Mortification Week: the terrible misunderstanding, the cat serenade, and other stories to cringe over

Welcome to Mortification Week, where we’ll be talking all week about how we’ve mortified ourselves at work.

To start us off, here are 12 stories people have shared here (or submitted via email) about work moments they now cringe over.

1. The misunderstanding

My now husband and I met as coworkers. When we started dating, we also began looking for other jobs. On his last day in the office, I made an elaborately decorated sheet cake to share with our coworkers. I’m talking intricately piped flowers, vines… and the phrase, “Good Riddance.”

It turns out not everyone knew it was his last day. This would not have been a problem, except the previous day was also the last day of another coworker few people could stand. For the rest of the day several of my coworkers thought I had made a cake to celebrate a former colleague’s departure, AND NOBODY TOLD ME.

2. The nickname

First internship in college and they asked for fun facts, hobbies, etc. They also asked for nicknames. I didn’t know that meant Bob if your name was Robert, etc. I put down a nickname my uncle had called me thinking it was another fun fact thing. I think HR realized I didn’t understand and thank god they left it off the welcome email.

3. The punch

I worked closely with a colleague in a technical role and we were quite friendly. I got promoted to a technical management role and he got promoted to a product management role. He often brought new requirements back from trade shows and customer meetings (his job) but on the development side we were swamped. The churn in priorities was difficult.

One day he came to my office after a trade show and I knew what was coming. In jest, I started to shadow box at him, saying “no new features.” Two jabs in the general direction of his face made him lean back. The movement made the left to the body connect. This pitched his head back forward, and the right cross caught right on the chin.

His response: “I’ll come back later.” I went immediately to his desk and apologized repeatedly. He took it with good grace and we remained friends.

4. The cat serenade

I’m a K-12 math teacher, and during the pandemic, I was teaching online over Google Meets. One of the requirements was that we record our classes and post them within thirty minutes for students who didn’t attend. One day, I ended the class, left the room, came back in holding my cat and singing “I’m a Little Teapot” while I swung him around like he was dancing.

That was the moment I noticed my camera was still recording and dove to turn it off. I had no video editing software on my laptop with which to delete the end of the video before uploading. I asked my AP if I could just skip posting this one class or have some time to figure out how to edit the video and she refused (one of many, many, unreasonable decisions that resulted in me moving to a new school at the end of that year). So I had to post a video of myself serenading my cat and make it viewable to about 90 7th grade girls. Since it was the VERY end of the video, most of my students didn’t get to the cat serenading part (especially since there were a few minutes of just a recording of an empty room) but it haunted me for the rest of the year until I was able to archive that class.

5. The breast pump

I have one long story with two points of mortification. 19 years ago, after giving birth to my second child, I returned to work after six weeks, but continued to breastfeed for 8 months. This meant I needed to pump a couple of times each day while at work. I was fortunate in that I had a private office with a door that locks. A bit of background regarding my office: there were no windows either to the outside or to the hallway, and the door was solid oak and fit very tightly, allowing no light or noise around the cracks. Essentially, if the door was shut, it was impossible to tell that anyone was in the office. We also had a custodian who started making the rounds to empty trash cans around 30 minutes before the end of the workday each day.

I had one of those fantastic electric double-breast pumps that really suctioned on and did the hard work, leaving my hands free for other tasks. I had been pumping successfully in my office mid-morning and mid-afternoon, and had grown quite confident in my routine until The Incident.

I’d had a rather busy day, and had missed my mid-afternoon pump, so by around 4:30 that afternoon, I was bursting (busting?) I shut and locked my door, hiked my shirt up to my neck, unhooked my nursing bra, and attached those suckers to do their thing. I don’t know how familiar the general populace is with electric breast pumps, but this particular model would pull each nipple a good 3 inches into the suction cup and really go to work, and there was a little bottle attached to each cup that would just sort of dangle there as it collected the milk. Very efficient, but slightly alarming-looking to the casual observer.

So there I was, shirt around my neck, boobs out, electric motor whirring, kicked back in my chair with my feet propped up on the desk, talking on the phone (hands-free pumping! Great for multitasking!), when I hear a rattle at the door. I glance at the doorknob, see that it is indeed locked, then carry on with my phone conversation, assuming whoever is at the door will come back later. Then I hear the squeak of the door opening. I look up and meet the eyes of our very tall custodian, who is frozen mid-stride in the doorway, eyes as big as saucers, with a horrified look on his face. We stare at each other in dead silence for a few moments that felt like an eternity, pump still busily whirring, boobs twitching in time to the motor, and he slowly, without a word, backs out into the hallway and closes the door. We never shared another word, and we both went out of our way to avoid each other from that moment until he retired several years later. I have no idea if he realized what he was witnessing or if he just thought I had some very strange hobbies.

Slightly traumatized by the incident, I started thinking of all of the other employees in possession of master keys, and decided it would be prudent to hang a “Please Do Not Disturb” sign on my door during pumping time. Should solve the problem nicely, right? Well, for some reason, a shut door is generally ignored, but a shut door WITH A SIGN stirs up all kinds of questions and speculation. One day a few weeks later, I needed to bring my older daughter to work with me. As she had spent the first 11 years of her life happily as an only child, she was less than enthusiastic about babies, and completely disgusted by the whole breast-feeding business. She was also a rather talented artist. Because of her “ew, gross!” reaction to all things breast-related, she chose to wait outside of my office while I pumped. Apparently she got tired of my co-workers asking her what I was doing behind that locked door, and was too ashamed to actually TELL them, so she drew a very detailed picture of a dairy cow, a boob, and a baby bottle on my “Please Do Not Disturb” sign. On the bright side, the rest of the office was quite impressed with her artistic abilities, and I suppose her additions DID clear up the speculation, but I was the butt (boob?) of the (good-natured) office jokes for awhile.

6. The underwear

This was almost 40 years ago and it still makes me cringe. First job out of grad school, working for a very small law firm. Think scrappy more than LA Law. I used to walk to work, and one day it’s raining so I’m wearing a trench coat over my skirt suit. I worked for 2 partners—one very gregarious and social, and one crazy smart but super socially awkward. Smart But Awkward partner was scheduled to be off site all day for client interviews, and was just getting ready to leave when I arrived. The instant I walked in the door, he started giving me a list of things he needed done, while walking back to his office. I followed along, taking mental notes while putting down my umbrella, my lunch bag, etc., on the way.

We get to his office and he’s standing behind his desk still running the list. I’m standing across from him as I finish unbuttoning my coat, take it off, and drop it on a chair. At which point, he stops abruptly, and says “OH! OH!” Just staring at me with this deer-in-the-headlights look. I look down and see that, on my walk in, the fuzzy lining of my trench coat has rubbed against my skirt until my skirt is now all the way UP AROUND MY WAIST and I am standing in front of my boss in red lace string bikini underwear and my pantyhose. (Yes, I still had my shirt and jacket on, but that hardly helps). I yelp, and scrabble my skirt back down, apologizing profusely. He is completely flustered and blurts out, “I wasn’t sure, I thought maybe it was a fashion thing.”

7. The wrong word

I (female) was talking to my (male) coworker. I was trying to say “can you fill me in?” or “can you catch me up?” but unfortunately I combined the two together and it came out “can you fill me up?” I wanted to die.

8. The wine

A few other (college-age) interns and I were ushered into a conference room with wine on a table, and told, “Please wait here and make yourselves comfortable”… which we took as invitation to start drinking. In retrospect I have no idea why we thought the company would leave 6 bottles of wine and 40+ glasses for three interns to use while waiting for less than an hour. I’m cringing even to remember it.

9. The half-speed

I had an editorial internship at Marie Claire. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler were coming out with Baby Mama. They had interviewed each other for a feature in the magazine. My task was to travel to 30 Rock, pick up the tape from some assistant, go back to the office, and transcribe it into a Word doc. Well I put the tape in, my headphones on, and to my dismay, all I heard was two men interviewing each other! I thought it was the wrong tape or that they played a cruel joke on us for some reason. I went to my supervisor and explained the situation and almost caused a big kerfuffle, but then someone realized that the tape was just on half-speed…. once we sped it up to normal speed, I heard that it was indeed Tina and Amy. I was mortified.

10. The audiobook

Sometimes in the morning during my commute I listen to music, sometimes I listen to audiobooks. I was listening to an audiobook on the drive in that had some ~steamy~ scenes. No big deal, I always use headphones at my desk and then swap over to music while I’m working anyway.

Unfortunately my phone was overdue for an upgrade and glitching. Usually it would just freeze or close out apps, but sometimes it would start randomly playing music … or whatever I was last listening to.

I’m sure you can see where this is headed.

I was sitting at my desk when out of nowhere my phone comes to life with a man’s voice saying, incredibly gutturally “Fuck yeah, baby.” I’ve never moved so fast in my life but the damage was done. Thankfully only one or two people noticed and kept their laughter to a low series of giggles.

