taxes: a pound of flesh
Tuesday, March 7 2000
Jesus Christ I'm disorganized. What with all the paperwork and records needed by the Santa Monica loan agent, I found myself tearing the house limb from limb. I looked absolutely everywhere and I never did recover my 1998 tax records. Furthermore, having failed to submit a change-of-address form back in November of 1998 when I moved out of Normal Heights, I certainly didn't have any of my bank statements. So I went down to the Ocean Beach branch of Bank of America and had them crank out my bank records as far back as they could, which was only to October, 1999. The old lady teller woman presented them to me as a fan-folded stack of dot matrix printout, complete with perforated tractor-feed rip-aways. Working in the web industry, it's easy to forget that most of the business of the country is still being conducted on technology from 1983.
When Kim got home from getting her nails done, we reached the conclusion that my tax records were probably irretrievably left behind at my erstwhile workplace. So we decided to go to H & R Block in Point Loma and have our 1999 taxes done so we could send our loan agent those records instead. We made considerably more money in 1999 than we did in 1998, so such records would probably make a better case for us getting a loan.
I'd never paid anyone to do my taxes for me before, but there I was, sitting across the table from an elderly H & R Block employee as he entered my data into his software and made all the necessary calculations. He never bothered to ask me if I wanted to give $3 to the Presidential election fund; he simply checked off that I did not.
When it was all done, the old man announced that I owed $3200 to the governments of the United States and California. It was instant Willie Nelson blues. Suddenly I had this existential despair welling up inside me, like I'd just lost a fairly good friend or learned I had six months to live. Having to fork over $3200 is like getting 30 speeding tickets in a single day (without, of course, having to go to traffic school). I'd figured I probably owed something, but I had no idea it would be this much. But hell, this was my situation; I'd had a good year and the numbers didn't lie; I really did owe this much. There was no use in complaining, least of all to an H & R Block guy who was only doing his job. I've never been one of those idiotic Republicans who gets worked up about having to pay taxes.
Kim's situation was considerably brighter than mine; owing to deductions for things like tuition, she actually came out $1000 ahead. So, with our finances viewed as a whole, we were only $2200 in the red.
We had so many sheets of paper to fax to Santa Monica that we decided to go buy a fax machine. In the Point Loma Circuit City, the machine we consensed on was the HP OfficeJet T45, an ink jet printer/scanner/faxer/copier that, as a printer, cranks out pages at a blistering nine per minute. The color capabilities were also good, though (belying the banter we had with the salesboy), it's doubtful the thing will pay for itself with counterfeit currency production.
In the evening, Kim and I watched some of that new Fox gameshow, Greed. Interestingly, the show featured some of the modernizations I noted for Who Wants to be a Millionaire, including the use of a more "psycho-ambient" soundtrack. But certain aspects came across as simply stupid, like the questions themselves and the dramatic pauses following answers by equally-stupid contestants. Judging from the two shows I've seen so far, interest in modern gameshows must be intimately tied to the low intelligence level of the average modern contestant. The viewer watches and thinks "Whoah, if I'd been on that stage, I'd be a millionaire now! Who do I have to call to get on that show?"
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