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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Learning Patience?

Was planning to change my residency, license, tags and so forth to Virginia today, but am still waiting for my new china cabinet to be delivered. "Sometime this afternoon," the mover said, which isn't terribly specific. I don't want to commit to the DMV, and sit, cell-phoneless, in the official waiting area for hours while my cabinet is on a truck somewhere; the mover doesn't usually come to my area (he's more of a DC/MD man), and so it was sheer grace that he happened to be making another Northern VA delivery and was going to be in the vicinity. The cabinet--which was built in Egypt, according to its original owner--has lots of glass and a marble top, so I knew that I couldn't hope to shift it myself, even with the help of friends, hence the waiting on a professional.

As to patience-building exercises, I may well have mentioned on the blog that a few months ago I got a tax delinquency notice from DC. They said I'd underpaid on my 2009 sales taxes, which was total baloney--they'd cashed the check for the full amount I owed back in January, days after they received it. So, I'd called and told them it was in error, and the woman at the office said they'd investigate and get back to me: No need for me to submit further documentation, "Don't call us, we'll call you," that sort of thing.

You can imagine my chagrin when last Monday I got a certified letter from the tax office saying that not only was I delinquent, I was delinquent in redressing this delinquency, and they were just about to put a lien on my property, publish my name on the Internet, and/or turn me over to collections: the financial equivalents of chopping off a hostage’s digits and mailing them to their loved ones in little packages. Only this time the digits were my own. And lest we forget, when it comes to disputes with tax offices, the taxpayer is considered guilty until proven innocent, not vice versa. Freak-out time.

First, I tried calling the number on the delinquency form. It rang, and rang. And rang. No answer. Repeated tries. No answer. Then I went on the Internet and looked up the general office number. I went through the usual "press 2 for x option" automated system, and kept getting the following response for my pains: "You have reached a non-working DC government number." Peachy. Finally, I just randomly pressed another number and got a human being in a completely different area of the office who gave me the contact information for a specific case investigative officer. Who, of course, was not picking up his phone. But at least he had an answering machine, which promised to get back to me in 24 hours. Left detailed message.

Twenty-four hours later, forty-eight hours later, still no response. Well, heck, I thought, I'm driving back up to DC on Friday, I'll go to the tax office in person on Monday. Asked my Sunday School class and texted a group of friends to pray. Monday morning, carefully gathered up all my documentation, including my sales order booklets and copies of the cancelled check and took the metro over to Union Station. The temperature hovered in the mid-90s, and I was wearing nice jeans, because I thought they might treat me better if I didn't look like a total slob. Walked the quarter mile to where the tax office was. Or where it used to be, but was no longer, I discovered. The doors to the building were locked, and there was a big redevelopment/office space available sign in front.

Called my mom, who started laughing when I told her what had happened. She looked up the new office address for me--it was two miles away, other side of Capitol Hill. All I could think was, "Thank God I put on sunscreen," and, later, "...and for public water fountains." Talk about cooking in ones own juices--sitting at the market on Saturday without any sales was bad enough, trekking across DC in the steamy height of summer, carrying a backpack full of tax documents made me feel like sin-burdened Christian in the Slough of Despond.

All the prayers for resolution were answered, though. When I finally walked into the deliciously air-conditioned new DC government building at 1101 Fourth Street SW, there was no line--I didn't even have to sit down in the waiting area before a little bell chimed and an electronic voice announced that my number was being served at Window 12. There, I didn't really have to explain anything, either--I just told the woman that I had been sent a delinquency notice for money I didn't owe, she pulled up my account on her computer, and three minutes of silent typing later she handed me a print-out that said my account was clear. I immediately felt 15 lbs lighter, and I don't think that was just the water-weight I sweated off walking!

I didn't notice until I got home that the printout was dated July 26, 2010, rather than July 19. Does this mean I'm still allegedly in arrears until my account is magically set to rights next Monday?

I'm just not going to worry about it.

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