned to the office from a business trip and as I was walking toward my cubicle, I felt like my co-workers were looking at me strangely. As I entered my cubicle which was directly across from the kitchen and therefore, a high traffic area, I saw a beautiful bouquet of flowers topped off with plastic handcuffs. They were from a guy I had recently started dating and he thought it would be hilarious to send flowers with handcuffs even though we hadn’t done more than kiss.
Adding to my mortification, I learned the flowers had been delivered a few days before. I then had to deal with a parade of colleagues (even those from other floors) dropping by my cubicle to discuss “important” work matters. The more I tried to explain that this was just a bad joke from a soon to be ex-boyfriend, the worse it made it appear. I finally gave up and just tried to awkwardly laugh it off.

Despite my embarrassment, a tradition was born that anytime someone received flowers, the plastic handcuffs would be added to the arrangement. The person would keep the handcuffs until the next floral delivery. Years after I left the company, I met someone new who worked in my former department and for whatever reason, she mentioned the handcuffs in flowers tradition. I just smiled mysteriously and took pride in my legacy.

The guy who sent the flowers worked for a nonprofit with a very relaxed environment and could not understand why I was so bothered by this. I broke up with him for this and other reasons. :-)

8. The wrong reference

Many years ago, I worked at a video rental store.

High School Me thought my manager was one of the coolest people ever, so I constantly emulated her interactions with clients, such as saying “Put your John Hancock here” when asking a customer to sign for the video rental.

Until the evening I got confused and said “Put your John Holmes here” to the gentleman who was checking out some X-rated videos.

I laugh about it now, but whoooooeeee.

(For people of the wrong age to know who John Holmes is: a very famously well-endowed porn star of the 1970s.)

9. The stolen plant

My office had the designated cookie spot — where people would leave cookies or candy to share with the office. It was on a file cabinet behind someone’s desk, i.e., sort of vaguely in her workspace, but it was a spot everyone walked past, so that was the designated spot. One day there was a lovely plant there and I was like, sweet, free plant! So I took it. Come to find out, it was not “up for grabs.” It was her plant. Someone else had to walk over to my desk and let me know that I had straight up stolen her plant. I still feel mortified ~10 years later.

10. The buttons

Early in my career, I (female) was trying to be cool and constantly engaged in banter with a male employee. We were on good terms actually and no personal involvement, but talked some smack that bordered on suggestive and inappropriate looking back. One day, he said something – probably about me dating – and I countered, then leaned back in my chair. As I did the pearl buttons on my blouse escaped thru their openings. It was like time slowed to a crawl and we both watched it happen like dominos in a chain falling: pop, pop, pop leaving me exposed to the waist.

His eyes got big; his face got red. I quickly rebuttoned. He hurried away and we never mentioned it.

11. The laughter

At a prior job, part of my job was helping customers at our service desk. They would come in to pick up their serviced items, and I would read off the repair notes to let them know what the technician had done. I was doing this for a customer and it went sort of like, “Ok, so he straightened the rod, lubricated the chain, fixed the nipple…” Fixing the nipple was a standard part of maintenance for the item in question and I must have read that statement hundreds of times before but this time I snickered. And made the mistake of making eye contact with my coworker at the desk, and they snickered. And then I just couldn’t get myself under control. I tried to finish the transaction and snickering turned into laughing which turned into crying laughing and this poor customer just wanted to pay and leave and I just wanted to be able to stop but I was literally incapable of doing so.

My coworker fled the desk area, also laughing. By the end of the transaction I was literally holding my stomach with tears streaming down my face and once the customer finally left I just brayed laughter. It never happened again, but that one day, it got me.

12. The interview

Picture it: I’m 17ish. I want to get a job to save money for my vacation with my besties. The H&M in town is hiring, and I get an interview.

Things look promising, until the interviewer asks, “What is your favorite thing about H&M?” Young, clueless, painfully honest me: “That literally everyone can afford the cheap-ass stuff you sold here!”

Against all odds, I got the job, but 18 years later I still cringe thinking of my answer.

13. The Christmas card

I told my boss that his Christmas card design looked like a festive buttplug. (IT DID.)

{ 265 comments… read them below }

    1. Shirley Keeldar*

      “Demented shark” had me gasping for breath. I salute you, commentators of AAM; you are all fantastic writers!

    2. Well...*

      Soups are usually pretty safe but cheese strands and long noodles are dangerous.

      What are the safe options for messy/anxious eaters? I’d say fettuccine, risotto (and other rice dishes), stir fry, veggie curries. Anything else?

        1. Lurker*

          Also questioning curries or stir fry… Admittedly I don’t have a high tolerance for spicy food, but with a curry you might run the risk of sweating from the spice. Do you eat the stir fry with chop sticks? Seems risky.

          I would choose something bland and easy to eat like a salad or grain bowl.

          1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

            Yeah, I love spicy food, but I have also had the chile hit my throat wrong and start a coughing fit with watering eyes and runny nose.

          2. xylocopa*

            Ooh, salad’s tricky though. You’re just one oversized piece of lettuce away from sitting there with greenery sticking out of your mouth. Or dripping oil onto your shirt.

              1. Lurker*

                I always cut my salad…unless I can order it chopped, which is even better. But upon further reflection, the risk of having an errant green stuck in the teeth does make salad a questionable choice.

          3. Clem fandango*

            I always end up accidentally ordering a salad that has HUGE lettuce pieces that are unwieldy to navigate. but this is just me.

          4. Well...*

            Chopsticks are pretty safe for me. I kind of prefer having them, they usually reduce mess. Also if something goes wrong you can play dumb and blame the chopsticks. But this probably depends on the person.

        2. Snow Globe*

          Agree, avoid fettuccine or any long noodles. Ravioli or Mac and cheese, probably ok. Well, ravioli only if it’s in a white sauce. No red sauce, period, bound to get a drop on your clothes.

            1. Linda C*

              I ordered tortellini in a white sauce and didn’t realize it had dripped on my front until _well after_ the dinner with the execs. Still one of my biggest mortification moments – I was thinking about it with this thread and it was 15 years ago.

        3. Well...*

          lol I meant penne, I’m clearly bad at food. Though fettuccine isn’t soo bad for me bc the noodles are so fat.

          I feel safe with curry because there’s no cutting required. I have a high spice tolerance though so YMMV

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        Water and an air sandwich.

        My great tracts of land are food/drink magnets and I’ve learned to never, ever eat or during important meetings.

      2. Lenora Rose*

        A sandwich that isn’t overfilled and is on non-crumbly bread sounds safer than fettucine (which is long noodles) or curries. Rice dishes if not too sauced are usually fairly stable – think biryani not curry.

        1. Well...*

          I feel like the sauce holds the rice together more and makes it easier to eat? I’m terrified of loose rice falling everywhere with biryani. Easter asian white rice is stickier & safer.

          1. Lenora Rose*

            I agree *some* sauce holds it together. But for me my bane is sauce that drips, so too much sauce is enough to drip (Ironically my rice to sauce preference taste wise is the opposite of the traditional pile of rice with smaller pile of sauce). Soup is seriously dangerous because there’s always a drop forming on the underside of the spoon.

