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all content 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005
Suburban Island

Expense Reports
Thursday, Jul. 31, 2003, 9:19 p.m.

QUESTION: Expenses got you down?

WHAT I LEARNED: Do the expense report.

Today I am not a productive failure. Today I am making up for my maxi-loser status of yesterday. Today I am typing emails, not just checking them. Today I am planning programs, not just writing the words plan program on a sheet of blank paper which immediately gets removed from my desk by one of my kids so they can write a note of their own on it. I mean, after all, they need to write down info-mercial numbers and screen names of casual acquaintances.

Today I mailed out insurance forms for medical expenses that go back to 2001. I bet I'll have to submit those more than once but the point is that despite my obvious procrastination on the medical front, I did mail the forms today. One masterful accomplishment under my belt, I move forward to the next - expense reports.

Expense reports are so dreaded that even saying the words expense report creates a state of what I like to call crisis-based procrastination. I know I need to do the reports because not doing them means I don't have money that I need to pay some pending bills and makes me feels so fiscally unbalanced that even simple things like money for manicures, Chinese food, and check-out counter magazines are only purchased with a guilty sigh or even worse - not at all. Expenses can add up and when they come out of your very own bank account they can play havoc with your cash flow.

Yet, I hate to do them. So many little receipts, printouts, and ticket stubs to be taped onto blank sheets of paper. Room, taxes, tips. Phone calls, meals, and mileage. Planes, taxis, and airport parking. So many details and so many dollars to keep track of - I know I am going to forget something. I swear that our company knows this and makes a bundle on bungled expense reports. How many dollars do they make on people who are embarrassed to submit late, or claim an expense for which they lost the receipt, or just forget a few expenses along the way?

Like Josh in Haiku Tunnel - I dread the minutia of the expense report and am close to a virtuouso at putting it off. Even worse, once started on the grueling task, I notice our automated expense report has an unpleasant habit of almost always telling you that you meal expenses are over the normal alloted expense amount for the city in which you dined. I wonder - who computes those numbers? McDonald's employees? Accountants on a strict diet with a dark sense of humor? Or maybe the same crew that my health insurance provider has employed to figure out the standard allowable charges for medical procedures - always significantly lower than any billed amount I incur during a doctor's visit. It's one of life's mysteries.

There are no cokes left in the fridge, I never made the bed this morning, and we ate Subway for dinner. It doesn't matter though because the expense report is filed and that means that for the moment, I am an administrative success.

I just followed the advice in the movie - Go back to your desk. Settle down. Focus. Catch up.

Sometimes life is so complex that it becomes simple.

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