We all mess up from time to time, and we all have our cringeworthy moments.
No human being is perfect, and that means every one of us has our moments where we do or say something that we probably should not have done or said. And at times, those little mistakes can be some of the most cringeworthy, awkward, and embarrassing things we ever experience, especially when they happen in front of a large crowd. Whether they happened to us directly or to someone else we know, there is one thing to be said for cringeworthy moments–they make for some great and unforgettable stories.
Here are 41 examples of the most cringeworthy public moments people have ever witnessed.
41. Getting in Touch With His Feminine Side
A couple of years ago I saw a guy I know at a mall, sitting in the food court a couple tables away from me, with about six or eight women and no other guys around. Because I rarely see one man chaperoning eight women around, I listened in on their conversation to hear one quote:
“What is a pap smear? Or is it schmear like the cream cheese?”
I could tell the conversation turned awkward at that point because they immediately changed the topic. I left after that.
40. Lending a Hand
When I worked retail, there was one regular customer who would come in frequently and was missing his left hand just below the wrist. One of my frequent greetings to most customers was “need a hand?” or “can I give you a hand with that?”
I managed to keep from saying that to him, although I thought of it every time. Well, one day around 2011 I was training a new cashier who had apparently picked up some of my mannerisms. The guy missing the hand comes up to the counter and looks like he needs help, so the cashier looks right at him and says “Need a hand?” She then let out an audible gasp and just proceeded to stare at him then me, him and then me, with a “WHAT THE HECK DID I JUST DO” look on her face.
Finally the guy just busts out laughing, maybe because this sort of thing has happened before, maybe because of her reaction, maybe because he’s just awesome. He was a really nice dude. I start laughing, and she’s just hysterical with “OH MY GOD I’M SO SORRY!”
It turned out great in the end, but for that 1-3 seconds frozen in time it was borderline unbearable.
39. Show Stopper
We had a talent show when I was in first grade and the teachers wanted us all to participate. I was crazy into Star Wars so I said that I wanted to play the theme song on piano. I took piano lessons and was decently good at piano for a first grader, so nothing was going to go wrong on my end.
The problems began when two other kids heard I was going to play the theme song on piano and wanted to join in with more instruments to make a “band.” One kid wanted to play the recorder and another a freaking bongo drum. I was like, fine, y’all can join in.
We practiced a few times and here’s me playing my nice sheet music version of the song that my piano teacher helped me learn, accompanied by one dude playing an off-key recorder version of the melody and some ridiculous girl hitting a bongo at random intervals. My teacher heard this and suggested we all play separately (because even first grade me could tell it sounded like complete garbage) without considering the consequences.
So the day of the talent thing comes and I go out and play my piano version. I might have messed up once or twice but overall not bad. The next kid plays his recorder melody and it was below-average to bad, same as every elementary school recorder performance in existence, but hey, he learned the song and it was probably cute for the parents.
Then, the grand finale. This stupid girl comes out and hits a freaking bongo for however long the Star Wars song is. No music in the background, nobody else playing, nothing. Just this one girl poorly hitting her bongo to some random tune in her head that no one else could hear. And the worst part was she finished, and bowed a bunch of times like she was hot stuff, and then bragged about her sympathy claps for days, saying she stole the show. I have seldom cringed to that degree at anything I’ve seen before or since.
38. A Little Cheesy
Outside a pizza place, saw a mom yelling at her ten-year-old child saying, “YOU’RE EMBARRASSING YOURSELF!!”
37. A Case of Mistaken Identity
My dad was a truck driver, and growing up I would often go on trips with him. We were at a truck stop in Florida, and my dad was sitting on the curb outside smoking a cigarette, talking to his wife (my stepmother) on a bluetooth headset. While we were sitting there, an employee at the truck stop came outside, presumably on his smoke break.
My dad’s bluetooth was on the other side of his head, so the employee couldn’t see it, and he thought my dad was talking to him. So for the next few minutes the employee was responding to everything my dad said, thinking he was talking to him. I don’t remember what their conversation was about (this was probably six to ten years ago), but eventually the employee realized that my dad was talking on the phone and not to him. I remember the guy’s face getting red and him putting out his cigarette and going back inside.
36. To Each Their Own…
I had to take a speech class at the local community college and one of our assignments was for us to get up in front of everyone and present a story or something. This one girl dressed in a black Invader Zim hoodie (it was April in North Carolina) presented a summary or excerpt of her Twilight / Alice in Wonderland fanfiction. For 20 minutes.
35. That’s Gotta Hurt
I once witnessed a botched proposal take place at someone else’s wedding.
34. Vicious, Cringeworthy Cycle
“Hi how are you?”
“Good, how are you?”
“Great, how are you?”
