A taxing experience


I’m sitting with Miss Cathy at HR Block while she’s having her taxes calculated. She’s been coming here for years and uses the same tax preparer, Mrs. Ross, who greeted her with warm familiarity. We sit down in her cubicle and begin the annual ritual (like so many Americans) of seeing how much she can get away with deducting and waiting with baited breath-my, what an arcane expression and what does it mean exactly? How does one “bate” breath?).

Anyway, we’re waiting to see how much she can get back as a refund (which most people think of as some sort of “year end bonus” and Miss Cathy is no exception, she thinks of her tax refund as mad money that she can spend guilt free.

As Mrs. Ross adds and subtracts figures on her computer the ladies talk and catch up since they only see each other once a year (and it’s the polite thing to do whether you’re interested or not). We all know Miss Cathy is very social and loves to talk, talk, talk-having just met Mrs. Ross I have no clue as to her social sincerity.

So, talk they do-and listen I try not to. It’s kinda like fingernails on a chalkboard listening to Miss Cathy sometimes, especially when she recounts (her version) of her surgery and rehab. You know how it is, it’s the same for any two people (married, dating or even friends) that spend (a lot of) time around one another and then socialize together, you get to a point where you feel like your ears are going to bleed if you hear the same story (told in the same way) one more time. And for some reason she’s started to show everybody she encounters her knee surgery scar.

I brought earphones but I can’t totally “block” out (no pun intended) the entire conversation because I am, after all, here to help. So, I’m writing to you and listening to them, trying to filter out what’s irrelevant and helping out when necessary. To her credit, Miss Cathy has done a pretty good job of collating her records and files for this meeting and seems prepared.

I looked over at her “record keeping” and though it looked kind of Helter-Skelter to me, fortunately she understood (most) of what she’d written. I’ve noticed going through her correspondence that I can see a marked difference in her handwriting and writing skills. I was up at the rec center at the complex yesterday and saw where she’d signed in the other day when she went up to ride the stationary bicycle (first time she went outside of the apartment to exercise in about four months). I was surprised at how labored her handwriting seemed, less fluid and confident than I remembered. It looked like the scribbling of a frail old woman. When did that happen?

Aside: Mrs. Ross just added up what Miss Cathy paid in meds for the year and it’s 787.74! Jeez Louise! And that’s a greatly reduced co-pay because she has great insurance and Medicare. She’d (or we’d) be living hand to mouth if she didn’t have any insurance and we had to pay for all of this out of pocket.

The meeting lasted about an hour and then we were on our way, I walked ahead to put the files back into the car seeing as the fair-wells were taking as long as the greetings.

All totaled Miss Cathy’s 2010-tax refund of a whopping $3.00. I don’t know what she’ll “treat” herself to for three bucks but I’m sure she’ll think of something.

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