In case of emergency…well, you’re on your own.

August 30th, 2010 · 72 comments

In one of my clearest memories of first grade, I distinctly remember my teacher telling us, on the first day of school, that the bathroom in the back of the classroom was only for emergencies. For non-emergencies, we’d have to wait until lunchtime. In my six-year-old mind, however, “emergency” meant only one thing: “throwing up.”  And so, when I had to go, I held it. And held it. Until…well, I wasn’t holding it anymore.

That’s right: It actually took wetting my pants for me to learn that the word “emergency” means very different things to different people — a concept some people apparently still haven’t figured out.

It’s unclear, for example, what might constitute a “citrus emergency” at this Pleasanton, California optometrist’s office. (Perhaps a masochistic mandarin peeling itself?)


You might think people would be a little more precise in their language on a military base. At Arizona’s Fort Huachuca, you’d only be about half right.


At Gustavo’s new office building in Seattle, it only took about a week — and about a bazillion false alarms— before someone decided a little clarification was necessary. (Sorta sounds like something you’d expect from a classroom of first-graders, no?)

Do not push this button unless the building is on fire and it is a big fire. Thank you. -Floor 21

Meanwhile, Andrew in Cirencester, England only noticed this sign after pushing open one of his office’s alarmed fire doors (triggering a sudden and unforeseen occurrence — i.e., ear-shattering noise).


related: Gee, thanks for the clarification

FILED UNDER: Arizona · California · CAPS LOCK · clip art catastrophe · obnoxious definition · office · Seattle · U.K. · WTF?

72 responses so far ↓

  • #1   steph

    WHAT is a cutie finger?! Do I want to know what that is?

    Aug 30, 2010 at 9:48 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #1.1   Sean Jungian

      Do not ask Google. Just don’t.

      Aug 30, 2010 at 9:51 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #1.2   Zenith Fishstix

      Unsurprisingly, Google is not very helpful in this situation.

      Aug 30, 2010 at 9:52 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #1.3   J

      I’m thinking maybe it’s like a Lee Press-On nails thing, possibly a nail-care subsidiary of Mary Kay with Independent Consultants who bug the people at their real jobs to buy their crap.

      I’m trying to figure out which note has the “citrus emergency” reference?

      Aug 30, 2010 at 9:56 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #1.4   amazon

      The Cuties I know of are a brand of clementines/mandarin oranges. So no using the lab after eating a clementine? I’m pretty sure it is a bad idea to eat anything in a lab.

      Aug 30, 2010 at 10:03 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #1.5   unholyghost2003 bang

      I too wondered WTF “cutie fingers” were and learned that Google isn’t the way to find out the hard way.

      Aug 30, 2010 at 10:15 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #1.6   aaa bang

      If somebody tells not to Google something, of course the first thing you’re going to do is Google it.

      Aug 31, 2010 at 10:07 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #2   bryce

    What on earth are “cutie fingers”? (Don’t google that phrase, btw.)

    Aug 30, 2010 at 9:50 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #2.1   steph

      too late. And that was not the answer I was lookin’ for!

      Aug 30, 2010 at 9:52 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #2.2   Sean Jungian

      Thanks, where were you sixty seconds ago?

      Aug 30, 2010 at 9:52 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #2.3   pit pat

      Cuties are clementines, so a cutie finger is probably a clementine section. But not so interesting sounding.

      Aug 30, 2010 at 10:04 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #2.4   iluv2bugz

      The clipart on the sign is hard to make-out, but it does look like a citrus fruit peeling itself. Kinda makes sense now…

      Aug 31, 2010 at 8:59 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #3   Niki C.

    When you eat Cuties (mandarin oranges), your finger tips turn a yellow/orange color because of how they are peeled. It gets everywhere.

    Aug 30, 2010 at 10:04 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #3.1   Canthz_B bang

      You think that’s something…try eating Cuties, Cheese-Doodles and red Pistachio nuts at the same time!