11. The nuisance

This happened years ago, very early in my career, but it’s taken until now for me to really be able to talk about it. I was an auditor visiting suppliers to check their processes. Some suppliers were ok with it, but most considered it a real nuisance and tried to put it off as long as they could.

One kept repeatedly asking me to supply a Heads of Terms document, something we didn’t routinely do and which I needed my manager to draft. He didn’t want to do it but I couldn’t get anywhere without it so I kept nagging him. One day he said, “FINE! HERE YOU GO!” and emailed me the document. I replied thanks and sent it on its merry way.

He went pale and asked me if I’d sent it. I said, “Yes, of course, thanks for doing it.” He had assumed I would read it first, and find the cartoon of someone giving the reader the middle finger on the last page.

As quickly as I could, I recalled the email and sent the correct one, but it was too late, they had seen it. I had to send a grovelling apology and the audit was quietly shelved.

12. The spill

I was in a meeting and a wild arm movement (my own, sadly) made my coffee mug sail off the table, and onto my lap. I was soaked! I excused myself and ran to the nearest bathroom to take care of my wet pants.

It was one of those unisex, no stall, single toilet restrooms on the lowest floor. In my haste to get back to the meeting, I evidently didn’t lock the door behind me as I started to mop the coffee from my pants.

The door opened and in walked the most meek and mild coworker I had. He was a very nice man but highly prone to blushing and unwarranted embarrassment. He and I locked eyes, and he instantly turned bright red while hustling back out the door.

I felt so bad that I hurried out, too, and yelled down the hall after him, “CARL, I HADN’T EVEN PULLED MY PANTS DOWN YET!”

No response from Carl.

I turned back to return to the bathroom, realizing that the Board of Directors were on their annual tour of the facilities and had just rounded the corner when I was shouting to Carl.

Never one to freeze in the moment (I do hate to brag), I pointed confidently at my crotch and announced, “I’m wet.”

And that was the last day Carl ever made eye contact with me.

{ 303 comments… read them below }

  1. Miss Fisher*

    Not as bad as these, but I was surely embarassed. Back when I was fresh out of college and looking for a teaching job, I was called in for an interview for a spanish teaching position. My resume stated I could speak and read a little spanish, so I explained to the principal that my spanish skills were pretty limited as I had not taken classes in a few years. I had a degree in K-5 education. He said it was fine, it was a job teaching kids the basics, like colors, etc. I agreed to the interview. I got into the room with about 5 other people, including some other faculty members and a high school spanish teach, who proceeds to start the interview by asking all questions in spanish. I was completely mortified as this is not at all what I had expected. She finally realized I wasn’t understanding, so everything continued in english. It was a very brief interview overall.

    1. Dido*

      and this is why you don’t put a language on your resume if you’re not at least conversational in it

      1. Chirpy*

        I had an interview with a company that required all applicants’ college transcripts. (I had graduated 6 years earlier, and had been working a different professional job, it wasn’t like I was a current student.) The interviewer saw that I had taken Russian in college and greeted me in Russian…which I had NOT put on my resume, and had not spoken since the class ended (largely because I am fluent in a much more common second language, and had just taken Russian for fun!)

        The interview did not go well from there, but honestly it was a bullet dodged from what I heard about that place later.

      2. I'm Just Here For The Cats!!*

        To be fair, teachers get all sorts of things handed to them that they are not proficient in. I know of teachers who were only a few chapters ahead of the students while teaching a subject. So this was really on the principal for either making it clear to the panel interview that the person would only need to know basic or to tell the OP that it might not be the best option.

        1. AnotherOne*

          That was my high school calculus teacher the first time she taught the class I had. She taught calculus that wasn’t the problem.

          The trick was they decided to offer the second level of AP calc. She told us, she spent the much of the year just a lesson ahead of the class.

          She was a great teacher so it was unfortunately the administration did this to her but it was awesome she took on the challenge and she did an amazing job teaching that class.

          1. Rainy*

            I had a fourth grade math teacher who didn’t understand the multiplication and division of fractions she was supposed to be teaching us. She taught out of the teacher’s manual, which has the answers AND the “approved” version of the work to reach them in the back, and she just copied that out of the book onto the board while reciting verbatim the explanations from the text. If you asked questions, she’d just recite the same passage and point at what she’d written. I was having trouble understanding one piece and asked several questions until she snapped and yelled at me. I had to stay in at recess to think about what I’d done (oh, I thought about it all right), but I stopped asking her questions. I spent the rest of that unit converting the fractions into decimals, multiplying and dividing the decimals, and then converting them back into fractions for the answers and erasing my work (she took off fewer points for a correct answer and no work than for a correct answer and work that wasn’t what the teacher manual had in it).

            I am almost 50 years old now, and I may not have learned how to multiply and divide fractions, but I learned at the tender age of 8 that sometimes you will end up, through no fault of your own, in a situation where someone who can’t think their way out of a wet paper bag is in a position of power over you, and once you’ve realized that’s what’s happening, the best thing you can do is keep your head down and get through it.

            1. 1LFTW*

              That teacher handled the situation really poorly, and I’m sorry that happened to you. I wonder if she was told at some point not to worry about being “bad at math”, because she’s the teacher, and she’ll have the answer book, and anyway they’re just kids, so it’s not like they need to *understand* what she’s teaching, they just need to do it.

              I can’t do 4th grade math (thanks dyscalculia!), but I’ve still had people try to convince me that I don’t need to understand it to teach it to kids (which is, like, crazy disrespectful to everyone involved!). I’ve declined to make the attempt, because unlike your teacher, I actually *can* think my way out of a paper bag.

              1. Rainy*

                Maybe–she was definitely from the generation that got permanent teaching licenses without any continuing ed requirements. It was pretty frustrating. I still do most of my fraction math with decimals though. It just makes more sense to me. :P

              2. Selena81*

                i think it’s part of a broader trend of getting to be a manager or bussines-owner or dropshipper without having a clue about the underlying product and no desire to learn either.

            2. Emmy Noether*

              Argh, as a person who loves math, I really want to go back in time and help out 4th-grade you. Different brains approach math in different ways, and there are so often many correct ways of solving a problem, and that’s one of the beauties of math! You have to find the one that makes sense to you. Some teachers really ruin it.

              The lesson you learnt about persons in power, though, I have also learnt from bitter experience.

              1. Rainy*

                Don’t worry, even at the time I was 100% confident that the math was not the problem. ;)

      3. Dark Macadamia*

        Most of the teaching applications I’ve filled out ask for languages and have you rate your proficiency, so it’s totally normal and acceptable in this field to put “beginner/basic” language skills even if you’re not fluent. The problem here was the principal either misrepresenting or misunderstanding the level of Spanish a person in this position should speak.

      4. Lily Rowan*

        Oh yeah. I once brought in someone for an interview who said she was fluent in Spanish on her resume. Spanish would have been a useful skill for that job, so as part of the interview, I asked a Spanish-speaker to talk to her in Spanish, and she could barely do basic chit-chat.

        On the other hand, I don’t remember if I warned her that was coming, but she was clearly NOT fluent! (She had lived abroad years earlier.)

        1. Chirpy*

          I’ve also met plenty of people who thought they were “fluent” after only taking a language in high school. I have an entire (non-teaching) major in a language, lived in a country where they speak it for several months, and I can tell you that I am truly conversational, but definitely wouldn’t consider myself fluent….

          1. stratospherica*

            Yeah, I only really considered myself fluent in Japanese after a four year bachelor’s degree and about another four years of living in Japan, with a job speaking almost exclusively Japanese. Mandarin, on the other hand, I also majored in at university, but since that haven’t really had many chances to speak it so I’d barely call myself conversational, lol.

            1. Lucien Nova*

              I’m honestly so glad to see this thread, as people keep telling me I need to be calling myself fluent.

              I’ve got a good 23 years of learning (self taught) Japanese under my belt and though I translate well I don’t consider myself fluent. I can carry on conversations, though I’m much better with written Japanese, but by no means – as far as I know – am I on a fluency level!

              1. stratospherica*

                I think fluency is a very nebulous concept and is up to self-definition! My definition is “from a linguistic perspective, can I express myself well in 99% of contexts that I can expect to find myself in?”, and by that definition I’m fluent. I’ll never speak Japanese as well as someone who was born and raised here, but that’s never been something I’ve been going for anyway.

        2. Coffee please*

          I did this once too. Spanish speaking was a requirement of the role and this person could barely carry a conversation, though she indicated fluent on her resume.

      5. Frickityfrack*

        Shoot, I’m pretty conversational in Spanish and have quite a bit of vocab related to my current job, and I straight up never mention that I speak any. My job will give an annual bonus if I pass a test (which I’m pretty sure I could do), and I refuse to take it because it means I’d have to be available to help other departments and conversational doesn’t mean “I can totally help someone with their water bill!”

        Plus speaking it always makes me so nervous that I end up red and sweaty and it’s just the worst.

        1. Chirpy*

          Yeah, I try not to let on how much I speak at work because I lack the specific vocabulary I need for work. (If a customer asks me a question, I’ll do my best to answer, but I won’t volunteer if a pushy coworker asks for someone to translate.)

