People Share The Biggest Screw Up They’ve Ever Witnessed
We all make mistakes. Whether we’re doing our job, trying to get through school, or simply just living our lives, at one point or another, we all screw up. But sometimes, those little errors turn into titanic disasters that have the potential to ruin us—or others. From failing school to getting arrested to burning down a building, the below stories detail just how disastrous other people’s mistakes have been. Pop some popcorn, things are about to get entertaining.
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#1 Not A Big Enough Boat
I used to live in a small town. The country club of that town was snooty and exclusive. On top of the building was a giant golf ball attached to the top of a metal pole. Maybe the size of a minivan. One night, a few guys stole the golf ball off the top of the country club, then drove it to the sea, put it on a boat, and left it on a tiny rock island about 200 meters off the shore.
Then, they tried to ransom the golf ball back to the country club for a charity donation. I lived on the cliff over this beach so I woke up that day wondering why the heck there was a golf ball on the rock island and watched the rest of the drama from our balcony. The country club refused to pay the “charity ransom” for their golf ball.
They had some guy to take his fishing boat out to the island and attempt to roll this absolutely massive golf ball on to the back of the boat. The boat was too small so they tied it to the boat. On the way back, the golf ball filled with seawater and started to capsize. They cut it loose and it sank.
#2 One Lucky Scammer
A public company I worked for got phished out of $500,000. They apparently received a wire request via email thinking it was from one of our foreign subsidiaries, but it wasn’t. The email was actually from a Chinese scammer. Whoever was in charge of confirming the requests didn’t confirm it, and the CFO signed off on the wire. We sent $500,000 to a scammer.
#3 Beans, Beans Everywhere
One time, this girl I used to work with was reaching up to a shelf to get some bottles to flip sauces with. Next to the rack of bottles, there was a huge tub of baked beans, I’m talking huge. She somehow managed to make the tub of beans tip over while attempting to get the sauce bottles. There were beans everywhere. All over her. All over the kitchen. All over everything.
#4 Speeding By The Sheriff
On a two-lane road with double lines, a person behind me became annoyed at my speed and passed me up by going into the oncoming lane. What the person failed to realize was that I was going the speed limit because the sheriff was in front of me. This dude ends up passing both of us and the police lights come on instantly. I like to think that the sheriff just looked at him with a deadpan face then turned the lights on.
#5 First Car Gone
I was driving with my boyfriend when we saw the car in front of us start to swerve back and forth a bit. We saw the driver clearly taking selfies and had just enough time to comment on it before the car plowed into a mailbox. Not a cheap one but a solidly-planted, thick one.
We pulled over and jumped out to make sure he was okay as he was going about 45 miles per hour. We went up to the door and it was a teenage guy. His car was a wreck. His hood was bent and his windshield was smashed. We did the standard, “Are you ok? Do we need to call someone?” Only for him to reply, “No, my parents should be close behind.” Apparently, they had just bought him his first car and they were on their way home from the dealer.
#6 Wait For It…
Back in 2012, I was a manager at a moving warehouse for an Air Force base and I was the only person in the warehouse who was certified on a forklift. Unfortunately, the second I was hired, I had to tag the forklift out because there wasn’t enough room to safely maneuver it because the warehouse was stocked well past its capacity. The owner instructed one of the crew (who wasn’t certified to drive a forklift) to take the key off of my keychain and use the forklift to move a set of crates onto a long-haul truck in the loading bay.
Now, one of the things that they teach you when you’re getting certified on heavy equipment is that you never, ever drive around with the forks up unless you are actively loading or unloading—you pick up, move enough to clear your forks, and bring them down to ground level as soon as possible, and only raise them up again if you’re getting ready to stack the load onto something else.
The owner did not know this and, congratulating herself on her ingenuity, told the crew member to simply put the forks above the level of the stacked crates in order to be able to maneuver around. I arrived half an hour later to be greeted by a very sheepish crewman showing me a crate marked with “Fragile” and “contents valuable” tags that was half-off the forks, fifteen feet up, leaning against the upper part of a warehouse divider so precariously that any attempt to move the forklift would send it tumbling to the ground. However, this was not the big screw-up.
