My wife, a phlebotomist at the Denver VA hospital, entered a patient’s room to draw blood. Noticing an apple on his nightstand, she
remarked, “An apple a day keeps
the doctor away, right?”
“That’s true,” he agreed. “I haven’t seen a doctor in three days.”
Larry Jensen, Englewood, Colorado
My colleague has been living
in this country only a few months,
and although normally chipper, he recently looked sad. When I asked what was wrong, he responded glumly, “Today, everything wrong is going in my favor.”
Bacchus Johnson, Charlotte, North Carolina
My boss and I took a job applicant to lunch, where we tried, with little success, to get him to open up about his experience and qualifications. Frustrated, my boss set his salad aside and proposed a specific and complex situation to the young man, then asked, “What would you do?”
The applicant hesitated, then, looking my boss straight in the eye, said, “Are you going to eat all those tomatoes?”
John Richman, Webster, New York
A conference call is the best way for a dozen people to say “bye” 300 times.
• I’m employed at a computer security company and have a colleague whose name is M. Alware. His e-mail address is email@example.com.
• My ex-boss’s name is R. Stone. His e-mail was firstname.lastname@example.org.
• My name is James Pan. Every other permutation of my name was taken (e.g., jpan, jamesp), so I’m stuck with email@example.com.
I have a question. = I have 18 questions.
I’ll look into it. = I’ve already forgotten about it.
I tried my best. = I did the bare minimum.
Happy to discuss further. = Don’t ask me about this again.
No worries. = You really messed up this time.
Take care. = This is the last you’ll ever hear from me.
Cheers! = I have no respect for you or myself!
Michael Ward, via mcsweeneys.net
As a Speech therapist, I was working with a preschooler on
body-part identification and the
k sound. To that end, I had him
use Play-Doh to make a sculpture
“Is that my neck?” I asked, trying to get him to repeat the word.
“No, that’s your chin,” he said.
He added more Play-Doh. “Is that my neck?” I asked.
“No, that’s your other chin.”
Ilene Smith, Milan, Michigan
While I was out to lunch, my coworker answered my phone and told the caller that I would be back
in 20 minutes. The woman asked,
“Is that 20 minutes Central Standard Time?”
Jamie Hindman, Lewisville, Texas
It’s amazing how a person can compliment and insult you at the same time. Recently, when I greeted my coworker, she said, “You look so gorgeous, I didn’t recognize you.”
Elaine Schyve, Cohocton, New York
The closest a person ever comes to perfection is when he fills out a job application form.
Businessman Stanley Randall
Client: Please remove the unnecessary circle at the end of the sentence.
Me: You mean … the period?
Client: I don’t care what you designers call it; it is unsightly. Delete it.
I’ve been working on my PhD
in engineering for the past five years, but my kids don’t necessarily see that as work.
As we were driving past Walmart one day, my son spotted a Now Hiring sign and suggested that I could get
a job there.
Hoping to make a point, I asked, “Do you think they’re looking for an engineer?”
“Oh, sure,” he said. “They’ll hire anybody.”
Christopher Fields, Fort Collins, Colorado
An insurance agent called
our medical office. One of our
doctors had filled out a medically necessary leave-of-absence form
for a patient, but, the agent said, the
patient had altered it. The giveaway?
The return-to-work date had been changed to February 30.
J. L., via e-mail
I supervised an employee who had a negative view of everything
I did. If I took a vacation day, I was “never there.” If I praised someone’s work, it was “too little, too late.”
He eventually took another job
but was fired six months later. Shortly thereafter, he contacted
me, hoping to return to his old job.
“Have you learned anything from this experience?” I asked.
“Yes, I should have stayed here,”
he admitted. “You’re too indecisive to have ever fired me.”
Terry O’Connor, Chantilly, Virginia
I guess this is what happens after you’ve worked at the same place for a while. I was eating at a fast-food restaurant when an employee began his shift by walking into the kitchen area and calling out, “Honey, I’m home!”
G. M., via e-mail
Before google, there were librarians. Here are some queries posed to the poor, suffering staff of public libraries:
• A woman wanted “inspirational material on grass and lawns.”
• “Who built the English Channel?”
• “Is there a full moon every night in Acapulco?”
• “Music suitable for a doll wedding to take place between a Shirley
Temple doll and a teddy bear.”
• “Can the New York Public Library recommend a good forger?”
Client to designer: “It doesn’t really look purple. It looks more like a mixture of red and blue.”
A woman called our airline
customer-service desk asking if she could take her dog on board.
“Sure,” I said, “as long as you provide your own kennel.” I further explained that the kennel needed to be large enough for the dog to stand up, sit down, turn around, and roll over.
The customer was flummoxed:
“I’ll never be able to teach him all of that by tomorrow!”
I spend three minutes every
day choosing a TV channel
to leave on for my dog. Then
I go to work, and people take me seriously as an adult.
After football fans in Philadelphia were treated to a particularly excruciating loss earlier in the season, a man phoned a sports-radio talk-show host to say, “Everyone should call in and give one word for that game.”
“What’s your word?” the host
“Bored out of my mind,” said the caller.
From Sports Illustrated
Librarians may be shy, but
their patrons aren’t. Look at their oddball requests:
A patron offered me $100 to steal
a cactus from somebody’s yard.
A patron wanted me to find a
book to teach her dog German.
A patron on his way to the casino asked to rub my red hair for luck.
A patron once asked me for my home phone number so she could call me with reference questions when I wasn’t at work.
Roz Warren, from womensvoicesforchange.org
For Martin Luther King Day,
I asked my fifth graders how they’d make the world a better place. One said, “I’d make potato skins a main dish rather than an appetizer.”
Manalapan, New Jersey
Scene: A radio newsroom.
Caller: I just wanted to let you know you’re off the air.
Host: Yes, we know. The engineers are working on it.
Caller: It would be nice if you put something on the air that says that.
Source: Overheard in the RADIO Newsroom
When my coworker answered his phone, the confused woman on the other end asked, “Who is this?”
“This is Steve. With whom did you wish to speak?”
After a pause: “Did you just say whom?”
“Yes, I did.”
The woman replied, “I have the wrong number,” and hung up.
Gilding the lily is a job seeker’s birthright. Here are a few doozies, where the applicant claimed …
… to be a former CEO of the company to which he was applying.
… to be fluent in two languages—one of which was pig Latin.
… to be a Nobel Prize winner.
… to have worked in a jail when he was really in there serving time.
… he was fired “on accident.”
A welsh politician asked the government for information about UFO sightings and if it might fund UFO research. Officials wrote back, “jang vIDa je due luq … ach ghotvam’e’ QI’yaH devolve qaS.” Which means, “The minister will reply in due course. However, this is a non-devolved
matter,” in Klingon.
Here’s some advice: At a job
interview, tell them you’re willing to give 110 percent. Unless the job is a statistician.
Comedian Adam Gropman
I sent a reminder to a client that it was time to visit the eye doctor.
He called back to inform me that he would not be coming in because, as he put it, “I have a new obstetrician.”
Sarah Parchert, Hoschton, Georgia
A man called, furious about an Orlando, Florida, vacation package we had booked for him: He was
expecting an ocean-view hotel
room. I explained that was not possible, since Orlando is in the middle of
the state. “Don’t lie to me,” he said.
“I looked on the map, and Florida is a very thin state.”
My ESL students try so hard and are so appreciative. One student paid me the ultimate compliment when she said, “You teach English good.” Another assured me, “I will always forget you.” And a third insisted, “I thank you from the heart of my bottom.”
Ellen Israel, Alamo, California
New York Times writer Amy Chozick giving an example of what
it was like working for a fashion magazine: “A girl got on [the elevator] with a Birkin bag, and her friend goes, ‘Oh, my God, I love your bag;
is that new?’ and she goes, ‘No, I got it, like, a week ago.’”
The James Bond film Spectre opens in November. Writer Peter
Anspach explains how he’d improve his odds if he were a film villain.
• I will not fly into a rage and
kill a messenger who brings me
bad news just to illustrate how evil
I am. Good messengers are hard
to come by.
• My vats of hazardous chemicals will be covered when not in use. Also, I will not construct walkways above them.
• If I’m eating dinner with the hero, put poison in his goblet, then have
to leave the table for any reason,
I will order new drinks for both
of us instead of trying to decide whether to switch with him.
• My ventilation ducts will be too small to crawl through.
• When I’ve captured my adversary and he says, “Look, before you kill me, will you at least tell me what this is all about?” I’ll say no and finish him off.
Gauging from these exam
excerpts, my college dance students had better stick with pliés.
“The costumes were vindictive
of the style of dance.”
“I commend Bill T. Jones for
his acts of true kindness and
“Dancers must have long limps.”
“At first, I had a hard time
understanding and interrupting
“Savion Glover’s purpose is to cross all racial and ethical barriers with his dance.”
Kathy Dubois, Onalaska, Wisconsin
During college, I worked on
a conveyor belt. One day, I was
on a blind date, and she asked me about my job.
“I work at the end of a belt,” I said.
With an ebullient smile, she asked, “Are you the buckle?”
Skip Parker, Reno, Nevada
Client: We need you to log in to the YouTube and make all our company videos viral.