      6. Michelle Smith*

        Some of us don’t have a choice. My bachelor’s degree is in Spanish. Can’t exactly just leave the degree off.

    2. Someone Else's Boss*

      This sounds like an employer who was not on the same page with the committee, and not your fault at all! I teach a soft skills class to women that includes “ways to navigate conversations at work without apologizing” and this feels like it should be an example for that. The fact that the Principal did not set expectations appropriately with the hiring committee is a mistake they made that put you in an uncomfortable position and wasted your time. If anyone should be embarrassed, it’s that Principal!

      1. Irish Teacher*

        I actually had a situation where people were not on the same page and it does relate to language teaching. I sent around a number of CVs just saying I was available for subbing, etc at the start of each year whne I was subbing and at one point got a call from a deputy principal asking if I’d be interested in a job teaching Irish. I clarified that I was not a qualified Irish teacher (I did a year of it in college, but my degree is English and History) and he said that didn’t matter. A year of it was enough.

        Went to the interview and…clearly the principal didn’t agree on that. He just seemed confused, like “um, you…don’t have an Irish teaching qualification?” It was a little embarrassing and also a little annoying that I had gone for an interview for a job the principal wasn’t willing to consider me for.

        I will say there is something of a shortage of Irish teachers, so I’m guessing the principal asked the deputy principal to find some candidates and he was struggling to find people with the qualification who were available, but…it would have been better for all our time if he had gone to the principal before calling me and asked, “do we absolutely need somebody fully qualified or would somebody with a reasonably good standard of conversational Irish do?”

        1. Something Wicked This Way Comes*

          Don’t you mean Gaelic? As in Irish Gaelic? As opposed to Scottish Gaelic?

          1. Claire*

            In Ireland the language is conventionally referred to as “Irish,” not “Gaelic.” And since this person studied the language and most likely lives in Ireland, I think we can assume they are referring to it correctly.

          2. This Old House*

            When I was in HS, I (American) thought about learning Irish, so I bought a “Teach Yourself Gaelic” book, after which I discovered that “Gaelic” typically refers to Scottish Gaelic, while the Irish language (or “Irish Gaelic”) is known as Irish.

            (Note: I doubt you can teach yourself any language from a book, but you definitely, DEFINITELY cannot teach yourself Irish from a book.)

            1. Timothy (TRiG)*

              Irish and Scottish Gaelic are pretty close, though definitely distinct languages. The other Gaelic language, Manx, is a bit more removed (and also has a completely different orthography). My limited Irish certainly helps me to understand a little Scottish Gaelic, though I cannot make much headway with the Brythonic Celtic languages (Welsh, Cornish, Breton).

              1. Elizabeth West*

                Welsh isn’t that hard once you learn the *mostly static* rules. I based my conlang on it, while incorporating other Celtic cognates and made-up words I pulled out of a cloud. I’d love to learn to actually speak it.

          3. adios pantalones*

            The language is most commonly referred to as Irish:

            I don’t think it’s super cool that you’re correcting someone on the name of the language who apparently lives in Ireland, has studied the language, and does speak it conversationally. If you’d done the same you’d know what it was called.

            1. Not everyone knows how to drive*

              It’s just a short trip from the Isle of Mansplaining (I’ll see myself out)

            2. AnnieB*

              we normally call it Tansplaining (after the black and tans) but Gaelsplaining is super cool too!

    3. Green Goose*

      I lived in South Korea for a few years and I picked up some very minimal Korean, but could read and wrote a bit better. I put it on my resume as beginner. I was hired at a preschool and I didn’t know until after I was hired that there were two little kids that only spoke Korean and were both picked up by their grandmothers who only spoke Korean.

      I remember talking with one of the boys, who was two and I swear he even looked at me like a fraud because I struggled to understand him. He picked up English really quickly so it ended up being a non issue but one day the owner (who was really controlling and not nice) came to me and said she was tired of the other boys grandmother letting him play on our play structure for ten minutes each day after she came to get him. She wanted ME to explain to this sweet woman that they could not use the play structure because it was a liability.
      It was beyond awkward and since my Korean was so limited it basically translated to “you no playground, no playground sorry thank you”

      I felt terrible, especially because why couldn’t they just enjoy the play structure, but also that I couldn’t better explain that it was because my boss was irrational and not because they were doing anything wrong.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Came to the comments to salute number 12. You are the hero we deserve. Way to think on your feet.

    2. Hanani*

      I was chuckling along until I got to #12, and then I spit out my water I was laughing so hard.

      “No response from Carl”. Gold.

    3. Amanda*

      Yeah all of these stories were good, but #12 had me audibly laughing loud enough that my dog was concerned!

      1. Princess Sparklepony*

        It was this line that made it for me –

        yelled down the hall after him, “CARL, I HADN’T EVEN PULLED MY PANTS DOWN YET!”

        Then imagining everyone in the office doing a prairie dog pop up and wondering what OP and Carl were up to!

    4. Stella70*

      I am #12, and it makes my day that you enjoyed my “experience”.
      For the follow-up you didn’t want or need, I had to toss the pants. Who knew getting hazelnut creamer out of linen would be impossible?
      (And my career there wasn’t salvageable, either.) :(

      1. OMG, Bees!*

        No, not the pants!

        I also had to toss a laptop bag early in my career when I had a container of pesto sauce spilled inside it. It was actually my poor attempt to clean it that made the bag mildewy and I had toss it (I think it was fairly new also?)

      2. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

        I tried to read your experience out loud to my husband. I laughed so hard that I cried when I got to each thing you said to Carl and to the Board. My husband just stood there patiently waiting for me to finish cry-laughing and recommence reading. Well done.

      3. Mr. X*

        I did! I got a liquor with cream in it on my honeymoon and it burst in my luggage all over my suit. Had to toss it.

    5. Abogado Avocado*

      You win! And I can’t stop cackling at the thought of poor Carl AND the Board. Oh my!

    6. Quinalla*

      OMG, #12 I was laughing so hard and this is so something that would happen to me. <3 you #12!

  2. Twill*

    Just came here to say I immediately starting singing “I’m A Little Teapot” to my cat Edward.

    1. CanadianPublicServant*

      I have a little teapot and a medium-sized teapot.

      Also: OP should have leaned into it! Made it an Easter egg and every third or fifth class done something hilarious at the end of the video. Reminds me of back when cds had secret songs on them!

        1. Aerin*

          Just this week I floated the idea to management that we should put some sort of code word or other hidden prize in some of our user notices that would give them $5 at the cafeteria or something, just to train people to read the bloody things.

          1. Former Themed Employee*

            When I worked in a hotel, our Property Management System had a place to leave notes on a reservation. Front Desk folks were expected to read the notes when they were checking a guest in.

            Occasionally, we’d put a note in there “Thank you for reading the comments. See your coordinator for a prize.” (Prizes were typically along the lines of the manager buying them an item from the vending machine, or an extra 5 minute break. Occasionally, it was something bigger like a $25 gift card to the restaurant in our hotel)

      1. Harper the Other One*

        When my dad was a PhD candidate one of his friends bet him that nobody, not even the examiners, read the whole thesis. So the friend inserted the phrase “if you read this and mention it at my defence, I will buy you a bottle of Scotch.”

        No liquor run was required and my dad conceded the point!

        1. Going incognito*

          A co-worker once exchanged all “warning” icons for a pirate flag to test if reviewers were actually reading the user manuals… No one noticed, bosses were told, and someone blustered “I thought it was intentional.”

        2. Smol Brontosaurus*

          I had a repeated word in my dissertation. Not a big deal, but that’s the kind of typo that stands out to anyone reading. Nobody flagged it, so I can assume nobody read that far.

        3. Former Prof*

          I used to know when students hadn’t done the reading for one Philosophy class because they were not talking about the illustration of an elephant’s genitalia that was part of the passage assigned when I arrived in the classroom.

          1. Timothy (TRiG)*

            But elephant genitalia is fascinating! (They have no balls.) Hank Green made an entire post about it on LinkedIn. (All his posts are about genitalia, and his account is the only reason I might consider joining LinkedIn.)

            1. Princess Sparklepony*

              And now I’m wondering if elephants ever get kicked in the balls…. they are inside near their kidneys, so you could get two for one if you aim it right….

      2. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

        Especially with students! I understand maybe being mortified if this happened on something being taught to adults, but 7th graders who did see it probably just thought it was funny.

    2. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      Honestly if I were a student this would have been my favorite class ever.

    3. Grad School Attempt 2*

      I have a version of this song that I sing to my cat when she’s begging for food:

      I’m a little kitty cat, short and stout
      Here is my tail and here is my snout
      When I’m getting hungry hear me shout
      Open the food and pour some out

      1. My Name is Peaches*

        I will be editing that to “big and stout” since Miss Barbara Kitty is of ample proportions!!! I love this and am incorporating it into our kitty singbook.

      2. Hosta*

        Both of my cats are sure the other gets more treats than them, so now I have a treat song:

        Cats are no good at counting
        You can count on that
        Except you won’t, because you can’t
        If you are a cat.

