Silver Linings: IRS, the Nutcracker and YouTube

It isn’t every day that calling the IRS to complain about tax-evading politicians turns out to be entertaining. I had a few minutes to spare, and my new method for letting things go that make me incensed is to take some action. Even a small fruitless action helps me to move on.

What had me incensed was the news of Tom Daschle’s little tax hiccup causing him to withdraw his cabinet nomination for Health and Human Services. Is he too good to lose? Opinions abound, but many of us would rather take a draconian view and get rid of him. Our goodwill towards people in high positions is threadbare these days. Let some political forest fires rage and they might leave fresh ground for new growth.

I had just witnessed Barack Obama’s inauguration in person. Two days later I see news of my city’s mayor facing questions about his teen sex scandal. Opposing factions are calling for him to stay or resign. Is it my civic duty to consider his governing abilities before casting my verdict? I used to think so but who has the energy anymore? My fear is that events like this are becoming quotidian. How does remain interested and involved in the face of looming cynicism—our own and theirs?

Having just written a check for a $90 underpayment on last year’s taxes (that’s $90, not $900, $9000, or $90,000), I couldn’t help but wonder how the IRS could miss $128,000 of Daschle’s unpaid taxes. Sure, his taxes are more complicated than mine are. But that’s not my problem.

So I called the IRS expecting not to get through or to be taken seriously. I was transferred to the Procedures and Rules department. I pictured the cubicled workers snickering at the whack job who called to ask why the IRS wasn’t doing their job. I hope I wasn’t the only one calling.

I waited on hold for long enough to hear Mozart’s Symphony No. in G minor, then his Eine Kleine Nactmusik, and finally Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Flowers from the Nutcracker. It was all quite lovely. I can thank my sister’s long-ago ex-husband, who was a violin teacher, for why I know the titles of these pieces.

I couldn’t help but laugh listening to Tchaikovsky. Anyone who has seen the movie Top Secret is familar with the famous ballet scene in which the Nutcracker’s Waltz of the Flowers is performed. Nearly every scene is a parody, and here the male ballet dancers have enormous codpieces on which the female dancers eventually leap to and fro. There are so many ridiculous lines and scenes in this movie. And this, coming from someone who doesn’t like slapstick.

Just recently, my brother and I were inspired, while inside a Catholic cathedral, to recite the scene in which a prisoner is given last rites by a priest before being executed. He reads from a bible every Latin phrase having nothing to do with last rites—veni vidi vici, e pluribus unum, ipso facto, pro bono and so on. We never fail to collapse in laughter and see which of us can remember the most lines. Perhaps Mr. Daschle had a little lapsus memoriae

An IRS woman finally answered the phone and I was yanked out of my YouTube reverie. She assured me that “Mr. Dashle would have received notices from the IRS.” And that she “was also a taxpayer who pays her taxes and thinks the system should be fixed.” Oddly, it made me feel a little better. I say a little. This is either reassuring or disturbing to know that you can owe that much money to the IRS and not be thrown in jail.

At least the time I spent on hold and in YouTube meant no dollars earned and, thus, fewer taxes to pay.

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