      Aug 30, 2010 at 10:26 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #3.2   AuntyBron

      Pistachios come in red? Wowzers I learned something new today and it’s only 12:47am.

      Aug 30, 2010 at 11:48 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #4   Donna Martin Graduates!

    Learning what a “cutie finger” is does not make that first sign any funnier.

    Aug 30, 2010 at 10:18 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #5   unholyghost2003 bang

    OK now that we have established what cutie fingers are (either mandarin orange sections or your own fingers after peeling a mandarin orange) I can explain what a cutie finger emergency might be. Very dull I know but a diabetic with low blood sugar in the lab might get you a a cutie finger emergency.

    Aug 30, 2010 at 10:18 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #6   Kim

    damn, had to google it just cuz I got curious . . . .

    Aug 30, 2010 at 10:18 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #6.1   tish

      right? me too…

      Aug 30, 2010 at 10:50 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #6.2   Party in my pants

      Me too… curiosity killed the pussy, I mean, cat!

      Aug 31, 2010 at 8:01 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #6.3   Mo®

      Did they lose something in there and are trying to fish it out? Is that what was meant by emergency?

      Aug 31, 2010 at 1:30 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #7   Canthz_B bang

    Re: Seattle elevator,

    It takes a person with great faith in his fellow man to post an instruction sign for people who aren’t big on following instructions posted in sign form.

    Aug 30, 2010 at 10:22 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #7.1   FeRD bang

      Only a person who’s just just plain taken too many blows to the head could be responsible for this particular sign, tho. Not enough that it’s been very carefully penned, with letters just small enough that it won’t overpower the (oh-so-effective) sign that came before it. Insufficient even that it’s written in a polite and unassuming tone that just screamsOBEY ME! (…ThanK You)”. To cement off their triumph, the mysterious “Floor 21″ decide (doubtless only after an all-day roundtable meeting in which each attendee is encouraged to give their views, at length, on absolutely any topic whatsoever) that their new, improved sign should be placed on an out-of-the-way section of the wall, way down low where it won’t bother anyone!

      Aug 31, 2010 at 2:00 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #8   miss claire

    OMG! Your story about the ambiguity of ‘emergency’ is precicely what happened to me in first grade. Although ‘emergency’ to me only meant fire, so when the teacher asked “is it an emergency?” (to be excused to use the bathroom) I looked around confused, looking for a fire, and said “noooo”. Of course I had to sit back down, and then proceeded to pee myself. After that incident, the teacher bestowed upon the class the duty to ask me if I needed to go to the bathroom at the end of lunch everyday, for the rest of the year. There’s little wonder I hated school after that rough start…

    Aug 30, 2010 at 10:26 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #8.1   Wolverine Girl

      When I was in grade 1, I never even knew we could ask to go to the loo, emergency or not, during class time. I never had any accidents but I did do the toilet dance in the sitting position on quite a few occasions.

      Aug 31, 2010 at 1:27 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #8.2   aloria

      My kindergarten teacher would constantly tell my class, “if you really have to go, don’t even raise your hand and wait to be called, just tell me.” But what kid wants to blurt out in front of the entire class that she has to pee? After a number of accidents, the policy was changed to just get up and go use the bathroom in the back of the room.

      Aug 31, 2010 at 8:23 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #8.3   Other Julie bang

      I also belong to this club of lost dignity – however much dignity a five year old can have. When I was in first grade we were in the middle of a spelling test. I raised my hand, asked to go, the teacher said wait. I said “BUT ITS AN EMERGENCY”. She did not care. She was a horrible woman.

      Aug 31, 2010 at 11:49 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #8.4   Woman on the Verge bang

      I felt the need to test the whole bathroom emergency rule. I used to ask to use the potty repeatedly, ensuring that no matter when I asked, I would be allowed to go. After about a week they sent me to the school psychologist.