I asked the crew to use a pallet-jack to bring me a set of empty shipping crates, cleared the area, and arranged the crates under the forks as a way to hopefully reduce the impact. Then, I started up the forklift, dropped the forks, and attempted to guide the crate down as gently as I could—only to discover that the “empty” crates I had been brought were actually full of a different family’s belongings, with no way to tell what was what after both crates cracked and their contents spilled out across the floor. This was also not the big screw-up.
After all of this was over, I again turned off and tagged out the forklift, cleaned up the area, and went to the office to call the families whose belongings had been intermingled and apologized for the mishap. As soon as the second call had been made, I heard the forklift turning on. Stupid me, I didn’t take the key out of the ignition. Ready to rain down hellfire, I ran back into the warehouse and discovered the owner attempting to drive the forklift back to its bay… with the forks up as high as they would go.
I tried shouting at her to put the dang forks down, but she couldn’t understand what I was saying and tried to mouth something to the effect of, “I’m just putting it back,” when she collided with the same divider. Bricks tumbled, the forklift tilted, and I narrowly avoided getting concussed by a crate as it fell over. Panicking, the owner put the forklift in reverse and promptly crashed into the loading door, jamming it shut and crippling the only loading dock that wasn’t blocked by stored shipping crates.
Combined with the discovery of a crew being sent out on a night pickup with a truck that didn’t have working lights (which happened the same day), this was enough to send me over the edge. I called the Air Force logistics division and then called OSHA, and had the warehouse shut down. I later heard that the structural damage was bad enough that some of the warehouse had to be demolished and that the owner was forced to sell both the business and the building.
#7 The Customer Is Not Always Right
I worked at a car wash. We had add-on services people could get. One was Armor-All, $5 per region. A guy came in and ordered a full interior and exterior Armor-All on his brand new truck. He had King’s Ranch seats, so our salesmen didn’t add that charge, as we generally didn’t Armor-All them. King’s Ranch is a type of suede that’s a really pretty tan color and super soft. It costs about $3500 for them. Armor-All is essentially a grease that makes leather and vinyl shiny, but it damages King’s Ranch seats.
When he got back to his finished car, he pitched a fit because we didn’t Armor-All his seats. We explained that he didn’t pay for that charge, and we wouldn’t, in good conscience, do it. So he threw a huge fit, screaming and cursing, and insisting to talk to the manager. We all tried to talk him out of it, but he wouldn’t budge. My boss was a jerk, so finally he said, “Screw it. Do it. In fact, do it for free.” So we did. I felt like I was committing a mortal sin rubbing greasy solution all over these beautiful suede seats, but the customer is always right, right?
The guy walked back to his truck after it was finished with a smug look of satisfaction until he looked at his seats and his entire face dropped and turned ghostly white. I said, “Anything else I can do for you?” In shock, he said, “H…how do I fix this?” I told him, “Get it Armor-Alled a few more times to even out the color, but it’ll never be the same again. Sorry. This is why we tried to talk you out of it.” Sweating and shaking, he just said, “Uh, thanks,” and drove off.
#8 Always Double-Check For Live Wires
One time, in 1982, a fellow electrician and I were up in an articulating lift, probably elevated about 40 feet up. We had shut the power off to what it was we were working on the night before, and needed to splice into the existing three-phase/480-volt circuit. I had the cutters and said to my partner, “Before we cut into these lines, I’d like to go check that power source for dead—”
He said, “Listen, we shut it off last night, what more do you need to check?” I handed him the loppers and said, ” Then you cut them… ” I turned the other way… He did, and boom! He was (luckily) wearing safety glasses when it shot out plasma, fire, and molten copper all over him. The breaker feeding this circuit tripped luckily too, otherwise, there would have been a fatality… maybe even two.
#9 Have To Lower The Bed!
The city construction crew was renting some space at my work to store gravel for a local project. There were dump trucks coming in and out all day. One driver came in with a load, dumped it in the back and proceeded to pull out of our driveway. Problem is, he didn’t lower his bed, so it was sticking up about 20 feet or so. I was in the office and saw him drive by one of our bay doors and went out to the front to warn him, but it was too late. I watched him tear down some power lines as he turned on to the street. I heard he got fired for it, poor guy.
#10 Just Walk It Off
This was at a bar in a beach town over the summer. A twenty-something got kicked out by the bouncers. This bar can get rowdy and it’s right across from the police station, so there’s usually a cop around. Now, I’ve been kicked out of this bar before, too. There are no ramifications—just come back when you’re sober on another night and you’re good.