      3. DataSci*

        No long noodles (rules out fettuccine), nothing saucy (rules out curries). Something very boring like grilled boneless chicken breast. Or that supremely boring vegetarian standby of the Grilled Veggies.

    3. The OG Sleepless*

      I ordered French onion soup at a job interview once! As soon as it came, I wanted to facepalm. Why, why did I order a famously hard to eat dish at a job interview? I managed to not have any cheese malfunctions, but I did take a bite of really hot soup just as they asked me a question. They were fortunately really nice, down to earth people and I did get the job, but really. I was way old enough to know better.

    4. Mags*

      At my first sort-of-professional business lunch I played safe and ordered a chicken wrap. You can’t go wrong there, right? Except there was a SLUG in the wrap. A fact I discovered by biting it straight in half…and then I ate it. Because I couldn’t think of what else to do other than spit my mouthful of chicken and salad into my boss’s face. The other half I discreetly hid under a napkin *retch*

      1. One Potato Two Potato Three Potato Four*

        Recently I was at a lunch party at a friend’s house with other women we had worked with. We all brought food. I brought a vegetable tray from the local supermarket and another former coworker had cut up vegetables and made a salad. As we all sat around the dining room table I had several things on my plate including the salad and veggies from the tray. As I was just finishing off my plate, I saw something move and here it was (as far as I could tell because I didn’t want to have to break out my reading glasses) a very small slug inching across the plate. I would loved to have seen my face upon this discovery. I didn’t say a word and just squished the creature in my paper napkin. I didn’t tell anyone there what happened.

      2. Squirrel Nutkin (the teach, not the admin)*

        Wow, I admire your commitment to pretending nothing was wrong and just plowing ahead with lunch. You are a strong one! Did you ever tell your boss later?

      3. Purpleshark*

        I had something similar happen with a chicken salad sandwich and a giant hairy moth. Luckily I only ate the half that did not have the bug. I went to eat the other half, lifted the lid, and saw this massive insect. I couldn’t bring myself to eat there ever again.

  1. FrogEngineer*

    As someone who frequently deals with mechanical components called “nips” as well as the occasional “nipple,” I feel you, #11.

    1. ScruffyInternHerder*

      We have a bingo game in my department that is based on “so is the term dirty or is referring to a mechanical item?”. Its also why we’re consistently as mature as your average 13 year old.

      1. Petty Betty*

        Yuuuup. Sexauer bolts will get giggles every time because they are *always* abbreviated to s-e-x bolts.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      If you’re into muzzle-loaders there is a piece of equipment called a “nipple pick” that’s used to clear debris from a specific part of the gun. You never live that one down.

    3. FrogEngineer*

      Usually those ones don’t bother me but recently I had to compose an email to a vendor which included a photo of a pair of brass nuts. Had to suppress a laugh over that one.

      1. Le Sigh*

        I will be brave and admit there’s not a snowballs chance I could stop myself from laughing.

      2. allathian*

        Reminds me of the saying that it’s cold enough to freeze the nuts/balls off of a brass monkey, usually abbreviated to simply “brass monkey weather.”

    4. Clisby*

      Yeah, I went down to a plumbing supply store to get stuff needed for a bathroom renovation, and was somewhat surprised to find I needed to buy a nipple.

    5. Joie De Vivre*

      Years ago, I went to buy things to fix our sprinklers. An older male customer decided to help me by suggesting a tool that would help. But he wouldn’t tell me what it was called. He finally found one, put it my hand and quickly walked away.

      The tool was a nipple extractor.

      Dear reader, if you do your own sprinkler repair, you need one of those.

      1. Thedude*

        Along these lines, 2 years ago I joined a swine company. The talk about seven daily does not even phase me anymore.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        When a building is named after a person and commonly referenced by that name alone, discussion of the election of said building gets silly.

    6. AngryOctopus*

      We had to homogenize tissue in my last lab and the first step of that was to put two stainless steel ball bearings into a plastic jar so the whole thing could be chilled to -80C. So naturally there were unlimited “ball” jokes to be made. And one of my parting gifts from that job was “balls in a jar”.

      1. anonymous 5*

        …so if their flagship product is put in the -80C freezer, I suppose the NEMB becomes NUMB?

      2. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        Earlier in the pandemic, I was ordering KN95 masks from the Ball Chain Company, which saw an opportunity and started importing them from China.

        The company is now selling the same masks as Bona Fide Masks (which sounds like a scam), but their original website also sells masks, along with ball chains (for dog tags etc.).

    7. Filosofickle*

      Early on I had a marketing job at a plumbing parts company, and let me tell you there are a lot of nipple / ball / cock references and innuendo in plumbing. There were a few employees that really really enjoyed making it weird. Sigh.

    8. Student*

      We had a contraption with a glory hole.

      Which is, of course, the area where you stick things for each experiment with said contraption.

      The contraption was named Godiva, as in the lady of the famous horse ride.

      It still kills me every time it comes up.

      1. Potatohead*

        When I first started working in manufacturing, I did a bit of a double take at first with the large square shipping containers colloquially known as ‘gaylords’. Nobody really made any jokes about it, being an industry standard term for almost a century, but as a newcomer to the environment it surprised me.

    9. Pencil*

      I work in the abrasives industry, so there are some items in our database listed just as VERY FINE HOLE (very fine as opposed to medium or coarse grit, and with hole instead of no hole, I think its a scrubbing or polishing pad). When I first started at this job I got a huge kick out of it

    10. Pencil*

      I work in the abrasives industry, and we have several items in our database that are listed as some variation of “VERY FINE HOLE.” I got a huge kick out of that when I first started here and was doing data entry.

      (Very fine, as in, not medium or coarse, hole vs no hole. I think it’s some kind of polishing or scrubbing pad.)

    11. Jill Swinburne*

      I always have an immature snigger about male and female parts in the context of sockets etc.

    12. A person*

      Same. I can say nipple at work twenty times in a row without a giggle incident and the. That 21st time will get me.

      Manufacturing is great. So much immaturity.

      I’m female in manufacturing and the number of times I have had to ask a group of grown men if they had a 1/4” nipple handy is just ridiculous. Usually I can say it with a straight face but not always.

  2. gsa*

    #6 There was a young man from England in one of my wife’s Architecture classes at University.

    Apparently, he was always talking about rubbers…. Couldn’t find one, needed to borrow one, asking the best place to go buy them, etc.…

    Yes, it first they were shocked, and after that, I think they adopted the word.

    1. londonedit*

      I’ve told this story before, but I did the same thing as a small British child on a family holiday to the US. Went to an amusement arcade, won some tickets and confidently declared to the person at the prize kiosk that I wanted a rubber.

    2. nm*

      My mother in law did the very same thing at her first US office job– “can I borrow a rubber, [coworker]? I have a meeting with [some guy] in a couple minutes”

      1. Quill*

        I’m young enough (or from the right area) that the idea it would have referred to a condom is deeply secondary. So mortified brits be encouraged: There are adults that would have just straight out asked you what it was without assuming condom.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          Or old enough – rubbers are also what my granddad called the low-top rubber shoes he’d slip on to go get the mail in the rain. Kind of like cut-off galoshes.