“Has your son decided what
he wants to be when he grows up?”
I asked my friend.
“He wants to be a garbageman,”
“That’s an unusual ambition to have at such a young age.”
“Not really. He thinks that garbagemen work only on Tuesdays.”
Client: The blue looks OK, but it would be great if it was a little more orange. Like “blorange.”
I phoned a local restaurant to
ask if it was on the north or south side of Main Street. The person on the other end answered, “That
depends on which direction you’re coming from.”
Patricia Thompson, Shawnee, Kansas
“Halt!” shouted our drill
instructor. He had noticed that, for the umpteenth time, a recruit kept going to his right on a left command. Our instructor approached the
directionally challenged Marine
and stomped on his left foot. “Now,” he said, “when I say ‘left,’ it’s the
one that hurts.”
Wayne Schroeder, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
My son was born while I was serving abroad, so he was three
before we met. When I got home, I decided it was time for a little father-son bonding time. I bought him a
toy razor and invited him to “shave” with me. In the bathroom, I took
up my razor and started shaving.
I looked around to see how my son was doing. His foot was up on the side of the bathtub, and he was
running the razor up and down
his leg. So much for male bonding.
James F. Day, Prichard, West Virginia
One of the most popular questions asked at our family restaurant is “What’s good tonight?”
Now, we would never serve anything we didn’t think was good. So
I braced myself one Saturday night when I heard the dreaded question posed to my husband.
He calmly replied, “Anything over $17.95.”
I’m a dog trainer. Before I met with a new client, I had her fill out a questionnaire. One question asked, “Why did you choose this breed?”
My client responded, “I often ask myself this very same question.”
Cindy Mauro, West Milford, New Jersey
What are the wildest things national park guides contend with? Questions from tourists, like these:
• How much does Mount McKinley weigh?
• Would the lightning be faster if
it didn’t zigzag?
• What do you do with the snow when it melts?
I was in a couple’s home trying to fix their Internet connection.
The husband called out to his wife
in the other room for the computer password. “Start with a capital S, then 123,” she shouted back.
We tried S123 several times, but
it didn’t work. So we called the wife in. As she input the password, she muttered, “I really don’t know what’s so difficult about typing Start123.”
A. R., via Internet
My daughter Amy was holding down two jobs: The first was as a manicurist at a salon; the other was raking leaves for a housing development. One day, she came back from lunch at the raking job to find a note. Her boss, who didn’t know about
her other job, had taken down this phone message: “Amy, you have a man to cure on Thursday at three.”
Nancy Billings, Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts
A client called my help desk saying she couldn’t send an e-mail. When I was done troubleshooting the problem, she interrupted me to ask, “Wait a minute, do I type @ in lower- or uppercase?”
Swati Khatri, New Delhi, India
Any time a person with a journalism degree writes a story about
a celebrity getting bangs, Walter Cronkite punches an angel.
My granddaughter was
graduating from college, so I asked about any plans she had for the
future. She hadn’t any, but she
did know this much: “I certainly don’t want to sit in one of those
cubicles and think all day.”
B. O., via Internet
…was spotted on a billboard ad for the law office of Larry L. Archie: “Just because you did it doesn’t mean you’re guilty.”
• “I have to make payments on my BMW and iPhones.”
• “You are too wrapped up in the whole concept of ‘money. ’ ”
• “So … you’re talking to me only
because the rent’s not paid? Is that all I am to you? A tenant?”
Source: the Landlord Protection Agency (thelpa.com)
An applicant for an open
teaching job submitted a résumé. Under the heading Qualities and Skills, she listed, “Impeachable
character and integrity.”
M. O., via Internet
“Now hiring,” read the classified ad. “Cemetery superintendent. The ideal candidate must be able to supervise in a fast-paced environment.”
A. S., via Internet
My favorite game is “Professional Dog Walker or Crazy Person?”
We were making leaflets for a
local church, and the client wanted
a logo designed with Earth being shielded by the hand of God. I sent the client a proof. Shortly thereafter,
I got a call.
Client: The hand looks too human. Please use a hand that looks more like God’s.
Try an internship! Internships give you all the experience of a summer job without the hassle of a paycheck.
Being a lifeguard is a weird summer job for a kid. Ninety-nine percent of the time, sit and do nothing. One percent of the time, SAVE SOMEONE’S LIFE.
Jake Weisman (@weismanjake)
L.A. public pools don’t have lifeguards—[they] have life coaches. If they see you struggling in the water, they say, “Are you happy with the decisions you’re making?” and give you a pamphlet for a yoga studio.
I got my first full-time job, but I could have sworn I was making more money in college, working for my parents as their daughter.
If you were an auto insurer, would you have paid these actual claims?
“In an attempt to kill a fly, I drove into a telephone pole.”
“I didn’t think the speed limit
applied after midnight.”
“The car in front hit the pedestrian, but he got up so I hit him again.”
My husband was at a dinner with colleagues, and one of them had too much to drink. Feeling drowsy, the poor man sank back into his chair and said, “I don’t feel good. I’m
going into screen saver mode.”
L. Y., via Internet
While teaching at a veterinary college, I ordered a few books for our library. One was George Orwell’s
Animal Farm. When I went to take it out, I discovered that the librarian had placed the book in the section for dairy and poultry.
Jacob Cheeran, Thrissur, India
A friend of mine works at a tattoo shop. A client walked in and got a sentence tattooed on his back. A few hours later, the customer called,
demanding a refund.
Client: You did my tattoo backward!
Tattoo artist: It’s backward?
Client: Yes! I’m looking at it in the mirror right now!
My boss was watching a video of his son. I heard a voice in the background and asked if it was Elmo.
It was his wife.
A last-minute filer walked into our state income tax office and handed me his returns. Just as he did, a peal of laughter could be heard in another room. Glaring at me, he grumbled, “What are they doing back there, counting the money?”
William Umberson, San Diego, California
When my husband, James Rowles, was in the seminary, he was invited to preach at a small rural church. However, the man who was to introduce him to the congregation had trouble pronouncing his name. So James
offered this verbal clue: “Remember rolls, like hot buttered rolls.”
It worked. When it came time
for the introduction, the man announced, “We are pleased to have with us the Reverend James Biscuits.”
Ruth Rowles, Halifax, Virginia
Sometimes I like to sit my dog down for a performance review, just to remind him who’s boss.
Religion is generally a verboten topic for everyone at work, except
for Larry. Recently, after he steered yet another conversation toward the subject, a coworker whispered to me, “That Larry—he always has to put his two saints in.”
Mark Latessa, Brownstown, Michigan
Scene: Inside a Best Buy store.
Customer: Can you help me? I’m looking for a shredder.
Coworker: We have all types of shredders. What will you be shredding primarily?
Customer: Collard greens.
Jessica Smith, Peachtree City, Georgia
Colonoscopies are important medical procedures that have saved lives. And yet they’re as popular
as, well, a colonoscopy. Here are
comments purportedly made by
patients to physicians during their procedures.
“Now I know how a Muppet feels!”
“Could you write a note for my wife saying that my head is not up there?”
“Any sign of the trapped miners, chief?”
Source: Dave Barry, in the Miami Herald
Request from a client: “For the ad, use a stock photo of a woman or a person.”
Looking for a job? Here’s one posted on Craigslist:
“$40K a Year to Attend Harvard University as Me.” Requirements include a 4.0 GPA in high school or a 3.5 GPA in college. Only males need apply, since, as the listing tells us, “I have a male name.” The lucky person tapped for the gig doesn’t have to do much other than “attend all classes, pass all tests,
and finish all assigned work while pretending you are me.” Don’t worry about having to actually get into
the Ivy League school: “I’ve already taken care of that,” he says.
While taking stock of our
products, I read aloud the final
numbers to my boss. As he entered each one into a calculator, I deleted it off my mobile device. Only after
I’d finished did we realize that he had entered the numbers on his
desk phone’s keypad.
David Marland, on quora.com
Employee #1: I wouldn’t eat caviar. That’s fish eggs!
Employee #2: I’d try it. After all, I eat chicken eggs.
Employee #3: You eat chicken eggs?!
Thinking of skipping work? Don’t try these real excuses—they didn’t work the first time.
• My false teeth flew out the window while I was driving down the highway.
• I quit smoking and I’m grouchy.
• My favorite football team lost
on Sunday, so I needed Monday to
• I received a threatening phone
call from the electric company and needed to report it to the FBI.
• I got lost and ended up in a
I feel like I would enjoy getting out of bed more if I had to do it only three times a week. This every-day thing is overkill.
My teenage patient’s mother was concerned. “He must have a temperature,” she said. “He hasn’t taken our motorcycle out all day.”
“Let me ask you,” I said. “Do you have a thermometer?”
“No,” she said. “A Kawasaki.”
Craig Ray, Johns Creek, Georgia
“Why did you choose a college so far from home?” I asked my British student.
She explained that she’d fallen
in love with the American West by watching Westerns. So when it came time to apply for colleges, she Googled “Western universities.”
And that’s how she ended up here, at Western Carolina University.