This guy wasn’t having it. The police tried talking him down saying, “Look, you’re not in trouble but you need to leave. Sleep it off, it’s almost closing time.” The guy then tried to sucker punch the police officer in the face. He went from sleeping it off at home to getting a criminal record for being an idiot.
#11 Failed That Test
In college, the teacher for one of my classes allowed a cheat sheet because the test was so complicated. One of my classmates came in with his cheat sheet and proceeded to joke that it was actually cheating. He wrapped it around his water bottle like the brand sticker. The water bottle was sweaty and proceeded to soak into the paper. When he touched the paper, it shredded. He ended up having to do the final without a cheat sheet and failed.
#12 Patience Is A Virtue!
I worked for a small ecommerce retail brand. One night, the email marketing person and I were the last ones in the office and we were heading out to happy hour right after she finished sending a marketing email to our email list (of about 15,000 people). We were trying to come up with a subject line and she was testing different ideas out, typing them in the subject field to see how it looked.
We were feeling uninspired and stumped on a good line, and were growing antsy and a little loopy. She laughed, made a noise of exasperation, and typed, “Screw this!” into the subject field. We both laughed, and I kept trying to think of an idea. Suddenly she screamed out loud, and I looked up to see “Email Sent!” on the email client page. She had just sent the email to 15,000 people, including everyone in our office subscribed to our email list. Three minutes later, our boss called to fire her. The good news is we still made happy hour.
#13 The Elephant In The Tent
My stepfather worked for a large tent company. The team showed up to take down a massive tent after a circus left town only to find an elephant standing in there. So how do you handle finding a lone elephant in a tent? Well, they laughed at the absurdity for 15 minutes, spent 30 minutes discussing what they should do about it, and eventually tracked down the owner of the tent company who had to call the circus. They sent a handler to keep an eye on the elephant until the transportation showed up to move it. The circus had to pay an extra day of rental for this debacle. The tent guys got overtime.
#14 Cost Of A Leg
My former boss was a chef in a restaurant and one of the line cooks was in charge of pulling down the hood vents and cleaning them at the end of the night. They are above the grills and fryers. One night, the guy didn’t cover the fryers or let them cool down. He stood on the edges, essentially straddling it. He slipped. His leg went into shot grease oil. His foot got caught in the grate at the bottom so it took even longer to pull his foot out because it was stuck in the grate. I believe my former boss said the guy had to get his leg amputated below the knee.
#15 Truck, Meet River
I worked in a hotel restaurant where many of the employees were close and did lots of outdoor activities together. It got so crazy that sometimes one of us had to call our manager to post bail. Not kidding. Anyway, one of the outdoor activities was floating down a river in inner tubes. One or two vehicles would be left at point B downstream and we’d drive upriver to point A to start the journey.
We left two cars at the endpoint and headed back to A. Once there, one of the guys parked his nice Toyota truck on the bank, we got in our tubes, and began meandering downstream. We’d stop, swim, chill, etc., and after a few hours, we floated down to point B. I drove us back and there was no Toyota! The other car was there and the guy was losing his mind. We were convinced it had been stolen until someone noticed a weird flat maroon thing in the middle of the river. It was the top of the cab of his truck. All we could figure is that he knocked it out of gear while getting out and it rolled in.
#16 Right Back To The Jaguar Dealer
I once lived a few hundred meters from a Jaguar showroom. As I was waiting to turn onto the main road, I looked in the mirror to see a brand new Jag XKR slowly drive into the back of me. I got out to see what the damage was. Luckily for me, I was in a Suzuki Vitara and he was too low to do any damage. Sadly for him, my tow bar was the same height as his bonnet lip so it caught the edge and peeled it back a couple of inches. He told me he’d just picked the car up a minute ago and was trying to turn the radio on and didn’t see I had stopped. He turned his car around and drove it straight back to the dealer.
#17 Refrigerated Eggs
I work in a medical clinic. The mail delivery company that shipped up frozen human eggs decided to ignore the “keep refrigerated” notice on the container because their country had a long weekend and we didn’t. As a result, the container sat in the back of the delivery truck… for three days. It was thousands and thousands of dollars in damage, never mind the waste of energy involved from the donors.
