Monday, March 8, 2010


by Ben Small

Maybe it's just me, but life seems more aggravating these days. I've been working on a book, really hot with langua-lava, you know... flow. In other words: I been puttin' words on da page.

So why don't I see more pages on my floor?

Well, because the I.R.S. was through with my documents, satisfied with several years returns -- what joyful fun they are to play with -- and was ready to return them. [Yes, a play on words.] Knowing that I had boxes full of my documents in their hands, aware that their employer was desperate for my moola,  I wanted those puppies out of their hands at first light.

Who wouldn't?

But at first light, I probably wouldn't have found the I.R.S. office. It's tucked into a plaza, parking difficult and a hike, a plaza that offers no maps or signs. Just buildings all around, nary a direction or address to be found.

So, after asking directions from passersby and making some mistakes, I finally made it to the door behind which I would find my trusty Treasury Examiner and the documents she'd been munching. I opened the door and stepped inside. Found a closed room and a metal detector. An unsmiling Marshall behind a plastic barrier with a slide-out tray. I emptied my pockets.

Damn, forgot about that little plastic pocket-knife. I tossed it into the tray. I pointed to it, said, "How about this? It's little."

The Marshall didn't see the humor. No, he didn't pull on me. Instead,  I got the lecture, all the statutes and regulations, the wagging finger.

And I deserved it. Anybody dumb enough to not check and double check their pockets before visiting the federal government, needs a guardian. Duh. 

Well, will he hold it for me? It's little...

I got the lecture.

Well, could I dump it outside?

I got the lecture, with an addendum this time. If I disposed of the weapon outside, I must do so beyond the sidewalk. I couldn't just throw O.J. it in the nearest trash bin.

The sidewalk, a quarter mile away. And me with bad feet.

So I re-stuffed my pockets and was off. I'm surprised I wasn't followed.

I walked past the sidewalk and deposited my little plastic pocket-knife in a tree well on the other side of the street from the plaza.

Yes, I retrieved both the pocket-knife and my documents. But the adventure cost me most of the day.

On the way home, I decided on a celebratory treat: a chai lattee tea from my local cafe, a spot known for its pizza pannettis also. As I held the door open for a few elderly women, I saw the line formed behind them. It seemed endless. And these blue-hairs knew each other.. They were gabbing and making a fuss. Well, before I could slip inside, the line once empty had blossomed almost to the door. Once inside, I heard those fateful words: "Separate checks!"

How did I ever get anything done at work?


Mark W. Danielson said...

My lawyer friend and I have one thing in common when it comes to work -- security screening. It's sad that we've lost so much freedom over the actions of a few, but that's the way it is. Of course, if they had better security during Lincoln's day, he wouldn't have been shot in the theater. (Instead, it would have been in the alley.)

Jean Henry Mead said...

Aggravating, yes, but I guess I'm lucky that my IRS office is in the huge Dick Cheney federal building (he grew up here).

I once sat through a three-day audit for a large writers organization while serving as secretary-treasurer, following the discovery that the previous S/T had embezzled more than $8,000 over the years from the organization. Talk about stress!

Chester Campbell said...

I went through three audits while executive vice president of the Tennessee Association of Life Underwriters. Each time the auditor spent about three days in my offiice. The first was the most contentious. We argued about "unrelated business income," namely advertising in our magazine. He didn't know anything about publishing, but I did. I finally got him out of there without any consequences. I learned enough from that one that the next two audits were fairly easy. That was back in the seventies and eighties. Things are probably different now.

Ben Small said...

Well, at least I gained a fan. The examiner loved my two books, so much so with ALIBI ON ICE, that she and her husband vacationed in the Cascades. Very pleasant woman, just doing her job. Still, any time the I.R.S. is looking at you, it's worth a good sweat. :<)

Beth Terrell said...

Ben, it's great that you found a fan in your IRS representative. I hope I never meet mine, though. They should buy a thousand books just for causing so much anxiety.