Bill Spencer, Cullowhee, North Carolina
Professionals at the staffing agency Robert Half International have seen a lot of peculiar résumés. Here are some favorite gaffes, followed by wisecracks from the pros:
• Education: “I have a bachelorette degree in computers.” (The pajama party starts at 7 p.m.)
• Tools: “Human brain 1.0.” (We’ll wait for the upgrade.)
• References: “My landscaper.”
(A reference who will give you two green thumbs up.)
• Date of Employment: “2002–9999.” (She’s earned her gold watch!)
• Experience: “Worked successfully on a team of one.” (I assume you all got along?)
From resumania.com and Robert Half
The office Christmas party
is a great opportunity to catch up
with people you haven’t seen for
I tried to explain to a client why I couldn’t help him with a project that was written in a program code that I didn’t know.
“Let’s say you’re asking me to write something in a specific language. Now, I’m fluent in English and Spanish, but your project is in Chinese. Since
I don’t understand Chinese, I’m not your best option. You need someone who is fluent in this specific language. See?”
He said he did and thanked me.
The next morning, I got a call from another developer asking, “Why is
So-and-So asking us if we’re fluent
You’re sending me something via fax? What is it, an important document from 1993?
At the age of 55, I finally got
my bachelor’s degree and set out to
become a substitute teacher. One day, a seventh grader asked if I’d been teaching long.
“Actually, I’m brand-new,” I told him. “I just graduated.”
Looking me up and down, he asked, “How long were you in college?”
Debi Brim, Indianapolis, Indiana
From a passenger of the Vacaville,
California, public bus company:
I would like to commend driver Lea
Schroeder for the following reasons:
1. She frequently doesn’t stop for me when I’m waiting at the bus stop, but she always waves as she goes by.
2. If she’s running behind, she tells me, “Sit your butt down,” in a courteous way.
3. She nearly comes to a complete stop now when I disembark, so I haven’t fallen in almost a week.
4. Although she usually gives me
wrong instructions on which bus to
take, I enjoy riding all around Vacaville on the different routes.
5. The way she suddenly starts and stops, rides the rear bumper of the car ahead, and pulls several Gs of force when she turns corners unfailingly
elevates my heart rate. This has obvious health benefits.
Once again, I would like to commend Lea Schroeder for her outstanding work.
From Lea Schroeder, Vacaville, California, a bus driver with a great sense of humor
As I entered the elevator
at our hospital, a disheveled-
looking man rushed in behind me carrying a ceramic blue baby bootie filled with carnations.
I smiled knowingly and asked,
“Does he look like you?”
“I hope not,” he said. “I just deliver flowers.”
S. M. K., via mail
A student seeking a job at our university was handed an application. He dutifully filled out his name and address. When it came to the entry “length of residence,” he wrote: “Approximately 30 feet.”
Fred Karn, Kearney, Missouri
Scene: My client telling me what was required for the project.
Client: “We want a total of eight
languages—English, French, Spanish, Canadian …”
Recently I heard the former mayor of Reading, Pennsylvania,
recount some funny stories about his time in office. One happened while he was running for reelection; he was in a bar and paid for a
woman’s drink. She thanked him but wondered why a stranger had
bought her a beer.
“I’m running for mayor,” he told her, “and I want your vote.”
“You got it,” she said, grabbing her glass. “Anyone’s better than the jerk who’s in there now.”
A woman called the Colorado State Division of Wildlife regarding a snake in her backyard. “Can you tell me what kind it is?” she asked.
“Can you describe it?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said. “It’s long and thin.”
Charles Loeffler, Monument, Colorado
One of our interns asked
another if she was planning to sign up for the company’s 401(k).
“I’m considering it,” replied the second intern.
Later, the first intern approached me looking concerned.
“I did the math,” she said, “and 401K is almost 250 miles. She’ll never make it!”
Rebekah Shue, Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Boss to underling: “When I
told you that you smelled like bacon grease, it was a compliment.”
The British foreign office helps Brits traveling abroad. Here are some odder requests they’ve fielded:
• A man who was hospitalized in Cambodia when a monkey hit him with a stone wanted assurance that
it would not happen again.
• A man asked consular staff in Stockholm to check the credentials of a woman whom he had met online.
• A man asked staff in Rome to translate a phrase for a tattoo that he
Right now, I’m at work, using the Internet. But in my mind, I’m already at home, using the Internet.
We all make mistakes. Some
are just more public than others,
like these real newspaper typos:
“Here the bridal couple stood,
facing the floral setting, and exchanged cows.” Modesto News-Herald (California)
“It took many rabbits many years to write the Talmud.” Holland Evening Sentinel (Michigan)
“Mrs. ____ fell down stairs at her home this morning, breaking her myhodudududududududosy, and suffered painful injuries.” Ohio paper
“A headline in an item in the
Feb. 15th edition incorrectly stated ‘Stolen Groceries.’ It should have read: ‘Homicide.’” Enquirer-Bulletin
From Just My Typo, by Drummond Moir
(Three Rivers Press)
Scene: Me driving by a Taco Bell.
Sign: Now Hiring Managers.
[Two weeks later …]
Sign: Now Hiring Managers. Background Checks Required.
Our boss asked the new mail-room guy to make three copies of
an office key. The guy returned ten minutes later with the copies … which he’d made on the Xerox machine.
Gordon Knight, Stamford, Connecticut
Shane works in the deli department of a large supermarket chain, where he often finds himself in trouble. Just look at the notes management has supposedly written to him:
“Shane, stop putting Some
Assembly Required stickers on
the eight-piece chickens.”
“Shane, any free samples you
give must come from the deli, not electronics.”
“Shane, when a customer asks where to find a product, give them an aisle number, not directions to
Think the comments on Internet posts are tough? See what happened when the Washington Post asked its readers to write intentionally angry letters to actual headlines:
Headline: 20,000 Pound Pavement to Help Homeless
Response: “Are you people idiots? What the homeless need are homes, not ten tons of additional pavement!”
Headline: Maryland Agrees to
Response: “Well, that’s all we
need—an entire settlement of people devoted to their cancer sticks. What’s next, a drunk-driving commune?”
Headline: C.C. United Se Une
Hoy a Campana Solidaria Pro
Response: “I was disgusted with
the sloppy spelling for [this] article. There were so many typos, I couldn’t understand a word.”
We’ve been over this before:
Stupid doesn’t play well on job interviews. Hiring managers wish these
job seekers had gotten the memo.
• Applicant acted out a Star Trek role.
• Applicant asked for a hug.
• Applicant popped out his teeth when discussing dental benefits.
• Applicant crashed her car into
From CareerBuilder’s 2014 Interview Blunders Survey
While serving jury duty,
I noticed that the defense attorney seemed a bit nervous. At one
point, he picked up a piece of
evidence and asked his client, who was on the witness stand, “I see
an acronym on this receipt. What
would CAR stand for?”
The defendant replied, “Car.”
Kristi Boerner, Fleming, Colorado
When a zoo’s gorilla dies, the zookeeper hires an actor to don
a costume and act like an ape
until the zoo can get another one.
In the cage, the actor makes faces, swings around, and draws a huge crowd. He then crawls across a partition and atop the
lion’s cage, infuriating the animal. But the actor stays in character—until he loses his grip and falls into the lion’s cage.
Terrified, the actor shouts, “Help! Help me!” Too late. The lion pounces, opens
its massive jaws, and whispers, “Shut up! Do you want to get
us both fired?!”
The note left on the office refrigerator was addressed to “The culprit who ate what you thought were two peanut butter ice cream bars.”
We’ll skip over the details and
go straight to the signature:
“Love, Constipated-Dog Owner.”
Scene: Our break room. Coworker #1 pulls out a bottle of vitamins.
Coworker #2: What’s that?
Coworker #1: Vitamin D.
Coworker #2: Why do you take that?
Coworker #1: Because we live in Ohio, and we never see the sun.
Coworker #2: Wait a minute … they make a vitamin that gives you a tan?
Sally Churley, Cortland, Ohio
An irate patient called our
pathology group, demanding that
I explain every lab test on her statement. “Of course,” I said. I brought up her bill: “Number one, urinalysis …”
She interrupted me: “I’m a what?!”
When my customer ordered
iced tea, I asked, “Sweetened or
Her answer: “What’s the difference?”
Ruth Anne Pluckhorn, Moorestown, New Jersey
If a company’s most valuable
resource is its people, how come
the employees aren’t locked up,
but the toilet paper is in a
reinforced steel box with a lock, bolted to the stall?
Mark Severin, from humorlabs.com
The late comedian Mitch
Hedberg said that he would write jokes by sitting around his hotel room thinking of things that cracked him up. “Then I go get a pen, and
I write it down,” he said. “Or, if the pen’s too far away, I convince myself that what I thought of ain’t funny.”
Working for a news organization is a tough job, as these world-weary tweets suggest:
• News reporter: “The computer erased all the apostrophes in my story. Apparently I’m too possessive.”
• Copy editor, as group of Cub Scouts gets a tour: “There it is, ‘Scared Straight: Newsroom Edition.’”
• Producer: “Free food in the
newsroom is like oxygen masks on an airplane. You get yours first, then
you inform others.”