          1. Polyhymnia O’Keefe*

            Canadian here. When I was a kid, rubbers were slipped on over men’s dress shoes. Not substantial enough to be a shoe themselves, but protective coverings for the shoes you didn’t want to face the elements. On rainy or sloppy Sunday mornings, there would be a whole line of them by the front door of the church.

            1. Fieldpoppy*

              There was a famous (no doubt apocryphal) story that my Catholic high school had once made a PA announcement asking if anyone knew the whereabouts of the visiting bishop’s rubbers.

            2. Rebekah*

              Also Canadian. I haven’t thought about rubbers in years, but yes my Grandfather always wore them. Come to think of it, I don’t know why that tradition ceased. My husband used to be a funeral director and is now a pastor, two professions where you spend a lot of time out and about in dress shoes.

    3. Dust Bunny*

      US: My supervisor was shopping for office supplies recently and one of the items that was suggested by the vendor to accompany something she asked us if we wanted, was a battery-powered eraser.

      Yes, it was basically a tiny vibrator. Nobody said anything but I cannot imagine I was the only one thinking it.

      1. Chocoholic*

        My dad was an architect, and he used to do his drawings by hand. He had an electric eraser and we loved that thing! You held it like a pencil and it would erase large quantities of pencil but it would not damage the paper or smear the pencil. I used it a lot on my math homework, and sometimes if I had to spend time at his office, I would draw stuff just so I could erase it.

    4. Michelle Smith*

      I’m still unclear on what was being asked for, but after reading this I’m guessing an eraser?

      1. londonedit*

        Yep, absent of any specific condom-related context, ‘rubber’ means ‘eraser’ in the UK.

        1. Sloanicota*

          I knew this, but I wondered, is a condom ever referred to as a rubber in the UK at all? It’s probably the most common thing they’d be referred to here in the US I think.

          1. londonedit*

            Rubber is also a name for a condom here, but the most common thing ‘rubber’ refers to here – unless you’re quite obviously talking about condoms or sex – is ‘eraser’.

              1. Charlotte Lucas*

                Years ago, I worked in an ice cream store, & someone asked for “jimmies” on their ice cream. The term is “sprinkles” where I live, so that took a while to straighten out. But the Black kids who worked there thought it was hilarious, because “Jimmie cap” was often shortened to “Jimmie.” Lot of miming of what it would be like to eat that ice cream.

                1. anon24*

                  The long skinny colorful waxy sprinkles are jimmies, but other sprinkles, like sugar sprinkles, shapes, etc. are not jimmies. I know it as a Philadelphia, PA thing but I don’t know if it’s a thing elsewhere. I actually say it too, not all sprinkles are jimmies, but all jimmies are sprinkles!

                2. Aitch Arr*

                  If they are chocolate, they are jimmies.
                  If they are rainbow or any other solid color, they are sprinkles.

        2. SunriseRuby*

          And anywhere the King’s English is spoken. (Not sure if that archaic term has been replaced, so apologies if I’ve missed a new one.) When I was a sophomore in high school back in the early 80s, we had a foreign exchange student from South Africa. She was sitting in a math class one day not long after her arrival, and she needed to erase a mistake she made on a paper, so she started asking her classmates around her if any of them had a rubber. Shocked silence, then howls of laughter followed. By the time she shared this story with my history class, she’d mostly gotten over the embarrassment and it had become a funny anecdote.

      2. Filosofickle*

        Oh I would have never guessed that! Rubber band was the only thing I could think of.

    5. Betty*

      I taught English conversation in Asia after finishing college, and was the only American in a predominantly British office, and shared a company-provided apartment with a British woman. One day I had a later shift and as I came home, she was getting ready to go out to a bar and asked if I wanted to join. It was cold and I was in a skirt and stockings, so I said “sure, just give me a minute to go put on some pants.” “To do WHAT?” “Just put on some pants, it’s really cold out” “But– you’re not wearing pants???” “I’m clearly in a skirt right now!” “YOU DON’T WEAR PANTS WITH A SKIRT?!?!”

      And that is when we established that by “pants” I meant “jeans” and she meant “underwear.”

      1. Up and Away*

        My mom calls them that as well (we’re American, but she was born elsewhere), so I had to learn to call them underwear when I got to school!

      2. Butterfly Counter*

        I was on a club soccer team, the Eagles (as was lettered on the butts of our shorts), in high school and we were on a trip to England in the summer. My mom was one of the chaperones. We were discussing our uniform (or “kits” as they were called there) and my mom was saying that ours were red and white with the word “EAGLES” spelled across our fannies.

        Our host family’s dad spit out his tea.

        1. londonedit*

          Yep, football kit is kit, not uniform! Also football boots, not ‘cleats’ (no one in England would have a clue what you were talking about if you said ‘cleats’). Referees do not wear stripy tops. And 1-0 is ‘one-nil’, not ‘one-zero’. I’m sure there are loads of other football-related ones – it’s always odd to me that there are different terms for football things in the US!

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            And the different word to describe what body part was decorated in this story.

      3. Taf*

        I’m an American who did postgrad in England and a friend visiting me announced cheerfully in front of all my cohort, “It was much nicer out this morning than I thought! All I wore on my walk was pants and a vest!”

        I had to explain to him that the outfit he described sounded…a bit underdressed to my friends.

        (This is not to even get into how many times my mother has managed to say fanny while visiting, inevitably in terribly embarrassing contexts.)

      4. AmIWrite*

        Am American friend living in the UK decided she needed proper garments for hiking (UK: walking), so she went into an outdoor goods store, and told the staff that she was looking for “Waterproof pants ……. um, I mean trousers! Waterproof trousers!”

    6. HailRobonia*

      A friend of mine in college (here in the US) was planning on being an architect and took a drafting class. This was before digital drafting was commonplace, so it was all pen-and-paper. There are special vibrating, battery-powered erasers that you can get to precisely/accurately/efficiently erase lines. The professor was British and told everyone they needed to buy “vibrating electric rubbers.”

      (now that I am writing this, I bet he knows exactly what rubber means to Americans and purposely says that as a joke).

      Meanwhile, what we Americans call a “fanny” is a different body part in the UK, leading to many jokes/misunderstandings about fanny packs, the expression “get off your fanny” etc.

    7. Buni*

      Jaspar Carrott told a story of striding into an Australian pharmacy and asking for a rubber, and when the cashier went “Er…just one?” confidentally announcimg to the whole shop,
      “Well yeah, I don’t make *that* many mistakes….!”

      1. Jack Russell Terrier*

        I grew up back and forth so mostly know the right word for the context. An American friend walked into Boots and asked for ‘Rubbing Alcohol’ to much bemusement. I told her it’s Surgical Spirit in the UK and we had a laugh about the sales assistant wondering whether she should send her to the pub … .

        One of the problems is that there are things you don’t think about and just default to your norm. Years ago, I was at the Post Office and a chap next to me wanted to send it ‘certified’. When the assistant looked bemused *he said it louder*. I leaned over – I think it’s called recorded delivery here. Poor sales assistant looked relieved.

        1. Laura Petrie*

          I was today years old when I realised that ‘rubbing alcohol’ is surgical spirit. I’ve read the term so many times and wondered why we can’t get rubbing alcohol in the UK

        2. Toaster Oven*

          I speak a pretty horrific mixture of various English dialects, and this mix-n-match approach to life occasionally gets me into trouble — like when I (at the time, a young woman) told my Extremely Prim and Proper British Boss that a respected (male) senior colleague “chewed me out”.

