I had a terrible experience with trying to get my taxes done.
Last week I was on spring break, and that was one of the most important things on my ‘to do’ list. With April 15 looming just around the corner, I started searching for a group of volunteer tax preparers. On my limited income, I’m always looking for ways I can cut corners, and I had a great experience last year with a local group. I found an open session at the library early in the week, walked in and signed up on the list. I waited and waited, but that was no problem. It’s a free service and you just expect that when you go in.
I sat at a table with an elderly gentleman that had much to share. He rambled on and on with stories of his life including the “daughter-in-law from hell.” Too much information for me, but I just continued to listen and fill out my paperwork. The man explained that his son ended up losing their home because she never paid the house payments. Said she used the money for drugs then waited for my response. By his facial expression I think he was hoping to get a shock reaction out of me.
I just nodded, and made a ‘Hmmm’ sound.
Nothing surprises me anymore, because stuff like this happens. I’ve seen plenty of adversity in my own life and other people’s lives. I did wonder about the deeper insights of his story though, questioning who enabled who – but realized it certainly wasn’t any of my business.
The old guy had some colorful words to describe a man that had cut in front of him in line and scribbled his signature on the list ahead of him. He kept going on and on about it, and I kept writing information on the tax forms, giggling a bit inside whenever he spit out a cuss word.
The hostess lady was cute. Petite.
Told me she worked for a local school district for over 30 years as a teacher. 2nd grade. 4th grade. Being friendly to her turned on a faucet of opinions about public education. She was quite concerned when spelling and cursive writing were taken out of the curriculum for elementary students. Her favorite experience was with kindergarteners. Her face almost wore a scowl as she complained about the difficult work expected from the young students. She reminisced over 1/2 day kindergarten, nap mats, and play centers. I agreed with her. Those 5-year-old babies are immersed in a world of academic structure that can wait, if you ask me.
But then, I’m not in charge. I don’t set the standards.
I just go in and love on them and help their teachers. There’s always something you can do to encourage or help a kindergarten teacher, and the smart ones accept the help!
Finally, I am called over to one of the tables. Remember, I am the only person left. The last one on their list. The volunteers began about 8:00 a.m. and it is now 12:50 p.m. When I sat down the man didn’t look at me or say ‘hello’. No smile either. These might have been my first clues that I was in trouble.
The tax preparer stares at his computer screen, still doesn’t look at me. Holds out his hand and blurts, “Okay — Whacha got?”
“Um…” I whispered. Thinking, “My tax information, Bozo.”
I know that wasn’t very nice to think that, but c’mon. Why couldn’t he greet me?
This guy definitely had a different approach from the nice lady last year. I drew a deep breath and hoped for the best. I tried the friendly approach, thanking him for his services. A few times. Smiling. I’m not a difficult case. I have a small income, health savings account from work. It wasn’t like I had to be itemized with 15,000 deductions. Everything with this guy was a problem. With each document (and there weren’t very many) he whined and complained, aggravated and groaned. He told me I was making him nervous because of the possibility I was giving him information that was suspect. How was this happening to me? He didn’t even make sense.
I’m thinking, “Who IS this guy? Why couldn’t I get that nice lady over there? Or that other older gentleman I watched smiling the entire 2 1/2 hours I’d been waiting?
Instead, I got MR. GRUMBLES.
At one point I called my former husband to prove to this volunteer that I was supposed to claim our son on my taxes. He didn’t believe me. He couldn’t decide if I should be single, wondered if I really was divorced, and argumentative and upset that I didn’t have a copy of my divorce decree. I couldn’t believe how long I sat with him and how he made me feel like such a problem. It became embarrassing the way he was talking with me, loudly. People were watching as I continued smiling, and I hoped tears wouldn’t visit me which usually happens when I’m caught in a frustrating situation in public trying to take care of personal business.
Good Absolute Grief.
Then something magical happened. Wow. Crazy!
I stood up slowly… cautiously, and pushed my chair in. I leaned over the table and smiled again at this little man, gripping the back of the chair tightly with my fists.
Then, looking straight into the mean eyes of this character I yelled,
“I JUST NEED YOUR HELP! WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?
IF YOU DON’T LIKE VOLUNTEERING, THEN GET OUT OF HERE, DUDE!”
The man was handing me his computer for an e-signature.
I gasped, thankful I really didn’t do that. Shook a little bit. I’d zoned out for a few seconds in a daydream. He had no idea he just literally escaped an “I’m trying to be nice to you and you’re not getting it” VOLCANO. He was real lucky. And I was real thankful I chose deep breathing and self-control.
As I gathered up my papers and stashed them into the large envelope he gave me, my preparer made mention of another document I needed for verification of my college son’s scholarships and grants. Could there be any more frustration after everything I just experienced?
The next day I took my already filed tax packet to a reputable tax office. They quoted me a reasonable fee for an amendment, and were pleasantly helpful and understanding.
I think someone told me once that life’s interruptions are God’s appointments.
Mr. Grumbles, I think you just needed a smile that day. A couple. Well, maybe a lot.
And some kindness. I realize that now.