Dancing with Uncle Sam

15 04 2009

Ah, it’s that lovely time of year when the trees are budding, the grass is greening, and my system once again revolts, driving me to drugs for relief. Pollen, you ask? No. My misery is fueled by something even more unavoidable than the changing of seasons. Taxes.

The good news is, I actually filed last week. But not before climbing a few small mountains to get there. The final one was figuring out how to handle the investment, income, and donations involved in self-publishing Parting the Waters. After asking a few friends for advice and still not obtaining definite answers, I broke down and called the IRS tax-help line.

I had no idea what to expect. Would I have to wait on hold forever, listening to cheesy arrangements of 70s songs? Would the person who finally answered be a heartless, disgruntled bureaucrat who slaps a big, red, be-sure-to-audit-this-clueless-citizen flag on the files of callers with issues? (Hey, we all know I have issues.) Before I dialed the number, I prayed.

I navigated the voice-mail menu and then listened to Tchaikovsky’s A Nutcracker Suite. Could be worse, I thought. Finally it switched to a ring. A woman answered and quickly rattled off something to the effect of, “Ah-low! Thees ees Mees Heernahndez, ID noomber Wahn Seex Zehdo Seex Sree Sehbrun Sree . . . ”

I didn’t catch her whole speech, because a.) I wasn’t sure she was actually speaking English, and b.) I was too busy trying to figure out how I was going to understand specific tax schedule instructions spoken in a triple-thick Hispanic accent with all the words running together. What now? The US government is outsourcing tax-help jobs overseas? This was not good. When she finally paused, I assumed it was time for me to speak, but I didn’t dare launch into details at this point. “Um, hello. I have a question about filling out Schedule C.”

“Ah naht soor ah unnerstahn yoo, deed yoo sahee “Cee” ahs een “Caht?”

Awkward pause while I mentally translated. She didn’t understand me? Oh dear. “Uhhhh, yes! C as in Cat.” Nervous laugh. “I’m sorry. I’m having trouble understanding your accent.”

Burst of delighted laughter on her end. “Ah, thahs ahraheet, yoo sahee Skehdool Cee, yes? I cahnnect yoo to sahmwahn who hayelp yoo weeth dat. Ahneetheeng else ah cahn do for yoo?”

I caught the “connect you to someone who can help you” part and latched on for dear life. “I just need to talk to someone about Schedule C, thank you!”

“Ah trahnsfeer yoo now. Sahnk yoo foor cahlleeng dee I Ahr Ehss.”

She put me on hold where the Sugar-Plum Fairies continued to dance. I must say imagining a room full of IRS Dilberts prancing about on twinkle toes brightened my mood immensely. Then the music stopped, I heard click, click noises, and then ringing. Oh, Lord, please, please, please . . .

A man’s voice interrupted my prayer. “Hello. This is Mr. Molner, ID number 02705 . . .”

I wanted to shout, “I LOVE YOU!!!!” but I thought it might be taken as an inappropriate attempt to seduce a tax employee for Schedule C favors. I will say, though, that I had such a deep appreciation in that moment for the simple pleasure of clear communication, I spoke to Mr. Molner with the deepest respect and most profound gratitude imaginable. He proved to be a friendly, helpful assistant, found the answers to my questions, and even wished me well with my book.

After I hung up satisfied, I wondered if Mees Heernahndez was a strategic plant on the part of the IRS–a way to make citizens so grateful when they finally reach a Mr. Molner, they forget to be annoyed by tax-return issues. If so, my hat’s off to them for a grand psychological success. It definitely worked for me. I was so happy when it was all over, I even felt like leaping, dancing, and throwing in a few pirouettes. All I needed was the appropriate music. Hmmm, maybe a quick call to the IRS . . .



2 responses

15 04 2009

You forgot reason 3 for not catching her whole speech: (3) You were mentally spelling out the bit of speech you heard in order to capture it on a blog post.

3 pirouettes for finishing taxes!

Heather G.

15 04 2009

Ha! Good call. You’re almost right. I did write it out during the Dilbert Ballet interlude.

Dig those jazzy pirouettes, girl.

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