The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It


For once I decided to be proactive.  I was not going to wait for the booklet to arrive.  I was going to get the forms I needed to file my income tax return and get it done before midnight on April 14th.  I was on a mission.

As I prepared to leave the office I realized that I might be able to provide a benefit to my like-minded employees.  So I explained that I was headed to the IRS to pick up tax forms and would be happy to get any that my employees needed.  Several people spoke up and said that they would appreciate that.

When the list was compiled, there were 9 different forms (and Instruction Books) and a total of 37 copies that were required.  I headed out on a beautiful early March day to the IRS office at 230 S. Dearborn Street in Chicago.

When I arrived at the IRS’ lobby a large sign said that forms were available on the 17th floor.  I went to the elevator, my list in my pocket.

When I exited the elevator – another large sign had an arrow directing me to the room where the forms were available.  I followed the arrow and went into the room.

Much to my surprise and delight, other than the two IRS employees who were behind the counter – I was the only person there.

I proceeded to the counter and pulled the list out of my pocket.  I waited patiently as the two employees discussed their dates and their weekend.  I waited patiently and politely at the counter – figuring that they would eventually deign to assist me.

After five minutes, the female IRS employee came over to the counter and said, “Can I hep you?”

I said, “Yes, please.  I would like to get the forms and instruction booklets I’ve written on this list.”  I  handed her the list.

“Do you has a number?”

“A number?,” I asked.

“Yes.  I can’t hep you unless you has a number.”  She pointed to the entrance of the room where by the side of the door I saw a rack of hard plastic numbers hanging on the wall– the kind you used to see in a butcher shop or bakery.

I said, “No, I don’t have a number but I’ll go get one.”

I came back with a number (01) and when I returned to the counter this woman looked at me as though I were new to the room.

“Do you has a number?”

“I do”.

She looked at the rack of numbers and called, “Number 01”.  I handed her my number and my list.

She turned from me, took perhaps three steps and then returned to the counter.

She said, “I can’t fill this order.”

Thinking that the forms had not been printed I said, “When do you expect to get the forms in your office.”

She said, “We got the forms.  But you only allowed to get five different forms and a total of 25 copies on one day.”

In a perverse way this made sense to me.  I could see how it would be inconvenient if a person came in to get a large number of forms – thus holding up everyone else.  But since I was the only customer I was willing to have her fill the first 25 forms on the list and then “wait in line” to take my turn for the rest.

Realizing that I was not dealing with an Einstein here, I said, “Well, if you would be kind enough to fill the order for the first 25 forms, then I will go back in line, take another number and wait my turn.  Then I presume it would be okay for you to get the remaining 12, right?”

“No.  You kin only get 25 forms per day.”

At this point my usual gentility was starting to fade – dramatically.  So I said, “What if you fill the first 25 forms on my list.  I then go back to my office and ask my 71 year old secretary to walk a mile and a half and hand you the list to get the remaining forms.  Would you give them to her?”


“Now don’t you think that’s a little silly?,” I asked.

I don’t know if I struck a chord with her over my 71 year old secretary or what it was that motivated this woman, but without answering me, she turned away with my list and about 10 minutes later returned with my complete order.

Plus I got a bonus.  In addition to all the forms that I had requested she provided three additional ones.  They were entitled, “FORMS TO REQUEST FORMS.”

I used to be critical of Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s failure to pay his own taxes.  I mean, after all, he is the head of the Federal agency that has the IRS within his domain.

But as I thought back on this situation I realized that Sec. Geithner is probably as pure as the driven snow and the reason he failed to properly complete his return was that HE COULDN’T GET THE FORMS!

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