          Turns out, uh, that’s an American phrase.


      2. vombatus ursinus*

        I know this is just a comedy bit sooo it doesn’t really matter, but for what it’s worth I grew up in Australia understanding ‘rubber’ to mean ‘eraser’ — and also, why would you go into a pharmacy to buy an eraser?? Wouldn’t a stationery shop or newsagent make a bit more sense? :D

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Pharmacies in the US usually have extra floor space for general goods, unless they’re located inside another larger store.

    8. Barrie*

      I just wondered if this was my submission- because this is exactly what happened to me! My boss getting more and more embarrassed as I asked him louder and louder if he had a rubber (I thought he misheard or misunderstood me!). Nope just an embarrassing memory that will haunt my dreams forever

    9. Bryce*

      I saw a UK panel show where one guy was talking about how he cleaned other people’s rubbers in school and for that whole segment I was expecting somebody to crack. Seven comedians on camera, somebody had to know of the entendre, either they were perfectly professional or the editor was a master. They kept feeding lines that had me gasping for air.

    10. Student*

      I (an American) was working in Germany.

      One of the Germans I worked with told me about a local insect pest that fell from trees, and the home remedy they used to drive it away.

      Their home remedy was to use the seeds from a plant that repelled the pest. Rub ’em on your nose and you’ll apparently ward off the bugs from dropping on you, presumably due to some chemical, like a seed oil, that’s not obvious or offensive to humans.

      This German colleague did not know that there are some subtleties to terms for various gametes in English.

      So he offered to rub sperm on my nose for me, to ward off local bugs.

      And then we had a very awkward chat to sort out what he really meant.

    11. Phony Genius*

      A teacher in my old high school (U.S.) was a recent immigrant from India. The day before a test he reminded the students to bring their pencils and their rubbers. He did not understand the snickering.

  3. Silver Robin*

    Much much sympathy to the laugh attack in 11. Sometimes the silliest things hit a switch and then you giggle…and then you laugh because giggling at that is absurd…and then you guffaw because laughing at the absurdity has made the situation more absurd and now you are caught in a seemingly never-ending spiral of hysterics. It is worse when other people are involved because either you start playing off of each other and it is just so funny seeing them laugh at something so inconsequential or their bemusement just underscores the absurdity of your laughter and eggs it on.

    Fortunately this has only happened to me among friends and not at work (in front of a client!).

    1. Oompa Loompa*

      11 – I feel for you! In a previous job I had to call a prison and spell out a name, and somehow my brain refused that day to find “O for Oscar” and instead I said “O for Oompa Loompa”. The prison officer on the other end of the line had to put the phone down and in the end get a colleague over to finish my call, as she just burst into laughter and couldn’t calm herself down.

      1. Silver Robin*

        Oh nooooo that would absolutely set me off as well! Maybe I should not be reading these comments at work…

      2. Diatryma*

        I used to have to do overhead pages by letter and liked to use clearer and/or more entertaining words (P as in Paul: but what about Tall? it’s POTATO!). I told a couple people that as long as I didn’t say T as in Tampon I figured I was okay.

        1. Keyboard Cowboy*

          My first job was phone tech support, and we had to spell out passwords over the phone (customer asks for a password reset, we read them the randomly generated new password, the system makes them change the password first thing, not the greatest security practice in hindsight but that’s what we did). My manager was famously into Transformers, so of course I wrote out a Transformers-themed phonetic alphabet: O for Optimus Prime, M for Megatron, etc. etc., and left it on his desk.

          That was a fun job, honestly. Handful of bored college age nerds commiserating over lusers (it was a different time, ok?) and you could do your homework if it wasn’t busy.

          1. DataSci*

            I once amused myself by trying to come up with the most unhelpful phonetic alphabet ever. P for pterodactyl, K for knowledge, that sort of thing.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              I do that to amuse the CSR if I have to call and spell something out. They must be tired of hearing the same “N as in Nancy” all the time.

            2. Critical Rolls*

              There is a picture book for this! “P Is for Pterodactyl: The Worst Alphabet Book Ever.”

      3. A Case of the Mondays*

        Oh man, whyyyy?! Now I have the cry-giggles. This bizarre but unfortunately hilarious choice of words reminds me of my manager telling us that she lost it in a meeting where she and her boss were talking with all the bigwigs at our company about a recent project win for a client that is the biggest supplier of hot dogs to the American prison system (very random tidbit, I know). Except that he chose to phrase it as “they supply the most amount of wieners to the American penal system”…WHY WOULD HE SAY IT LIKE THAT?!

        1. Silver Robin*

          WHYYYY???? Nobody can convince me he did not know exactly how that phrasing sounded. I refuse.

      4. Sunshine Gremlin*

        I know the phonetic alphabet, I really do. However, I tend to blank on it if I’ve been left on hold for a while. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve told someone on the phone my email is “… yes, that’s ‘s’ as in… sunshine- that’s ME!” and it always make them laugh and makes me give myself an exasperated sigh.

        In a similar vein, I have a not-super-common but not unique name that is more popular with older women. And, since I cannot control the words that fall out of my face, I tend to say “oh, hello, sunshine! Your name is my name too!” or “hi, sunshine, I’m also sunshine!” and that usually tickles them.

        1. Zephy*

          If you find a not-awkward way to greet a client whose name is the same as yours, please let me know. The best I’ve come up with is just steamrolling through “Hi Zephy, this is Zephy with Department Office at University…”

    2. Kendra*

      My sister and I call these the “church giggles;” you know it’s not the time or the place, and you don’t *want* to cause a scene, but you just. Can’t. Stop!!!

      1. Up and Away*

        My kids did this once during Christmas Mass during the most sacred part of it, and they still call it “the last time Mom made us go to church.”

      2. THE PANCREAS*

        Happened at the funeral for a friend’s father in high school. Something about the way the priest was singing – so off key, so horrible – set off my friend. I followed suit. Thankfully we were in the last pew in the back.

      3. Irish Teacher*

        Oh, the worst situation was when somebody literally collapsed at Mass and the priest paused the service and asked, “is there a doctor in the church? Or a nurse? Or anything?” The line just struck me as so cliched and I think combined with the shock of somebody collapsing and not knowing if it was something serious, I just started laughing. So it was church giggles combined with laughing at somebody possibly being seriously ill.

    3. The OG Sleepless*

      This happened to my mother at my wedding! My husband’s buds wrote HELP on the bottom of his shoes, and my mother started laughing quietly, and then she was appalled at herself for being the one who cracked up when she was the mother of the bride, and it just spiraled from there. She didn’t make any noise, but apparently her shoulders were shaking.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I went to a wedding with friends during a period when I was having unexplained medical episodes and fainting a lot.

        Something in the service set me off so badly my friends thought I had progressed to seizures. Their concern made it worse.

        1. Silver Robin*

          Incredible. Your poor friends! Poor you!

          (Hope the medical stuff is cleared up/under control!)

