Readers’ Revenge: Your Worst Workplace Embarrassment
It’s time for Readers’ Revenge, the weekly feature in which we turn Grantland over to YOU, the unpredictable reader. This week’s topic was Your Biggest Workplace Embarrassment. I received tons of great e-mails as always, so please don’t take it personally if yours didn’t make the cut. To give you an idea of how terrible I am at this, I rejected a story this week about a 76ers employee who got pantsed at center court by a mascot.
Below are the top eight e-mails. You can check out past installments in the box below. The topic for next week is Your Most Cowardly Moment. Send your very best to firstname.lastname@example.org by Sunday for a chance to make the cut. Stories can involve you or someone you know, and anonymity is allowed. Those with a high degree of hilarity and humiliation always do well. Enjoy!
8. I worked at a zoo for two years after college, and over the course of my time there grew to completely despise my boss. For the last six months or so that I worked there, it was pretty widely rumored that she was having an affair with her boss. (They were both married at the time, and the wife of my boss’s boss actually worked at the zoo, if that makes any sense.) This obviously became an extremely popular topic of discussion among myself and my fellow employees, and we’d often complain about the two of them pretty openly and share rumors. Typical workplace gossip, I guess.
One day, I was sent with a couple of my co-workers to go clean out one of the zoo’s exhibits which was located in a small shed. The three of us were annoyed that we’d been given this task, so we naturally spent the walk to the exhibit complaining about our bosses and how little actual work they did. The exhibit was located behind a fence and had several windows and a door that led inside. As I was walking around the fence outside the exhibit, I made a comment (at full volume) along the lines of “[Boss’s name] should be the one cleaning this exhibit, but I’m sure she’s just blowing [other boss’s name] in his office.” Upon rounding the corner, I entered the exhibit (with all its windows and doors wide open) and found my boss inside where she had in fact begun the process of cleaning the exhibit.
Now that I’m typing this I really wish the previous sentence concluded with “where she had in fact begun the process of blowing her boss” because it would have made for a way better story, but you can’t win ‘em all. Anyway, it was incredibly awkward when we all realized there was no way she couldn’t have heard what I said. But, she was a super passive-aggressive person so instead of confronting me about it she just acted cheerful and pretended nothing had happened. Things between us were pretty weird from there on out, and shockingly enough I haven’t kept in touch with her since I left the zoo.
— Ben, North Carolina
7. This happened during the summer of 2010, which as I’m sure you know, was the summer of the most recent World Cup. I was interning at a fairly large law firm in Durham, N.C., and there were so many interns that we had our own office and computers, so while we were completing busy work during the day, we would have the games pulled up online and watch them as we worked. (Brief side note — our office was really more of a basement, located directly below the main office floor where all the attorneys and partners’ offices were.)
Watching the games, especially the American games, got a little rowdy. Since we were so out of the way, we could cheer, yell at the screen, and basically just be fans. The second-loudest we ever got was when the U.S. scored against England on that no-ball loser attempted save by the English goalie. This story is about the loudest we ever got, and if you followed the U.S. in the World Cup that year, you already know what I’m talking about.
Algeria vs. U.S.A., 91st minute. Landon Donovan takes the run up the side, passes off to Jozy Altidore, who passes off to Clint Dempsey, who shoots and is denied, and all hope is lost. Then, as we were standing on our last legs, Donovan puts it away. Madness ensues in the office; people are throwing papers in the air, jumping around, running in circles around the basement, and in general just raising hell. We had no idea how much noise we were making, or how easily everyone above us could hear what they thought was a small explosive going off. One of the other interns had even knocked over his desk when he jumped up, causing the building to shake and making a very loud crash.
In celebration, I started “crocodiling.” For those who don’t know what crocodiling is, (1) go watch Animal House now, and (2) it’s basically laying down on your back and convulsing while flailing your arms and legs. What I didn’t know is that one of the attorneys upstairs came down to see what the fuck happened to us, saw me crocodiling through the window of our office, thought I was having a seizure, and called 911. We were very surprised when the paramedics showed up, and we had to explain that none of us were in physical danger, and that we had been watching soccer while we were supposed to be working.
— Brett, Chapel Hill, N.C.
