businessman standing on teetering office chair

“The brain is a wonderful organ. It starts working the moment you get up in the morning and does not stop until you get into the office.”
—Robert Frost

Falling Down on the Job

Get a Grip
I’m a print sales rep, and I was following my new client to his office, down a long, narrow corridor past a row of cubicles. We were scooting past one of the cubicles when a woman unexpectedly emerged from it, knocking me off balance. My client turned around to help me at the same time that I grabbed for the wall to steady myself—but my hand accidentally clutched at my client’s manhood instead. He jumped back and shouted, “Whoa! Whoa! I’m taken!”

The Best Defense Is a Good Offense
I worked in a small web design agency shortly after finishing university. As the first employee, I always got the small jobs neither of the two company owners wanted. We had a difficult customer with a fairly successful online store who needed her site splashed over the weekend with a message apologizing for the work being carried out. I wrote the text, spell checked it, posted it to the site, and went home for the weekend. It turns out I had incorrectly spelled inconvenience and accepted the first spell checker suggestion without a moment’s thought; for an entire weekend her site had been apologizing for the incontinence.

An Inconvenient Truth
One day I took my four-year-old daughter to work with me. I had just received a promotion and my new boss wanted to meet her. As he was saying hi, she looked him up and down and said, “So—you’re my mommy’s mean boss.” Try talking your way out of that one.
—AmyOops []

All at Sea
One summer I was working at a mom-and-pop store that also sold bait. One day I took a phone call from a man who wanted to know if we carried sardine bait. Not knowing much about fishing I asked politely, “I’m not sure, sir; do you know what they like to eat?”

At Face Value
Once, early in my career as a plastic surgeon, I made a classic mistake. A first-time patient needed a benign cyst removed from his arm. But when I entered the examining room, instead of consulting his chart, I took one look at his face and said, “So, you must be here about your nose.”

In Full Swing
I was a hotel salesperson eagerly booking my first event: a large association wanted to reserve the ballroom, all the meeting rooms, and hundreds of guest rooms for a three-day conference. At the weekly sales meeting I proudly detailed my success. But then one of my coworkers asked what kind of association it was. “They’re swingers!” I said. “You know, swing dancing.”  Everyone started laughing. Finally one of my colleagues leaned forward and patted my arm. “No,” she said kindly. “They’re swingers. That means they trade partners—and not for dancing.” The contract was already signed, and for three dizzying days I had to serve as hostess to hundreds of swingers.

Grave Error
I’m a nurse, and I’m used to difficult patients, but this one was impossible. I had done all I could to make the elderly woman comfortable, but she criticized everything I did. At the end of an exhausting shift, I steeled myself to check on her one last time. As I was leaving her bedside, I cheerily and unthinkingly advised, much to her indignation, “Rest in peace!”

A Thankless Ask
I was writing an entry for my company’s newsletter about the pending retirement of a beloved administrator. Only I had a bit of a typo. There it was in print: instead of, “Next month Lily will retire, an event we all regret,” I had written,  “Next month Lily will retire, an event we all request.”

You’re Pulling My Leg
I had one hand resting on the desk as my coworker patiently showed me how to use the new software. It was only at the end of our tutoring session that I realized “the desk” had actually been his knee the entire time.

Back from the Dead
I’m the editor of an alumni magazine, and one day I received an unexpected phone call from one of the university’s graduates. “This morning an old classmate called my wife to offer his condolences,” he said. “It was only when I answered the phone that he realized your latest issue ran my obituary prematurely!”

Pregnant Pause
I was standing behind the customer service desk waiting on a customer with a pleasingly rounded belly. Remembering my boss’s advice to engage our customers on a personal level, I asked, in a loud, enthusiastic voice, what her due date was. She fixed me with a fierce stare and stalked off—she wasn’t pregnant.

Embarrassment of Riches
I was being considered for a bookkeeping job and everything seemed to be going well until the interviewer asked my current annual salary. Instead of answering “nineteen thousand,” I blurted out, “nineteen hundred.” He laughed and said he was sure he could top that—but somehow never bothered to call.

In the Public Eye
I was working in the fundraising department of a graduate school of public health. I had just mailed a solicitation letter to more than a hundred of our biggest donors when I noticed a typo that my spellchecker had missed: in typing the name of the institution, I’d omitted the “l” in “public.”

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