      2. RetiredAcademicLibrarian*

        It also happened to me at a wedding – the couple chose a passage from Song of Solomon for one of their readings, and when the reader got to her breasts being like young fawns, I got the silent giggles. I couldn’t look at my sister sitting next to me, or the giggles would have become audible.

        1. Laura Petrie*

          My friends had a reading from Winnie the Pooh. The first line was “wherever I am, there’s always Pooh”

          I got the giggles, as did several other guests. By the time the mother of the bride finished her reading I was crying with laughter. Sadly, she remained stony-faced throughout.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            omg what is it with that “Pooh” verse at weddings?! impossible to keep a straight face (and I’ve tried)

      3. Butterfly Counter*

        I got the giggles at my own wedding. Like, pretty bad. My MOH sister was sniffling with happy tears behind me as the officiant was doing their thing and it just struck me as hilarious and I couldn’t stop. My “I do” was more like “I DOOO!” because that second syllable hit a supremely high note compared to the first one that the whole audience got a chuckle.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      This is why those giggle attacks on blooper reels are so much fun to watch. I love it when actors break each other up and then one of them goes “I can’t look at you!”

  4. NeedRain47*

    Love the paper gown one, it makes a moment of mortification okay is when someone else laughs with you!

    1. Justice*

      Google “Paul McCarthy Christmas Tree” and you’ll see.
      It was a Christmas decoration in France in 2014 that led to a lot of hilarity at the time.
      I daresay it’s become something of an Xmas icon for the gays I know.

  5. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

    Not in the same league as #3, but I did once end a conversation with my boss with the same signoff I used with my husband: “Love you!” My husband was in the room at that moment and collapsed with laughter. My boss, when I called him back, was also collapsed with laughter. I couldn’t decide which of them to murder first.

    1. Purple People Eaters*

      I had a similar situation; my husband was walking out of the door the minute my boss called. So my brain melded “bye, honey” with “hi” and said “hi honey” to my boss.

    2. Juicebox Hero*

      My boss did the same thing to me on the phone once. She has two teenage daughters and talks to them a couple of times a day so I guess she just got stuck in that mode.

      1. Keyboard Cowboy*

        Wasn’t there a mortification week a year or two ago where some poor exhausted mom accidentally brought toddler-speak to work with her? I think she asked a customer or her boss if they had an oopsie, or something?

        1. Expelliarmus*

          I think she asked her coworker if she needed to “go potty” before they headed out. Unless what you’re describing happened to another poor exhausted mom on AAM!

    3. Sage*

      I once witnessed one manager greet the other manager with “good morning darling”. It was before his first coffe.

    4. HailRobonia*

      oooh, I did something similar. My office phone rang and at first glance it appeared to be my husband’s phone, so I answered the phone “hey sweetie, what’s up.”

      As you can guess, it was not his number, but a similar-appearing number from a faculty member (I work in academia) – in fact he was the head of one of the engineering departments. Luckily I knew him well enough that we could laugh it off and he said that he wished that his wife would answer his calls like that. (this was certainly not flirting on his part … for one thing I am also a man)

    5. President Porpoise*

      I called a company help line recently, and the customer service rep on the other end of the line greeted me with “Back off, asshole!”

      Her dog was stealing her snack just as the line connected. Pretty hilarious.

  6. Lisa*

    #6 — this happened on Graham Norton. He asked a member of the audience if they’d ever had a stupid injury and a girl said she got a rubber stuck up her nose and Johnny Knoxville was SO CONFUSED until Catherine Tate set him straight. lol

  7. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

    I’m just baffled that LW#2 thought French onion soup was going to be neat/tidy. Soup is a lot of things, but rarely neat and tidy…and French onion soup is so much messier than most soups!

    1. Lurker*

      And also — onions. Why would you order something with so many onions for a lunch with your boss?

      1. Juicebox Hero*

        Because caramelized onions are delicious. But I’d never order French onion soup on a date or at a business meal. I’m a messy eater at the best of times and I don’t need someone I’m trying to make a good impression on watching me fight with stringy cheese lava.

        1. MsM*

          Eh, I’d risk it on a second date. If we’re going to be getting a lot of meals together, they might as well learn what a disaster I am so they can bail if it’s going to be a problem.

    2. Samwise*

      Because if you don’t know, it sounds sophisto and fancy. Not the peasanty/blue collar bowl of work lunch disaster

      1. SpaceySteph*

        Haha this. It sounds like something so fancy. It honestly looks pretty fancy too. But it is impossible to look dignified while eating it.

    3. Random Biter*

      This is so much me (and it doesn’t matter the kind of soup) that a friend sent me a meme that went like this:

      ME: Soup for lunch! Yummy!

      MY WHITE BLOUSE: Let me taste!

    4. SunriseRuby*

      I learned only a few years ago that there’s such a thing as pizza scissors, and I thought it was a brilliant invention/adaptation. Now I think that every bowl of French onion soup should be served with a little pair of scissors to cut through the cheese.

  8. Emelius*

    Put your John Holmes here…

    OMG LOL!!! I have to learn not to read these while I’m drinking coffee!

    1. Sylvia*

      Although John Hancock sounds equally inappropriate for that situation, when you think about it.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Years ago, I’d get knowing chuckles from using the name “Herbie Hancock” in those situations. Only to later discover there actually was a gentleman by that name.

    2. Little Bobby Tables*

      I once had a clerk ask for my “John Henry” on a receipt. Good thing I wasn’t carrying a hammer. But a John Holmes on a receipt would be signing with an even worse tool.

    3. allathian*

      John Hancock had me scratching my scalp in confusion, I presume it means your signature? I’m wondering about the etymology.

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        He’s one of the signers of the (US) Declaration of Independence, and he signed his name on it using a big, fancy signature. This is one of those things that I’m guessing only Americans say.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        John Hancock was one of thexsigners of the US Declaration of Independence.

        He signed his name famously large, and as schoolchildren we are told he said it was so it could be read without spectacles. Or so even King George could read it. Or so they could read it all the way from England. Or…

        There’s so many versions of the quote that I suspect the wisecracks were made later at taverns across the colonies, all independently.

        1. Rogue star*

          In the UK “John Thomas” used to be slang for penis – it’s pretty old fashioned I think but it’s in my head and so I had to ask a US coworker to stop asking for my John Hancock…

  9. Andy*

    I mean, if you think about it, there isn’t a bright and clear line between ‘christmas tree/ and make it funky fresh or what not’ and ‘butt plug/ and make it christmas’. And now I can’t stop thinking about that.

      1. lucanus cervus*

        That one was mine, and you’re right, it was a solitary ornament. With a flared base.

    1. KTC*

      I feel like that’s the first time in human history those words have been used in that order. LOL.

    2. Large Pink Rabbit*

      The artist made it look like a butt plug deliberately. Google “Rotterdam Santa Claus statue”. It’s kind of his thing.

  10. not a hippo*

    #6 …are you my father? He did the exact same thing when he first came to the States on a student visa

    1. Bryce*

      It’s a common one. My grandma used to tell the story of when she came over and the waitress at the first restaurant she went to kindly asked if she needed a new napkin mid-meal. (diapers in UK, at least back then)

      1. londonedit*

        They’re called nappies here, but ‘napkin’ would be an archaic term for them. Some of the sanitary bins in loo cubicles here still have a notice on them saying something like ‘for the disposal of sanitary napkins and tampons’ – sanitary napkins in that case being an archaic term for a sanitary towel/pad.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          US GenX here. “Sanitary napkins” was replaced by “feminine hygiene products” on “don’t flush” signs in restrooms around the time tampon ads made it onto TV. I didn’t notice when the phrase dropped off packages & marketing materials.