      3. pandop*

        What shall we do with a shouty kitty


        What shall we do with a soggy kitty (if she’s be out in the rain)

        both to the tune of Drunken Sailor

    4. 2023 Got Better*

      Well, really, who among us HASN’T sang to our cats?? I have. Haven’t recorded it though. Could be a new TikTok sensation!

      1. Some Words*

        I do all the time, but I’ve never heard my husband sing to them. I’m a pretty lousy singer, but the cats seem to interpret it as sweet talk, so it’s all good.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Last year I came across this ultimate kitty song on Twitter, that I need to share with y’all. It is in Polish I think? I saw a version with Russian subtitles which helped me. Will definitely sing it to my cat(s) when I finally have them:

      2. Obviously Anon for this!*

        I sing to my dog, who was a puppy not to long ago, the following (sung to Surfin’ Safari):

        Let’s go pooping now
        (Dog Name) is learning how
        come on a safari with me
        Pooping Safariiiiiii

    5. RH1812*

      For what it’s worth, I would find it charming if I was watching a recorded class and saw the teacher singing to their cat. I sing silly songs to my cat all the time!

  3. Falling Diphthong*

    “I wasn’t sure, I thought maybe it was a fashion thing.”
    I lost it at this point.

    There’s a great Stone Soup cartoon where Val throws a suit jacket over her pajamas and, when her boss attempts to call her on it, claims that she was misled by the young salesclerk into thinking this was the new look.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      That’s the perfect excuse from now on for whenever you get called out on an inappropriate outfit!

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I’ve had to address so many dress code things in my time because the senior person who should’ve when they saw it isn’t sure if it’s “just a fashion thing”, so this one was highly relatable.

      1. La Triviata*

        Someone I know once commented that their office dress code was no pajamas unless it was Pajama Day.

        1. Kacihall*

          last year my office gave us extra days of around Christmas, so there was only one person per department in the office that week. my friend and I decided that some we were the only two people going to be there, we would have an unofficial pajama day.

          The CFO decided to work from our office that day. and ended up giving me a ride home because my car had broken down. At least I had decided on old yoga pants and a silly Christmas shirt instead of the Batgirl onesie I was going to initially wear.

    3. Smol Brontosaurus*

      There’s a STEM motivational speaker who is always posting pictures of her “half suits” to social media–suit on the top, pjs on the bottom. For Zoom.

    4. Don't Be Longsuffering*

      Great line by Smart But Awkward. But I must say, this is on him. If you can’t delay leaving long enough for someone to put their things away and dry off, then you should have written the list down. Please stop feeling bad, OP, and take the time you need. “I’ll be with you in a minute.”

  4. The Prettiest Curse*

    When I’m running a large event, I talk to so many people and there are so many things to remember that my brain gets exhausted and I sometimes end up saying incredibly stupid stuff to people.

    So, at our annual conference this year, a new senior staff member was about to go on stage and speak. My brain was going for either “knock ’em dead” or “kill it”. I ended up saying “go out there and kill them!” There was an awkward silence and then I said “Not literally, of course!”
    Fortunately, my new colleague ignored my inadvertent suggestion and the audience survived.

    1. t-vex*

      I have a habit of telling people they’re KILLING IT! when the do a great job. Unfortunately we work in a lifesaving field so this doesn’t always go over as intended.

    2. Lily Rowan*

      For whatever reason, I love to try to use “called out” in a positive way. (E.g., That department got called out for their great work in the all-staff.) Yeah, no, that’s not how anyone takes it!

  5. Musical Theater Superfan*

    (Some of the humor will get lost in the anonymizing, I apologize.)

    I was at an expo show, helping to staff my company’s booth. Across the aisle was a booth for [Brand]. My coworker (senior to me) made an offhand comment about how she loves the name [Brand]. It feels good to say! She can’t stop saying it! I’m a musical theater fan, so I figure out that [Brand] scans fairly well into the song “Maria” from West Side Story.

    So, I start singing, “[Brand-i-a]! Say it loud and there’s music playing! Say it soft and it’s almost like praying! [Brand-i-a]! I’ll never stop saying [Brand-i-aaaaa]!” She thought that was hilarious.

    Fast-forward a few hours and there’s a lull in the action. People are visiting between booths and someone from [Brand] comes over to say hi, ask how we’re doing, if it’s a good show for us, etc. Someone high-ish up the food chain. And my coworker says to me, “Hey, tell [Brand representative] what you said earlier, it was so funny!” Coworker, no! That was our thing!!

    There’s nothing for it. I start singing “Maria” for this man, with his brand’s name instead. Credit to this guy, though, because I think he saw my wide-eyed panic and once he caught on to the joke, he started singing with me! He was very gracious, but it was not quite the professional mien I’d hoped to exude.

    1. CanadianPublicServant*

      At least it wasn’t Sound of Music inspired (“How do you solve a problem like Brand-i-a?”)

  6. Whyamihere*

    My is not too bad but recently I had a shared office and my boyfriend called because he couldn’t find one of the cats and he will always come out of hiding if I call him in a specific baby talk way. So my boyfriend put me on speaker and as I was calling my cat one of the other managers walked in the office. He and I weirdly started getting along after that, before we would butt heads a lot.

  7. Jester*

    #2: I think we have to know what the nickname the uncle used is! We can’t gauge the level of embarrassment without it

    1. Jessica*

      It’s obviously at the “can’t even bring myself to mention it anonymously to strangers on the internet years after the fact” level!

      1. Phony Genius*

        It’s that or “I’m the only person who has ever been called this and my uncle may be reading this site and recognize me” sort of thing.

    2. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I came here to say this! How could you, #2? How could you leave us hanging like this???

    3. I'm Just Here For The Cats!!*

      OMG I totally misread that one. I thought that he put Bob as his nickname. Like he said that he has this unique nickname from his uncle. So they left it off because (duh)Bob is not a unique nickname.
      Now I feel embarrassed!

    4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      #2, just so you know, I’m going to think it was Lil Poopy unless I know what it really was. No pressure!

  8. mango chiffon*

    #11 has my jaw dropping…I’ve had my share of dealing with frustrating coworkers, but never would I think of putting something like that in a document that could (and did!) go externally omg

    1. Dust Bunny*

      It wasn’t even the coworker’s/OP’s fault! It was something the supplier wanted. The manager was a total jerk.

    2. Cecilia*

      Yeah I’m sorry the OP has felt so bad about this for years, it was really the guy’s fault!

    3. Mad Harry Crewe*

      THE MANAGER should have been the one to make the groveling apology… BOTH to the customer, AND TO HIS EMPLOYEE.

      $(&*&%!! What an ass.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        That one really pissed me off too, he should have been fired for that. I though on my first read that it was the company she was auditing who was acting childish when asked for documents which would have been bad enough, but even worse when I realized on reread it was HER MANAGER.

    4. Anna*

      I came to add this, too – this is way more on the managers side! I learned very early as a graphic designer to not put in even mild joke images as placeholders since the risk is too high of them going to print

    5. FashionablyEvil*

      Also, to put it at the END of the document??? Even if the person popped open the document and skimmed through they might not have realized there was another page at the end. Geez.

    6. Eat my Squirrel*

      I had something very similar happen where I work. I had been working in supplier quality, though not on the audit side, I was on the “dealing with parts that don’t meet spec” side. Not long after I left the group, my friend who took over for me told me this story.

      One of our suppliers was notorious for being one of the worst suppliers for the entire company, but they made a very niche product critical to our product, so we had no choice but to work with them. They were very difficult to work with, tired of our oversight and demands for improvements, but they kept shutting down our production line because the parts kept leaking or having other quality issues. It was to the point where more parts were being returned for repairs than being installed.

      So one day our production line gets a much needed late part, finds yet another leak in the product, and we send it back AGAIN. When it arrived at the supplier’s facility, they did an intake inspection. And found a printout of Marvin the Martian flipping them off taped inside the part, next to the leak.

      That did not go over very well, to say the least. They cancelled all meetings with us for like a month after that, and I am incredibly glad that I had left the group by the time that happened, because that supplier was assigned to me, and I can’t even begin to imagine how I would have dealt with that. On our side, I think it went all the way up to the president , but they never found out who did it.

      1. Mister_L*

        Years ago, when it happened I was tasked with packing a pallet that was sent to a customer in New Jersey. For a minute or two I seriously considered writing “Bridgegate” at the bottom of the pallet, but decided against it.

      2. Mr. Shark*

        Oh, man, that’s awful but incredibly funny! Marvin the Martian flipping them off, hilarious! (but bad, so bad!)

    7. zuzu*

      OH MY GOD Y’ALL. The stuff I used to see in people’s emails and documents when I was doing document review! Porn! Marital issues! Project managers very, very, very concerned about the state of the office fridge!

      I did it early enough that when I started, there wasn’t a good way to scan documents or sort out stuff that wasn’t relevant, so you’d either get boxes shipped to you, or you’d send an associate out to go through the boxes on site. Your client’s admins also had to just download or print all the emails from all the custodians, including attachments. And there were times when the same seven guys were sending around the same porn – and since they were all custodians, you had to see the same images at least seven times.