Today, my 808 area code phone number has yet again been mistaken for a 1-800 number. I’ve been getting phone calls at three in the morning from people on the East Coast trying to return their shoes. Even worse, they end up wanting to speak to my supervisor because I “don’t sound professional enough.”
“So what’s that brush for?” the new hire asked.
“It’s used to clean toilet bowls in the lobby,” said the first manager.
“Actually, it’s for scrubbing deep fryers,” said the second manager.
“Well, I’ve been cleaning toilets with it,” said the first manager.
“Um, I’m putting in for a new brush,” said the second manager.
I’m pretty sure the dinosaurs died out when they stopped gathering food and started having meetings to discuss gathering food.
I bragged to my boss that I didn’t need painkillers after a major surgery. His response: “This time, your evil superpowers came in handy.”
Patricia Speilburg, Port Huron, Michigan
The only qualification for working at an airline is making
a confused face at a monitor.
Comedian Julius Sharpe
I spent four years in
college. I didn’t learn
a thing. It was really
my own fault. I had
a double major
B. J. Novak, who says he was
hired as a writer
for The Office
on the strength
of the joke above.
My favorite part of the
conference call was the first 20
minutes of “Who just joined?”
Faculty at our university had to file an explanation when they gave a grade of Incomplete. One semester, a professor’s report read “Student #1 contracted mononucleosis. Student #2 contracted pregnancy.”
Bill Spencer, Cullowhee, North Carolina
A customer walked up to my
bank window and asked me to cash
“Of course,” I said. “But I’ll need to see ID.”
She dug though her purse and handed me a snapshot.
“That’s me in the middle,” she said.
Deborah Berkley, Yakima, Washington
One of my insurance customers faxed over the police report from
an auto accident. Several weeks later, she called asking for information from that report.
“Didn’t you keep the original copy?” I asked.
“No,” she said. “I faxed it to you.”
Sherri Smith, Carrollton, Texas
“How many times have you
“Were you alone or by yourself?”
“Was it you or your brother who was killed?”
“Without saying anything, tell the jury what you did next.”
“Was that the same nose you broke as a child?”
“Now, doctor, isn’t it true that when a person dies in his sleep,
he doesn’t know about it until the next morning?”
From The Dumb Book (Reader’s Digest Books)
Not the people who posted this sign at a bookstore that was going out of business: “Sorry, no public restroom. Try amazon.com.”
Source: Consumer Reports
One of the joys of working is
the opportunity to expense stuff you need. But did employees go too far with these items?
• Lottery tickets
• Pet food
• A tepee
• Hot tub supplies
• A fine for crashing into a tollbooth
Source: Robert Half Management Resources
Haircuts are great because I did none of the work but get all the credit.
@ludwig (Ludwig Pettersson)
Graduate school students
spend a lot of effort writing their
thesis papers, often in arcane, smarty-pants-speak. However, a few deigned to simplify their findings:
• “Some mice lick one foot more, and some mice lick the other foot more; it depends on the mouse.”
(Psychology, McGill University)
• “People don’t care what their subway stop is called, so it’s a good thing I stood outside in the rain and asked them.” (Urban Studies, University of Pennsylvania)
• “A kind of string theory nobody thought was true is probably not true.” (Physics, Brown University)
I was alone in an elevator when a girl stepped in with a phone pressed to her ear. “I have to go,” she told the person on the other end. “There’s
a cute guy standing here.” Before
I could react, she turned to me and said, “Sorry for lying. I just wanted to end that conversation.”
• Waitress wanted. Must be 18 years old with 20 years’ experience.
• Piano player wanted. Must have knowledge of opening clams.
• Now hiring cashier. Cannot look like “Skeletor” from “He-Man.”
• Cab drivers wanted. Must have good driving & criminal record.
Sources: top5.com, kulfoto.com, uselesshumor.com
Tired of referring to your bosses with the same old, sorry
expletives? Try some from abroad:
Chinese: “Your mother is a big turtle.”
Yiddish: “May you lie in the ground and bake bagels.”
Bulgarian: “You are as ugly as salad.”
Finnish: “Your mother married a reindeer!”
Spotted on a restaurant’s website: “Glutton-free menu available.”
Emily Payne, Greenville, South Carolina
Seen on a New York City subway poster: “Se habla Español/Russian.”
Aaron Fernando, Richmond Hill, New York
Read off a pharmacy marquee: “We sell beer & wine! We can flavor your child’s liquid Rx!”
Source: Consumer Reports
Question: Now, to the best of
your knowledge, did your internal bleeding stop?
Answer: I hope so.
Diane McElwee, Norfolk, Massachusetts
• I work in IT. A customer asked
me if a string of numbers I’d read off was upper- or lowercase.
• Someone once asked, “Is this the museum?” I work at a pool.
• A few of the things customers
have asked for at our art-supply
store include disco balls, trees, and crucifixion wood.
• I’m a butcher. A woman asked
if she could sleep in our freezer to test out a heavy-duty sleeping bag before a trip to the Himalayas.
A mother complained to my wife,
a schoolteacher, that other students were stealing her daughter’s pencils.
“It’s not the money—it’s the
principle,” she insisted. “My husband took those pencils from work.”
Roger Prengel, Lacey, Washington
A lawyer e-mailed a client: “Dear Jennifer: Thought I saw you on the street the other day. Crossed over to say hello, but it wasn’t you, so I went back. One tenth of an hour: $30.”
The China National Tourism Administration has created tips for its citizens when traveling abroad, including:
• Don’t steal life vests from airplanes to give as gifts.
• Don’t leave footprints on the toilet.
• Don’t dry your underwear on lampshades.
Heard over the plant’s paging
system: “Will John Porter please
return to where you were before you went where you are.”
Irene Onorato, Plymouth, Massachusetts
Journalists and editors on deadline make the occasional error. Some are funnier than others:
• NBC reported that American students rank internationally at: “26th math, 21th science, 17th reading.”
• Britain’s Sky News showed the
importance of punctuation: “Top
stories: World leaders at Mandela tribute, Obama–Castro handshake and same-sex marriage date set.”
• A retraction from Wired: “A previous version of this story incorrectly quoted Dropbox cofounder Drew Houston saying ‘anyone with nipples’ instead of ‘anyone with a pulse.’”
Sources: jonathanturley.org, Washington Times, poynter.org
Scene: A man applying for credit
at a department store.
Clerk: What do you do for a living?
Man: I’m a tree trimmer.
Clerk: What do you do after Christmas?
Ruth Sadeckas, Joelton, Tennessee
Recently, a man stopped at my desk at the library asking for help:
A woman had breast-fed her infant and forgotten to “tuck herself back in.” I walked over to Lady Godiva and said, “Ma’am, I’m very sorry, but we don’t allow open drink containers
in the library.”
• Were Moses alive today, the Ten Commandments would be known as the Ten Best Practices, presented in PowerPoint and followed by 40 years of status meetings.
• The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world
that he didn’t invent PowerPoint.
• No one ever says, “Boy, that ‘I Have a Dream’ speech could’ve been a lot better if Martin Luther King Jr. had used PowerPoint.”
While at a convention, Bill, Jim, and Scott shared a hotel suite
on the 75th floor. After a long day of meetings, they were shocked to find that the hotel elevators were broken and that they’d have to climb all the way up to their room.
“I have a way to break the monotony,” said Bill. “I’ll tell jokes for 25 flights, Jim can sing songs for the next 25, and Scott can tell sad stories the rest of the way.”
As they started walking up, Bill told his first joke. At the 26th floor, Jim began to sing. At the 51st floor, it was Scott’s turn.
“I will tell my saddest story first,” he said. “Once there was a man who left the room key in the car.”
Noah Jorgensen, Silsbee, Texas
Me: I have a Roundup Multi Purpose Sprayer that is defective.
Customer Rep: Ma’am, we’ll need the exact name of the item. Do you have the box?
Me: No, but it’s the Roundup Multi Purpose Sprayer.
Customer Rep: Ma’am, we’ll need the box so we can have the exact name of the product.
Me: Hold on. I’ll run out to my garage and get the box. [Long pause … ]
OK … [huff … puff] I have it. It says … Roundup Multi Purpose Sprayer.
Customer Rep: Thank you for that information, ma’am.
—Linda Mowry, Midlothian, Virginia
Three guys are fishing when an angel appears.
The first guy says, “I’ve suffered from back pain for years. Can you help me?” The angel touches the man’s back, and he feels instant relief.
The second guy points to
his thick glasses and begs for
a cure for his poor eyesight. When the angel tosses the lenses into the lake, the man
gains 20/20 vision.
As the angel turns to the third fellow, he instantly recoils and screams, “Don’t touch me! I’m on disability!”
Who wouldn’t be inspired
to hire this young man? If his
cover letter is to be believed, he’s
eager to light a fire under the most recalcitrant colleague:
“I am a
motivated, self-igniting person.”
Scene: The office
Me: We have to submit a form to
Coworker: All 51?
Coworker: Whatever. I’m not good
—Jill Lloyd, Bexley, Ohio
Scene: office cafeteria line
Friend: May I have pepper and salt?
(Counter guy looks confused.)
Friend: Sir? Pepper and salt?
(Counter guy grabs a bell pepper.)
