Dan came over last night to help me with my taxes. I had been fretting about doing them for months, and he assured me that there was nothing to worry about; it would all be very easy and the only skill needed on my part was simple addition. What Dan doesn’t realize is that “simple addition” to an engineer translates into “mathematical nightmare” to a writer.
Earlier in the day I sorted through my file folder, found all the necessary forms, and stacked them in a neat pile just as Dan had instructed. When he arrived we sat down at the kitchen table to survey the damage yet to be done, my eyes wide and glossy, Dan furrowing his brow, stroking his chin in contemplation. If only he had been smoking a cigarette and I wearing a mink stole you would have mistaken us for a detective and the subsequent damsel in distress from a film noir.
“Now what can I do for you, Miss Wonderly?”
“Could you? I thought…I…that is…”
“Suppose you tell me about it from the very beginning.”
The very beginning was January 1, 2010, and we had to trace all of my earnings, expenses, deductions, expenditures, insurances, allowances, and every other financial sounding term that I hardly knew the definition of throughout the entire year. The first step was to sort through my pile of forms from past employment. Being that I’m a recent college student there were three hundred and sixty-five of them. The form from my spring job. The form from my summer job. The form from my fall job. The form from my temporary job. The form from my second temporary job. The forms for my second, third, and fourth fall jobs. The form for my last two weeks of December job.
It was inevitable that one of the forms I needed would be missing.
“Where’s the form from your second spring job?” Dan asked.
“I thought that was it?” I cried, pointing to a half slip of paper that might as well have been written in Portuguese.
“No, that’s not it. You don’t even need that form.”
I sighed heavily in exasperation and hauled out my file folder, throwing papers everywhere and grumbling about how stupid taxes were. The form wasn’t in the folder, so I dragged out another box and continued my cynical muttering.
Dan said that I was getting upset too easily. But how someone could possibly consider remaining calm was beyond my comprehension. Denying a girl her anxiety while she’s doing her taxes is like refusing a child his excitement on Christmas morning. I mean, really, who doesn’t enjoy getting a little perturbed over an activity that depletes time, money, effort, and sanity?
After several minutes of sorting through my things I announced defeat and sat back down next to Dan, who told me I shouldn’t agonize. Then he handed me a form on which was highlighted several lines I needed to fill out. It was like a twisted version of color by number for adults. For every color you write down a number and pray that the resulting amount will be smaller than the balance in your bank account.
I did fine to begin with. I figured out a couple of sums and wrote them down in the designated area. Then I came to line 9.
Line 9 said to write down the total from line 35. So I went to line 35 and it said to go to form J-19 and write down the total from line 66. I continued on in the instructions: Go to form S-5 and divide the total of line 6 by 3. Go to form R-14, do three jumping-jacks, and multiply the amount of line 102 by .67. Go to form AA-183, bring it to your backyard, plant an apple tree, let it grow until it bears fruit, and then divide the amount of line 2396 by the circumference of the first ripe apple multiplied by 84.502.
I gasped in horror and presented the form to Dan, declaring that this was impossible to complete by April 15 with the kind of soil we lived on. It was Dan’s turn to sigh, and within two minutes he had completed line 9 and I moved on to line 10. We continued in this manner for two hours until Dan decided we needed a break, due to the late hour, the sudden failure of the computer to connect to the internet, and my recurring inability to calculate elementary math equations. I slouched down in my chair as I saw the mess of papers left to organize. It looked like the unabridged version of War and Peace had just exploded all over the kitchen. We decided to finish the rest of the work some other time, and I said good-night, thanking Dan incessantly for his help.
Albert Einstein once said that “the hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax.” I heartily concur, and I fail to understand why the government created such a complicated system in the first place. You would think that for them to say “give us all your money,” would be sufficient. But I suppose it is a part of life, as certain as death according to Mr. Franklin, and I am thankful I have Dan who can help me through it in order to avoid the latter sureness. We are both learning patience, I with my tax procedures and Dan with me. And those are two lessons worth learning.