      My favorite, though, was on a patent case I was working on, where some of the sales team’s emails got mixed in with the production, probably because they all had the name of the project in their email signatures and I think their sales tactics may have had some relevance to the issues in the case. The head of the sales team referred to himself in the third person (“Hammy”) and used a picture of Larry from Three’s Company as his avatar in his signature, which always rendered as a full-sized image in our review software. So eventually, everyone printed out pictures of Larry and taped them up around the workspace.

      LSS: be careful what you put in your email, because some bored attorney might be reading it someday.

  9. Pastor Petty Labelle*

    The breast pump one. OMG. Just kicking back pumping and in walks the custodian.

    1. Dark Macadamia*

      That one was so well written and so relatable lol. I think I’ve posted mine for a past mortification week but my boss gave me … someone else’s office as a pumping room. And didn’t tell her! She was only part time so it was usually fine but one time she came to get something and was totally weirded out that I was in her office with the door locked (luckily I had a sign I put out) and I ended up pumping in the bathroom for the rest of the year out of sheer embarrassment

      1. Lady Ann*

        Once a place I worked in gave someone the office I was using as a pumping room without telling me. She was in there with all my belongings including my purse and car keys and I needed to leave. It as a bad time all around.

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

          One place I worked, we had a new mother who had just returned from maternity leave and she was pumping in the bathroom. When I was in the next stall over and this hella weird noise started up, I had a moment of clarity and realized what was happening before actually stating aloud, “What on earth is that?” I imagine there were a lot of confused people for awhile while she was pumping.

          To add insult to injury, there was an entire abandoned upstairs that was not at all skuzzy or weird to be in (maybe a little dusty, but totally private if need be), so someone should have told her to use that space for pumping. We had been in that building for over a year before I found out my boss was using the upstairs bathrooms to hide from coworkers when he needed a bit of down time.

    2. Sal*

      Who among the pumpers has not been walked in on, is what I want to know.

      (It is an objectively ridiculous- and undignified-looking activity, though the activity itself is neither ridiculous nor undignified.)

      1. SpaceySteph*

        I pumped for 3 kids and I dont recall ever being walked in on. Many people jiggling the handle though, which is enough of a trauma. I used to occasionally wear dresses, so was pumping in my nursing tank and spanx only, those times I triple checked the lock and also kept my back to the door just in case.

      2. SimonTheGreyWarden*

        I pumped in my friend/coworker’s office and since she rarely had a moment to herself, she would often stay in there and have her lunch while I pumped. We had a sign with a cow on it we put on the door. Then she sat with her chair against the door because it didn’t lock and students often just walked in if she had it closed during the day.

        It started out weird, but eventually just grew to feel normal.

      3. A mathematician*

        I haven’t been walked in on, but it turned out afterwards that someone was very annoyed that they couldn’t.

        I had a two hour class scheduled from 2-4pm, that was a pain to work around for pumping, as before was really too early but afterwards I’d get very uncomfortable. We were scheduled to have a class in the last week of semester, but as we didn’t have any material for that week I asked the students the previous week if they’d like to change it to a drop-in session in my office for anyone who wanted help with their final project, and they’d all been keen. So I stayed in my office and when no-one had shown up at about 2.45 I figured I’d do my usual pumping session and put the “Do Not Disturb” sign on my door.

        It turned out that this particular student had been sick the previous week, and had turned up to an empty classroom and waited for a while before finding the note on the class website about it being a drop-in session in my office. And then they’d arrived at my office and had to WAIT AGAIN because I was PUMPING in CLASS TIME. The student appealed their grade, and in their 4 page document all about why they deserved a higher mark included the details and how it was horribly unprofessional of me to be using a breast pump. I was both upset and furious – luckily the university was on my side.

        1. allathian*

          I hope the student lost their appeal just based on the “horribly unprofessional to be using a pump” comment, regardless of the other merits of their appeal, what a jerk.

          1. A mathematician*

            Unfortunately the senior colleagues sorting out the appeal were both older and male and just ignored the whole thing, which was a shame. But the student’s final grade didn’t change anyway.

            1. Princess Sparklepony*

              Just curious, what did the student think you were supposed to use instead of a breast pump to be professional? Boggles the mind!

      4. Not Janet*

        And there’s something about the sound that pump makes just triggers my milk production I reckon!


      I have an almost identical story, but it was maintenance unlocking the door to drop off a package…that could have been left in the mail area. I even had a sign with a cow on it!

  10. Dust Bunny*

    Not at work, but I was leading a workshop at a music festival. I was wearing a fluffy dress that had waist ties. I left the restroom not realizing that the ends of the ties were tucked into my pantyhose. Thank goodness another woman stopped me before I’d gone very far.

    1. Something Wicked This Way Comes*

      I had a something like that happen to me at work. Did not realize that somehow the skirt got tucked into my pantyhose when I left the restroom and walked around literally for hours. Nobody said a word to me but I am sure there were snickers. I was absolutely mortified when I discovered what was going on.

      1. Anonymous 5*

        have also done this, with the entire back side of my outfit tucked into my underwear, only to be discovered after I’d walked through multiple buildings, across an outdoor plaza, across a footbridge, through an intersection, and into a shopping mall.


  11. WantonSeedStitch*

    I would think that seventh-grade girls would LOVE seeing their teaching sing “I’m a little teapot” while making their cat dance. OP #4, those who saw it must have been delighted.

    1. I take tea*

      I certainly would have loved it. I’m that person that always stays and looks at the credits rolling and I’ve seen a lot of nice surprises that way. This would have made my day.

      1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

        Indeed they can be. Some would be delighted, some would mock.

        Even if most students didn’t make it to the end of the video to see it on their own, I would assume everyone saw it. It wouldn’t even have to be malicious, just OMG did you see…

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah, it probably depends on what their relationship with the teacher is like before the video. I had some teachers that would probably have been mocked mercilessly, and some that would have been lovingly teased and been a cat-loving legend.

        But either way, as far as things to accidentally catch on video go that’s I think about the best thing you could accidentally record.

  12. soontoberetired*

    the #1 is a lesson for all to remember their audience may not be in on the jokes. Because we’d all have worked with people we’d celebrate when they’ve left.

    1. OP1*

      The confusion was cleared up very easily by 9:00 the next morning and my reputation suffered no lasting damage.

    2. Mitford*

      I had a job where a much-disliked finance person resigned in a huff. As per usual when someone left the organization, the four-digit code on the keypad to enter the suite was changed for security reasons. Our IT director changed it to the date of the finance guy’s resignation so we all could celebrate.

  13. anon24*

    12 killed me in the original thread. I read it to my husband and we were both crying so hard I almost couldn’t finish it. I couldn’t help using the same tone as the old YouTube video of the murder llamas “but Kaaa-aaarl, that kills people!”

  14. Cedrus Libani*

    FYI, many video call platforms have basic video editing features built in, and so do most smartphones. (I was once giving a training over Teams, recorded of course, when it became apparent that a colleague had joined the call right after finishing her shower…she sent a groveling apology and a link to a tutorial on how to edit Teams recordings, I assured her we’d all done the same and just not gotten caught, and then I deleted the evidence before posting the final video to our resource site. It was pretty simple, even without extra software.)

  15. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

    # 4, just know that I would vote you Teacher of the Year if I was in your class and saw that video. I used to make one of my cats karate dance to Everyone Was Kungfu Fighting.

    1. Veryanon*

      Agreed – my dog’s name is Penny and whenever I have to take her to the vet, I serenade her with “Penny at the vets” (to the tune of Benny and the Jets).

      1. mlem*

        … I now know what I’ll be singing when I take my cat Jenny to the vet later this week. (The vet’s name is also Jenny. One of the techs is named Jenny. It’s for the best that, the time I had both of them working with this cat, I didn’t look at them and ask, “Jenny, Jenny, who can I turn to?”)

      2. Office Cheetos*

        And now, my dog who is named Barkley, will be serenaded with that same song only with his name.

    2. Zephy*

      Little potat
      He wants to know where the treats are at
      Come on
      He’s meowing at you
      Come on

      (to the tune of Shout by Tears for Fears)

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Bravo to you too!
        “Cat Song by Commenters” a new music album coming soon from AAM Publications LOL

      2. Jackalope*

        I like to sing, to the tune of The Lumberjack Song, “She’s a kitty cat and she’s okay/ she sleeps all night and she sleeps all day.” Entertains me every time for whatever reason.

        1. LZ*

          May your food bowl, never empty
          In the kitchen meow and meow
          May your food bowl, fill with cronchies
          Meow and meow

          (to the tune of “May the circle be unbroken”)

      3. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

        Oh, this is definitely getting added to our repertoire for our cat serenading.

    3. Smol Brontosaurus*

      Everyone on this thread is way more creative than I. The only thing I sing to my cat is Tom Jones.

