I Killed The Grasshopper
I really finished my last tax season with a bang…here's the bullet point version...
Worked 'til 4:00 am the night before the 15th (it's still "night" if you sleep before returning to work)
Got stuck in traffic for an extra hour (very unusual on my commute…there was an accident), so I hit the day running full speed at 9:00 am ( running on fumes).
Delivered tax returns to an aging, ailing bank president (LATE…see the last bullet point). Delivered only 1 of his 5 returns (left the others on my desk because I completely forgot about them); returned to my office and came back with the rest, embarrassed and apologetic.
Returned to the office to face 22 voice mails and over 100 emails (some were junk that got through the iron curtain, but still...)
Made many phone calls, reviewed many calculations for extension payments, made phone calls for checks, try to figure out a frustrating foreign tax credit situation for a client who was NOT happy about owing so much tax on his home that he sold for over 28million pesos, however much that is.
I was the last one to get all of my "extension checklists" turned in. The last person to get all of my client's checks turned in. The last person to receive all of the signed e-file authorization forms from my clients. And I won the prize for most "repos" (reprocessed returns due to changes after the tax return has already been copied and assembled for delivery to the client).
I was also the only one whose client check turned up missing in the whirlwind of activity that is our extension process. I called the client to find out if they had sent it in. When they said no, I was relieved that we hadn't lost it, but had to quickly come up with a solution. The solution involved my own check book. I'll get reimbursed and charge the client later, I hope!
I had trouble printing out my own extensions at the end of the day, due to user error. I don't normally do these myself, so they presented a challenge beyond words. I had to write checks for these also, but later forgot that I did that, transferred my "surplus" cash into a CD and promptly overdrew my account!
Just when I thought I was done with everything for the day, I got a phone call from Australia, the parent company of my client, wanting to talk about an acquisition of my client and all of the tax consequences therein. My brain was mush, so I asked if he could call back tomorrow (at which point I was unable to find their files).
No sooner had I hung up the phone call from Australia, my husband called to inform me that the dogs (one or both, he wasn't sure) had crapped "all over" the dining room carpet and he blamed ME (because he thought I hadn't let them out before I left for work, which I did, but no matter...when the dogs are sick, he gets scared and reacts with anger and frustration rather than say, just cleaning up the mess). This, after recovering Smokey from the Vet two days ago for his numerous maladies, including explosive diarrhea that we thought was finally under control...turns out it was Cocoa's turn...so there are now diarrhea stains all over the house…both were treated for some kind of e-coli bacterial infection with shots and pills…it's a miracle the whole family didn't become afflicted).
I finally decided to turn off all phones and email at the office around 6:00pm and joined my co-workers who were enjoying appetizers and drinks at a nearby restaurant.
There ensued much relaxing and chatting about all of the horror stories of tax seasons past and present, award presentations (I received a crown for my title, Queen of the Repos), rappers (don't ask) and general unwinding. I had a couple of drinks to "celebrate."
I left the restaurant around 10 pm for the 35 mile drive home and was absolutely exhausted. I managed to get almost all the way home, forcing my eyes open the whole way, until I just couldn't any more. I had just turned onto the gravel road that is our street and was not more than a block's distance from my home when I apparently fell asleep and careened into a steel mail box post, which sent me into a small ditch. The airbags didn't deploy, but there were body parts all over the neighbor's lawn, and fluids and engine parts dangling from the Grasshopper (my green bug). Fortunately, I was wearing my seatbelt and was unscathed (just a small bruise on my wrist). Thank God I didn't hurt anybody, or fall asleep out on the freeway, or the country highway leading to our home, which has much bigger ditches! I have praised the Lord more times than you know for that!! But my confidence has been shattered and I've learned first hand just how quickly we can go from being in control to out of control in the blink of an eye, literally. For all the nights I drove home late, I always worried that I might fall asleep at the wheel, but never felt close to doing so. Although I only had 2 drinks over the course of 4 hours, I'm sure that was the straw that broke the camel's back and I should not have driven home. Very, very scary! The funniest part (and believe me, even at the moment after I was jarred awake and found myself in a ditch, I thought this was ironic) was that my purse contents spewed out all over the floor...and my AAA card, which I normally have inside a wallet, inside a zippered compartment of my purse, was the very first thing I picked up off the floor, from the top of the pile. Amazing.
But wait, the day's not over yet! So I walked the block or so home (a very humble way to finish off tax season, I must tell you), walked into a house that reeked of dog crap (which was still all over the dining room), got ready for bed and discovered the goldfish had (almost) died. He was floating upside down, struggling to hang on, so I turned him over and held him for awhile wondering how much more of this day I could take. I finally nestled him in the grass hoping to prop him up a bit, poured in a large amount of "Stress Coat," bid him adieu, and went to bed for a very restless night of sleep.
When I woke up the next morning (very early, worried about what the neighbors would think when they looked outside to see my car on their lawn), I was afraid to go see what had happened to the goldfish. Instead, I told my husband to please dispose of him after I left. I walked down the road to pick up the body and engine parts (and the neighbor's mailbox which was about 30 feet away from its post), leave a note on the car, called the insurance company, the tow-truck and the vet.
And for all that, my day could have been so much worse. It could have been my last! I've counted my blessings a thousand times over! And speaking of worse, one of our tax managers lost her sister to cancer on the 14th. Talk about stress. She had been sitting vigil over her sister for a week knowing she only had days to live, while clients continued calling about their tax returns. So we were all reminded that at least our big deadline was not a matter of life or death although we sometimes act like it is.
Still, April 15, 2008 will go down in history as the most spectacularly bad April 15th I've ever experienced, capping off the worst tax season ever (this last week, I worked 106 hours...I've never seen so many 90+ hour weeks on the time summaries, so I was not alone). We had more new clients, less staff and we changed tax software. It was awful. And it is my last. I have no doubt now. I normally experience a surge of energy or renewal after the 15th, brought on by the sense of survival (that, and the pride of accomplishment, I suppose). But I don't feel that this year. I worried I would get that feeling and back out of my decision, only to be asked to leave instead. But I didn't experience that surge of energy, and I was asked to stay instead. But I won't be working in public accounting for much longer. I may return one day, when I decide that life as a pauper is too hard to bear, but for now, I'm done. Finished. I will work for a couple/few months to wind things down and start telling clients that I plan to go live on a boat. That day can't come soon enough.
Labels: An Accountant's Life