ELU’s and Lists


A few years ago, I was fuming to a co-worker about having lost a receipt for a dinner that was far over amount one could submit without a receipt.

“That’s easy to fix”, he said. “Figure out how many ELU’s it is.”

“How many what?” I sputtered.

“ELU’s. Equivalent Lunch Units. Or Breakfast units if that’s the meal that you don’t eat. You can submit $10 without a receipt. Just spread that amount over however many days that you need until you reach your reimbursement amount.”

This may not have been acceptable with our accounting department, but it made sense to me. I never ate breakfast so I didn’t submit any reimbursement requests for it. Over the next several trips, I added the EBU/ELUs I needed to get my dinner reimbursed. I also realized, on another trip, that it could take A LOT of skipped breakfasts or lunches to recoup losses, as the lost receipt wasn’t a one-time occurrence and I was usually traveling to the NYC-metro area where one needs an entirely different definition of “inexpensive meal” than in the midwest. So I took my coworker’s second suggestion and bought a booklet of generic receipts. I only needed to use it a few times, but the receipts were sold in bulk, so I had about 1000 of them. Since I no longer travel for business, I have a lot of diner receipt pads around my house. Which is fine; I like to make lists.

Over the last four years, these have been used for grocery lists, to-do lists, phone conversations, directions, recipes. Grocery lists are a necessity if I don’t want to wander aimlessly around Kroger’s. Phone messages are rare as both my husband and I assume, if we are the ones nearby when the landline rings and don’t recognize the number, that the phone is for the other person and will ignore it. Recipes and travel directions get written on any blank piece of paper, so the receipts will do as well as an old envelope. To-do lists, though, are by far the most common use of this scrap paper.

I’ve always been a strong advocate of to-do lists and work journals. If I don’t write down something that I need to do, there is a chance that it isn’t going to be done. I used to write lengthy lists at work containing all of the tasks I needed to do at some point, but found them to be overwhelming. Now, I keep lists of various things that I want to do in the future, and a basic list for the day or week — depending on what kind of week is planned! I’m the kind of person that likes the sense of accomplishment that comes from crossing items off of a list. I usually review the previous week’s list and the end of the week to see if there is anything that has been overlooked.

Since I can also be easily distracted by bright shiny objects, often, I can feel, at the end of a day full of busyness, that I haven’t done a thing. That is where a work journal comes in handy! I add things completed to my lists and then mark them as done. Besides a sense of accomplishment, the habit of adding things helps me to recognize when I’ve moved unnoticed away from my priorities. It provides a mean for course-correction.

Some lists, though, are only meant for brainstorming. I was looking for one of these receipt pads the other day in order to record some random thought or task when I found, underneath a pile of mail my husband was sorting, the list below that I find interesting. T said that it wasn’t his handwriting; I guess it is mine although I have no recollection of writing this list. Furthermore, I don’t know exactly what this list is suppose to represent. Here are the items scrawled on this list:

Name of a restaurant 60 miles away
Opera @ LaScala
Opera Verona
Ballet Bolshoi
El Capitan
Solveig
Visit 6 continents
Patagonia
Singapore
Melbourne, Aus.
Mermaid Copenhagen

With the exception of the first item — a place owned by a personal friend from my college days, a restaurant we visit a few times a year — these items appear to be some sort of travel bucket list. The funny thing about it, though, is that neither T or I can understand why some of these items would have been put on this list.

Melbourne? Why there and not elsewhere on the Australian continent. Singapore? I’ve always wanted to go to Asia, but I would place China, Japan, Hong Kong, Vietnam and Thailand on my list before Singapore. Not that I dislike Singapore, but I tend not to think much about it when I think of Asian travel. Maybe it is some place that I should investigate visiting.

The Mermaid in Copenhagen? It also seems rather singular. My husband said that he has always wanted to see it, but there are other places in Copenhagen too. Patagonia: that is definitely on my husband’s list. 6 continents? I would have listed ‘ALL’ continents, although I realize that as I grow older the chance to go to Antarctica is become less and less likely.

Solveig? Did I mean “Solvang”, or was I trying to channel the main character in Ibsen’s Peer Gynt? My husband says that from what he remembers from traveling there as a child, Solvang, California is a neat little town. But why wouldn’t I have written “Visit CA wine country?” I wouldn’t travel all that distance to only go to Solvang. As for El Capitan, I know that I would like to go there: not to climb it, but to photograph it. Still, it seems odd to be on this list; it is more likely that I would have written “See Yosemite.” Only the two opera references make sense, as LaScala is like Mecca for Opera lovers, and the opera at Verona is performed in an outside amphitheatre. Both are places that I want to see someday.

I’m not sure that I’ll ever determine the origin of this list, though I am now inspired to create a clearer travel wish list. Lesson learned? That I should attempt to keep my lists not only more legible, but also with a clearer, more understandable focus. A title would have helped; that is, if I was the one who actually wrote this list.

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