  16. Captain Vegetable ( Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

    I worked at a lab on a military base during a gap year between college and high school. I decided it would be easier to not bring my lunch and just eat when I got home, and consequently passed out.

    Passing out in front of your coworkers is bad enough, but a lab on a military base, not long after 9/11? They sent everyone. Everyone was called out. Firefighters and EMTs from the base, firefighters and EMTs from the city… and a hazmat team.

    They quickly established that there was no dire threat to our national security and the majority of the emergency responders were hanging out, talking shop while my mostly female coworkers tried to unobtrusively ogle the mostly male emergency responders.

    One guy, however, kept aggressively asking me if I could be pregnant, which eventually led to me announcing to a crowded room of various coworkers, firefighters, EMTs, and yes the hazmat guys still in their suits, that I was a virgin.

    On the plus side, since I showed up the next day after that fiasco, my coworkers stopped calling me “New Girl.”

    1. Code Monkey, the SQL*

      Fell off my chair cackling (thank goodness I wfh) – I can SO picture the complete level of Halping Brain that it would take to wind up chasing a coworker out of the bathroom with coffee-pants and declaring that to the C-Suite

      1. Rosyglasses*

        Right!? The chasing out and screaming “my pants weren’t even down yet!” is the BEST!

    2. Rocky*

      I am also typing from beyond the grave after reading this one. I literally guffawed at my desk.

  17. Cookies for Breakfast*

    I can totally see #4 happen to me at some point! I can think of several days when the cat serenading might have happened in real time, as I waited for people to join a call with Zoom hidden behind another tab. Each of our cats has his own set of personalised songs, and we sing to them with great joy.

    Last week, one of the cats knocked over a very heavy ceramic object we thought he’d never be able to move with his body weight, and broke it. The shattering noise I heard from upstairs was so scary that, had I been on a call when it happened, my colleagues would have heard me scream (I was terrified the cat may have got hurt, which didn’t happen, and don’t react well to sudden loud noises in general).

  18. Ivana Tinkle*

    If number 12 happened to me, I never would have set foot in the building again! Hilarious but truly mortifying!
    My worst was when I was adding some notes on a client investment account about some cash they were transferring in but didn’t want invested yet, and an unfortunate typo meant that I instructed our investment team ‘please do not incest’!

    1. Vio*

      At least you hadn’t had to tell the investment team to invest it, that would have made the typo even worse!

    1. I'm Just Here For The Cats!!*

      Makes me want to go home and sing little teapot with my cats. Only one would let me pick them up.

    1. Manders*

      My friend hung a sign on her door while pumping that said “women bring home the bacon and the milk”. It was pretty cute.

  19. slashgirl*

    Not me, but one of the women (we’ll call her Jane) that worked in my parents’ convenience store that they owned when I was growing up.

    They used to have regular size packs of cigarettes (25s) and a smaller pack–I think it was 15. Anyhow, these had the nickname, locally at least, of being called poverty packs.

    One shift, Jane had a customer come in and ask for a poverty pack. She thought he said PARTY pack, so handed him a box of condoms (3 to a box)…. She was more than a bit mortified–she hadn’t heard him say the brand of cigs, obviously–the customer thought it was funny. And she did give him the cigs he wanted.

  20. Spicy Tuna*

    I was on a business trip to the Dominican Republic with my very socially awkward boss. On the return flight home, as we were in the security line, I got waved out for a baggage inspection, which they did right there in front of everyone in line.

    The security guys pulled out my A cup bra, held it up to the light, stretched it out and put it back. Then they pulled out a box of super tampons, opened it, pulled out the contents, even SMELLED a tampon before putting everything back and waving me on.

    I think my boss was more embarrassed than I was. TBH, the only reason why I was embarrassed at all was because I KNEW how embarrassed he would be.

    For MONTHS after we returned to the office, he did everything in his power to avoid me, including walking out of the kitchen if I was in there getting coffee or water!

    1. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

      My mother is still mortified about the time on our return trip home that we got picked for bag inspection at the check luggage line, and they chose the suitcase with all our dirty clothes. They were pulling out panties, bras, everything. Right in front of everyone waiting to check their luggage. Coincidentally, when we got to the airline staffer who gave us our boarding passes and checked our luggage, we got upgraded to business class for that flight for free. First and only time either of us ever got upgraded like that.
      I would let them rifle through my dirty underwear every time if it meant I got to fly business class. 100% worth the mortification.

      1. Bob-White of the Glen*

        Me too, 100%! Heck, they could run around the airport waving my dirty underwear like a flag for a free upgrade to business class! :D

    2. tangerineRose*

      They smelled a tampon?! Yikes!

      After my bag got searched a couple of times (not in front of me, but it was obvious), I decided to keep my undies in my carry-on.

    3. Princess Sparklepony*

      As a teen I had my luggage inspected in the islands. Took out every tampax and felt them up and down…. what did he think I was smuggling in sealed tampax? The old kind with the paper sleeves on them. I think he was just being a jerk and enjoyed embarrassing me.

  21. I'm Just Here For The Cats!!*

    #11 was really the boss’s fault. He was the one who was being a jerk and not doing his job. He should have been the one to grovel to the other company.

  22. Working Mama*

    I have one similar to #5. My eldest had the grace to be born right before a semester break. After the term ended, she came with me to work for a couple of months while we were waiting for her daycare slot to open. Like OP#5, I was a skilled multitasker and was working away while she snacked. The IT guy game in and chatted with me for a few minutes about the weather, etc and then said, “I need to install a program on your machine.” I said, “Oh I’ll give you my seat as soon as she’s finished.” He had NO IDEA. I guess he just thought I was holding her close on her little pillow, I just assumed he was nonchalant about the whole breastfeeding thing. He was mortified when he figured it out and fled my office in a flurry of apologies. We did have a chance to chat when he came back for the installation and I assured him I was just fine.

    1. Panicked*

      A similar thing happened to me! My husband and I were at a military holiday event; I stepped out into the atrium to feed our cranky newborn. A few soldiers I knew stopped by to chat. They asked if they could walk me back to the party. I said “As soon as I’m done feeding her, I’ll be right in!” They all got flustered and started apologizing while literally running away from me. It was comical!

      1. Dobby is a Free Elf!*

        I had one of those moments at church when my littlest was very small. Nursing baby alllll the way in the back, in the balcony, and it’s time to pass the offering plate. Elderly male usher comes over and is just cooing over the baby, despite the fact that all he could feasibly see was the top of her head…and then he realizes.

        No idea how he didn’t figure it out sooner, as she never did learn to latch by herself and I had to keep a hand in place….

  23. Miss V*

    My company has a gym on campus and I like to work out in the mornings before work. The locker room is off one of the bathrooms. You need your employee badge to get into the locker rooms/showers. But the outlets for a hairdryer are in the actual bathroom area.

    You can probably see where this is going. I went to dry my hair, wearing just my towel and flip flops, and only once I was done did I realize I had left my badge in the locker room.

    I waited ten minutes and no one had come in to use the bathroom so I had to go slinking out into the hallway to find someone who’s badge I could borrow to get back into the locker room and get dressed. I had been at the company less than a month.

    I was MORTIFIED. If I had my car keys there’s every chance I would’ve just quietly ran to my car and left, never looking back, leaving no notice.

    Instead I found a coworker who was nothing but sympathetic and she never said a word to anyone, until I started telling the story as ‘hey, here’s this super embarrassing but funny thing that happened to me’.

    1. Lalaith*

      I’m just picturing if you had actually driven off and ghosted them… it’s even better than the stories of people who walked off the job and left purses or jackets or whatnot. “She left *all of her clothes*! Did she spontaneously combust? Dissolve in the shower?? Find a black hole???”

      1. Princess Sparklepony*

        I’d go with dissolve in the shower, a spontaneous combustion would have left ashes!


  24. Eulerian*

    #1 reminds me of a story Jo Brand (British comedian) told.

    For her birthday one year she decided to order herself a birthday cake from a baker’s. When they asked if she wanted any writing on it, she asked them to write “You are a very old woman and you’re going to die soon” – since she had some friends coming round and thought that would make them laugh.

    When she went to pick up her cake, she check to see if it was the right one – it was the right cake but the writing on it said “Happy retirement Wendy”.

    Now think of poor Wendy’s retirement party…

  25. Botanist*

    Oh my gosh, I needed these today. I don’t even care that I’m laughing at my desk, I’m feeling so much tension leave my body as I keep hearing the words “Carl, I hadn’t even pulled my pants down yet!” ringing through my brain.

  26. Army of Dorkness*

    Many moons ago, when the web and email was still pretty novel, I unwittingly and very accidentally copy/pasted a very incendiary barrage of words meant for another individual. Except I pasted it into an email reply about a job posting. Yeah, I know.

    I didn’t learn about it until a bit later, when the accidental recipient asked me in for an interview and told me about it face to face. I was mortified. I wanted to crawl into an abyss and never come out. After the initial shock wore off, I asked why they didn’t immediately eliminate my candidacy.

    “No way! We all **had** to meet you! Who would have the nerve to do that?”

    I don’t recommend cussing out the hiring manager, ever, but it did land me my first job in tech.