Friend: No! Not that pepper. The pepper and salt …
Me: You know, like you shake it on?
(Coworker looks over.)
Coworker: Dude! She means the salt and pepper!
Counter guy: Oh! Why didn’t you just say that?
After interviewing a candidate for an open position, I got a thank-you e-mail, stating, “It was a pressure meeting you.”
—Michele Davis, Onsted, Michigan
Phlebotomist: I’m here to draw some blood.
Patient: But I just received blood yesterday.
Phlebotomist: You didn’t think you’d get to keep it, did you?
—Rebecca Shafer, Springfield, Missouri
There was a period when our company’s ownership was constantly changing hands, resulting in a new name for the business each time. After the latest regime and name change, I said, “We’re going to need a new company sign out front.”
A colleague said, “We don’t need a new sign; we need a blackboard.”
—Gary Schneider, St. Cloud, Minnesota
As a flight attendant, I wear a watch with two faces: one set for the time in our departure city, and the other set for our destination city. One day, a passenger asked me for the time. Looking at my watch, I told her, “It’s 9:41 in Chicago and 5:41 in Honolulu.”
Intrigued, she asked, “Is the watch available for other cities?”
—Pam Tatreau, Hermosa Beach, California
A client walked into my design studio with a black-and-white flyer.
Client: Can you make a color copy?
Me: Do you have the original?
Client: No. Just this one.
Me: Sorry, I can’t make color copies unless I have the original color version.
Client (confused): Why can’t you just run it through the color copier?
A doctor sent this note to our medical clinic: “Patient needs a
referral for your office from me. I saw her for her ankle and would like you to run over it.”
—M. P., via e-mail
These office drones know exactly what you’re thinking at work:
• No one likes hearing “agree to disagree.” Why don’t we just say, “You’re wrong, but I don’t feel like fighting about it right now”?
• Sorry, I don’t listen to lectures on being organized from people with 60 icons on their laptop’s desktop.
• Answers to questions asked on the way to the bathroom are not
legally binding. People will agree to anything in that situation.
Supervisor: This project isn’t something we can finish off quickly. It’s like an onion. It has layers that we have to peel away, one by one.
Coworker: And it will make us cry a lot.
It’s Winter break time, and a lot of people will be traveling. Which means it’s also a great time to be the person who gets to approve visa requests, like these handed in by travelers to England.
• “I want to be closer to Elton John. He doesn’t come to Togo. Do you see him much in Britain?”
• “Do you know if it’s easier to find a wife in England? I’m struggling here [in Peru].”
• “Is everybody friends with the queen?”
My cousin once called in sick to work because of a “death in the family.”
I was her boss.
Our business relies heavily on abbreviations. For example, I called a customer the other day. Reading from my printout, I asked, “Are you still a fun director?”
After a pause, he replied, “I’m a funeral director.”
Susan Ladd, Coatesville, Pennsylvania
I just set my e-mail’s auto-response to ‘I’m looking into this now. I’ll let you know.’ I literally never have to respond to e-mails again.
One of my fourth-grade students told me he had trouble with math. His explanation summed it up well: “The guy next to me always gets ten out of ten on his quizzes, and I get only ten out of four.”
Noelle Bidwell, North Battleford, Canada
Doing your best not to join
the workforce? Just act like these job seekers did while meeting hiring managers:
• Candidate said he had to quit a banking job because he was always tempted to steal.
• Candidate said he didn’t want the job if he had to work a lot.
• Candidate called his wife to see what they were having for dinner.
• Candidate emptied the employer’s candy dish into her pocket.
• Candidate wouldn’t answer a question because he thought the company would steal his idea and not hire him.
From an ad for an acting job: “When we finish the commercial,
it will be shown on screens in over 200 supermarkets. It’s a great opportunity for you to expose yourself in front of everyone!”
Yvonne Mikalopas, North Brunswick, New Jersey
If you’re a freelance graphic designer, the only thing worse than no clients might be these clients:
“You think it’s right to charge us for things just because we don’t have the ability to do them ourselves?”
“Make everything bold so it all stands out.”
“OK, the project has been approved, unless our client wants changes. In that case, it’s not approved.”
Comedian Daniel Tosh is no fan
of the expression “The worst day
of fishing is better than the
best day at work.”
“I’ve watched The Deadliest
Catch on Discovery,”
he said. “I’ve never once
been at work, capsized in
40-degree water, watched all my coworkers die, and been like, ‘Hey, at least we’re fishin’.’”
In New York City, if you have a complaint or a question, dial the city’s
311 hotline and you might get it solved. We doubt these callers did.
“Who won American Idol?”
“Can you check to see if my boyfriend is married?”
“Can I claim my dog on my income tax?”
Source: New York Magazine
I recently ran into an old student of mine, who said, “I always liked you. You never had favorites. You were mean to everyone.”
Lois Henry, Farmington, Maine
Scene: Me at our auto dealership, cold-calling customers.
Me: Hi, I’m calling on behalf of…
Customer: Is this a recording?
Me: No, I am not a recording, sir. May I please speak to…
Customer: I don’t believe you!
Going in for a job interview? Don’t mess it up with questions like these from real candidates:
“Can my husband finish the test for me?”
“Would you consider going on a date with me?”
“Can I place my desk near the cafeteria?”
“Do I have to be at work every day?”
From a study by the staffing firm OfficeTeam
Mike went into work an hour late, his face scratched and bruised, his glasses bent.
“What happened to you?” his boss asked.
“I fell down two flights of stairs.” Mike said.
His boss was aghast. “That took you a whole hour?”
I could barely understand my client due to a lousy phone connection.
“Sorry,” he said. “I have the AT&T every-other-word plan.”
Sam Cohen, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
When I interviewed for a job six months after my 70th birthday,
I was asked my age. With nothing to hide, I replied, “I’m halfway to my 71st birthday.”
The interviewer looked skeptical. “No offense,” he said, “but you look older than 35.”
Michael E. Hunt, Woodacre, California
Here are actual comments bosses made to employees during their
“I’ve got great news. You managed to avoid a salary decrease.”
“No, we don’t promote family members first. It’s just coincidence.”
“Before you came to my department, you were such a shining star—full of new ideas and enthusiasm. What happened to you?”
“This is a salary review. Let’s not focus on the money.”
An accountant is having a hard time sleeping and goes to see his doctor.
“Doctor, I just can’t get to sleep at night,” he says.
“Have you tried counting sheep?” asks the doctor.
“That’s the problem. I make a mistake and then spend three hours trying to find it.”
Reddit.com asked workers: What is rule number one in your profession? Here’s what came back:
Plumber: “Don’t chew your fingernails.”
Roofer: “You are fired before you hit the ground.”
Camp counselor: “Don’t lose the kid.”
Scuba diver: “If it moves, it wants to kill you.”
Photographer: “Take the lens cap off.”
My boss gave me a generic birthday card. It read “Happy Birthday, Greg!” with the word Greg crossed out and my name penned in above it. Greg was fired last month.
From the news: “Bob” was considered a star at the computer company where he worked. He made a six-figure salary and routinely received excellent performance reviews.
And now we know why: Without his boss’s knowledge, “Bob” had outsourced his entire job to a company in China—for a fifth of his salary. He then spent his days at his desk playing games, shopping on eBay, and watching cat videos.
Suit: Do you have what I call a Sharpie?
Secretary: … What you call a Sharpie?
Secretary: … You and no one else?
Suit: It’s like a felt-tipped pen.
Secretary: Oh, I know what it is.
Suit: Well, do you have one?
Secretary: Yes, I do. I keep it here in what I call a drawer.
Today, my boss fired me from my job at a local family-owned business. Thanks, Mom.
Yesterday, a guy came up to me at work and said, “How are you ever going to get a job with all those piercings?” I’ll say that again. A guy came up to me … at work … and asked, “How are you ever going to get a job with all those piercings?”
We asked prospective job applicants at our business to fill out a questionnaire. For the line “Choose one word to summarize your strongest professional attribute,” one woman wrote, “I’m very good at following instructions.”
A graphic designer on the phone with his client.
Designer: Hi. I’m just updating the copy for your form and was wondering if you meant to say “programs” for the third question.
Client: No! What I sent along was completely accurate. Just copy it over exactly as it says. I’ll explain it nice and slowly for you.
Designer: “Please indicate which pogroms you’ve attended”?
Client: Yeah, that should be programs.
My brother delivered prescriptions to people too ill to go out. Since the neighborhoods he visited were often unsafe, he decided to get some protection.
"Why do you need a pistol?" asked the clerk at the gun shop.
My brother had to explain, "I deliver drugs at night and carry a lot of money."
When you’re interviewing for a job, you want to make an impression.
Hiring managers report that these people made one—just not the right kind:
Applicant hugged hiring manager at the end of the interview.
Applicant ate all the candy from the candy bowl while trying to answer questions.
Applicant blew her nose and lined up the used tissues on the table in front of her. Applicant wore a hat that said "Take this job and shove it."
Applicant talked about how an affair cost him a previous job.
Applicant threw his beer can in the outside trash can before coming into the reception area.
Applicant’s friend came in and asked, "How much longer?"