          My GenZ expert recognises the term but wouldn’t say it.

  11. Sneaky Squirrel*

    #3 – Feeling this one on a deep and personal level. I can prepare a whole dialogue in my head and it just breaks down under pressure and so many times I’m left thinking “why did I say that?”

  12. HonorBox*

    Regarding #6 – I approached the head of our sister organization…someone who I really admired and thought of as kind of a mentor…he was always very well dressed and presented himself extremely well… as winter approached and asked “Bob, I have a weird question that’s going to sound even weirder initially. Where do you buy rubbers?” He looked at me and smiled, and I followed up quickly with “like to protect your shoes from the snow and slush.” He laughed and said he figured that was what I was asking because if it wasn’t we were going to have to have a long talk about other things… He provided a great suggestion and also said, “you know it would make sense if we called those things something different, wouldn’t it?”

  13. The Bimmer Guy*

    9. If you want to know how cringe I am, after learning I’d kidnapped the plant, I would probably have emailed a ransom note hinting to the fact, with the picture of the plant appearing to be in distress. Yeah, it’s a good thing I’m self-employed these days…

    12. That story reminds me of Gerald Ratner, who was once CEO of the British jewelry company, Ratner’s Group. At a speech, he once declared that the company’s products were “total crap.” And, well…people listened. The company valuation plummeted by £500M over the next couple of years, he was ousted, and they had to do a name change. He now serves as a cautionary tale. But a teenager working at H&M saying it? That’s hilarious and adorable.

    1. Zombeyonce*

      If someone puts an item on a shelf known to be where all the free stuff goes, they shouldn’t be surprised or upset when someone takes it.

      1. Mel99*

        If it’s a place where free *food* goes I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think that non-food items would be safe.

  14. Hummer on the Hill*

    #6, the rubber one, made me remember an incident many years ago that still makes me smile today. I am American, and I was visiting a remote office that my employer had in England at the time. I was looking for a coworker, and asked another lady in the office if she knew where he was. She said, “Oh, he’s downstairs having a f-g.” She then got a totally horrified look on her face and shouted “A cigarette! He’s having a cigarette!” I had to reassure her that although I was American, I did speak English. I hope she recovered.

    1. Relentlessly Socratic*

      I am imagining this lady to be Emma Thompson in the Peter’s Friends era, and it’s delightful.

  15. VP of Monitoring Employees’ LinkedIn and Indeed Profiles*

    Re: #8…

    As George Takei would say, “OH MYYY!”

  16. Jo*

    #10 MY popping buttons. LOL. I’ve been following this site for YEARS and now find one of my own stories “immortalized”. Ha! I vaguely recall adding that as a comment in one of the columns where we all shared experiences. Such a memory. I was wearing a pink silk blouse, dressed in then-appropriate office attire. So cool…not! And my colleague’s face. He talked a big game, but it was all talk. I do have to give him credit: despite all the ragging we did on each other, he didn’t linger or leer or say anything. Thanks for the stroll down memory lane.

    1. Polaris*

      As a similarly situated woman, I’m forever annoyed by the use of “pearl buttons” on button down shirts. Button down shirts and blouses are barely ever cut appropriately anyways, then lets add buttons that will slip out if you think about it wrong? Ooof.

    2. Emikyu*

      I’ve had buttons pop like that too – except in one case, they popped right off the blouse so I couldn’t just rebutton it! I ended up having to staple my blouse shut – I didn’t have a change of clothes available, so you do what you gotta do. It looked ridiculous but at least I was covered!

      1. Squirrel Nutkin (the teach, not the admin)*

        Way to problem solve! That’s some creative thinking.

        1. Phony Genius*

          I have those and we also bought some velcro stickers for a project we were working on. I have used the leftover velcro for emergency clothing repairs.

  17. Slow Gin Lizz*

    #7….I’m so glad to hear you broke up with that guy. Who does that???? It would be pretty tasteless even to send such a thing to your home but your office…even at a relaxed non-profit that seems like a terrible idea.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Yes….he obv had terrible judgement and #7 is smart enough to recognize that early on and get away from that Darth Vader Boyfriend before wasting any more time on him.

    1. Angstrom*

      I don’t know — you could add a big card saying “Prisoner of love” or something similar…. ;-)

      But it’d be prudent to know the person well enough to be reasonably sure of how they’d take it.

    2. Parakeet*

      It was bad judgment from the guy – and also, what is up with the coworkers? It’s wild to me that they were so scandalized by this that they would look weirdly at the OP over it or find excuses to go see the flowers in the cubicle! They made this way more embarrassing for the poor OP than it needed to be.

      1. The OG Sleepless*

        A prominently displayed pair of handcuffs in a flower arrangement? That would be pretty eye-catching in almost any office. Except in my office my coworkers would be sending a photo to the office-wide group chat with OMG SLEEPLESS WHAT THE HELL IS THIS?

        1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

          I admit I don’t send or receive flower arrangements often (and when I do it’s usually funeral-related), but I’m surprised that the florist even HAD plastic handcuffs available as an option to be added to the arrangement. Like, does that get requested regularly?

          1. BB*

            The ex-boyfriend with extremely poor judgement gave them to the florist & told me they didn’t seem at all surprised.

        2. BB*

          Fortunately, it was before everyone was taking cell phone photos of everything & sharing with the world. Instead, some of my male co-workers said some version of that while winking. Sigh

      2. Large Pink Rabbit*

        Receiving sex toys at your office is going to read as pretty weird in most workplaces. Unless she was law enforcement or a dominatrix, I’m not surprised by the coworker’s reactions.

        1. BB*

          I worked for an insurance company. Receiving flowers with plastic handcuffs that sat in my cubicle for 2 days while I was on a business trip created quite the spectacle.

    3. Certaintroublemaker*

      It would have been great if someone had also written it in to the Office Traditions collection!

  18. Environmental Compliance*

    #3…. probably easier to understand that mix up than me absentmindedly clucking at people to move them out of my way. They did move, but were visibly confused. Even after I explained.

    1. Pippa K*

      Horses, I’m guessing? I’ve done this on autopilot too. As long as you don’t also slap a haunch it’s not so bad :)

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        Yep! I’m happy to report that I haven’t done the “EEEHHHHNNNNT” noise at anyone yet.

  19. Dovasary Balitang*

    #5 immediately made me think of a story about a bloke who accidentally kicked a wrench down a drilling tunnel on an oil rig and then dropped it back in deliberately after the fact. I could have sworn I read it on the site but am struggling to find it now! Am I figuratively gaslighting myself? Does anyone else remember that?

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        And I’m glad you reminded me of that post because others there were just golden and so fun to re-read.

    1. Esprit de l'escalier*

      It’s the best “I quit” story, but I’m pretty sure I’ve read elsewhere that it’s an urban legend … but I want it to be true :)

      1. Large Pink Rabbit*

        According to Snopes, that story has been around for decades. I’m a little surprised that the drill bits wouldn’t be able to drill through a wrench, but I am not an oil rig worker and don’t know squat.