  27. Aerin*

    Combine 3 and 7 and you get one of my favorite stories stolen from Tumblr. The poster was playing soccer and injured another player in the face (I forget exactly how). They tried to combine “Are you okay??” and “I’m so f*cking sorry!”

    What came out was “ARE YOU F*CKING SORRY?!?”

    (Bleeping because I’m not sure how aggressive the spam filter is.

  28. Blinded By the Gaslight*

    In the worst place I ever worked, I was a harried, unsupported manager in the midst of dealing with multiple “fires.” I came in one morning, and saw more “fires” had sprung up, which needed to be dealt with sooner rather than later, and which derailed all the plans I originally had for that morning. (Such is manager life sometimes, but this place . . . )

    When I got back to my department, my one cool staff member at the time caught me on my way to the coffeepot, and asked me, “How’s it going?” My brain was still churning with things I needed to do, emails to write, etc., and I didn’t want to get drawn into a long conversation. My brain was trying to decide between saying, “It’s been a screwball morning” or “It’s been hairy morning.”

    My mouth said, “It’s been a hairball morning!”

    We both just kind of looked at each other – he accepted that remark as oddly descriptive but true, but because I knew what I’d intended to say and “hairball” was unintentionally more revealing about my actual feelings, I burst into hysterical laughter and could not get ahold of myself for several minutes. I kept breaking into giggles the rest of the day.

    One of the many, many red flags I ignored about that place and what it was doing to me (I was a frog in a boiling pot), but this specific memory still makes me laugh.

    1. Brit Bratwurst*

      Honestly, I think hairball is an excellent way to describe most work annoyances. As in, someone did something that you knew was going to turn into a mess you’d have to clean but you were totally unable to stop them.

    2. Lalaith*

      Ah, I love when I get a laughing fit from something random. Although it can be so hard to explain to other people why whatever happened is *so funny*.

      The last one I had was while my husband and I were on vacation. He said to me, “I think it’s fruity drink time.” I said “Mmm, fruity drinks,” only I was eating something at the time, so what came out was “Mmm, footy binks.” Husband took this completely in stride and replied, very deadpan, “Yup, footy binks.” I completely lost it. A few minutes later he was taking a video of our room, and I’m still sitting there cracking up, with tears rolling down my face, because of footy binks.

  29. Alanis*

    Today I learned – I have a lot higher threshold for embarrassment than most people writing into AAM. Most of these seem to be cute anecdotes, not mortifying.

    1. NeedRain47*

      Same… my senile cat chased me aroudn meow-screaming during my “welcome call with the dean” for my new job the other day. seems like that would mortify some people but I’m like, I have a cat, he’s loud, oh well.

      1. Cam*

        oh God my cat does the same thing on zoom interviews (I’m a journalist so you can imagine how annoying it is haha)

    2. allathian*

      Yeah, apparently me too. I feel rather sad that so many of these mortifying incidents involve completely normal female bodily functions, although it has to be said that I was never very comfortable breastfeeding in public and I’m very grateful that my maternity leave was long enough that I never had to pump at work.

      The most mortifying (I say that even though I wasn’t actually particularly mortified) thing that ever happened to me at work was when I was in a hurry and also very distracted when I had to go to the toilet. This was about 12 years ago when our son was a toddler. At that time I never, ever locked the toilet door at home unless we had guests. And because I was so distracted, I forgot to do it at work, too. It was a single-occupancy bathroom that was big enough that you couldn’t reach the door from the toilet seat. Then a coworker walked in on me as I was sitting on the seat. It was embarrassing in the moment, but both of us just laughed it off and it wasn’t as if she could’ve seen anything except a bit of my bare thighs. She apologized for walking in on me, I apologized for forgetting to lock the door, and that was that. She even stood outside the door to ensure that nobody else walked in on me while I pulled up my pants.

      Cue a couple months later, when I walked in on her sitting on the toilet!
      So then I apologized for walking in on her, she apologized for forgetting to lock the door, and both of us laughed ourselves silly. She was a mom with a toddler and a very active preschooler at home.

      These events ensured that we became work friends rather than just friendly coworkers until she switched fields and went elsewhere.

  30. TootSweet*

    I just thought of one from very early in my career. First day of work in the “steno pool” at a state enforcement agency. Unfortunately, it ended up also being the second day of my period, which was always the worst day for me. I was sick as a dog well before lunch, and I spent so long heaving in the rest room that a coworker alerted the head stenographer. She ordered one of the officers to drive me home (nearly 14 miles). And I had to ask the officer to stop on a parkway entrance ramp for one last “emission.” I don’t know how I ever had the nerve to go back the next day.

  31. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    While teaching remotely, my communications professor from college meant to record a 60 second example video. Turns out she didn’t work the camera and software correctly, and instead uploaded 60 seconds of singing a song to her dog while she got food for it.

    Fortunately no one teased her about her “pupper food! Pupper food! We’re getting you some pupper food!” hit single.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      We sing to my dog all. the. time. She has designated songs for when she’s doing certain things, like the Burrowing Song and the Where Are You Mom song, and we rework the lyrics to songs to be about her.

  32. Yellow*

    My CFO walked in on me pumping once. Everyone in my small office knew what I was doing, and knew not to come into the office when the door was closed. He was visiting from another office that day, and had no idea the office was in use. Thankfully I’m very hard to embarass :)

  33. FeliciaFancyBottom*

    I had something similar, although definitely not as bad, happen.

    I worked at a place that had cross country ski trails on our property and we’d update daily their condition. My boss would write out the report, email it to me and I’d copy and paste in onto our website. One day we received an angry email from someone complaining about the trails, which I shared with my boss. A little bit later he emailed me the report and without looking I just copied and pasted it. About an hour later I see I have another email from my boss with the subject line “Real Trail Report”.

    He had wrote on the first one something like “The Timber Trail has 6 inches of snow and is the worst trail John Smith has ever skied on”.

  34. not a hippo*

    I think if I was a student, if any of my teachers accidentally shared a song they sang to their pets, my arbitrary respect for them would increase!

  35. ThatGirl*

    This is very minor but I’ve been here 2.5 years, my desk has always been on the second floor, and yet today I very confidently told IT it was on the third floor.

    1. Pretty as a Princess*

      If it helps, I do not know my office number. I keep it on a sticky above my desk. If people ask it, like “Where are you in the building so I can find you?” I can’t answer and have to describe the location in relation to the floor plan on other floors.

      I have had this office since 2019.

      1. Elsajeni*

        I have to look myself up in the employee directory every single time I file an IT ticket. (This is an upgrade; I used to have to get up and go poke my head out in the hallway to look at my door placard, presumably making my neighbors think “Did she… forget her name…?”)

        1. allathian*

          I have to check my email signature every time I need my work phone number. I just can’t seem to get it to stick in my head. I also have to look at my door placard every time I need my office number, I can’t remember it off the cuff. I do this because it’s faster than looking myself up in the employee directory.

          1. Princess Sparklepony*

            I’ve had the same cell phone number for about 30 years. I cannot remember it for love nor money. I know my land line, I know my mom’s phone (she’s had that one for over 60 years but the area code changed), but that darned cell phone number – no idea. I have little bits of paper with it printed out on it in my desk, on the phone itself, on my computer, on the fridge…

    2. Brit Bratwurst*

      My office building elevator changed to a system where you push the button in the lobby and not in the elevator. I stayed at a hotel for work and kept getting in the elevator and just standing there without hitting a button. At one point, the client I was there to meet caught me when she called the elevator from the lobby and found me just standing there waiting for the elevator to bring me to a floor I hadn’t requested.

    3. MissCoco*

      I can’t count how many times I yanked hard on the locked door to the roof of my university’s chemistry building because I had just done one too many flights of stairs and gone straight past the 3rd floor, turned the handle, and then realized I was standing in front of the wrong door

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        I regularly go on walks around my neighborhood and one time on my return I seem to have misjudged my path by one house and found myself on my neighbor’s doorstep instead of my own. Thankfully I realized before actually trying to open the door. Now every time I go for a walk and pass that house I feel a brief moment of panic that I might somehow accidentally try to enter their house by mistake…

  36. Brit Brat*

    About a year ago I (a woman) was having a discussion with co-workers over lunch. We were discussing guacamole and I was waxing poetic about how I could have a whole bowl for dinner and TRIED to say “I’m a big dip person.” That was not what I said. My team, including my manager at the time, lost it and insisted I repeat it to a co-worker who joined us a few minutes later.

    Sadly, this is probably only the second most embarrassing thing I’ve done at work.

  37. Abogado Avocado*

    #1, are you available to do ALL the cakes for our office? I think birthdays, etc. would be even more fun!

  38. Bumblebee Mask*

    When I was 25 and in my first grown up job as an HR Assistant, I walked into the bathroom to find the CFO (VP Finance, one of those) standing at the sink breast pump on each breast. I walked right back out all flustered and embarrassed. Hindsight being what it is, I’m not sure why a – she wasn’t using her actual office which she had and which wasn’t all glassed in or b – why she wasn’t using the lactation room we had. Had I not been completely mortified I probably could have told her about the lactation room since it was right across from my cubicle.

