A Taxing Tale

I had my taxes done this weekend. I know it’s early, but I had the paperwork already, and expecting a return, was eager to get the process started. So I made an appointment for Sunday morning, with the same H&R Block guy I’ve gone to for the past few years.
I’ve been an H&R Block client for about a decade, and have generally been pretty satisfied with them. I have an itemized return, but it’s usually fairly straightforward. For about 6 years, I saw the same person, and really liked him. It became a nice annual event to catch up with him, chat about our year and our families, etc. He was nice, he was quick, and he was accurate and efficient. But his “real” job was managing care facilities, and eventually, he left the tax business to devote himself to it full time.
After that, I had one really bad Block experience, with a woman who kept exclaiming “you make a lot of money for a single gal” as she prepared my return. So, the following year, when I called to make my appointment, I requested someone with a lot of experience, in a different office. And I was assigned to the gentleman we shall call Max, which is not his real name. Max, Master Tax Advisor.
Max is an older guy, and reminds me of Rodney Dangerfield a bit in his appearance, large, a little sloppy, and a slow talker. Additionally, I think one of his eyes is glass. Which, I’m sorry to say, I always find a little disconcerting, because he likes to talk to you very slowly, while looking you in the eyes. And I try to be polite by looking right back at him, but I never know if I’m just supposed to look in the working eye, or what? Anyone know the etiquette on this?
And every year, for the past few years, as Max repeats himself, fumbles for paperwork, misspells my name, and does it all again, slowly, I squirm with impatience, and think to myself, I need to find someone else to do this next year. But, he always does a great job with my taxes, I always get a nice return, and in spite of that slightly uncomfortable annual hour, I have even recommended him to friends, who think he is great.
So this Sunday, I am waiting for Max to show up to the appointment. I had made it for 10:00 but he had called and asked if I could change it to 11:00 and I agreed. Chronically early as I am, I show up about 10:50 and the office is completely dark. It’s a little chilly outside (yes, I know, but California chilly, about 55 degrees, and of course, I’m wearing a thin shirt). So I’m shivering outside the office, looking down from a 2nd floor balcony at Ventura Blvd. and watching the action below. Saw the police pull someone over and frisk them. Looked at the people pouring into Chili’s and thought about chicken wings. Still, no Max.
Now it’s 11:10 and I’m getting a little irritated. Suddenly, I see this old beater of a car screech up. I can see looking down on it that it’s filled with junk with one door painted differently from the rest of the car. I’m thinking, it can’t be. Sure enough I see Max stumble out, look up and wave at me. He rushes up the steps, breathing hard, and I see he is wearing baggy shorts and a sweat drenched t-shirt. He apologizes for being late and says he has been working out. Um, yeah. He opens the office, and I say, do you need some time to, well, I think I said “get it together” but I swear I said it nicely.
I’m thinking, he’s gotta change, right? He’s not going to do my tax return in baggy shorts and a sweat drenched t-shirt. I didn’t see him bring in any clothes, but I’m hoping there’s a suit lurking somewhere in the office. And a shower! And he’s sort of crashing around the office, saying I’ll be with you in a sec. So I, well, murmur, please, take your time!
But, he doesn’t! He sits down at an empty desk and says, let’s go. I can barely look at him, but in trying to avert my eyes from his soppy shirt, I keep looking in his eyes. Eye. Oy! He seems to be talking, and working, even more slowly than usual. He wants to chat too. Time is actually standing still. I can tell, because the sweat on his t-shirt never dries. And then he sneezes and wipes his nose on the shirt! Seriously, I am so grossed out and uncomfortable, I just want to grab my paperwork and flee. And he’s a nice guy, and I don’t want to offend him, but isn’t there some sort of H&R Block code that requires long pants and a clean shirt?
Finally, the taxes are done. I’m getting a much needed, healthy amount in returns. And Max smiles at me, really he’s a sweet old guy, and says, see you next year. And, in spite of everything, because I’m a sucker with a short memory, he probably will.
The end, for now


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