6. I had a recurring summer job with a boss who was very loud and opinionated. We got on well, but she rubbed many the wrong way. One day someone from the office down the hall came in and asked “Where is Mrs. Pain?” I replied that she was in the bathroom. My boss promptly emerged but no one spoke. He said, “No, Mrs. Payne, who is visiting us from the state office today.”
5. Two years ago, my ex-wife got into a bit of a pickle. I had to take custody of my twin sons, moving them across the country. I’m not sure if you know about the spoils of divorce and child support, but long story short, I lived in an apartment with a roommate that no one should expose children to. As such, I had to make arrangements with my mother for the boys to stay with her until I was able to find another place to live.
My days consisted of getting off work, traveling to my mother’s house, taking care of my twin boys until they were asleep and then traveling nearly two hours to my house on public transportation (arrival time of 12 a.m. if I was lucky), get up and go to work. Two weeks of this and it’s needless to say, I was tired. One morning, I had to pitch executives of a major company. My assistant and I spent the majority of the week planning this 30-minute presentation, as the relationship was a huge priority for my company. Due to scheduling conflicts, I wasn’t able to meet with all the executives at once, meaning I set up my presentation in a room and during different times of the day, the executives and their minions would walk in and listen to the 30-minute presentation. The first presentation started at 8 a.m., which made wake-up time that morning at 5.
Being the go-getter that I like to think of myself as, whenever an executive would enter the room, I would jump up out of my seat to greet them. Each time I said hello the executives and their minions had a very strange look on their face. (The minions were particularly chatty, while looking at me in that, “I hope you haven’t figured out we are talking about you” way.)
After all the presentations ended, I sat down in my chair and dropped my head both in release of the pressure of the day and in complete fatigue. It is this moment that I found out what all that minion chatter was about. I had on two totally different shoes; a loafer and an oxford. While dressing that morning, I must have been too tired to notice. I immediately panicked and asked my assistant if she knew I had on different shoes.
She simply said, “Yes.” My assistant was the nicest 23-year-old you would ever meet. I wasn’t too much older than her, and we settled into a sort of big brother/little sister relationship. I mentioned this because I let out the loudest, “WHY THE F*** DIDN’T YOU TELL ME,” that you would have ever heard. Her response, “I didn’t want to ruin your confidence.” Me: “Good thinking.”
4. So, a typical Thursday at work, I decided that I needed KFC for lunch so left in search. The first KFC I came to had no water, so I drove down to the next one. I got pulled for speeding. I was asked, after giving them my license, to step out of the car and turn around with my hands behind me and I’m cuffed and given a SERIOUS pat down. I ask what is going on. And the officer stated that a county a couple hours away had a warrant for my arrest.
Quick back story, two years prior to this, I had received a reckless driving ticket in, you guessed it, that very county. I had gone to driving school, and hired a lawyer (the lesson here, if a lawyer is only looking for $250 to represent you, find somebody else), and showed up to court only to receive 79 hours of community service. I completed this and turned all my paperwork in to my lawyer, who told me I wouldn’t need to go back to court or so I thought.
So, now I am cuffed, in the KFC parking lot, in front of little kids who are pointing and laughing. I am now pushed into the back of a cop car did you all know cops cars don’t have cushions in them? I wasn’t aware until that day. I was sat in a plexiglass box, with no AC, sweating down my face, cuffed behind my back (do you know how effing uncomfortable that is?), and talking to the cop now. We pull up to a traffic accident. She pulls over and starts directing traffic with me in back, sweating away, while all the passerbys are looking at me, wondering what crime I have committed. We get to the jail and I am placed beside some inmates who are in jumpsuits, but were actually taken out of their cuffs, as mine are left on.
They ask me what I did, I inform them that it appears my lawyer didn’t inform me correctly of a court date, and I have been arrested for missing a court date. They laugh and call me a “punk.” They get processed. Now, some young guys are brought in. They ask, abut I have learned a lesson, so with a serious face, I reply coolly: “I don’t know, but when I left him, he wasn’t dead!” The kids stay huddled away from me until they get processed. Eventually, I am pulled up to the magistrate, who looks at my warrant, and tells the officer: “You didn’t have to arrest him, you could have just issued the summons to him.” I am now finally uncuffed.