      Aug 31, 2010 at 1:59 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #8.5   mamason bang

      I told my children that if they really had to use the bathroom while at school and their teachers said no, they had my permission to excuse themselves anyway and I would deal with the teacher. I remembered too well the little children in 1st grade not being able to hold it and humiliating themselves in front of an entire classroom full of peers who would be in school with them for years.

      Aug 31, 2010 at 3:37 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #8.6   Reggi Lampert

      In 2nd grade, I needed to go to the bathroom once while our teacher was standing at the classroom door talking to the principal about something. I dutifully raised my hand, but she wasn’t looking at us, so she didn’t see. After awhile, it was urgent enough that I summoned the courage to approach her at the door. Without asking what I wanted, she ordered me to my seat. Being the obedient sort, I did and promptly peed my pants. I got scolded for this.

      Hated that teacher for the rest of the year.

      Sep 2, 2010 at 12:23 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #8.7   ariane

      Me too…kindergarten, asked to “go to the smallest room” (teacher’s phrase), and was told to wait until the end of “morning meeting” (ie first hour activity). I had been waiting before I asked, to the point that the next thing was my contribution to the meeting…a big puddle on the floor. How teachers figure that it’s your fault, and you’re just doing it to spoil their day, when they are the ones who are flexing their authority by denying a barely-five-year-old child permission to use the toilet, still escapes me. (Item: at that time in that place, most kindergarten teachers were young, single women, or recently married. Maybe they just didn’t know enough about small kids’ limited bladder capacity.)
      But anyway…she never told me to wait again.

      Sep 3, 2010 at 9:14 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #8.8   Megan

      When I was in third grade, I had by then become so brainwashed by the ‘ask for permission’ thing that I was very careful about asking permission and taking this tiny little plastic clothespin off a string to indicate a girl was already in the bathroom. Well, one day I was sick as hell and my teacher let me sit in the nice cool classroom by myself during recess. After a few minutes I realised I was going to vomit, so what do I do? Not run to the toilet, not to a trashcan, but to that damn string to get the damn clothespin. My hands were shaking so badly it took me forever to unhook it, and I ended up vomiting in the hallway. :(

      Sep 3, 2010 at 6:24 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #8.9   smo

      it happened to me, too, in first grade. though there was never any word spoken of emergencies or otherwise. the teacher’s rule was that, if we had a question or had to use the restroom, we had to wait until she was finished with her teaching to raise our hand and ask. one day she kept teaching and teaching and TEACHING and i knew i couldn’t raise my and until she was done, or she would yell at me. needless to say, my bladder couldn’t wait, and i was THAT kid. then i still got in trouble for not asking to go. : /

      Sep 7, 2010 at 3:04 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #8.10   Erika

      When my mother was in first grade, she still couldn’t speak perfect English. She asked in broken English to use the bathroom, but, since she couldn’t ask perfectly, the teacher punished her by making her stand in the corner. You can probably guess the rest.

      Sep 10, 2010 at 11:12 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #9   MAMARILLA2 bang

    Cutie fingers flashed in my mind as a quaint way of alluding to public display of affection…Similar to “No patty-fingers, if you please. The proprieties at all times.” This set off a whole other chain of giggles as I thought of what kind of emergency that could be…The copy room has always been a rather popular place to take care of such “emergencies”

    Aug 30, 2010 at 10:34 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #10   tish

    I should have listened to Sean Jungian… eww

    Aug 30, 2010 at 10:49 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #11   Sesquipedalian

    I hate it when Deaths walk in without an appointment. It’s impossible to understand that ghastly moaning and they whither my desk plants into blackened husks! And its not like threatening to drag my soul down into everlasting darkness and wagging oversized farm implements in my face is going to make it any faster for me to fix the mistakes of those morons down in payroll. I wish they’d just go harvest the lifeforce of a few of those red-button-pushing jerkwads instead of taking the elevator all the way up here to wail like banshees at me! And really, what do Grim Reapers need such prompt payment for, anyway? You’re a freaking dark angel, buddy! Whatever you need that cash for in Hades, it’ll still be there on Monday…

    Aug 30, 2010 at 11:09 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #11.1   shwonline bang

      It’s a Mr. Death or something. He’s come about the reaping? I don’t think we need any at the moment.