This happened while I was a cashier and I still remember the look of utter confusion on the dude’s face.
33. What Year Did She Think This Was?
I was on a crowded airport parking shuttle and a very old lady got on. A six-or-so-year-old black girl shifted to her mom’s lap so the lady could sit down and the lady replied “what a polite little [insert racial epithet here]” and sat down.
The look on the mom’s face was both anger and shock. The whole bus went silent and remained that way until the airport. It was the most uncomfortable five minutes of my life.
32. Poor Word Choice…
A friend’s girlfriend worked at a home for the mentally disabled. He and I helped out with grilling and various things when they had a picnic at the park. Well it’s all over, and there’s us and several of her clients sitting around waiting for a van and chatting about the bad moves my friend had made throughout day, including throwing lit matches all over the charcoal and then almost spraying lighter fluid all over them, when suddenly he realizes something and loudly blurts out “Oh man, I’m such a retard!!”
I’ve never seen someone turn so red and start blubbering apologies so quickly.
31. Cringes of Astronomical Proportions
I used to work in a planetarium giving constellation tours and stuff, and I’d periodically stop and ask the audience if they had any questions. During one show, a woman asked, in front of the whole crowd: “How did the Greeks have mythology about the constellations when they didn’t have satellites back then?”
I was so confused I had to ask her to clarify, and it turns out she believed that the so-called “stars” were just satellites and space junk that we could see from Earth. I don’t even remember what I said, because even though it was dark, you could FEEL how embarrassed everybody was on her behalf.
The worst part was she had a child on her lap, and I can only hope they paid a lot of attention to the show.
30. Have Your Pick
Pulled up next to a car at a stop light and witnessed a lady pick her nose, look at it, then proceed to eat it.
Best believe she saw my face of horror.
29. Caffeine Makes People Crazy
When I lived in the dorms, there was this freshman who was a little eccentric. When he ran places, he would lean down, face forward, straighten his back out, and throw his arms behind him, allowing them to flap in the wind (think Sonic the Hedgehog or Naruto).
One day, he was walking back to the dorm holding a coffee in one hand. It was November in NC, so it was fairly cold, but he was wearing a large camo jacket with shorts and shower sandals. Someone opened the door to his dorm while he was far away, so he breaks out into a full sprint to try to catch the door. He assumes his Sonic sprint position, but continues to hold the coffee cup upright, letting his other arm flap uncontrollably as he ran.
28. You Know What Happens When You Assume
So this involves my boss’s wife and another woman.
We’ll call my boss’s wife Lorraine and the other woman Clara.
Lorraine had just met Clara. She starts touching Clara’s belly and saying “Your belly is coming along nicely, I bet it’ll be a boy. Have you felt the baby kick yet?”
Clara says “I am not pregnant!”
27. Hearing Things
I took my sort of nerdy friend to a house party, to get him out of his shell. I take him and I’m having a good time and having fun. Then in the corner of my eye I see my nerdy friend chatting up a girl; I’m happy for him so I slowly walk by to see what he’s saying.
Their conversation: awkward silence. My friend: “so, uh, do you like this music?”
Not that bad right?
Except that there was no music playing at the party…
26. Letter of the Day: C for Conspiracy
Lady publicly said “I don’t let my kids watch Sesame Street because they have a gay agenda.”
25. Plans Shattered
When I went to community college in MA, there was this weird kid who was always harassing people. One of those dudes that was overly friendly, but said really weird things. I remember him walking up to construction guys and yelling at them because they were doing their job wrong. I generally tried to avoid him because he was always harassing.
One day I saw him running full speed through campus with one of those old iMac’s. If you remember, they were a giant monitor that also had the entire PC inside it. As he’s running I’m thinking “what the heck is this kid doing.” Just then, he trips, falls, and the iMac is shattered all over the ground. I felt horrible. There really wasn’t much anyone could do at that point.
Never saw the kid again.
24. The Cool Table
I was at Costco with my dad, my brother, my uncle, and my grandmother. We were sitting around, eating hot dogs, chatting, whatever… and very suddenly, my dad yells out “WOAH! DID YOU SEE THAT”? Apparently my dad, father of four, was dumbfounded to see a woman breastfeeding her newborn in public…
Not sure what, but SOMETHING possessed my father to call our table to attention in what was probably the rudest possible manner in that moment.
If I hadn’t already been sitting at the table with him, I would have walked away as fast as possible…
23. Young At Heart
I literally saw a four-year-old poop his pants and eat it when the parents weren’t looking…
22. H.h.h…hidden Agenda
So I was born in Germany and I’m in a World War II history class in my university in the UK.
The professor asks a question in which I know the answer is Hitler. I answer the question. Unfortunately I have a stammer and have trouble saying words beginning with H. I start stammering “H.Hh..hhh.hhh..hhHhh”
I’m getting scared and embarrassed at this point and wary of everyone laughing at me.