The jail is about 20 miles from where I work. I am now allowed to have my possessions back. I am then pushed out to the street, no ride back to my car or anything. I call my boss, who has left voicemails and was concerned I gotten into an accident, but in truth, was probably more concerned about her food. I explain the situation and she agrees to come pick me up, while laughing. My boss gets there and takes a picture of me in front of the jail, then laughs. When I get back to work, my whiteboard by my desk has handcuffs drawn on it. And to this day, anytime I go out to lunch, I am asked if I need to be picked up from the local jail.
— Nathan, Richmond, Virginia
3. I was a business student and had been hired on as a summer analyst by a fairly major management consulting firm between my junior and senior years of college in the summer of 2006. The life of a summer analyst is pretty incredible, really, because it’s essentially a 10-week long recruitment program: they pay you as much as a full-time analyst with a college degree, only they shower you with free meals and drinks and pretend that consultants only work 40- to 50-hour weeks. In hindsight, I was duped, but at the time I was 21 and had more money than I had ever made before and didn’t care to examine reality too closely.
My first project sent me to New York City to work with some insurance company. It was Fashion Week in Manhattan and the hoteliers had all decided to quintuple their nightly rates, so the project manager made me rent a cheaper room over in Jersey. No big deal, she said, I could cab over every morning, go to the office, cab home, no problem. I cabbed over the first day with another colleague and managed to make it to the office in one piece.
After a long and taxing first day, the team partners and principals (the project was huge, there were eight or so) decided to take me out to a nice restaurant to welcome me to the firm. We chose some top-notch Japanese restaurant, and though the name escapes me now, I can tell you that it was easily the most expensive restaurant I had been to in my existence. The place was exquisite, from the décor to the talking, electronic toilets greeting guests in the bathroom stalls.
This was a cool moment, and my overly sentimental tendencies got the best of me. I wanted some sort of keepsake or memento to remember this kick-ass meal I had been treated to. Obviously, the intricately detailed sushi boat wouldn’t be coming home with me; I settled instead on this awesome chopstick holder that sat next to each person’s place setting. It was made of smooth, beautifully colored stone and the chopsticks rested lightly on top. It didn’t seem too expensive, but then again this place had toilets that spoke to you, so it could have been invaluable. Carefree and loaded with sake and wine, I slipped the chopstick holder in my pocket as the check was being paid.
I should pause here to mention that this was my first real job, and I had never actually held a position that went beyond making bagel sandwiches or checking people into a gym. The week before I started, my dad took me out to buy business clothes — some slacks, some button-downs, and a new pair of leather shoes. These were my first pair of good shoes, and Pops taught me all about how to shine them and keep them in good shape. He did not, however, tell me to score the slick leather sole on the bottom of the shoe, lest I slip and fall during my first few uses.
As the company bigwigs and I walked down the marble staircase from our VIP dining area into the main restaurant to head home, my new shoes rocketed out from under me, my legs flew up in the air, and I tumbled down the steps. This was a full-on pratfall — the only thing missing was a slide whistle. The restaurant got completely silent and I knew it was bad. The only way to handle this appropriately was laugh at myself and pretend it wasn’t a big deal. I fought the throbbing pain in my hip and turned to my bosses to crack a smile. I found them all staring in different directions, completely ignoring my existence and hoping no one would think they were associated with me. It was mortifying.
I was still on the ground when I saw a waiter approach, and I assumed he was going to help me to my feet. He swooped down and grabbed the stolen chopstick holder off the ground next to me. It had fallen out of my pocket, and whether he was removing evidence in case I had tripped on it or he really did value the chopstick holder more than my life, that was it for me. I got up, mumbled an apology to my manager, and walked outside to hail a cab back to Jersey and the sweet confines of my Marriott Courtyard.
It was in that cab, 50 minutes later, that I regretted not getting the hotel’s address from my colleague when we left the hotel together that morning. Whilst my driver endlessly circled the two-mile stretch of highway by the Old Meadowlands stadium, unable to figure out how to get to my crappy hotel, I finally broke down. My hip was horribly bruised, my ego more so, and I was stuck in the purgatory of the New Jersey highway system. Business travel, it seemed, was not all it was cracked up to be.
