(Just in time for Tax Day -- you did remember Tax Day, right? -- it's the latest
Zolton Does Amazon joint: Taxed to the Max.
Funnier than an audit, and simpler to read than a 1099-EZ! It's tax-tastic!)
My business jaunt from a couple of weeks ago continues to haunt me.
(More realistically, my failure to adhere to common social practices that a crack-addled gibbon could pick up is what haunts me.
It's just more fun when I take it "on the road".)
A quick recap of the journey: I flew from Boston to Chicago on a Friday evening, stayed overnight, attended a meeting and flew back late Saturday night.
Number of flights paid up-front by my company: Two.
Other expenses paid up-front by my company: None.
Other expenses cheerfully reimbursable by my company: All of them.
Nights stayed in a swanky hotel room: One.
Cabs caught to and from airports: Four.
Meals eaten on the road: One.
Total number of receipts in my pocket at end of trip?: One.
The business travel, she is a fickle mistress. When you're a gawking doofus who forgets to ask for receipts, apparently.
"So I did what I figure most real big-boy-pants-wearing businesspeople do: I guesstimated."
I did have one thing on my side. The lone receipt I managed to grab -- from the cabbie who careened me to the hotel -- wasn't filled in. It was completely blank -- no fare, no tip, no nothing. So I did what I figure most real big-boy-pants-wearing businesspeople do: I guesstimated.
Which is to say, I tallied up a ballpark of all the other cab fares, the room rate I saw on the bill I left on the bed, the book from the airport, the pack of gum, the minibar cashews and the dollar I gave to that homeless Cubs fan, and I wrote it down on the receipt.
Plus tip, naturally. I'm magnanimous that way.
So I turned in this gaudy cab ticket as my lone road expense, figuring it all sorted out in the wash. The cashflow was about right. Who quibbles about details in finance these days?
(I left the meal off the bill, as some friends that I met up with at the meeting very graciously paid for my lone out-of-town dinner at a charming Japanese joint nearby.
In retrospect, if I'd gotten my hands on that receipt, I could have turned that in to cover the weekend. Four of us plus tasty fish plus a few rounds of beers would just about do it. But then I'd have to say I ran up the tab alone:
'That's right, I ate fourteen pounds of raw fish by myself. DO NOT QUESTION THE MIGHTY SUSHISAURUS, GAIJIN! THE RIVERS RUN GREEN WITH WASABI TONIGHT!'
It might even work. Sushisaurus don't take no lip from nobody.)
This morning, our office manager called me into her office. It went about as well as you might expect.
Her: So... did you take a cab while you were in Chicago?
Me: Of course.
Her: For four hundred dollars?
This is the first hurdle in selling a ridiculous lie -- the perfectly reasonable incredulous response. The key is to remain calm. Make it seem normal.
Me: Yup. Sounds about right.
Her: Four HUNDRED?
Me: Could have been three-ninety, I guess. Should I not round up?
Naturally, this never works. Be prepared to be pelted with follow-up questions.
Her: What, did you take it to Detroit? Or Canada?!
Me: Nope. Straight to the hotel.
Her: Were there... hookers in the cab or something?
Me: I didn't check the trunk. But no. I didn't see any.
Her: Did you buy this cab?
Me: With that upholstery? Child, please.
This is usually followed by stunned silence, as the lie-ee tries desperately to reconcile this new information with a version of reality that isn't completely batshit whackadoodle. It's also a good time to be proactive.
Me: Look, let's be honest.
Her: Yes? Please do.
Me: Have you taken a cab in Chicago lately?
Me: Come on. It's the Midwest. You know how they are.
A calculated risk. If she grew up in Omaha, I'm cooked. Maybe fired. And possibly hog-tied. But what are the odds?
Her: Oh. Yeah. They kind of are, aren't they?
Turns out she's from Connecticut. Mission accomplished. Reimbursement check, cut. Some cabbie in Chicago, possibly in a lot of hot water right now.
But hey, don't feel bad for him. With that upholstery? Child, please.