  39. Not a Penguin*

    Weirdly, one of my former direct reports always did say ‘Can you fill me up?’ on the occasion of my having more information on a situation than they did. I assumed it was an interesting language quirk.

    1. MissCoco*

      My husband used to say “what’s the scuzzlebutt?” and I will never not regretting that I told him that it is “scuttlebutt”

  40. Smol Brontosaurus*

    #6 — the only time I exposed my underpants at work (fly unzipped), my underpants were bright red. That increased visibility from the bright color makes the entire situation so much worse. I never wear bright (or white) underpants to work anymore–dark and neutral colors only. I mean, not that having your underpants exposed at work is ever going to be hunky dory, but my brain tells me that it’s easier for everyone to pretend they saw nothing if the color does not draw the eye.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, I’m very happy that the one time I broke the zipper in my pants at the office I was wearing black pants and black underwear, which I always do, unless I’m wearing blue jeans.

  41. Arglebargle*

    When I was about 24 years old and new to working in an office (all my other jobs had been in food service), I was working at a small publishing company in production, but for some reason I was roped into being the person who knew about the phone system. The publisher, CEO, and a few other “higher ups” asked me to help them do a conference call with someone else (this was like 30 years ago, no Zoom!). I got them all linked up, called the client, and was like, “ok, you all are good to go!” When I didn’t get a response after several seconds, I blurted out, “Are you still there? Did you hang up? Argh, YOU BONEHEADS!” To which the CEO replied dryly, “yes, we are ALL still here and were just waiting for YOU to hang up.” I wished them a good meeting and noped out of there. Fortunately I had a rep as a great worker with an odd sense of humor and all involved were mostly just amused.

  42. Student*

    It started with someone microwaving fish in a public space, as these things often do.

    Frank was the fish-microwaving, walking disaster of a co-worker. We were two nerds from out of town, there on business travel. The other people in the lunch room were about 15 local blue-collar types, none of whom we knew well. They work a hard job in the middle of a desert, just outside Vegas, and they generally do not take crap – especially from visiting nerds. We all work in a national security field.

    So somebody called Frank out on microwaving fish sticks at lunch. Frank thinks he’s charming, so he starts spinning a story to try to get out of the obvious ire he has roused. His story is that fish sandwiches are one of his favorite foods, and that his all-time favorite one is from a local business in the Vegas area, so he simply MUST eat fish when near Vegas. He emphasized to the whole room that the local place with great fish sandwiches is, in fact, a strip club – specifically and loudly.

    I, the only woman present, and the youngest person in this room by probably 10 years, am now suffering a full-on secondhand embarrassment cardiac-level event. I said nothing, but my disapproval at the talk of strip clubs at work over lunch (…and the microwaved fish!) showed clearly on my face.

    The rest of the room was silent.

    Frank, sensing he had perhaps not endeared himself to the room as much as expected, decided to try to latch on to my obvious discomfort to talk his way out of this. He pointed right at me, and said something to the effect of, “Oh don’t give me that look! I’m sure you’ve spent a lot of time in strip clubs! Haven’t you?” Arched eyebrow.

    The silence was suffocating. All eyes on me now! Which is what Mr Fish Microwaver wanted.

    Reader, while I cannot read Frank’s mind, I assure you that he did not intend this to somehow be a kind statement. He intended to embarrass me. I do not know whether he meant to imply that I had been a stripper or that I was LGBT+. I note that, regardless of your personal views, neither Frank nor most of the others in this room would likely view either option in a positive light. Prior to this event, our working relationship was already quite strained, and Frank knew absolutely nothing about my personal life or work history. Yes, I’m LBGT+, no I’ve never been a stripper nor been to a strip club – neither of which Frank knew.

    However, we were also right by Vegas, and so there is better-than-normal chance at least one person in the room has a friend or relative in the adult entertainment business. So if I’m to defend myself, I also cannot speak ill of strippers, or imply I view the trade as negatively as Frank probably does. Also, that’d be a jerk move anyway, right? Strippers deserve better than Frank’s fish-microwaving nonsense.

    So I gave the only response I could. Remember we’re all in the national security business?

    “I can neither confirm nor deny that I’ve ever been to a strip club.”

    Lucky for me, the room burst out laughing by the time I got to the word “deny”. I managed to keep a straight face when I gave the line.

    I still have scars from the 3rd degree embarrassment burn that I suffered that day, though.

    1. KathyG*

      I would never, in a billion years, be able to come up with such a perfect response.

      Student, you are now my Goddess.

    2. Tirathu*

      Perfect answer!

      And I reserve a special hatred for coworkers who microwave fish in the office.
      I have one who does that every wednesday. No windows in the kitchen and no door…the entire floor (about 20 offices and 50 people) smells like fish. A few weeks back another coworker had enough and used the febreeze from the bathroom in the hallways. The entire floor now smelled of fish and fake lemon scent. And every coworker walking through the hallway loudly voiced their frustration about the situation.
      What we didn’t know was that HR decided to use the conference room on our floor that day – for job interviews! The unlucky potential new hires had to wait up to half an hour in that stinking hallway. (I work for a government agency *facepalm)

  43. Master of Bears*

    Back before we switched over to Teams and Zoom, my organization would do monthly conference calls that started off with a roll call of who all was on the phone: “Region 1?” “Joe, Sarah, and Kayla are here.” “Okay, Region 2?” “Mike and Wakeen,” etc.

    I was multitasking while keeping one ear out for our region (14, down at the end of the list) to be called, so I had one corner of my brain dedicated to thinking “14, 14, 14…” which is the only explanation I have for why, when Region 14 was called, I unmuted myself and said, in my best cheery professional phone voice, “Hi, this is 15, 16…uh I mean Kayla and Andrew…apparently I’m counting for you today?”

    Everyone laughed it off as the autopilot malfunction it clearly was (I think the meeting host made a joke about “Kayla and Andrew, joining us from Sesame Street”) and it was never mentioned again, but my memory loves to replay that moment in the middle of the night.

  44. Meghan*

    I worked in the Sales department of a hotel that I had opened and myself and 2 co-workers in our shared office were really close and TMI and just had the best time at that hotel, it was our baby. Then it got sold and new management came in and my boss left and a new sales manager came in and we just had an odd relationship. One day we would be talking about everything under the sun and the next day we wouldn’t speak at all, it was just weird.

    Cut to the day I go to our mini-fridge/microwave in our office to heat up the TV dinner I had brought. As it is heating up I look at the packaging more closely and think “huh, I thought I brought a different flavor today,” especially since the kind I was making was spicier than I liked. I figured I had just grabbed the wrong one from home and went about my business making and eating the TV dinner.

    And then my brand new co-worker goes into the fridge and says “did someone take my lunch?” Turns out, we had brought the same brand of TV dinner that day, just different flavors and I had made and eaten the one she brought. She went very quiet when I apologized and, obviously, offered up the one I had brought for lunch. Life was even more awkward after that day.

    1. Bob-White of the Glen*

      That’s so understandable. Not sure why anyone would make things awkward over it.

  45. A million cats walking across a million keyboards*

    #1 – for the longest time, I thought “riddance” was derived from “ride” and would cheerfully say “good riddance” when wishing people a safe and pleasant ride home.

  46. PhyllisB*

    Nothing to add, but I’m just dying over the last one. I wonder if Carl ever shared this story with anyone.

    1. PhyllisB*

      Or we read the next call-out for mortification week: “I went into the restroom, and there was a female employee…”

  47. tinyhipsterboy*

    I worked at Starbucks for a few years in my early 20’s. One day, after a day-long event that was ridiculously busy, we finally slowed down and had time to clean and such, and my brain was completely fried. Two guys came in, and I found one of them really, really cute, which is never good for me when it comes to speaking… not to mention I already have a habit of my words running together.

    One guy ordered a drink. The cute one ordered water. What I tried to say is “if you need more water, just bring your cup back and let me know and we can refill it.” What actually happened is I started to stammer and managed to say “more water?”, made a cupping motion with my hands, and followed it up with “cup me?”

    I still don’t know how the guy reacted. I straight up ran to the back as soon as the words left my mouth.

  48. Poly Anna*

    I once caught a ride back from some professional training with a participant from another company. It had been a few days on site at a resort type place and I had let slip (matter of factly, not in salacious detail) at dinner (with free wine) that I am in a long term polyamorous relationship. So I was referring to my partner*s* in the context of a household anecdote when he got very interested in expounding about how long he had been married, how happy they were and how nice the house was they were doing up together. Turns out he missed it or tuned it out earlier and thought I was coming on to him….

  49. JelloStapler*

    I know exactly what #5 means – I had the same one. Years ago, I would triple check my door and put “Do Not Disturb” up because I was so scared of this happening. Yikes!

  50. Lucien Nova*

    Oh goodness…oh my. The last one has absolutely sent me with laughter. Poor, poor Carl, poor, poor OP.

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