59. Guarding values

Thursday July 16 2020

You know how you’ve seen movies like Trading Places [1983] that show the insanity of the trading floor of the NYSE? The scene is all yelling with bells going off while men in neckties using disturbingly aggressive hand signals because otherwise you don’t know who’s buying orange juice or selling pork bellies. Possibly gunshots are sounding off as well, but there’s no way to be sure.

Yeah so, yesterday was the IRS extended tax deadline. Things were a little crazy at the CPA office yesterday.

We haven’t been allowing clients in the office since the shelter-in-place went into effect. Because the office does taxes and payroll, we qualified under the Essential Business guidelines, so we stayed open while other businesses had to shut down for the interim. A few of the seasonal tax preparers peaced out early in the season for health reasons, making an increased work load for the lot of us who rely on a regular paycheck.

I don’t do taxes. Let’s be honest, I hope they never ask me to. After retiring from a career in corporate America managing multi-million dollar research budgets for several business units, I’m now a happy little part-time bookkeeper for a small CPA firm. Don’t screw this up for me by making me learn complex tax laws.

We had a client in yesterday that breezed by the Do Not Enter signs taped to the door as if perhaps the rules were made for minions, but certainly not her. She intimidated her way into a consult with a tax preparer and did comply be wearing a mask. Until she heard the amount of her tax burden to the IRS and her meltdown commenced.

When I was a teenager, I had a vinyl record of one of George Carlin’s early stand-up routines. A quote from this wizened man that has stayed with me all these years involves situations where you just can’t anymore.

“Your values change when you’re drunk,” says George Carlin, then mimicking an over-imbiber. “I don’t care about my shoes [blurrrrp]!”

It’s true, of course. Mr. Carlin, who was later granted the title of Significant Social Satirist by the United States Supreme Court, was a perceptive guy. I think about his quote during those times when I’m hungry enough to chew on my own arm or if I have to people in overly humid weather. We’re all willing to let our high values shift a bit when we’ve reached our personal stress thresholds.

 Which is where this client found herself. The tax preparer was all “Ok, Look. Let’s give this to the CPA and see what we can do to lessen the load.”

And when the client stood to go into the CPA’s office, another tax preparer blocked her path. He told her, actually demanded really, to either put her mask back on or sit back down. She was not to enter the office until she complied.

I’m not a fan of vigilantism, of people going all John Wick on people not wearing masks in public. But gotta say, this impressed me, this level of protection of our beloved leader of All Things Taxes. We all are aware of the need to keep her from exposure to the coronavirus. She’s in the high risk category, so we’ve been vigilant. But this is the first time I’m aware of a client being told to stand down in such a forceful way. We should all have such protectors in our lives.

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