Inevitably when you’re on a reporting assignment you sometimes have to spend your own money to pay for gas, parking, a taxi and occasionally a meal. Every radio company I worked for reimbursed me for any expense I’d incurred as long as I had the receipt and it fell in line with the company rules.
One of the higher expense reports I filed was from a reporting assignment in Rome, Italy in February of 2012. I was sent to cover the Archbishop of Toronto, Thomas Collins as he and 21 other Archbishops from around the world were named to the College of Cardinals by Pope Benedict the XVI.
The company paid for the package deal trip which included the cost of flight, hotel and breakfast. The rest was on my dime and I was given the okay to expense meals and transportation. I also bought three Pope John Paul II bobbleheads, but I didn’t expense those.
Radio and religion unite
Going to Rome was the assignment of a lifetime for me professionally and personally as it combined my Italian background, Catholic faith, and the ‘Guelph’ connection I had with Archbishop Collins and the City of Rome. As well, Rome was the last place in Italy that my parents lived before they emigrated to Canada.
Reporting internationally over a four day period for a network of private radio stations would be very busy. But I was ready for the long and hectic days that involved filing live and produced reports, emailing photos for an online story, and even filing a TV report for the 6:00 p.m news on CityTV in Toronto; that report was recorded on the rooftop of the CNN bureau in Rome.
Cica Cica Boom
When I returned home I shared the stories and photos of my experience with family, friends and colleagues. Then I got down to business and started doing my paper work organizing the receipts. I filled out an expense sheet and would be reimbursed after the next pay period.
The next day, my boss called me into his office as he had a concern about one of the receipts I’d filed. The business manager was there as well as she’d brought to his attention there was a curious receipt — for 11 Euro for a visit to a strip-club. I had no idea what they were talking about until I was shown the piece of paper.
Cica Cica Boom Night Club, Floor Show, Lap Dancers was written on the receipt in bold red letters. In Italian was written Spettacolo dal vivo tutti le sere which means Live entertainment every evening.
My head was busy trying to figure out what the receipt was for, and wondering what my boss and the business manager were thinking. Obviously they thought I had gone to see strippers in between filing religious stories and that I was now trying to expense it.
The Italian, Catholic, Guelph, Rome connection I mentioned earlier was about to be stripped (pun intended) by a receipt that I had never closely looked at. Then I remembered where it came from! It was the receipt the cab driver had given me when he dropped me off at the CNN bureau where I’d recorded the rooftop report.
That’s when I spotted the word taxi in small print at the top right corner of the slip of paper. I described to my manager the breathless, and the cab ride I`d taken from the Vatican to the bureau. I also explained that I`d been far too busy producing stories and visiting with Italian relatives to go to the Cica Cica Boom Night Club if I`d had the inclination to, which I certainly did not!
I would also find out through an internet search that I wasn’t the first person to receive a taxi receipt like this. Many people on business trips to Rome have been issued the same slips when hopping a ride with a certain cab company, and have found themselves in the same awkward situation I`d found myself in, having to provide an explanation for it to their business managers.
The Cica-Cica Boom Nightclub would eventually end the career of a top pentagon aide who used a government credit card to pay for an $1,800 tab. Not sure how far 11 Euro would have got me in the club, but I wasn’t going back to find out.