Blunders we've committed on the job

In More of the Straight Dope, Cecil told a sstory on Page 404 about a teacher of his who was suppose to switch a coal-car onto a siding in a steel-mill yard, but sent the forward truck of the coal car out onto the main line and the rear truck onto the siding; of course, the car tipped over and spilled its load of coal (50 tons!) all over the place.
When I was working as a security guard in a county school building in Downey, CA, I allowed a man in who stole a couple of computers from under my nose–and replaced them with two broken-down typewriters! I escaped censure because I cleared his entry with my supervisor, who thus shared the blame with me.
I’d like to hear about boo-boos made on the job from the Teeming Millions. :smiley:

I once designed a huge point of purchase display and put the wrong product logo on it. I didn’t notice it until I was press checking and we had to hold the press while new film and printing plates were made. It cost my company major bucks to redo all the film and plates too. I didn’t get into too much trouble coz the company Pres. proofed it and she didn’t catch it, so I got a good job for noticing it before everything was printed! Man was I lucky!

“Only when he no longer knows what he is doing, does the painter do good
things.” --Edgar Degas

This is hardly on the order of the coal-car thing, but here goes. I used to teach introductory psychology to college students and every semester there would be a demonstration of operant conditioning. I would borrow an animal that had learned how to press a bar to get food from a colleague who did research on gerbils. Well, one day I finished the demonstration and reached confidenly into the Skinner Box to put the critter back into its cage. You guessed it–the wretched thing sank its teeth into my hand. I am proud to say that I didn’t fling it against the wall or even scream, but I’m sure some of the students must have noticed that my expression became a bit strained for a moment. Fortunately it was the end of the class, so I could go back to my office and bleed privately.

Well, there was the time I approved the printing of 50,000 books with the wrong color covers. Didn’t get fired, but it was really embarrassing :frowning:


Well, I did internal tech support at Nortel for a few months. Some guy called up to have his email account cancelled, and I sent the ticket up without verifying his password.

I chalk that one up to naivete. I couldn’t imagine why anyone would call tech support, pretend to be someone else and have that person’s email deleted.

Lost my job over that one. :frowning:

Will work for sig line.

Working for lawyers back in 1981, and we were representing a large group of fired air traffic controllers.

Boss had scheduled a group meeting – in a hurry, short notice – with all 150 or so of the controllers, and I sent the notices out – without postage. Didn’t know it til the time came for the meeting and no one showed.

Hey, do you want it done fast, or done right?

At the same place, I fell for a phone sales scam – actually two of them – and we were inundated with cases of (expensive) copy machine paper and carpet cleaning stuff. The cleaner worked great, but a little dab’ll do ya.

That was almost 20 years ago, and I’ll bet they’re still using the stuff.

The most expensive thing I ever broke was an inertial measurement unit from an F-14. I dropped it a foot slipping down a ladder on a ship. The bump caused tiny dents in the bearings that meant it had to be returned to the factory. For a time the navy painted the IMU gold and added an informative decal about the cost of the box. It said something to the effect that “this box weighs 40 pounds. If you had a block of pure gold this heavy you would almost have enough money to buy this unit.” I was just glad they didn’t dock my E-5 pay until it was paid off.

Last year at work I had to take a pick-up truck and load in the unsold Xmas trees and dump them off by out huge pile o’ junk mulch for use in the nursery. So, I borrow one of the company’s brand new F-150s, load 'er up and drive over to the mulch pile which was surrounded by frozen mud. However, the heat of the decomposing mulch added to the heat coming off the bottom of the truck meant the mud didn’t stay very frozen. I was dragging trees off away from the truck and upon returning, found it buried up to the headlights in mud. It took two 1845’s (sort of a tractor/forklift type thingie) with treads and chains to pull the truck free of its mire.

Wow, did I feel like an idiot. However, everyone took pity on me because it was so obvious how stupid I felt already and nothing much was ever said of it.

“I guess it is possible for one person to make a difference, although most of the time they probably shouldn’t.”

I have nothing so terribly exciting as the previous, but once while working as a receptionist I went to answer the phone, and instead pressed the button for the pager system. Keep in mind that answering phones all day is really annoying. I blasted through the office of 250 employees “Good afternoon, this is…” waited a moment, and then “Hello? Hellooooo? God, I’m sick of this job.”
It actually went over quite well, I heard I was the hit of the day.

This may be boring, but at $5,000/hour of lost productivity, I once kept a machine down for 24 hours because I didn’t realize that the setpoint on a board needed to be reloaded after it was reset. I salved my ego by reminding myself that another shift and the manufacturer’s reps had also looked at it and hadn’t noticed the obvious.

A contractor friend once drew up plans for a job on 1/4" scale, then read the 1/2" end of the scale for the estimate. They got the low bid of course, at about one-fourth the competitors’ bids.

I’ve not had any jobs where I could destroy anything of that sort. But, the other day I was loading books onto a truck (I work at a library; a truck is one of those little carts that books to be shelved get placed on). Having filled the cart, I pulled it, and one of the wheels stuck and all the books toppled out. Not harmful, but muy embarrassing.