      Aug 31, 2010 at 12:10 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #11.2   infant tyrone bang

      Oh, that Mr. Death…he always stops in to chat with Miss Dickinson.
      Her brakes failed and they almost totaled each other in the parking lot.
      Luckily his brakes were OK and he was able to avoid hitting her.
      She always greets him with a little singsong line:
      Because I could not stop for Death, he kindly stopped for me.

      Aug 31, 2010 at 3:12 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #11.3   mastertwisted

      How timely:

      Sep 3, 2010 at 5:13 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #12   bowloftoast bang

    Could that glowing emergency exit button be more inviting? I just left cutie fingers all over my screen.

    Aug 30, 2010 at 11:34 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #12.1   Sarah

      It just screams “push me, push me! I’m he-eere!”

      Aug 31, 2010 at 1:44 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #12.2   The Elf

      True story – I was worked as an admin for a team that was doing an evaluation at a vendor’s lab. The lab had a big red glowing button on the wall for emergency shutdowns. It was all I could do not to push it at random intervals. The best part? When they did the catastrophic failure test, they let me push the button! It was the highlight of my week.

      At that Seattle office building, it would take every ounce of my willpower not to push the glowing button.

      Aug 31, 2010 at 8:10 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #12.3   Mark bang

      Can he resist the temptation to push the button that, even now, beckons him ever closer? Will he succumb to the maddening urge to eradicate history? At the MERE… PUSH… of a SINGLE… BUTTON! The beeyootiful SHINY button! The jolly CANDY-LIKE button! Will he hold out, folks? CAN he hold out?

      Aug 31, 2010 at 9:32 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #12.4   Mo®

      “Villains!” I shriek, “dissemble no more! I admit the deed! — tear up the post it! — here, here! — it is I that beat upon the shiny fetching button!”

      Aug 31, 2010 at 1:38 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #12.5   mamason bang

      Don’t beat on the shiny, fetching button, Mo. Gently stroke it, kiss it, perhaps blow on it while lightly flicking it with your tongue. You’d be amazed at the response.

      Aug 31, 2010 at 3:42 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #12.6   sarjo

      The button stood in the middle of the yard, quite unattended, the stable-helps and other hangers-on being all at their dinner. Toad walked slowly round it, inspecting, criticising, musing deeply.

      `I wonder,’ he said to himself presently, `I wonder if this sort of button pushes easily?’

      Sep 1, 2010 at 5:55 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #13   TippingCows

    I’ve never heard of cutie fingers, but I have heard about cutie poos. You know, those round little plopping brown bundles of joy that are clean and easy to evacuate.

    Aug 31, 2010 at 12:09 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #14   spoko

    My favorite part of all of them is in the second one: “And it is a big fire.” That, my friends, is precision.

    Aug 31, 2010 at 12:10 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #14.1   spoko

      Third one, I meant. Speaking of precision.

      Aug 31, 2010 at 12:10 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #14.2   The Elf

      Little fires aren’t emergencies, I guess. But wouldn’t you want the fire department to come before it becomes a big fire?

      Aug 31, 2010 at 8:11 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #14.3   Stinky bang

      I want those strapping young men in the fire department to come for my large AND small fires.

      Aug 31, 2010 at 5:55 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #15   J

    No seriously, don’t ask Google.

    Aug 31, 2010 at 12:18 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #16   AbleApril

    I am relieved ( ha, ha) that I’m not the only “emergency confused” pants-wetter out there!
    Luckily, none of my classmates noticed as it was right before lunch. I got to wear pink cords from the lost and found for the second half of the day but was too embarrassed to tell my mom what happened. Needless to say, when laundry day rolled around there were questions.