In the end I panicked and went “Hhhhhhh..h.h.h.h….THE FÜHRER!!” Everyone was in shock and I immediately cringed so hard. I said it loud like my body was trying to force the word out.
21. What Were You Thinking??
I was examining this dude who’d had a lot of heart bypass surgeries. He had these scars on his legs from the vein harvesting and he commented, “yeah, got them scars on my legs, but not on this arm here!”
And I have no idea, but I just answered with, “not yet you don’t!”
He looked kind of sad and I just sort of mumbled and then found a reason to leave pretty quickly.
20. Respect Your Elders
To my friend: Please don’t yell out my car window. Especially when it’s at old people and you are saying “Don’t die!” every time we pass them.
It’s not funny.
While driving to the local lake a couple weeks ago with friends, we noticed this young kid (middle school) hitting a ramp on his bike in an attempt to impress some college girls. He was prepping like Evel Knievel, and oozed confidence for a 12-year-old kid.
Anyway, he hit the ramp only for the front to give out, front flips into a six yard face plant, and somehow manages to lose his shorts to the handlebars. I felt bad for laughing. Not really.
18. He Must’ve Had a Few Too Many
I remember a friend of mine was trying to impress a girl back in high school by showing off what a distinguished drinker he is.
Him: “Yeah I gotta say I am a huge fan of drinking patron.”
Her: “I’m sorry what?”
Her: “This is something you drink?”
Him: “Yeah don’t you drink Pay-Trun tequila?”
Her “OMG, are you trying to say Patrón, do you actually think that’s how its pronounced?”
Me : *shudders*
17. It’s a Small, Cringeworthy World After All
It’s freshman year in college and I’m at a party with my roommates. We’re chatting with a group and it comes up that a guy in the conversation is an international student from Australia.
My only-a-little-drunk roommate exclaims “You’re from Australia?! Do you know my friend ____ ?!”
We all just kind of shook our heads in disbelief. She was completely serious.
16. A Little Look Goes a Long Way
I was at a dog park one summer day and saw a guy walk in with a big ol’ Great Dane. Our dogs started playing together so me and the guy started chatting. I noticed out of my peripheral vision that he had a brace or something around his knee, so I made a stupid little joke and asked “So did your dog do that to ya?” That’s when I looked down and noticed it wasn’t a brace, it was a prosthetic. Guy was an amputee.
I immediately hung my head in shame and apologized profusely, but the guy just laughed it off and said “Don’t worry—nobody has a bigger sense of humor than amputees.” That dude was alright.
15. They Know Not What They Say
There was this kid once, couldn’t have been older than eight, who was walking his dog with his dad, when he stopped and pointed at some dog poop and started to say “Eww, doggy doodoo,” but accidentally pronounced “doodoo” like the word for a bedroom toy. The dad replied with a stern “What?” and a face that proclaimed WTF. I cringe about that every time I think of it.
I was that child.
14. Breaking All the Rules
I was in a little bar with hardly anyone in it on a weeknight. Just as I’m ordering my last beer, I see a girl just take off her pants next to the pool table. She just casually kept talking without her pants.
It was gross, cringeworthy, and breaking of the must have pants rule!
13. Lost in a Cringeworthy Translation
My in-laws were visiting us from Poland, so my wife and I took them to the zoo on a nice autumn day. As we were leaving, we saw another Polish family at their car. The father was yelling at his eight-year-old son, while the mother was struggling to get a much younger daughter into the car. I don’t remember exactly what he was yelling about, but he said, “Krzysiu, ty bałwan!” (“Chris, you snowman/doofus!”—the word means both, depending on context, making for fun puns).
We were just walking past, watching them. Obviously, he didn’t know that there were other Polish people right there, or he’d probably not have yelled quite so loudly. As it was, my mother-in-law just doesn’t give a hoot…
As we were walking, my mother-in-law shouted back (in Polish), “Chris, don’t listen to your father! Come home with me!”
The kid stood there shocked, the father stood there completely silent, turning red, and the mother just started to laugh. We just kept walking to the car and laughed about it when we drove off.
12. You Can Still Be Friends
Oh, man, seeing my socially challenged cousin trying to pick up a girl was brutal. She had a Nirvana shirt on and he proceeded to talk about Cobain for the next few minutes (felt like an hour).
Fast forward two years…
Had a family friend over who needed help with a history paper. I was doing my best to help, but my cousin is a huge history buff so I asked him to help as a favor. He did a great job in helping her and at the end he asked for her number. She declined and he got pissed at everyone in the room.
11. Does Not Compute
A dude wearing a single glove recited poetry he made up on the spot, and then leaned in close to me and kissed my neck.
