Dad’s Motel Receipts & Expense Report Sagas

LV Steinhoff equipment reference books

Dad travelled quite a bit looking to buy used heavy equipment for his next job. He’d pore over auction and sales catalogs until he had made a list of possible buys; then, he’d saddle up his pony and take off to see if the equipment was suitable and in good condition.

He told me one time that if you were going to stay in the construction business, you had to work the margins: one piece of equipment too many or one too few, or one worker too many or one too few could mean the difference between making deadlines, and profits and loss.

He had a good track record of paying a good price for a bulldozer or dragline, using it on a job, then selling it for what he had paid for it or more.

Disputing a charge

LV Steinhoff credit card receipts 1977

One file folder I ran across had many exchanges between Dad and his credit card company over a Cullman, Ala, Days Inn charge that had been double-billed.

The amount in dispute was $14.71. Like I said, it was all about the margins. Nobody was going to soak Dad for $15.

Look at these amounts

I’m sure Dad gritted his teeth before paying a Best Western in Americus, Ga., $21.20. I can remember the first time I stayed in a place that gouged me $24.99 (plus tax).

The Guest House Hotel in Bushnell, Fl., was a more reasonable $12.48, and even the Cullman Days Inn wouldn’t have been bad at $14.71 if they hadn’t tried to charge him twice.

Expense account confessions

LV Steinhoff credit card receipts 1977

I was a collector of receipts, even if I didn’t use them on a particular trip. I was especially fond of Waffle Houses because they were almost everywhere, and they didn’t have any identifying marks on them.

Not all my staffers were as diligent about keeping track of receipts, so I went to an office supply store and bought one of each receipt pads they stocked. Rather than having accounting kick back a report that was light on backup, I’d give the staffer some receipt books, and say, “Fill in the holes, but don’t use the same book in multiple towns, and don’t keep them in numerical order.”

I learned that from Dad

Dad’s partners were great at what they were great at, but they were a little light when it came to business matters.

At tax time, Dad sat them down and said, fill out your expense diaries to account for what you spent to the best of your knowledge. Don’t use the same pen to fill out the entries. Here are black, blue, green and red pens. Vary them.

They followed his directions

When he looked at their diaries, they had followed his directions.


The entries were black, blue, green and red; black, blue, green and red; black, blue, green and red….

That’s when I learned that you can never be too careful giving directions.

“Find the jacket”

Florida-born Sarah Steinhoff shovels snow on  Christmas Eve 2000 while I watch in my field jacket

When I left on an out-of-town assignment, the weather was supposed to be warm at my destination. Unfortunately, a cold front moved through and caused the mercury to plummet.

It’s hard to take sharp photos when you a shivering, so I dropped into an army surplus store and picked up a field jacket for less than fifteen bucks.

Accounting kicked it back saying that we don’t pay for clothing items.

I reworked my report and shot it back.

“This is for the same amount as your first report,” accounting said.

“Find the jacket,” was my answer.

That coat is still one of my favorite pieces of clothing, even if it HAS managed to shrink in the dark of the closet over the years.,

Helpful Hotel Haley

Haley at Cullman AL Sleep Inn 03-21-2015Cullman, Alabama, is a good first night or last night stop for me when I’m heading to or from Cape or Florida.

I also like it because it has a couple of motels that have treated me right.

Where’s Crazy Carol?

Road Warriorette Shari and I had a busy day with several highs and lows which will be recounted later. She said she’d be willing to pay more than $35.97 for a room since it was our last night. We pulled into the Comfort Suites where I have had good service in the past, but I really didn’t want to fork over $107 plus tax when there was the Sleep Inn down the hill where we had stayed on our last trip for a lot less.

We picked it the last time because Shari needed a smoking room (she’s since stopped). When we stepped into the lobby, we asked the night clerk, “Where’s Crazy Carol?”


“OMG,” the young woman said. “Carol and I were just talking about this couple who came in here and named her that. She said you were a real hoot.”

“That would probably be us,” I confessed. Then Shari and I went into our normal night clerk banter that had her in stitches. I’m not going to give away any of our lines because we may want to use them someplace else in the future.

Haley, that was her name, said, “I’m going to have to call Carol. We were just chatting when you walked up. She’s not going to believe you guys are here.”

Ice bucket condoms

After we checked in, I needed to get some kind of information from her, and I took along my ice bucket. “Would you demonstrate for me the proper way to apply the ice bucket condom? I’ve stayed in scores of lodgings, and after looking inside some of the ice buckets, I can appreciate why you would WANT that plastic liner, but I’ve never figured out how to unfold the darned thing, and when you DO get it in the bucket, as soon as the ice hits it, it collapses.”

With another customer watching intently, Haley gave her best Vana White ice bucket condom presentation. She got it unfolded, but it still pulled out when the ice flumpped in.

She’s not quite Crazy Carol, but she’s a close runnerup. If Crazy Carol isn’t there the next time we stop, we’ll ask for Helpful Hotel Haley. She was a nice end to a long day of driving.

