Draining another cup of complimentary coffee, I tossed the empty Styrofoam cup into the waste basket and sidled into the chair opposite a neatly dressed gentleman whom I only have occasion to see once a year. As soon as my bottom touched down, an overwhelming sense of dread engulfed me. The temperature outside was not even 40 degrees, but my nerves did not know the difference and the sweat poured from my face, stinging eyes and continuing in salty rivulets as it coursed through the stubble of my unshaven cheeks and jaw and into the cotton fabric of my hoodie.
“Do you have everything?” the gentleman asked.
“I think,” I said, frisking my jeans pockets one last time and emerging with stray lint and an old piece of gum. Not surprisingly, the gentleman refused the offer of gum. “It should all be there,” I said, sliding the manila folder across the desk and into the practiced hands of my tax preparer, Rob.
Rob opened the packet and riffled through the assortment of documents, clucking his tongue against the side of his cheek. “Here we go,” he said, his hand emerging with the sweet stuff: w-2′s, student loans and mortgage interest documents, charitable contributions, etc. “Let’s see what the damage is.”
My heart leaped into my throat and the walls seemed to push inward, the room suddenly grown smaller. “Damage? What do you mean?” I asked, already knowing the answer but loathe to accept it.
“What you’re going to owe to the state and Uncle Sam,” came the reply.
And there it was. The proverbial shot across the bow. The dread words most taxpayers never wish to have muttered in their presence. My adrenal glands reacted as expected: overly so. Squirming in the chair, images of indentured servitude and debtors prison competed for slots in my mind’s eye with visions of stony-faced tax collectors demanding my eldest born in exchange for clemency.
Rob took in the spectacle, a sympathetic smile turning up the corners of his mouth. “If anything,” Rob added, his fingers already gliding over the keyboard of the computer, feverishly adding and subtracting, exempting this and crediting that. It was not long before the familiar whir of a high speed printer spat out the sum of last year’s labors.
Rob scanned it over and looked up, his expression flat and unreadable. He cleared his throat. “Your refund is…”
I never heard the amount. It didn’t matter. I was too busy reveling in another year of mediocrity to really care. Thanking Rob, I left his office with dreams of converting the tax refund into a cross-country flight to Houston and hotel room and a pair of seats for the Final Four. That’s right. I’m still struggling with madness, or as someone with no medical training diagnosed; I have Final Four Fever. What? You thought this blog post was about taxes? Not a chance. Not with UK still playing ball.