To show his appreciation, a newly hired Japanese office worker bought his boss chocolates. But when he found the box unopened, the insulted worker went ballistic, destroying 22 computers. "I wish the company president had cared a little more," the employee’s lawyer said.
A job applicant was asked, "What would you consider to be your main strengths and weaknesses?"
"Well," he began, "my main weakness would definitely be my issues with reality—telling what’s real from what’s not."
"Okay," said the interviewer. "And what are your strengths?"
A truer tweet has never been tweeted: "4:30 is to meeting as water is to boarding."
Job hunting is stressful enough without having to answer these interview questions posed by hiring managers:
"Rate yourself on a scale of one to ten how weird you are."
"How many basketballs can you fit in this room?"
"An apple costs 20 cents, an orange costs 40 cents, and a grapefruit costs 60 cents. How much is a pear?"
"How many bottles of beer are consumed in the city each week?"
A candy company’s sales team was promised a trip to sunny Hawaii this past winter if they met their sales quota. They missed their mark and instead got the consolation prize: a vacation in Fargo, North Dakota, where the temperature was 7 degrees.
Meetingboy.com invites viewers to gripe about their jobs. Some of the best responses: "No, I wasn’t playing devil’s advocate. I really think your idea is stupid."
"Getting an excellent performance review but then no raise is like being told you get dessert, then learning the dessert is celery."
"Of course it wasn’t convincing. That 60-slide PowerPoint presentation wasn’t to convince people. It was to break their will."
"You had me at ‘meeting canceled.’"
My sister Angela was impressed by a job applicant’s confidence. "How will you gain your coworkers’ respect?" she asked. The reply: "Mainly through my misdemeanor."
After receiving the umpteenth late-night communication from a business associate in Asia, I grumbled to my son, "Don’t ever work for a global company!"
A reservist, he said, "I already do. It’s called the U.S. Army."
Someone advertising on Craigslist said she was well suited for child care. After all, she had plenty of experience in "CPR and Choking Children."
When a woman applies for a job at a citrus grove, the foreman asks, "Do you have any experience picking lemons?"
"Well," she answers, "I’ve been divorced three times."
When asked her opinion on punctuality, an applicant for an office job assured me she thought it was extremely important. "I use periods, commas, and question marks all the time," she said.
My friend had been pounding the pavement in search of a job with no luck. Frustrated, she asked her dad to look at her résumé. He didn’t get much further than the first line of her cover letter before spotting the problem.
"Is it too generic?" she asked.
"I doubt it," said her father.
"Especially since it’s addressed ‘Dear Sir or Madman.’"
"Why did you leave your last job?"
"It was something my boss said."
"What did he say?"
Applicants for jobs at the company where my friend Diana works are asked to fill out a questionnaire. Among the things candidates list is their high school and when they attended. One prospective employee dutifully wrote the name of his high school, followed by the dates attended: "Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday."
My go-getter coworker asked me, "Andrea, why put off till tomorrow what you can do today?”
I replied, "On the chance that I get fired this afternoon and don’t have to do it at all.”
Workers at the Carlsberg brewery in Denmark walked off the job after losing a prized perk: unlimited beer at work. They now have to settle for three beers at lunch. A worker told the Wall Street Journal that wasn’t enough: "I need a beer when I take a cigarette break."
We know you’d never do it, but some people concoct crazy stories so they can skip work. Here are a few, collected by hiring managers:
• Employee said a chicken attacked his mom.
• Employee had a hair transplant that went bad.
• Employee called in sick from a bar at 5 p.m. the night before.
• Employee had to mow the lawn to avoid a lawsuit from the homeowners’ association.
• Employee’s finger was stuck in a bowling ball.
• Employee fell asleep at his desk while at work and hit his head, causing a neck injury.
When a Middletown, New Jersey, police officer retired, he cited low morale. But he didn’t leave quietly. While walking the beat on his last day, he wrote 14 tickets for expired inspection stickers … all to police patrol cars.
Posted by the Illinois Valley News: "How bad do you want to be a reporter? Bad enough to work nights and weekends? In exchange for your long hours and tireless efforts, you will be rewarded with low pay and marginal health insurance."
I just saw an ad for a position I feel completely qualified for: "Wanted: bartenders. No exp. necessary. Must have: legal ID, phone, transportation, and teeth."
The Twitter account @MeetingBoy invites viewers to gripe about work. Some of our favorite responses:
Hey, everybody! My boss is running a special on poorly thought-out, unworkable ideas today. The discount code is YESSIR.
Making up new words for business jargon embiggens us all.
Is he replaceable? Only if there’s a 180-pound rock that can keep his chair in place.
The toughest part of applying for a new job is having to explain why you’re no longer at your previous one. Here are rationalizations from cover letters that did no one any good:
"My boss thought I could do better elsewhere."
"The company made me a scapegoat, just like my three previous employers."
"Note: Please don’t misconstrue my 14 jobs as ‘job hopping.’ I have never quit a job."
"Responsibilities make me nervous."
Cops had no trouble tracking down a woman who allegedly shoplifted from a Toronto-area store. A few minutes earlier, she had interviewed for a job there and left her résumé.
Clientsfromhell.com was established by freelance art directors and graphic designers who have seen the dark side of their clients … and survived.
Client No. 1: So it turns out you were right about me wanting a colon instead of a semicolon. But since we’re on the subject, I’d like you to revisit the copy and include more semicolons. I want people to think we’re smart.
Client No. 2: Since you have overbid on our project, can you recommend anyone who has your exact same design skills and client-relationship abilities for half the cost?
Client No. 3: Please be sure to print the cover and the table of contents at the front of the book, then print the chapters in this order: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16.
While I was assigned to the space shuttle program, my job included ordering supplies. One of the engineers requested a new dictionary. Following regulations, I asked him why he needed it.
I expected his answer to be "My old copy is lost" or "The cover is falling off." Instead he said, "My current edition defines spaceship as an ‘imaginary aircraft.’"
He got his new dictionary.
Need a reason for being late to work? Don’t try these—they didn’t help any of the workers who actually used them.
My deodorant was frozen to the windowsill.
My car door fell off.
I dreamed I was already at work.
I had an early-morning gig as a clown.
September is Be Kind to Editors and Writers Month. As these quotes from overheardinthenewsroom.com prove, we need all the sympathy we can get.
First editor: "They just sent in a correction on the obit."
Second editor: "Is she still dead?"
Editor to reporter writing political trend story: "We’d better move it today. It might not be true tomorrow."
City editor assuring a reporter:
"It might get you arrested, but it won’t get you fired."
Metro editor, commenting on parade floats made out of newspapers:
"Can’t do that with the Internet."
During her retirement party from the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office, coworkers told stories about my less-than-worldly mother.
My favorite came from her supervisor, who recalled one of the first arrest reports Mom had created.
Under "Offense," she’d typed, "Possession of cannibals."
I called a temp agency looking for work, and they asked if I had any phone skills. I said, "I called you, didn’t I?"
Going on a job interview? Take pity on the poor hiring managers, who filed these reports: "The applicant smelled his armpits on the way to the interview room."
"The candidate told the interviewer he was fired from his last job for beating up his boss."
"An applicant said she was a ‘people person,’ not a ‘numbers person,’ in her interview for an accounting position.
Humorist Phil Proctor does a lot of radio voice-overs. But his favorite part of the job is reading the character descriptions in the script:
• "We’re looking for the voice of God, but not a goofy God, a real God."
• "Sounds good-looking."
• (For a fast-food campaign) "This is not a bitter chicken, but he is having trouble coping with the modern world."
• "Female voice. American. Sultry, like drinking chocolate from the back of a moose."
I opened the refrigerator at work to get my lunch. Instead of my dessert, I found this note: "IOU one banana cream. Sorry, it was an emergency. Sharon."
When my boss returned to the office, he was told that everyone had been looking for him. That set him off on a speech about how indispensable he was to the company.
"Actually," interrupted his assistant, "you left with the key to the stationery closet."
One read through this man’s résumé and it was no wonder he was looking for a new line of work: Under "Previous Job," he’d written, "Stalker at Walmart."
A job application made me do a double take. After the entry "Sex," the applicant had written, "Once in Florida."
I won’t be hiring this assistant soon, even if her résumé boasts, "I’m a team player with 16 years of assassinating experience."
While auditing one of our departments, an assistant asked me what I was doing. "Listing your assets," I told her.
"Oh," she said. "Well, I have a good sense of humor and I make great lasagna."
An employment website boasted that it provided training, counseling, and placement services. What’s more, “many services are available in Spanish, and we arrange interrupters.”
A friend had a waitressing position open at his diner and asked job seekers to fill out an application. Under "Salary Expected," a woman wrote "Friday."
A job interviewer asked me where I wanted to be in five years. I said, "Ideally, suspended with pay."
I had an inauspicious start as a dog groomer when one of my first clients bit me. Noticing my pain, my boss voiced her concern.
"Whatever you do," she said, "don’t bleed on the white dogs."
Our daughter took the afternoon off from her job at the funeral home to visit her daughter in preschool. When one of the kids asked what she did for a living, my granddaughter answered for her: "She sells underground furniture."