Goodness… I forgot one of my other more entertaining blunders. A bit of background:

While working the Master Control booth for a PBS television station, I used to amuse myself on the long saturday night shifts by watching music videos off of satellite on one of the monitors. Now then, to watch the videos in color and with sound, I needed to route the satellite to the Preset monitor which is the screen where we set up what was to go out in transmission next.

So, I’m watching videos and notice I have to do a station ID (the little station logo that comes onto the lower corner of the screen for a few seconds and then fades off), so I flip the preset back to the actual program, turn on the logo, fade it into the transmitted image, wait 15 seconds, then fade it out and flip the preset back to music videos…

…and watch Pink Floyd fade into the transmitted image…

After a stunned second of watching us transmit Pink Floyd to the PBS watching public, I regain my wits and quickly correct the situation. Then wait in silence for the phone to ring. It never did. Wow, that must of been one popular circa 1943 movie we were showing that night.

“I guess it is possible for one person to make a difference, although most of the time they probably shouldn’t.”

All I remember destroying was a piddling hundred dollar rheostat due to my drilling a hole into the control cabinet crooked. But I took 440 volts a couple times. I mainly worked on the five-volt electronic circuits. I found it easy to forget that 440 was feeding that transformer. Once I turned around to talk with my coworkers while my hand was in the box. I burned the hair off my finger. They all laughed and laughed. (Yeah, it’s not the volts, it’s the amps.)

Oh, I operated an overhead traveling crane in a steel mill for awhile. I knocked over a big steel control desk with it one day. It shook the hell out of me but nobody else acted too concerned.

Upon reflection (the next day) I realized that I never could have done that if anyone had been anywhere near it, as I always gave a WIDE berth to everyone. Actually the other cranemen were happy I’d done it I think. By knocking it down right after it’d been moved there, a potential safety hazard had been (rather dramatically) pointed out. It was immediately removed.

Years ago, I worked graveyard shift in Medical Records Dept. at a large hospital. To pass the hours away, I had hacked into our computer system, and I would often poke around looking at what all was out there. One day I came across a menu that said something like “disable logins”. I convinced myself that it would be o.k. for me to test this function out. For some reason it never occurred to me that it might also disable MY account too! I just assumed if I stayed logged on, I could switch it back. Guess what… it didn’t work that way. Next thing you know, nobody in the whole hospital can log into the system! They suspected they knew who did it, but they could never prove it. The programmer had to come in and log onto the console to enable logins again.


My best bonehead award involves ordering of supplies. While going through our supply bins, I found one bin that had only a handful of rivets (really small ones 3/32”). We didn’t use this size very often so I ordered just enough to fill the bin bout a thousand ought to do it. What I didn’t know was that the unit of issue was pounds. No one caught it until the delivery guy showed up with a forklift. Not my fault though supply changed the unit of issue and didn’t tell anyone. They will probably still have some left long after I die.

I’ve always found it easier to get forgiveness
rather than permission.

I do tech support for a living, so I dont have a lot that I can screw up. But one of my favorites was when I stayed up all night and made it to work running on jolt and snickers bars. A customer called in with some kind of modem problem, which is usually something I can fix in a few minutes. I was already coming down from the last dose of caffiene, and the customer had a low droning voice and insisted on reading every single screen to me. I nodded off in the middle of him reading a diagnostics screen and woke up in the middle of a windows reinstall. Guess I can do my job in my sleep.
The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.

Well, I’VE never made any mistakes, but my co-editor here turned down Patsy Cornwell’s first novel.

I like to think that we could have published it instead of Scribner’s, and driven her career directly into the gorund.


That would be “ground,” of course.

I used to run a resume shop with one other writer besides myself. Our proofing procedure went as follows: the writer proofed the resume after writing it, then handed it off to the other writer for a second round. Then the client proofed it a third time and signed off on it. Sounds foolproof, right?

The first of my two tales of woe: My second writer did a resume for a man who worked in a supervisory position at a factory. The line was supposed to read, “Responsible for all shift work.” I’m sure you can guess where the typo happened. John missed it, I missed it, and the client missed it. The first person to notice it was someone who was interviewing the guy. Needless to say, he came storming back in furious and we reprinted his resumes. He calmed down and saw the funny side of it, and said, “You know, boys, it’s true as written…but I didn’t want to phrase it like that.”

The second typo saga happened when I was temporarily running the place by myself. A woman came in wanting a resume for a customer-service position with MCI. The work history she gave me was all “waitress in a bar” type stuff. I usually did a “summary of qualifications” section at the top of each resume, and I was musing on how to characterize her experience to make it applicable to the job she was going after. I decided to call it “5 years of public-contact experience.” Yep, you guessed it; I left the “l” out of “public.” What makes this story so great is that she called me during the two-day period while I was writing it and confessed that the work history was bogus: she was a stripper. She wanted me to use the fake work history because she knew they’d never hire a stripper.
So she comes in to proof her resume, knowing I’m aware that she is an exotic dancer. She spots the typo and starts to laugh. She says, “Honey, you’ve never been in a titty-bar, have you?” I admitted as much and asked her how she knew. She pointed out the typo and said, “It’s a state law…pubic contact isn’t allowed.” I blushed so hard I’m surprised my HAIR didn’t turn red.

Live a Lush Life
Da Chef