#18 Miles Of Film
From 2007-2009, I worked at the movie theater in the student union at my college. It had a 35mm projector, not a digital one, so we had to work with the film. We only ever had two people working at a time, one projectionist and one manning the box office. We mostly just set the film to run and then stayed in the box office until the movie was over.
For this particular night, I was running the projection booth, and we were showing a really gory horror movie that I had no interest in watching, so I set the movie to run and left the projection booth. When the credits started rolling, I went to check on the film, and it turns out that the platter never started spinning, so the film just ran through the projector and piled on the ground.
There are fail-safes to prevent that, but for some reason, they weren’t tripped. Now, an entire movie on film is long, like miles long. It took around five hours past my shift to fix, and that was with the help of the other person who was working that night. I was thankful they helped me out but I was positive that I was going to be fired. Thankfully, my boss didn’t blame me.
#19 Centrifuge Of Doom
I work in research science. We use equipment called centrifuges which spin material incredibly fast to separate them out. Normally, small centrifuges can spin up to about 20,000 times the force of gravity. Larger ones can go higher. We have a piece of equipment referred to as an ultracentrifuge. Tens of thousands of pounds in money, bolted to the floor so it doesn’t move, etc. It spins at well over 100,000 times the force of gravity—nearly 200,000.
Now, imagine a washing machine. When it’s out of balance it rocks and knocks and can start moving across the floor. Now, realize that your washing machine spins at about a max of maybe 1,500 RPM. I knew a guy who unbalanced samples in an ultracentrifuge. For whatever reason, the safety mechanisms didn’t kick in or parts just failed. It spun up and hit a point where the rotor couldn’t sustain itself and collapsed at almost 100,000 times gravity.
The collapsing rotor (which weighs around 10-15 kilograms) buckled the spindle and came flying off. It punched a hole in the side of the solid metal centrifuge several inches thick, now waddling its way across the room, and blasted a hole in the side of the concrete and brick building. Pieces of metal, brick and virtually disintegrated rotor were found across the car park several hundred metres away.
#20 Just Fess Up
My buddy used to be in the Army. He was a captain. They had an exercise and he was supposed to send up training ammo. Instead, he messed up and sent war stock. The difference between the two is the expiration date. You want to use old ammo thats about to expire for training and you use the new stuff to fight with. He sent the good stock instead of the stock that was about to expire.
Millions of dollars of war stock ammo were wasted. My buddy then tried to hide it and lied about it. They did an audit, he was caught, and he tried to lie his way through the investigation. He ended up getting kicked out of the Army and since he didnt complete his contract he ended up owing the Army like $50,000 for them paying for his school. I remember the night he told me what happened and I told him to fess up and apologize.
#21 Too Many Zeroes
I worked for an electronics manufacturing company once and we started getting tons of shipments from a parts distributor. Soon, our entire stock room was filled with boxes containing LCD screens. I think we received around 16,000-20,000 LCD screens in total. We didn’t question it, we just assumed a big order was coming in. We used maybe 300-400 of them over the course of a year and then we just had all of these unused screens taking up space in our warehouse.
Well, it turns out that our client’s part buyer had broken his leg during a ski trip and was on some heavy-duty pain killers while he was at work. He saw he could get a good price if he ordered in bulk but added a few too many zeroes. Not only did he drastically order way more parts than his company could ever hope to use, but he also caused a worldwide shortage of this particular LCD display for months because all of the parts were being produced and sent straight to us.
#22 Down Like Dominoes
Back in the 90s, I was taking part in some Special Ops training in Okinawa. A SEAL Team was supposed to arrive during the night from the sea down the cliffs behind us to adjunct us. They would be coming in by hovercraft and would then rock climb up the cliff before dawn.
For some reason, they ended up commandeering the hovercraft, which none of them were qualified to operate, and beached it on a reef. An AMTRAK (amphibious armored personnel carrier) was sent out late the next morning to tow the hovercraft off the reef. It sank, and so did the hovercraft. A second AMTRAK was sent out to try to recover them, and it sank, too. So, because a SEAL team decided to go “stupid cowboy” during a training op, the military lost three amphibious craft in one day.
#23 Going To Need A Bigger Broom
Oh man, here we go. I went on a cruise with my family this past summer. I was sitting at a minibar-like seating area near a side of the boat eating before we were supposed to set sail. I looked down and saw this forklift carrying a massive stack of glass window panes. After watching for a minute, I saw the forklift stop and all of the panes started falling and smashing everywhere. The forklift driver looked over and drove off and one of the cruise ship employees who was just standing nearby grabbed a broom and started sweeping. Poor guy.