In a crowded store. On Black Friday. And I was just trying to sell him a computer.
10. Let It Go, Literally
High school talent show this spring. Some girl dressed up as Elsa from Frozen, with the whole getup, sang “Let It Go.” She was very intense and did all the motions from the movie, and also could not sing for her life. I cringed the entire time.
9. It All Started With a Shirt
I love my best friend but he is without a doubt the most socially inept human being I’ve ever met in my life. We were at a music festival a couple weekends ago and a guy came up to him and asked if he could take a picture of his shirt.
He got all excited and was like “oh okay! yeah! sure! take a picture of me!” and I just kinda stood there awkwardly and watched my friend attempt to make small talk with a stranger. At first it was pretty normal, he asked the guy’s name and they talked about the band on his shirt. But a few seconds later he said with a completely straight face “Do you wanna be my friend?” and the guy was like “uhh.. sure.. Yeah..”
So my friend immediately adds him on Facebook and gets his phone number. As soon as the guy walks off, my best friend looks at me and says “Wow, I don’t even know how I did that! He probably thinks I’m so social and cool now. And did you see how he wanted to take my picture? I think he likes me a lot!” I have never cringed harder in my entire life.
A little bit later we run into the guy again and he mentions his girlfriend. My best friend is a fairly flamboyant gay dude, and I could tell he was SO disappointed that this guy was straight. This guy then asked “Uh, hey dude.. do you like guys? It’s cool if you do, I’m just wondering cause I’m not gay, so..” and my best friend literally looked like he was going to cry. I got to stand there awkwardly and console him.
8. A Question for the Ages
I was at the mall about a year ago, and me and my friends were walking in the main area. A group of three people who were walking near us randomly screamed “WHEN DOES THE NARWAL BACON.”
The entire area went silent. No one responded.
7. Cringeworthy Question
There was a guest speaker at my school talking about suicide. His brother had committed suicide and he was going through therapy so the therapist thought it would be a good idea to have him share his incident with an audience.
Half the school already knew the kid and how his brother killed himself. So after his speech, he went around asking questions and this one girl thought it would be smart to ask how her brother did the deed. I have never felt so awkward in my life.
All 120 kids in my school (small school and small town) were dead silent. The awkward silence was for at least 20 seconds and the speaker was so close to crying. All he said was “I am not comfortable with answering that” and moved on to the next question. My face turned pretty darn red that day.
6. Notorious R.E.D.
Went to a friend’s first ever rap gig. Small crowd, give-or-take 20, maybe 25 people. Small venue, lousy dive bar. Host announced his name, friend gets on stage, face turns completely white from nervousness, and he pisses himself in front of everyone.
5. Surprise Ending
Once had a delivery guy turn up at my house. He knocked on the door to make sure I was home to have me sign and I noticed then he was missing one arm from the shoulder down. He walks back to the truck to start unloading and I knew the stuff was going to be heavy, so I foolishly called out to him, “my husband will be out in a second to give you a hand.”
Two seconds later, I said “omg I’m so sorry I didn’t think…” He was totally cool and laughed it off. Then he carries the stuff into my house, only to be met by my adorable but extremely blunt six-year-old who sees him and yells “oh my god where is your arm?!”
4. Definitely Cringeworthy
One time, I was trying to sell a video service at a festival—basically my college video club would be hired to record and edit an event for a client. Well, this older lady comes up and asks what we are about. I say “We record and edit events for people. So if you’ve got kids or grandkids.”
My brain said uh-oh, you just implied that she’s old. Yet for some reason, my mouth thought the right response to that mistake was to say “Or great-grandkids, or great-great-grandkids…”, etc. She finally walked away. I lost that client.
3. No Pain No Gain
One of my friends has been going to the gym for TWO WHOLE WEEKS so, obviously, he wants to show off how much he’s been lifting. At a house party, he convinced a girl he was trying to get with that he could bench press her. To his credit, he managed to get her into the air well enough. It was when he then dislocated his shoulder and she fell and chipped his tooth with her forehead that it started to go a bit wrong.
2. Maybe You Should Wash Your Mouth out With Soap Instead
I was on a public bus with my friend. We were sitting in our seats and chatting while this group of girls sitting behind us were talking. One girl says to the other, very loudly, “Did you brush your teeth? Because they’re really yellow.” Everyone sitting around them including my friend and I went quiet. It was so awkward. I felt so bad for the girl.
1. This is Why You Should Always Plan Ahead
My sister got married, barefoot, on a beach in Australia in the summer. It was stinking hot.
Someone had to go and get a dog blanket out of their car for her to stand on (at the altar, so to speak) so she didn’t burn her feet.
There were flies everywhere. In the wedding photos you can see little black dots all over her dress.
She’s now divorced.