Frost Leaves Me Cold

Frost in Athens OH 10-25-2013When I walked out of my room at the motel where I’m staying in Athens, Ohio, I had an unpleasant surprise: my car was encased in a solid sheet of ice.

What is on the back of my van?

I spotted the housekeeper who throws me new towels every morning coming across the parking lot. She’s a friendly sort.

Leading her around to the back of my van, I asked, “What do you see on the back of the car?”

She looked at the car, then at me, and shot me a confused look.

This is against the law

Frost in Athens OH 10-25-2013“That’s a Florida license tag on this vehicle,” I clarified. “Don’t you folks in Ohio know that it’s against the law for a Florida vehicle to be covered in ice?”

She laughed, but it was a nervous kind of laugh.

I wonder if I’ll have new housekeeper in the morning?

Since I didn’t have Friend Jan along to scrape the ice off the windows, I just let the engine run for about 10 minutes, then scraped the ice off the mirrors with a credit card.


Freezing a Floridian

FL native Jan Norris tries to figure out how to wear cold weather clothing.I’m pushing hard to get a bunch of stuff done so I can head back to Cape via Athens, Ohio, this weekend. One of the tasks was to cold-proof my former coworker and bike partner Jan Norris. See, Jan has heard so much about Cape that she volunteered to go along to keep me company. (OK, wormed her way in might be another way to put it.)

This is going to be interesting because Jan is one of those rare birds – a Florida native. You can click any of the photos if you want to see her before her nose freezes off.

Wife Lila, taking pity on her, reached deep into the back of the closet to outfit her for frigid temperatures. “Long underwear? Those are real? People REALLY wear them?” I left the room while Wife Lila explained the rear trap door. I wasn’t sure whether Jan is one of those folks who can learn by explanation or if she needed a practical demonstration, and I sure didn’t want to find out.

You should have seen her try to figure out how earmuffs work.

Here’s how you wear a scarf

FL native Jan Norris tries to figure out how to wear cold weather clothing.Jan was food editor at The Palm Beach Post. There was a time when she and I were exiled into the deepest bowels of the building. Her office was right across from the telecom switchroom where I lived. Our location was sort of like the geographic equivalent of the shortest day of the year: any step you took in any direction put you closer to sunlight.

Newspapers get an incredible amount of swag. Our book reviewer would get close to 5,000 books a year. PR people would send food, wine and other products they hoped would serve as bribes or fodder for product review. Our ethics policy said it had to be turned over to charity. Jan and I co-chaired a twice-a-year book sale and silent auction that raised from $10,000 to $20,000 a year for little-know charities that were below the radar of United Way and the Palm Beach balls.

Working closely together on those projects led me to try to convince Jan that THIS is the proper way to wear a scarf. {Note to Friend Mary: this is the scarf you knitted when I worked at The Jackson Pioneer back in 1964. It’s as good as ever. You did good work.]

Jan and Mother

Key Largo to Key West bike ride 02-25-2001When a bunch of us rode our bikes from Key Largo to Key West, Jan shared a houseboat room with Mother. Shortly after writing the sad story about my mother’s arm, I was talking with Jan about it. “No, that can’t be true. I spent the night with that woman. She didn’t have anything wrong with her arm.”

“You don’t believe me? Let’s call my brother Mark. He’ll tell you the same story.”

“Let’s call Lila. Lila can’t lie.” She had me there.

I dialed the number and handed Jan the phone. “You won’t believe the crazy story Ken was telling me about his mother….”

“You mean about her arm?” Lila asked.

“I spent the NIGHT with that woman. I never noticed.”

I can’t wait to see Jan giving Mother long, furtive glances the whole time she’s in Cape.

We’re staying at the Meth Motel

Jan Norris Bike ride from Key Largo to Key West 02-24-2001My definition of a good trip is when you end up with as many people as you start out with. It’ll be interesting to do a head count at the end of THIS trip. Our first area of conflict may deal with lodging. She was talking about making reservations. I said I don’t do that because I don’t know how far I’m going to drive on any particular day or if I may decide to change routes at the last minute.

She said she likes to stay at a place with chocolates on the pillow. I told her I never look too closely at black objects on my pillows because I’m afraid they may have legs at the places I stay.

I tried to reassure her by telling her the kind folks at the Athens Historical Society had booked us a couple of rooms at The Meth Motel. “That probably means Methodists run it.”

She set the standard for messy

Jan Norris office 03-22-2006_527One great thing about Jan was that any time someone poked fun at MY office, where everything was in a carefully crafted state of chaos, I’d say, “Let’s go for a walk.” It was common knowledge that one newsroom staffer’s job description included “distract fire inspector if he starts anywhere near Norris’ office on the annual walk-through.”

In fairness to Jan, not ALL of the clutter belonged to her. I put the Hula Parrot on her desk when I was giving it a tour of the paper.

I’m sure Jan will have a much different perspective on our trip, but history belongs to the survivor who writes it down. I hope we hit at least one day when it’s cold enough to freeze the hair in her nose.