#24 An Unwatched Boiler
I was a boiler operator in the navy. One day, the evaporator (for making the freshwater for crew consumption and most importantly for boiler make-up water) decided to break and just started passing saltwater through the evaporator. When that happens, you’re supposed to instantly trigger the 3-way valve to dump the high salinity water overboard. The guy in charge of the evaporator didn’t pay attention and aligned it straight into the make-up feed tank. He didn’t realize that’s what he did so the second (of two) feed tanks was slowly getting filled with pure saltwater, too.
Shortly after, the first tank was below 50% water, so we shifted to the second tank. At this point, nobody knew anything about the saltwater. The tanks were shifted, and about five minutes later, all sorts of alarms started going off. We were down to one boiler on a deployment, which led to a full inquiry. That mistake meant super long work hours for all of us, lost port time for the engineers, and tons of trouble for the guy who made the mistake in the first place. That guy cost the taxpayers so much money. So. Much.
#25 Screw Up On High, Screw Up Down Low
I was working on the construction of Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo in 1972. I was on the form crew, and we were pouring the tie beam on the second story of a condo complex. For those unfamiliar, this means pouring a solid concrete top on cinderblock walls, windows, and more in high hurricane risk areas. Our 100-ton crane was lifting buckets of concrete that were released to pour into molds on the tops of walls. The reaches of cranes with a heavy load have limits. The crane operator reached too far, and it toppled.
The big boss of our company arrived in his truck soon after, and he started to yell, scream, and call out the crane operator for being so stupid. He was tight-jawed and red-faced—literally hysterical. About a hundred workers stopped working to watch his antics. Then, that boss jumped into his truck, threw it in reverse and stomped on the gas, only to drop his truck six feet into a rectangular shaped hole cut out for a large septic tank. It was so tight on the sides they had to break the windshield so he could climb out. The workers’ laughter was uncontrollable. He crawled out of the hole, even more red-faced. Then he angrily stomped off to the background of stifled laughter.
#26 Hot Oil Volcano
I worked in a restaurant. A coworker emptied the deep fryer at the end of the night. We always put water with some cleaner and turned it on to boil a bit after it empties. Well, he forgot to close the valve and the water went into the hot oil. It bubbled out and all over the floor. We all ran from the kitchen because hot oil was coming out of that pot like a volcano. He did his best to clean it up but it was still a disaster the next morning. The chef was angry and made him move every piece of equipment to clean thoroughly… after chewing him out Ramsay-style.
#27 Drop One, Drop All
Standing in the server room was four people: Me, my boss, a co-owner, and a certified contractor. I was being trained on the SQL Server so I could take over management of it. The co-owner and contractor had planned to drop a very small table from the production database. All the company shipments needed to be processed and shipped by 5 p.m. The contractor clicked on all of the things to execute the command and I asked if we could look at the script before it was executed, they said: “No, we don’t have the time.”
The contractor executed the script and stepped aside. I clicked on the window to show the script and pointed to the part where it had just dropped all the tables, not just one. I looked over at my boss and told him I needed the tape backup from the prior day and it would take several hours to restore the system and we needed production to record what orders had been processed.
I then started working on a new solution to extract enough raw data from the orders to be able to ship as many products as we could. The contractor thought I was just trying to “play around” but I was trying to double-check the script because of the danger involved. It’s very easy to drop all vs drop one…it’s just a click or two. It’s like double-checking your blind spots on the freeway before you change lanes.
#28 That’ll Teach Me To Litter
Back when I was a young teen, I didn’t care about pollution and would drop trash into the sewer grates. I had my keys to my house and mom’s car in one hand and an empty wrapper in the other. Well, which one did I drop into the sewer after hard rains with lots of water inside rapidly moving? My keys. Serves me right though. I never, ever littered again.
#29 Thank God For That Foolproofing Feature
I once saw a guy accidentally fire a 40 mm grenade, between his feet, from the grenade launcher attached to his rifle. Who knows how he made that mistake, but after that incident, we took all of his ammo away from him. Luckily, grenades need to travel 17 meters before they arm themselves. This guy’s grenade didn’t travel that far. He got very, very lucky and he definitely won’t be making that mistake again.