I definitely should have stolen the sushi boat.
— Kyle, Atlanta, Georgia
2. Being a bartender in a college town is a mixed bag. One of the best parts is that all of the other bartenders in town are among the only people in the post-grad, pre-real world lifestyle, so we are a tight knit group. One day, my manager came to me and said: “You’re going to be training Seth today.” This pissed me off to no end. Seth had been with the establishment for less than a month and had a rep as a huge kiss ass. That’s why he was getting such a fast promotion and had earned himself the nickname “Golden Child” among the other staff. When Seth steps behind the bar, he doesn’t even want to train. He just wants to start running without walking and this pisses me off even more. After breaking two glasses and incorrectly mixing three drinks after telling me “I know what I’m doing,” I decide it’s time to take this kid down a peg or five.
I get a ticket for a dry martini and it’s on. I start looking around bewildered and Seth asks “What? What is it? What do you need? I’ll do it.” I look at him and say “I have a check for a dry martini, but I can’t find our martini dryer anywhere.” Seth gets this serious look on his face and starts looking around the bar like he actually knows what he’s looking for. I grab my forehead and exclaim “Oh shit! Katie from (a bar down the street) came and borrowed it last night! Can you go get it?” Seth is all too eager to help. As he runs to the back to grab his coat, I call the bartender down the street. “I got a guy coming over for a martini dryer, you know what to do.” Seth arrives at that bar only to find that the “martini dryer” was “borrowed” by another bartender in town.
He made stops at nine different bars that day, discovering at each stop the martini dryer was at the next bar. When he finally made it back 2 1/2 hours later, he was beet red and disheveled. “Fuck you, asshole!” he cried. He turned to the manager “I fucking quit! I’m not here for this bullshit!” and storms out. I didn’t care that much, I was laughing so hard I had tears running down my face. The rest of the staff pitched in and paid for my drinks that night for my role in getting rid of that douchebag.
1. So, I am an accountant. Accountants have a rep for being terribly socially awkward creatures. For the most part, this is an unfair stereotype, as the vast number of people I have ever worked with seem to be well-adapted, highly functioning members of society. I, however, fit the “ill-equipped to deal with people” generality to exquisite perfection. No exaggeration here, for real-zies. Personal motto of mine: Own the awkward.
Well, my first job out of college was working for a fairly renowned public accounting firm in Birmingham, Alabama. Within my first month on the job, I had already been bestowed with the nickname “Creep-A-Saurus Rex” for my general out-of-the norm, off-putting social behavior. This seems like sufficient transition to state that “My Worst Workplace Embarassment” took place in the men’s restroom.
I had just finished using the facilities, and washing my hands. As I was drying my digits, I somehow lost balance while standing in place. It was probably due to the transition of wearing flip-flops 90 percent of the time in college to wearing tasseled business shoes at my new job that caused the incident, but I digress. Suddenly, I find myself in one of those unnecessarily long slipping and falling motions (like when a cartoon character slips on a banana peel) and am heading headfirst into the entrance/exit door of the restroom.
So you’re probably thinking the thrilling conclusion of this story is that I ran my noggin into a closed door and concussed myself alone in the bathroom during my first month on the job. Well, that would have been about 40 times more preferable to what actually happened.
You see, at the exact same moment in time that I was stumbling face-first toward the door, the partner over our entire audit division opens the door to walk into the restroom. I can only imagine his sheer terror as all 6-feet of me is engaged in what would have had to have appeared to be a headbutt battering ram aimed directly at his crotch.
So, I headbutt my boss’s, boss’s boss in the groin cute story, right? If only I had been so lucky.
Instead, I miraculously regain my balance centimeters away from his zipper. I have replayed this moment over in my head thousands of times since the incident, and still haven’t thought of a smooth way to have addressed the situation with my now-bracing for a shot to the junk superior. However, what I concocted to say ended up being without a doubt the worst possible combination of eight words in the English language to ever articulate in a men’s restroom. Looking up from his zipper, I stammer:
“Sorry about that, got a little excited there.”
His only response was an icy scowl. We never discussed the matter again.
Needless to say, I no longer work at that accounting firm.
— Bobby, Birmingham, Alabama