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The Taxman Cometh

February 27, 2013

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single woman in possession of an onerous chore must be in want of a paid assistant. Or several.

The summer my ex-husband and I separated, I hired a guy to mow the lawn. I worried a lot about how lame I was for not mowing it myself, and then I finally tried to mow it myself, and the mower exploded (I kid you not) fifteen minutes after I finally managed to fire the damned thing up. So I gave up and made a scary phone call. Since then, the lawn guy has come at regular intervals. He’s very inexpensive and he rakes all the clippings and he deals with the leaves in the fall and the gutters in the spring. He’s also handsome. When I still lived in the old house, I used to objectify him shamelessly from my office window whenever he came to mow.

That same summer, on a roll, I called a tree guy (who’s even better looking than the lawn guy–my best friend from graduate school, before he got denied tenure, used to come over and help me objectify him while he climbed around with his giant manly chainsaw) to cope with all the overgrown limbs I couldn’t possibly cut down with on my own.

I engaged a shrink to comb through the snarls in my head. I got a lawyer, of course, to draft the divorce settlement (even though my ex-husband ordered one of those Nolo books and swore we could do it ourselves). I got, as I said, an accountant to help me figure out which end of my bank account was what.

I went to the bank and sat in a little chair and got the nice bank lady to help me set up online banking. God, I love online banking. It’s like having a secretary and a bookkeeper all at once. And a filing cabinet that follows me everywhere I go. What else? I bought a GPS, mainly to use getting home from places (I’m a failure at reading directions backwards). I have leaned heavily on all manner of domestic assistance from plumbers, handymen, roofers, electricians, and painters. Once you start farming stuff out, it’s addictive.

So why has it taken me years to hire help with my taxes?

The week before the accountant came was a total wash. The kids were sick, first in tandem and then together, which scuttled the work I needed to get done, and by Thursday I was frantic. I’d had big plans for Friday. A lovely friend I never see had gotten on a plane for the first time in eighteen years (she hates and fears flying–now that’s a legitimate phobia if you ask me) to come with her husband to a conference in my boyfriend’s city, mostly (she said) to spend a day with me. I’d planned to wrap up an assignment, farm the kids out to a friend (my ex-husband was out of town) and join her, with a song in my heart and a spring in my step. And now all bets were off. “Oh, just bring them along,” my boyfriend said. “They can be sick in my place just as well as yours.” Hooray! I threw a bunch of god-knows-what in a duffel bag and bolted for the car, dragging the feverish children behind me.

The day with my friend was everything I’d hoped, but by Sunday night I was a wreck. I should have spent the weekend working. I should have spent it sorting receipts. I should have spent it doing SOMEthing, the voices in my head chanted at three in the morning, as I tried to ignore the ominous tickle in my throat. The accountant was due to arrive in hours! I wasn’t ready! At dawn, after shooing the barely-recovered kids out the door to the bus stop, I called consoling-windows friend. “He’ll know all the questions to ask,” she said, trying to be helpful, and my heart sank. Sure, but I won’t have any of the answers, I thought miserably.

I got dressed. (It was a step in the right direction, I felt.) I waited. The phone rang. I’d told the poor guy to turn left when he should have turned right, and he was still a couple of miles away. This augured ill. We went back and forth on the phone, while I held my left hand before me in an “L” shape to make sure I was telling him the correct way to go. (I do not know my left from my right. Surely there is a name for this? There’s some character out of Beckett who doesn’t know his left from his right either–is it Molloy? He says left and right are just way too similar to keep track of…not like, say, front and back. The difference between those, he’s got down. I agree completely.)

Finally, the accountant made it. He came in. We sat down. My heart was in my mouth. He looked at me, smiled, booted up his laptop. Three hours later, my taxes were done.

“These were actually pretty confusing,” he said as he left. “The home office, the self-employment, converting your residence to a rental, the structural repairs, the depreciation–you’d have gone nuts trying to do this yourself.”

I smiled. I almost went nuts hiring you to do it, I wanted to say. Instead I shook his hand, and thanked him profusely, and watched from the porch as he drove away. Whitman may have contained multitudes–I, apparently, require them in order to function. I gargled with salt water to soothe my aching throat, tidied up, and napped until the children came home.

15 Comments leave one →
  1. February 27, 2013 11:49 am

    Oh, oh, oh – the left and right thing! I have the same affliction! And then when I try to find the L in my hands I can’t remember which way L goes!

    Also, I am so happy you hired a tax man. Our tax man is one of my favorite people in the world. Once a year I sit in his office and blink at him when he asks me questions and somehow he perceives the answers and a few weeks later a check arrives in the mail. It’s a great relationship.

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      February 27, 2013 12:09 pm

      The L takes me a minute, too. Every time. And I make the “loser” sign on my forehead backwards, which means (I suppose) that it backfires? Stupid L.

  2. February 27, 2013 12:06 pm

    Most of the people I know with left-right confusion have cross dominance problems; for instance they are right-handed but left-eyed. My son pointed out to me at the piano the other day that starting lessons has helped him sort out left from right, since the left hand plays bass clef and the right plays treble. (Sort of an unexpected bonus!)

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      February 27, 2013 12:08 pm

      Yes! I’m right handed but left eyed. I had no idea it made any difference, but it certainly makes sense.

      • February 27, 2013 2:45 pm

        It can be particularly complicated when it comes to aim. I know in my archery class you had to go with your dominant eye, not your hand, if there was a mismatch. It can make shooting pool awkward as well.

    • February 27, 2013 2:10 pm

      I had no idea we were right eyed and left eyed! I’ve just spent the last twenty minutes reading about it and testing myself. It took that long because I kept having to figure out which eye was open, my left or my right. Turns I’m right eyed. So, no cross dominance problems for me. However, I do have a terrible time with the piano. I started lessons nearly a year ago and playing it feels a lot like encountering spacial awareness difficulties.

  3. SarahB permalink
    February 27, 2013 1:07 pm

    Wild applause! I need to call a tax guy for the first time ever myself.

    Loved your first line. 🙂

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      February 28, 2013 9:29 am

      Well, you know, I had help with it….

  4. February 27, 2013 3:51 pm

    I taught my son the whole left-hand-makes-the-L thing and he got it. Except he thought that the “L” his hand was making was actually pointing to his left hand. So he’d make the L, see that his thumb was pointing to his right hand, and think it was his left hand. It was very complicated and cute.

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      February 28, 2013 9:27 am

      Oh no, now I’m going to do that too. Damn.

  5. yasmara permalink
    February 27, 2013 4:27 pm

    I’m very strongly right-handed, but I’m also left-footed, as in I balance better on my left foot & I’m far more flexible in my left leg. When I was a gymnast (uh, 30 years ago), I did all my tricks with my left side first.

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      February 28, 2013 9:29 am

      Yeah, I do cartwheels left hand first. And what about a skateboard? I put my left foot on and push with my right. That’s backwards, right? My older son is left footed in soccer and bats left in baseball but throws right and writes w/ his right hand. Something got crossed in our wires somewhere, methinks.

  6. February 28, 2013 12:38 pm


  7. wt softie permalink
    March 18, 2013 8:44 am

    You are right handed you say? So:

    Make the writing gesture. You write with your right hand. Ergo, the one you are not now waving about is your left one. I do this every time I need to differentiate left and right. Even, decades ago during my driving test, when I had it limited to a mere flutter of the fingers on the steering wheel so as not to scare the examiner.

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      March 18, 2013 1:11 pm

      That’s brilliant!

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