#30 One Stuck, Two Stuck, Three Stuck, Four…
Years ago, my dad got the tractor stuck back in a field. He was a volunteer fireman, so he called another fireman, who brought the department’s jeep. It got stuck. They sent the fire truck. That also got stuck. By this time, most of the department was there. Someone finally brought his big bulldozer and pulled all of the other vehicles out. There were no fire calls during all this, which was very lucky.
#31 Those Beautiful Cars
About six years ago in winter, I was driving on an icy highway when a caravan of Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Porsches, and other supercars flew by me just before the road got really twisty. As far as I could tell, one of the lead cars slid off the road and slammed into a guardrail. All of the other cars smashed into it and each other. It made international news and was even talked about on The Bugle podcast (when John Oliver was still on it) as being the most expensive pile-up ever.
#32 Alarmed For A Reason
For my last job, we carried out bulk deliveries with a HIAB. For the uninitiated, this a flatbed truck with a crane that can carry up to 14 tons of stock (usually bricks, plasterboards, and cement/gravel). There are a number of safety systems to stop people from doing dumb stuff, including an alarm that sounds if the vehicle is put into gear while the crane is raised.
Well, one driver disabled the alarm because the sound annoyed him. Turns out, he hadn’t been stowing the crane properly so even though it was down, the sensors thought it was still up. Then came the day that he forgot to lower the crane—and drove into a bridge. The crane was torn off and the chassis bent. There was hydraulic fluid everywhere. A £150,000 vehicle was grounded for six weeks for over £100,000 worth of repairs. Needless to say, the driver was fired on the spot.
#33 A $30 Million Wait
This was a long time ago at a shipyard where a new class of vessel was being built. These ships had twin power plants and the first two pairs were delivered by the manufacturer. Instead of being moved into storage (as per manufacturers specs), they were left outside under tarps. There were delays with the install and they sat outside in the elements for about 18months. By the time the yard was ready to install them, someone who cared finally got around to figuring out what happened. They were inspected and found to have corrosion to the point that they needed to be sent back to the manufacturer to the tune of approximately $15 million each (let alone the cost of the additional delays).
#34 Don’t Drive Before You Wake Up Fully
I’m a police officer. I was called to a motorist passed out behind the wheel. I pulled up to him, turned on the lights, hit the air horn, and turned on the sirens. Nothing woke him up. I approached the car, knocked with a flashlight and the guy immediately woke up. He put his car into drive, floored it straight into a train yard, hits some uncovered tracks, totalled his car, and got arrested for driving under the influence. Not his best night I’m sure.
#35 Plagiarism To The Tune Of $100 Thousand
In the last semester at my law school, everyone was required to take a bar prep class. We would have a quiz once per week that was in the form of a bar essay question. We’d get a fact pattern and then have 15 or 20 minutes to type an essay and submit it. With about three weeks of school left, we had a quiz with a family law question. A classmate didn’t know the answer, so he googled it. It’s common for law firm websites to have blog posts explaining areas of law. My classmate had found a blog post on the topic, so he copied and pasted the blog’s recitation of the law into his essay.
I’m not sure how the professor noticed, but she did. He was caught and failed the class. So, he lost the credit hours and didn’t have the graduation required class—three weeks prior to graduation. Further, when you apply to sit for the bar exam you have to pass a character and fitness test/background check. A part of that is that the school sends the bar a certificate of good character, and the school is required to report incidents of academic dishonesty. So, his cheating was reported to the bar. In sum, this guy had spent $100K to go to law school and become a lawyer and messed it all up with three weeks left.
#36 Vanilla Crab Cakes
I worked in a large banquet kitchen which served up to 400 guests. We were fully booked for a wedding and one of the hors-d’oeuvres they ordered were mini crab cakes. The recipe was pretty basic, nothing special. One of the cooks, a new guy, not very experienced, was given this task. Mini crabcakes for 400 people meant about four cases or roughly 32 cans of lump crab meat. A lot of money.
He had all of the ingredients in front of him, one of which was supposed to be Worcestershire sauce. The problem was, the gallon jug of Worcester looked very similar to vanilla extract. But this guy didn’t know his butt from his elbow, so he grabbed the vanilla extract instead. Apparently, he didn’t know what Worcester sauce or vanilla extract smelled like either. He had all of the ingredients in the bowl and started mixing. The exec chef came over and said, “Why do I smell vanilla?!” He came over to the table where the crab cakes were being made. “Why do you have vanilla extract? Did you put vanilla extract in the crabcakes!?” The cook’s face went white. It was a $300 mistake that would never be made again in that cook’s lifetime.