  20. Karak*

    About six months after my hire dated my team was chatting about interviews and my boss mentioned, “oh, Karak, you’re the only one who’s ever said “fuck” in an interview that I hired.”

    Mortified, I said “there’s no WAY I said that!”

    “No, you did. But you seemed like fun.”

    This was not a casual environment, this was a serious office where I had to wear a blouse and skirt or suit pants every day.

  21. CzechMate*

    Goodness, just remembered this embarrassing gem–my department and another department moved into a new office under a newly formed mega-department. The office manager has been trying to facilitate conversations between the two departments, so they had everyone fill out a get-to-know-you questionnaire that gets sent to the whole mega-department on your birthday. They’re just ice breaker-type questions, such as: “What’s your favorite karaoke song?” etc. etc. One prompt at the end asks you to upload your favorite photo. WELL, I am the proud mother of a fur baby and I uploaded my absolute favorite picture of my dog. A few weeks after I submitted the form, someone else in my office was talking about the form and went, “It was hard for me to pick out my favorite photo of myself.” Sorry, come again? Turns out, they wanted you to upload YOUR FAVORITE PHOTO OF YOURSELF so that other people in the office can put a face to the name. When my birthday rolls around, two departments are going to see my name and an image of a tongue-lolling shih tzu on a hike.

    1. not a hippo*

      That’s such a vague question though, “what’s your favorite photo?” Plus I’m sure everyone will get a kick out of seeing your dog!

    2. Satan's Panties*

      That’s fixable, right? You can submit another photo?

      Unless you’d rather not. Honestly, I think a lot of people would not immediately jump to “of myself” after “favorite photo”. And since your dog means a lot to you, that photo is telling something about you!

  22. DMLOKC*

    Is it too late to get in my double mortification?
    Working at a bank where the breakroom was on the second floor, we typically took the stairs from the first floor at lunchtime. It was faster. Invariably one coworker would take the elevator. Jokingly, one day I asked if she was too good for the stairs. Her response? “I have an artificial leg and can’t climb stairs. {I was mortified.}

    Then, to compound my careless insults, another day the same employee was sitting outside the bank waiting for her afterwork ride. He didn’t show up, there were no cell phones back them. She said she lived in the same adjacent town I did so I gave her a ride. During the drive, as she was giving me directions, it was fun to realize we must live very close to each other. In the conversation, I mentioned that we have the very worst neighbors. They continually drive across our acreage when their driveway is too muddy to navigate. We went to the expense of putting in a culvert and gravel and hate that these rude people are putting ruts in our property to use our driveway. And, to make matters worse, they have no control over their vicious dog that lunged at my husband while he was working on our property. Yup, you guessed it, she and her husband were those neighbors. {My mouth gets me into lots of mortifying trouble.}

      1. One Potato Two Potato Three Potato Four*

        Yes, please. Loved to know your encounters with her after that and if she and her husband became better neighbors.

    1. NotRealAnonForThis*

      Okay, the first one (asking if she was too good for the elevator) was cringe.

      The second? That’s on her for being a shite neighbor.

    2. Expelliarmus*

      That’s definitely mortifying, but they’re also firmly in the wrong for driving over your property and not doing anything about their dog lunging at your husband!

  23. Cheese Glob*

    #2 I did the same thing at a business lunch with my boss, except it was a grilled cheese sandwich that was over 2” thick (gourmet my butt!) and wasn’t grilled enough that the cheese melted. Boss thought she was going to have to call an ambulance because I choked for so long. The next lunch we had I refused to go back there and she agreed it wasn’t worth it.

  24. xy.dll*

    #3 I’m surprised saying you have experience with nerds didn’t get you instantly hired. Being called a nerd is a badge of utmost honor and respect in most nerdy professions!
    Professions with labcoats or protective goggles, especially, where the whole “dressed like you’re building a shrinkray” thing is kind of part of the appeal.

    1. I Have RBF*

      Seriously. My spouse used to do temp admin work, and always worked better with the engineering side than the sales side. Heck, even when I did temping I got along better with geeks and nerds than I did with sales and marketing.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, me too, although it depends on the kind of sales you mean. Consumer sales where you’re trying to upsell to a more or less unwilling customer? Nope, my moral sense couldn’t handle that and it’s one of the reasons why I always stuck to market surveys rather than sales when I was doing call center jobs. Thankfully when I worked retail I was never required to upsell or to try and persuade customers to join a customer program or sign up for a credit card, etc.

        Problem-solving jobs where you’re trying to find the best solution for a customer for repeat sales rather than sell as much as you can when you close the sale, those people I can relate to much better. They work in high-value b2b sales, mostly, and many of them have a background in engineering because they need to understand both the specs of their product and the needs of the customer to do a good job.

    2. Toaster Oven*

      As an extroverted nerd who works with a lot of introverted nerds, I lol’d at “Oh, I have a lot of experience with nerds!”

      That’s a perfectly good answer in my book!

  25. mango chiffon*

    #6 – Maybe it’s an age thing (late 20s), but life long living in the US, and have never actually heard anyone refer to a condom as a rubber in my life. Is this still even used?? A regional thing?

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Definitely an older person thing. Like, ppl in their 60s and older probably used it when they were younger.

    2. Exhibit Bee*

      Likewise. I mean it’s not something that comes up with most people, so I can’t say for sure that nobody around me would say rubber, but everyone I have heard mention the things has just said condom.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      The euphemism “rubber” dropped out of usage when public service announcements and news articles about the AIDS epidemic normalized the use of the real word condom.

      (More specifically in1985 it was still funny to have a “wear your rubbers” party meaning galoshes/overshoes and sniggering at the double-entendre. But the group didn’t host it again.)

    4. N C Kiddle*

      My dad (British, born 1950) apparently found it hilarious to ask his classmate Johnny if he could borrow his rubber, “rubber johnny” being the popular phrase in his youth.

  26. Jojo*

    OMG, LW 11 just reminded me of the day two of my male coworkers we talking about an engineering change to a ballcock. There is nothing unusual about this term in my office, it comes up not infrequently. But for some reason, that day I just lost it. Crying, holding my sides, the whole show. They both stared at me like I was a lunatic for a moment and went back to talking about their ballcocks again. And I excused myself and went to the ladies room to get it all out of my system.

    1. Juicebox Hero*

      In my organic chemistry lab, the professor managed to crack up the whole class by talking about stopcocks on lab glassware. It’s very important to lube up your glass stopcock so it doesn’t get stuck in the joint, and make sure the ring on the end of the stopcock is good and tight so it won’t pop out in the middle of an experiment.

      The difference was you could tell he knew exactly how naughty he was making it sound; he knew we were going to be snickering over “stopcock” so he was just beating us to the punch.

  27. Goldenrod*

    I love Mortification Week so much! Thank you, Alison!

    Mine is that, when I used to work at a bookstore, I’d be answering phones all day alternating between saying, “Can I help you?” and “Can you please hold?”

    One day, I picked up the phone and asked, “Can I hold you?” It was bound to happen eventually, I guess!