    Aug 31, 2010 at 12:25 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #16.1   Auntybron

      I Googled it but I clicked the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button.

      Aug 31, 2010 at 8:34 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #17   Sarah

    But are we talking about a computer lab here? Full of computer geeks? Perhaps I’m stereotyping here, but I just assumed “cutie finger business” was a euphemism for something computer geeks enjoy googling for when they’re bored, and Google seems to confirm that…

    Aug 31, 2010 at 1:51 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #17.1   George P

      I don’t the lab of an optometrist’s office would be full of “computer geeks”.

      Aug 31, 2010 at 3:32 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #18   Canthz_B bang

    There must be a way to splice mandarin orange genes into women.

    After all, if some other man is eating your cutie, you should be able to catch him orange-handed.

    Aug 31, 2010 at 3:11 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #19   Canthz_B bang

    No walk-ins except for emergencies such as death?

    Well, how reassuring to know that if I die I won’t need an appointment on the base.
    Death Benefits…gotta love ‘em!

    Aug 31, 2010 at 3:40 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #20   Canthz_B bang

    "SECURITY NOTICE" is such an uninspired title for the last sign.

    "EMERGENCY EXITS FOR DUMMIES" comes to mind though…and I’m sure there are many others.

    Aug 31, 2010 at 7:44 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #20.1   H for Toy

      The ballad of “Emergency Exit Only”

      Aug 31, 2010 at 8:19 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #21   Addie

    I’m still trying to figure out what the writer of the first note might have actually meant (as I assume “Cutie Fingers” wasn’t the intended meaning). Cut fingers?

    Seeing the second sign an a door at an Army installation doesn’t surprise me at all. “Since when does anything in the Army actually make sense” is a phrase often uttered at my house.

    Aug 31, 2010 at 8:18 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #22   susan

    Guess what Google’s #1 search today will be.

    Aug 31, 2010 at 8:22 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #23   Elorel

    I wonder if Floor 21 posted that sign because they especially hated walking down 21 flights of stairs when the alarm sounded.

    Why does it look like the word “emergency” is the only one to have suffered water damage in the last note…? My most plausible mental explanation so far includes high-precision, color-sensitive sprinkler robots.

    Aug 31, 2010 at 10:00 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #24   aaa bang

    Death is a walk-in emergency? It’s good to know that the US military is pro-zombie.

    Aug 31, 2010 at 10:09 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #25   GhostWriter bang

    How could the building catch on fire? The walls appear to be made of crystalline titanium.

    Aug 31, 2010 at 10:56 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #26   eslinger bang

    My first thought for “cutie fingers” was that they were some sort of finger puppets that the lab people were playing with when they had nothing else to do. But then I wondered what would constitute that sort of emergency. Maybe if one of the lab people was much like Mr. Garrison with his hand puppet, Mr. Hat, and they had to use the “cutie finger” to communicate. “Regina Phalange has something important to announce! Emergency cutie finger meeting!”

    Aug 31, 2010 at 11:43 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #27   Tam

    lol, congrats! This site is now the top return when searching for “cutie finger” with Google :)

    Aug 31, 2010 at 7:53 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #28   Xenobio

    Considering there are at least 21 floors in the building and the whole thing has to be evacuated when the alarm goes off, and the floor 21 fellas have to walk down 20 flights of stairs…I’m not surprised they’re pissed.

    Aug 31, 2010 at 9:05 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #29   PollyMT bang

    Ok. Thanks to you all and you “don’t google cutie fingers” clearly I had to. Now I am confused. What does that have to do with an orange and why would it be an emergency?

    Mind you, having studied computing and done many a nightshift in a computing lab, I can’t say I’m that surprised.

    Sep 1, 2010 at 2:16 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #30   Erin

    Correction, do not google “cutie fingers” at work

    Sep 16, 2010 at 4:47 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #31   Tom

    I googled “cutie fingers” and all i got were links back to this page.

    Sep 27, 2010 at 7:31 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up


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