#37 Sad Little Potato
One day, I came back from university to the smell of burning. I walked into the kitchen to see smoke coming from the microwave. Upon opening it, there was a billow of smoke and sitting dead center of the microwave was a very sad little black burnt potato which was on fire. I blew it out, then had to explain to my roommate that you don’t put a potato in a microwave for two hours on high.
#38 Listen To The Moderator!
It was my mid-term exam in my first-year computer programming. I was writing in pen and the exam moderator told us explicitly, “If you screw up writing your code, just ask for another piece of paper. Don’t use white-out to correct.” About half an hour into the exam, myself and about a dozen other students smelled the familiar smell of white-out being spread. Liberally. The moderator smelled too and marched to a desk with a girl who is whiting out an entire page of code. The moderator ripped it away from her. We never saw that particular student again. We also never screwed around with that moderator either.
#39 An Uncut Cake
I was working at a nonprofit legal services agency and this new intern was hired after law school. I was training him the first day when the office manager came in and said we were going to have a cake for someone’s birthday. So the trainee and I were having lunch and he got up to go into the kitchen. He was gone for a long time, and I suddenly wondered if he was doing what I thought he was. But I was sure he wasn’t that stupid.
Turns out he was. He went to the kitchen, pulled the cake out of the fridge before the birthday person had even arrived for his shift, and cut himself a giant piece. When he came back to the table I was so secondhand embarrassed for him I didn’t even say anything. The office manager discovered the cut cake later and was livid.
#40 Wildly Flammable
I worked in an oriented strand board (OSB) mill to put myself through school. One guy was a bit of a jerk—completely obsessed with his own reflection, total bro-vibes even though he was in his 40s, and just annoying to talk to. Annoying but nice and generally willing to help you out, so we didn’t hate him. We’ll call him…Tim. Turns out, Tim had secretly not-so-secretly started smoking and didn’t want anyone to know, so he’d smoke where he couldn’t be seen: in the paint booth.
You don’t smoke in an OSB mill because there are wood dust and flake everywhere. The paint wasn’t so flammable that ashes would set it aflame, but that wasn’t the problem in the paint booth. The problem was the screens. The paintbooth is set up with four sets of paint guns and the whole thing needs to be scraped down and cleaned once a shift. Two of these are on tracks that spray the sides of a bundle of OSB, first as it enters the booth and then as it leaves, and two are stationary and spray the front and back as it moves through the booth.
The screens are housed behind these two stationary sets of paint guns and a negative vacuum sucks up the excess aerosolized paint. They are wildly, wildly flammable. So anyway, Tim was done smoking and, like an idiot, flicked the butt inside the paint booth and walks out. I was at a station about 20 yards from his paint booth, and when I looked over, I noticed a distortion above his paint booth. That’s not supposed to happen. That’s never supposed to happen.
I jogged over quickly to get his attention and as he followed my pointing finger to the stacks above the paint booth, a giant fireball shot out the top and hit the ceiling. Generally, this area is kept clean but there’s one area in the rafters we can’t reach. There was still a little buildup, so the fireball ignited it and we saw jets of fire shoot across the mill, burning the layers of dust away but otherwise doing no additional damage. The paint booth, though, was basically an inferno. The paint had caught on fire and was toxic, and the warehouse was a cloud of black smoke. Once that fireball erupted, everyone in the vicinity booked it for the exit.
We mostly just stood outside for the next four hours while the fire department put it out. Magically, nobody ratted him out and the investigation into it was a joke. He denied everything. Hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage, though, and I don’t know how much we lost in production time. The paint booth had to be completely replaced, as did the section of the roof above and all the wiring for lighting. We worked manually for about a week and a half afterward, discharging and hand painting the bundles. I pulled in so much overtime.
#41 The Monitor Is Not The Computer
My old manager was in charge of a $600,000 machine which had custom files and programs, and one day, he asked me why his computer wasn’t working that was networked to the machine. When I got over there, it was bluescreened and completely locked and I asked him when the last time he restarted his computer was. He looked at me blank minded and said he resets it every day and to prove to me he does he went to reset it… by turning the monitor on and off. This meant this $600,000 machine with over eight years of data saved on it hadn’t had a single break or turned off in the two years he was there.