  28. nm*

    I gotta wonder about things like the flowers–do most offices accept deliveries like that? Personally, I think if someone tried to bring flowers to my office while I wasn’t there, they wouldn’t even be able to find my desk

  29. There You Are*

    #2 – Two weeks into a new sales job, I went with my boss to an industry luncheon we were hosting. We were seated at the front of the room, so I ordered something easy to eat and not messy: a salad.

    Reader, every piece of lettuce and slice of vegetable was larger than my hand and the utensils they gave me were a two-pronged fork and a butter knife. I could cut the vegetables but not stab them securely with both prongs; so I would pick up a piece of veg and it would rotate on the prong as I maneuvered the fork to my mouth and then — splash! — it would land on a plate sodden with salad dressing.

    I tried picking up pieces of lettuce and found that, even with scooting one on top of a piece of veg, I couldn’t stab through the lettuce. So I tried pushing a piece onto my fork the way you might slide some peas on top of a glob of mashed potatoes: hold fork still, slide food with knife. Nope. The lettuce refused to balance on the two prongs.

    I gave up.

    My boss had driven both of us and, on the way back to the office, he offered to stop at a fast-food restaurant of my choice. I was so new and so mortified that I said, “No thanks! I had a really big breakfast and couldn’t have eaten anything for lunch anyway; I’m still too full.” I was actually so hungry that I was starting to see spots in my vision, and I only had four more hours of work to go!

  30. Jamie (he/him)*

    LW11: The customer might have been me. Sorry. In the face of a proper wonderful double entendre I get all Easter Island Moai face and that makes everything worse for everybody else.

    And then I start pushing it onwards and downwards.

    “This nipple you replaced: where was it? Is that a bright red nipple or a small blue nipple? Do I need to do anything special with my new nipple? Is my nipple self-lubricating? Is it just the one nipple or do they come as a pair?” and on and on as the person in front of me goes purple and tries not to die there and then from holding back laughter.

    My fellow Brits will get this: I grew up on Frankie Howerd comedies and the Carry On… films, and it has ruined me utterly.

  31. slashgirl*

    Re: #8, not exactly the same thing but involves video rentals. I was working in my parents’ corner store and I was 17/18 years old–I was in Grade 12. We rented videotapes (this was the late 80s) including porn videos. On this particular shift my biology teacher came in–as in he was my teacher in that school year, teaching grade 12 bio. The man rented two porn movies from me. He acted like he didn’t know who I was and who, knows, maybe he didn’t recognize me out of context.

    I was a tad embarrassed but overall couldn’t wait to get to school the next day to tell everyone. Of course, given what a strange little man he was, renting porn from one of his students barely cracked the top 10.

    I told my mum this story years later and she was all, “You shouldn’t have told anyone.” I was like, uh, hello, teenager? What did he think I was going to do? And of the two not totally appropriate things that happened, renting porn from your student is probably worse.

    Thankfully, the time my bus driver came in to rent movies, he didn’t get any porn.

    1. Cardboard Marmalade*

      Ah! This reminds me of my first job working the late shift as a cashier at a gas station convenience store. I was a sophomore in high school. My high school guidance counselor, a very softspoken, unassuming, middle-aged man that literally nobody at the school took seriously, came in one night and approached the counter with **multiple** playboys to buy. I, being about as socially adept as a trash can full of raccoons, brightly said, “Oh! Hi, Mr. *****!” He froze, panicked, which meant that I froze, too. I realized what he was buying, and in my panic, I gave him a HUGE smile, and started babbling about the winter break coming up, trying to be extra nice and friendly and put him at ease, but of course it just made it even more clear where I knew him from and weirded him out even more. He paid, I guess because he couldn’t figure out how to escape, and then, because my body and face were completely on autopilot at that point, I ASKED IF HE WANTED A BAG.

  32. Katherine*

    Re: #7 flowers with handcuffs.
    At my first ‘career’ job after getting my degree, the HR manager (middle aged woman with teenage children) decided I was her favourite out of the group of new grads they hired. After working there for nearly a year I decided I would use a vacation day in the middle of the week on my birthday – applied for it and got it approved by my manager. On my birthday I get several calls to my personal phone from the office asking where I am?? I tell my coworker that I was on leave and my manager had approved it, and why were they calling me when I was on leave??
    HR manager had decided to send me flowers for my birthday (she got my birthdate from my employment file) so coworkers had been looking for me instead of just putting them on my desk. Noone else had been given flowers on their birthday and there was this whole big fuss… I dont like fuss and I dont like being given live flowers (i dont own vases, theyre a hassle and then they die). I was mortified! One of the other grads kept teasing me about it, saying he was jealous. If the HR manager had been a man Id have realised how inappropriate this was and made a complaint, but i didn’t realise til much too late.

  33. Rebekah*

    I once texted and asked my boss to attend my next ob-gyn appointment with me. Yes I thought I sent it to my husband. Fortunately, he replied back before I sent text number two which would have gone into a lot more detail.

  34. GythaOgden*

    French onion soup and Philly Cheese Steak baguette are probably not the best combination for your first meal in America. It wasn’t a work trip — mum took us to DC and NYC as a treat for finishing our significant exams, GCSEs for my sister and A-levels for me. It was gorgeous, as is a lot of American food, but the excess of cheese was not good for a stomach that had just been catapulted over the Atlantic in a metal tube. (I love having flown, but flying is a necessary evil in that respect.) So I commiserate with the soup eater and recommend a safer starter for next time! (I’d suggest melon, but then you have an issue with the syrupy juice. Can’t win!)

  35. Prorata*

    In re. “John Holmes” and the age related comment……

    Gee, thanks. Just come out and say “For the benefit of those here who aren’t old geezers”!!!

    And on a side note, if not already, how about a category for Mortification posts…..a) sometimes, you just need a laugh, and b) great perspective for when one has just done something they think is worthy of finding a nice quiet hole and hiding out for a decade or two.

    1. BB*

      Yep. It was definitely an OMG situation. I can laugh at it now but at the time, I was beyond mortified.

  36. AwkwardAxolotl*

    The last one reminded me of something I said a few months ago and have since been trying to forget. I work with a small team in academia, we do a monthly journal club where we get together and read/critique a recently published paper. Boss brought donuts that turned out to be extremely sweet. Paper was not well done and from a rival lab so there was a lot of shit talking. In my sugar induced haze my contribution was: “And cmon, this figure just looks like a bunch of buttplugs I KNOW YOU WERE ALL THINKING IT TOO!” Thankfully everyone started laughing but it’s going to be a long time before I live that one down.

  37. AussieMe*

    I had recently found out I was pregnant, and frankly gobsmacked at the body changes. In particular, the complete change in my boobs and nipples. I was chatting to my bestie on WhatsApp on my work computer about said changes, and mentioned I’d taken a photo (you know, as you do with your first pregnancy when everything is exciting). She demanded I sent it to her so I sent it from my phone… on WhatsApp. Which was still open on my computer. Before realising this, I was overcome with a wave of morning sickness and proceeded to vomit into my bin, the sound of which brought my boss in to check on me. Not only did my straight-laced CFO witness me with vomit snot hanging out of my nose…. He saw my bare boobs on my widescreen monitor.

    Thankfully, he’s a legend and we are still friends to this day.

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