Today, I learned the true extent to which I loathe the IRS. To be fair, I've always known that I hated them. I've had plenty of legitimate reasons for this in the past. For instance, every year, they casually extort our wage and salary, pretending to allocate it for the building of bridges, roads, and schools. While in reality, the infrastructure and educational system crumble, and defense spending grows without limit.
But then again, I do suppose that in a certain sense, roads, bridges, and schools are built indirectly with these funds; but only after the funds are used to blow these institutions to smithereens in third world countries, and private corporations like Halliburton are contracted to rebuild them for egregious profits. Profits, mind you, which are shuffled to dozens of offshore shell corporations, ensuring that they are taxed at a rate exponentially lower than the profits of the average working citizen.
But today, I experienced a type of hatred entirely novel to my conceptions of what is even possible in the realm of consciousness. A loathing so intense that it paralyzed my rationality, sending me into fits of rage and bewildered astonishment that I would wish on NO ONE . . . except Cheney or Kissinger, the ******* *******. For today, for the first time in all my 28 years of life, I filed my federal income taxes. I knew that one day the chore would inevitably arise, but I still consider it an accomplishment to have made it through an entire third or more of my life without ever actually dirtying my hands with the wretched muck. All that aside, the story goes like this:
I work as an “independent contractor” for a friend who runs a small business. I perform various services around the office, and he cuts me a check at the end of the week. I've been working there “on paper” for about a year, really a bit longer, but “what they don't know...” so goes the old adage. We had, the both of us, anticipated with tempered irritation, the arrival of this bureaucratic beast of burden. However, neither of us knew that the deadline mailing date for “independent contractors” comes nary two months sooner than for payroll employees. This information was sprung on us at the very last minute by his tax attorney who, from this point on, will be referred only to as 'G.S.' (grease stain).
As I was fulfilling my duties, my friend urgently beckoned to me “STOP WHAT YOU'RE DOING. TAXES ARE DUE TODAY, AND WE HAVE TO FILE THEM NOW!” Naturally, I panicked. I had seen an income tax form . . . perhaps once or twice? . . . much less filled one out . . . maybe once at 17 during the employment process at a fast food joint? . . . Initially, we had thought it would be a simple matter of the W-2, the likes of which had been filled out automatically for me by employers in the past as a part of the hiring phase. Nonetheless, since my status of “independent contractor” placed me into a different tax category, I had to fill out what is known as a 1099-MISC. “Simple enough!” thought I, “I'll just fill in the relevant details and get back to work.” . . . “NOT SO FAST, CASEY JONES!” screamed the form, with all its talk of “fishing boat expenses” and “crop insurance” . . . “O...K?” “and what precisely has this to do with me?” thought I.
My employer, courteous as he can sometimes be, called up (t)rusty old G.S., who referred us to a site where the form could be understood more intelligibly. After a bit of head scratching and chin stroking, we figured it out. No matter, though! Because once we figured the form out, we couldn't figure out what to DO with the ******* thing. 'G.S.' was once again consulted, and he told us that we could simply print the form, and take it to an H&R Block office for submission. “Okay, simple enough!” thought I . . . but alas! It was not to be so. When we arrived at said office, the agent . . . who looked like a burned out caricature of William H. Macy . . . reviewed the forms, and said that to apply the deductions I had calculated, he would require a $300 fee for his services, and that I would need to fill out a “Section-C.” This lanky, rasp-voiced, twig of a man then withdrew from his cubicle, at which point, my employer whispered to me “**** that, I've done Section-C forms hundreds of times, we're ditching these crooks”
At this point, we retreated back to the office, found what we thought to be the relevant forms, but were soon swept up in a vicious monsoon of bureaucratic legalese which, although it resembled English, bore few similarities other than word spelling and grammatical form. It is sometimes alleged that Kafka was haunted by ghosts which had an insatiable appetite for stories. The legend further has it that he would write for them to quell their unyielding wrath. Those of us who have read Kafka know intimately of his satirical preoccupation with the absurdity of bureaucracy. Perhaps these stories pleased the ominous specters which loomed over him like the fluorescent light beaming down upon me as I type these words. Some things can never be known for certain. If, however, this were truly the case, then it would seem that Kafka's ghost had now taken the role of writing MY story for his own amusement. Every cliché of the DMV and social services building was present in this ghastly affair. “Fill out this form; stand in this line; oh, I'm sorry, sir. You've got the wrong form. You'll need to file a (…) and take it to (…), their hours are MwAhMwAhMwAhMwAhMwAh” This futile circumlocution went on for SIX HOURS. All the while, thoughts of a perfectly wound noose, crafted of thick hemp rope, with thirteen pristine wraps forming a slipknot to be fitted as though tailor made around my neck filled my mind, as the acute stages of benzodiazepene withdrawal began to set it. Luckily enough, or so we suspect. We figured it out, and now I have only to wait for my return to come in the mail to see what I owe.
But once I got home, I got to thinking. There is a copy of 'Infinite Jest' on my coffee table. A literary epic whose magnitude cannot possibly be overstated. I began to think deeply reverential thoughts of the author of this book, and then something clicked in my mind: on that fateful day when Wallace took his own life by the noose, he was in the middle of writing a novel about nothing less than the 1985 Tax Code in Illinois, and a group of IRS agents. Being the adamant researcher of all topics that he was, we can hardly imagine that he did not give this terrible ******* of language what he felt to be its due diligence. Of course, any responsible thinker understands that correlation does not equal causation; but as the admittedly ironic thoughts of suicide filled my mind over the course of this afternoon and evening, I can't help but be left to wonder if a mind so vastly superior to mine as his did not experience these ideas with markedly less irony as he reveled in the vile idiosyncrasies of bureaucratic jargon. Again. Some things can never be known.
I have begun keeping a journal. Not so much for the sake of documenting my daily experience, but more so to experiment with different writing styles and, perhaps to help clarify my own thoughts. I will also continue to write poems, of course.