I just sat there dumbfounded and told him that wasn’t resetting his computer and he got extremely angry. He was throwing profanities left and right and said that it was my responsibility to fix it and it was all my fault. A machine I literally never operate or touch. So I had to force it off the old-fashioned way. When I turned it back on everything was wiped, including all of the templates we had saved and all the programs we had spent so much time and money on.
I tried to restore the data thinking he had saved it on the server as I told him 10,000 times in the past to do. So I asked him where he had been saving everything all this time. Naturally, it was all on his desktop. All of it gone and he never used the backup I set up either. Obviously, he blamed me but everyone knew it was his fault. And he must’ve known it was his fault too or I would’ve been fired on the spot.
#42 Not Brand New Anymore
I was in a long line to let my little fishing boat in at a launch in Michigan. The guy in front of me was with friends and going on about his brand new 32-foot boat (it looked like a yacht). He was only putting it in this lake to test it out before he took it out to the bay. As they continued to dote over the boat, they kept removing all the tie-downs… and the winch strap.
As they got to the ramp, they pulled forward and straightened out the trailer. As he started to back up, he tapped the brakes and the beautiful, brand new, pristine boat slid off the trailer onto the concrete ramp. It then slid about 20 feet or more down the rough concrete ramp into the water. Everyone was just standing there in disbelief. And to make it even better, the momentum of the slide carried the boat out into the lake. A boater in the water was nice enough to ferry him out to his mistake.
#43 Such Temptation!
A team from our company was at a client site. It was a very large and well-known cookie manufacturer in the U.S. They used our control system at the factory. We asked for a tour and the client obliged. At the end of the tour, one of the sales guys was looking at the conveyor belt full of fresh cookies. He reached out, grabbed one, and ate it, noting how delicious it was.
The client gave him this incredulous look and asked if he just did what he thought he did. The sales guy grinned and nodded. The client then walked over to the big red button on the wall and pressed it. The entire process shutdown. Grabbing a cookie off the line without the proper gear contaminated the whole batch. Tens of thousands of cookies were thrown out and the entire process shutdown while the conveyor system was sanitized. We were not welcome back there for several years.
#44 Accident Leads To Overtime
I work in a manufacturing plant where we print labels for big-name companies. There was a new forklift driver there and he was driving with his lift too high up. He clipped a sprinkler, yanked the entire piping out of the ceiling, and water poured out everywhere and tripped the other sprinklers, too. This was the side of the warehouse where we keep our finished products ready to ship. Everything was destroyed. Management said he ended up destroying over $400,000 of material because, you know, paper and water don’t mix well. We had to work a lot of overtime then.
#45 Up A Particular Type Of Creek
A few years ago, we started having problems with the drain in our house. The shower started backing up if my wife and I showered one after another. Despite Draino and a snake, the problem persisted and gradually grew worse. We had the city come check the sewer line and they said it was clear. It finally got so bad that the shower would back up in just five minutes while the toilet gurgled. Fun times.
We got really good at taking fast showers, and Lysol was our best friend. Finally, sewage started to seep out of the cleanout in our yard and into the street. We called the city again, and this time I managed to find and stop the guy they sent out to check. He said they had checked the lines and they were completely clear, so the problem must have been on our end. I told them no way, the muck is coming from the cleanout on the side of the house, so it must be their problem. The city worker got a confused look and said, “On the side of the house?”
We live on a corner lot, and there is a small unpaved alley behind our house. “Yeah,” I said and led him to the cleanout with nastiness seeping from beneath the cover. The city worker looked horrified. “Hold on,” he told me and went and made some calls. He came back with the same look on his face. “Do you remember when we had the street here dug up a few months back? When we dug up the street we did that because we were putting in a new sewer line. Every other house on this block connects to that line back in the alley. Since yours connects on the side here, uh, we ah, apparently missed that, and uh, your sewer’s not uh, connected to the new line.”
They were going to have to dig everything up again and connect my house’s sewer line to the new city line, and my house’s line had a few months’ worth of very nasty sewer backed up in it. Because of that, there was a full crew out there at seven a.m. on a Sunday morning, and they had everything finished by noon. Needless to say, all our drain problems disappeared.