Before leaving my assistant job for greener pastures, I was asked to reply to applicants hoping to replace me. "Very smart and intelligent," my boss had written on one of the applications. "Too good for this job."
How do you get human resources to remember you? Try pulling some of these actual interview stunts.
Balding applicant abruptly excused himself and returned a few minutes later wearing a hairpiece.
Applicant asked to see the reviewer’s résumé to see if the personnel executive was qualified to interview him.
Applicant phoned his therapist during the interview for advice on answering specific questions.
During the interview, an alarm clock went off in the applicant’s briefcase. He apologized and said he had to leave for another interview.
Applicant challenged the interviewer to arm-wrestle.
During a conference, I was pleasantly surprised to be seated next to a very handsome man. We flirted casually through dinner, then grew restless as the dignitaries gave speeches. During one particularly long-winded lecture, my new friend drew a # sign on a cocktail napkin. Elated, I wrote down my phone number.
Looking startled for a moment, he drew another # sign, this time adding an X to the upper-left-hand corner.
How do you get hiring managers to hire you? Don’t pull these actual, creepily creative stunts:
Applicant put up posters of himself in the company parking lot.
Applicant announced his candidacy with a singing telegram.
Applicant rented a billboard, which the hiring manager could see from his office, listing his qualifications.
Applicant delivered prepaid Chinese food, including a fortune cookie with his name and phone number.
According to careerbuilder.com, a full 15 percent of workers admit to getting to the office late at least once a week. And here are some of their excuses:
I have transient amnesia and couldn’t remember my job.
I was indicted for securities fraud this morning.
Someone stole all my daffodils.
I had to go audition for American Idol.
I was trying to get my gun back from the police.
Here’s a job to avoid: hiring manager. See what you’d have to contend with?
The candidate answered his cell phone and asked the interviewer to leave her own office because it was a "private" conversation.
The candidate told the interviewer he wouldn’t stay with the job long because he might get an inheritance if his uncle died—and the old man wasn’t "looking too good."
The candidate said she couldn’t provide a writing sample because all her writing had been for the CIA and it was "classified."
When the applicant was offered food, he declined, saying he didn’t want to line his stomach with grease before going out drinking.
The candidate flushed the toilet while talking to the interviewer during a phone interview.
I input a junior manager’s self-evaluation, which said in part, "I have been on the job for three months, and I finally feel as if I’ve accomplished something." I made one mistake, however. I replaced the word job with John.
What’s the finest example of fiction today? The résumé. Here are some classics sent to bemused hiring managers.
Candidate listed military service dating back to before he was born.
Candidate claimed to be a member of the Kennedy family.
Job seeker claimed to be the CEO of a company, when he was an hourly employee.
Job seeker included samples of work, which were actually those of the interviewer.
Johnson, who always shows up for work on time, comes in an hour late, his face scratched and bruised, his glasses bent.
"What happened to you?" his boss asks.
"I fell down two flights of stairs," Johnson answers.
"That took you a whole hour?"
Looking for a job? Try to avoid these résumé bombs, collected from bemused hiring managers:
Candidate specified that his availability was limited because Friday, Saturday, and Sunday was "drinking time."
Candidate explained an arrest by stating, "We stole a pig, but it was a really small pig."
Advertising is a tough business. Which may be why one prospective adman wrote a cover letter boasting, "I am getting to my goal, slowly but surly."
After my daily jog to work, I found a colleague standing outside our building, puffing on a cigarette. Seeing that I was sweaty and out of breath, she became concerned. "Just how far away did you park?"
Conversation at our business lunch turned to illegal immigration. “I read an article that said 60 percent of Americans are immigrants,” commented one of my colleagues. “That can’t be true,” another said.
“No,” agreed a Native American co-worker. “There’s a lot more of you than that.”
We know you’d never do it, but some people concoct crazy stories for skipping work. Here are a few, collected by hiring managers:
Employee didn’t want to lose his parking space in front of his house.
Employee said he had a heart attack that morning but that he was "all better now."
Employee’s dog was stressed-out after family reunion.
Employee contracted mono after kissing a mailroom intern at the company holiday party.
When I phoned my employee to find out why she hadn’t come to the office, I expected to hear a sob story about how sick she was, blah, blah, blah. Instead, her excuse was pretty plausible.
"When I was driving to work, I took a wrong turn," she explained. "And then I just decided to keep going."
How not to become a member of senior management:
During a meeting, our bosses held a contest to name a new project. As members of the management team read through the entries, our CEO picked one out and asked, "Who knows what a phoenix is?"
A junior manager answered, "It’s a bird in Harry Potter."
"’That’s a great place to work!" shouted my 16-year-old brother after coming home from the first day at his first job. "I get two weeks’ paid vacation."
"I’m so glad," said my mother.
"Yeah," added John. "I can’t wait to find out where they send me."
A waitress at our restaurant had a change of clothes stolen from the break room. Making matters worse, she"d planned on wearing them to the Christmas party.
As a brand-new employee, I didn’t know any of this backstory, so I was a bit surprised to find this indignant note posted on the community board: "It has been two weeks since the Christmas party, and I still have not found my clothes."
The brave new memo about the company’s revised travel policy read as follows: We were no longer allowed to buy cheap tickets via the Internet. Instead, we were required to use the more expensive company travel department. Furthermore, to show how much money we were saving, we were asked to comparison-shop for fares—on the Internet.
I thought the typo in the last line of the memo summed it up best: "The new process is ineffective today."
One Saturday night my boss and her family came to our house to play cards. As they were driving away at the end of the evening, I discovered that she had left her purse in a corner next to the dining-room hutch. I was about to call her house, intending to leave a message on the answering machine, when my son reminded me that they had a cell phone.
As I dialed the number, I marveled at the technology that would alert them before they had driven all the way home. A few seconds later the purse began to ring.
Who says companies only care about the bottom line? Ours is socially conscious and offers employees fun outdoor activities throughout the complex.
Both of these admirable elements were driven home one day when a voice over the loudspeaker boomed "Everyone who signed up to donate blood, please report to the rifle range!"
Problems with my laptop required calling the dreaded company help line. The service rep, based in another country, did not speak English very well. So I tried to explain it as simply as possible:
"I can’t get the computer to work."
"Ah, I see," he responded. "You are unable to transport your computer to your place of employment."
Although desperate to find work, I passed on a job I found on an employment website. It was for a wastewater plant operator. Among the job requirements: "Must be able to swim."
A fellow cop from our precinct had only a few months left on the job, and he could always be heard ticking off the weeks, days, hours and minutes. Our chief was not amused.
"I’ve been on the job for 43 years, and I’ve never counted off the days until I’m outta here," he said.
I couldn’t help agreeing with him. "That’s because everyone else is counting for you."
In Hong Kong on business, my friend Rocky was in a cab, and the driver pointed to some Asians on the sidewalk. "They are Americans," he said.
"How can you tell?" asked Rocky.
Pointing to his gut, Rocky asked, "Well, what about me?"
Since insulted fares are the worst tippers, the driver responded, "You are not fat. You are prosperous."
Even though it was warm outside, the heat was on full blast in my office at the hospital. So I asked our nursing unit secretary to get someone to fix it. This was a one-man job, so I could not figure out why two guys showed up — until I was handed the maintenance request form. It read "Head nurse is hot."
When my daughter was preparing for her school’s "career week," a time when career options are discussed and often led by representatives of different professions, we talked about my job as an airline customer-services representative. I mentioned that one of my responsibilities was to load passengers’ luggage at the check-in counter. I later found out to my dismay that my daughter had listed my occupation as "Bag Lady."
When employees of the restaurant where I work attended a fire-safety seminar, we watched a fire official demonstrate the proper way to operate an extinguisher. "Pull the pin like a hand grenade," he explained, "then depress the trigger to release the foam."
Later, an employee was selected to extinguish a controlled fire in the parking lot. In her nervousness, she forgot to pull the pin.
Our instructor hinted, "Like a hand grenade, remember?"
In a burst of confidence, she pulled the pin—and hurled the extinguisher at the blaze.
A New York retail clerk was suffering from aching feet. "It’s all those years of standing," his doctor declared. "You need a vacation. Go to Miami, soak your feet in the ocean and you’ll feel better."
When the man got to Florida, he went into a hardware store, bought two large buckets and headed for the beach.
"How much for two buckets of that seawater?" he asked the lifeguard.
"A dollar a bucket," the fellow replied with a straight face.
The clerk paid him, filled his buckets, went to his hotel room and soaked his feet. They felt so much better he decided to repeat the treatment that afternoon. Again he handed the lifeguard two dollars. The young man took the money and said, "Help yourself."
The clerk started for the water, then stopped in amazement. The tide was out. "Wow," he said, turning to the lifeguard. "Some business you got here!"
On the afternoon of Administrative Professionals Day, my co-worker and I finally found the time to get gifts for our secretaries. While at the store, my colleague noticed my disappointment when I discovered the shop didn’t provide gift wrapping. "What’s wrong?" he asked.
"They won’t wrap the gifts for us," I answered.
"No problem," he said quickly. "I’ll ask my secretary to do it."
I was delighted to discover that I could play compact discs in the new computer my company had given me. One morning I was enjoying one of my favorite Beethoven pieces when an administrative assistant stopped by to deliver a stack of papers.
Hearing classical music filling the air, she stopped and exclaimed, "Poor you. They put you on hold?"
Our copier was on the fritz so I put a note on it: "Service has been called." When the technician told me he had to order parts, I added a second note: "Parts have been ordered."
During the next five days, when we had to use an older, slower copier on the other side of the building, someone taped a third note to the machine: "Prayers have been said."
Everyone at the company I worked for dressed up for Halloween. One fellow’s costume stumped us. He simply wore slacks and a white T-shirt with a large 98.6 printed across the front in glitter. When someone finally asked what he was supposed to be, he replied, "I’m a temp."
Anytime companies merge, employees worry about layoffs. When the company I work for was bought, I was no exception. My fears seemed justified when a photo of the newly merged staff appeared on the company’s website with the following words underneath:
Our office building’s only elevator was acting up. When I rode it to the lobby on my way to lunch, the door refused to open. Trying not to panic, I hit the emergency button, which triggers an automatic call to the repair service.
Through the speaker in the elevator, I heard the call going through and then a recorded announcement: "The area code of the number you dialed has been changed. The new area code is 810. Please hang up and dial again."
Some of my co-workers and I decided to remove the small, wooden suggestion box from our office because it had received so few entries. We stuck the box on top of a seven-foot-high metal storage cabinet and then promptly forgot about it. Months later, when the box was moved during remodeling, we found a single slip of paper inside. The suggestion read, "Lower the box!"
One of my pet peeves as a musician in a symphony orchestra is trying to follow the erratic beat of famous guest conductors. I didn’t realize how strongly the rest of the musicians felt until we were talking to someone from a university physics department at a reception. When I asked him what his field was, he answered, "I work with semiconductors." "So do we," I heard a colleague mutter.
My husband, Daniel, had been promoted to a newly created position. He was eager to find out what his official title was, so when his business cards finally arrived, I was surprised that he seemed reluctant to show me. After some persuasion, Daniel gave me a card, naming him director of product efficiency. “Wow,” I responded, “that sounds impressive.”
“Not really,” Daniel replied as he removed my thumb from the acronym underneath. It read DOPE.
During the latter stages of my pregnancy, I brought a cushion to work to make my chair more comfortable. One afternoon I returned from lunch to find my chair had been pushed to the far side of my work area.
"Looks like someone’s been sitting in my chair," I commented to one of my co-workers.
Glancing down at my stomach, she said, "Looks like someone’s also been sleeping in your bed."
Overheard: "Yesterday I got my tie stuck in the fax machine. Next thing I knew, I was in Los Angeles."
A female attorney in a law office found a typewriter on her desk with this note: “We are short of secretarial help and need your assistance.”
Recognizing that this was yet another prank by her male colleagues, she quickly typed a response that forever squelched the jokes: “I wold lov to hep out eny wey I kan.”
When I was a rookie police officer, I was flustered by citizens who got upset if I gave them a traffic ticket. They would accuse me of trying to complete my quota for the month. Then a veteran officer gave me some useful advice.
The next motorist I stopped sarcastically commented, “I guess this will help you reach your quota.”
I smiled and, repeating my mentor’s words, replied, “No, sir, they took our quota away. Now we can write as many as we want.”
A friend and I used to run a small temporary-staffing service. Our agency did mandatory background checks on all job candidates, even though our application form asked them if they’d ever been convicted of a crime.
One day after a round of interviews, my co-worker was entering information from a young man’s application into the computer. She called me over to show me that he had noted a previous conviction for second-degree manslaughter. Below that, on the line listing his skills, he had written, "Good with people."
In honor of my brother’s retirement from the police force, my sister-in-law decided to throw a surprise party for him. Plans made in secrecy over a two-month period included catering and entertainment decisions as well as travel accommodations for over 100 friends and relatives from around the country.
At the party, my brother stood up to address his guests. As he looked around the room at everyone who had secretly gathered on his behalf, he shook his head and said, "After 25 years on the police force, I finally know why I never made detective."
The clinic where I work promoted a co-worker to head the payroll department, or Payment Management Systems. The title on his door now reads "PMS Director."
Our local newspaper ran several stories about a study that tied male obesity to a virus. One evening my brother came in exhausted from a long day at work. "Did you read the paper?" he asked.
"I won’t be going in to work tomorrow. I’m calling in fat."
An acquaintance of mine was hired as a research assistant by the physics department of a West Coast university to investigate the thermodynamic properties of wood. Two weeks after starting work he was approached by an encyclopedia salesman who explained that purchase of the encyclopedia entitled the buyer to have any three special questions answered completely. To save himself a great deal of work, the researcher bought the encyclopedia, stipulating for his first free question a full dissertation on the thermodynamic properties of wood.
Three weeks later the head of the physics department called the research assistant into his office and said, "We have a request from an encyclopedia company. One of their customers has asked for a report on the thermodynamic properties of wood. Please prepare the report for them."
It was our new receptionist’s very first job, and it showed in the way she dressed—her revealing clothes screamed "college" more than "office." As diplomatically as he could, our boss sat her down and told her that she would have to dress more appropriately. "Why?" she asked. "Are we going out to lunch?"
When a fellow piano tuner was ill, I took over his assignment of tuning a piano in a girls’ boardinghouse. While I was at work, several of the girls strolled casually through the room in various states of undress. The climax came when a young lady in startling deshabille appeared to pay the bill.
As I was writing the receipt, she suddenly gave me a bewildered look, then fled, screaming, “That’s not our regular man!”
Their regular man is blind.
I was working as a short-order cook at two restaurants in the same neighborhood. On a Saturday night, I was finishing up the dinner shift at one restaurant and hurrying to report to work at the second place. But I was delayed because one table kept sending back an order of hash browns, insisting they were too cold. I replaced them several times, but still the customers were dissatisfied.
When I was able to leave, I raced out the door and arrived at my second job. A server immediately handed me my first order. "Make sure these hash browns are hot," she said, "because these people just left a restaurant down the street that kept serving them cold ones."
The boss placed a sign directly over the sink in the men’s room at work. It had a single word on it: "Think!"
The next day when the boss went to the men’s room, he saw another sign had been placed immediately above the soap dispenser.
It read: "Thoap!"
Being the office supervisor, I had to have a word with a new employee who never arrived at work on time. I explained that her tardiness was unacceptable and that other employees had noticed that she was walking in late every day. After listening to my complaints, she agreed that this was a problem and even offered a solution.
"Is there another door I could use?"
Another man and I share a locker at work. Noticing that it needed a new combination lock, my partner said he would pick one up on his way to work the next day. It occurred to me later that I might not see him in the morning. How would I find out the combination? I needn’t have worried.
When I arrived at work I found that he had used the locker before me and had left a note reading: “To find the first number subtract 142 from your high score the last time we went bowling. The second number is 16 less than that. To find the third number subtract 1.87 from the amount you owe me.”
Hard to believe, but many of our customers at the bank still don’t know how to swipe their card through the ATM card reader. Because of this, my fellow tellers and I often find ourselves having to explain how it’s done. One teller complained that she kept getting odd looks every time she explained it. I found out why when I overheard her tell one man, “Strip down facing me.”
My brother Jim was hired by a government agency and assigned to a small office cubicle in a large area. At the end of his first day, he realized he couldn’t see over the panels to find his way out, so he waited until he saw someone else leaving and followed him. He did the same the next day. On the third day he had to work late, long after his colleagues had left. He wandered around lost in the maze of cubicles and corridors, but then, just as panic began to set in, he came upon another employee in a cubicle.
"How do you get out of here?" Jim asked.
The fellow looked up from his desk, smiled and said, "No cheese for you."
The company where I work provides four-foot-high cubicles so each employee can have some privacy. One day a co-worker had an exasperating phone conversation with one of her teenage sons. After hanging up, she heaved a sigh and said, "No one ever listens to me."
Immediately, several voices from surrounding cubicles called out, "Yes, we do."
My nephew, a flight attendant, split the back of his pants one day during a flight. To save embarrassment, he decided to work in front of the beverage cart, facing forward.
The arrangement worked perfectly until he got to the last row and a passenger leaned over to him and said in a low voice, “Your fly is open.”
I was halfway through a meeting with a photocopy salesman, when he suddenly mentioned his wife and children, and how contented he was. I was puzzled, but let him continue. It was only when I glanced down that I understood his reason for imparting this personal information: The table leg against which I had been rubbing my itchy foot wasn’t a table leg at all!
Each year our company holds a training session in the conference room of the same hotel. When we were told we would not be able to reserve our usual location, my secretary, Gail, spent many hours on the phone trying to work out alternative arrangements. Finally, when the details were ironed out, she burst into my office.
"Great news, Scott!" she announced. "We’re getting our regular room at the hotel!"
All eyes were on Gail and me as she suddenly realized she had interrupted a meeting with co-workers.
My husband works for a high-tech company that uses a sophisticated robotic mail-delivery system. The robot makes mail stops by following a clear painted line on the hallway floor. Recently the line had to be recharged by applying special paint. While it was drying, signs were posted warning, "Please don’t step on the invisible line."