Party at the Post Office

As the clerk stepped out to lock the door, I dropped my tax return in the slot,
knowing that next year I would attend the post office party again.

Michael David Crawford
michael@geometricvisions.com

April 16, 1992

Copyright © 1992 Michael David Crawford. All Rights Reserved.

From: Mike Crawford (4/16/92)
Subject:  Party at the Post Office
Time: 12:15 AM      Date: 4/16/92

I had made a resolution this year that I would do my taxes early.

This didn't happen.

Yesterday I picked up a 1040 form. I thought I had left my W-2 in my desk, and I would do my taxes after work. The W-2 wasn't there.

I went home. I couldn't find my W-2 there either.

At 10:00 I thought I found my W-2 in my home filing cabinet. I took a shower and brought the W-2 down to the office to do my taxes. To my dismay, I found that it was last year's. (I still haven't filed. I did file the extension, though, and I don't owe them any money).

I searched my desk again. No W-2.

I went home and strip-searched my room, strewing file folders of checks and old bills everywhere.

I came back here and rifled my desk. Still no W-2.

I went to the post office, hoping to get an application for an extension. They didn't have the form. I went to the IRS office on Water Street. It was locked up.

Glumly, I pulled out of the parking lot of the IRS office. An image of a bicycle pannier popped into my mind. I brushed it off as wishful thinking, noting the time of 11:30 as I drove by the clock tower.

"What the hell," I thought as I walked into my house, "I'll look in the pannier."

There was the familiar ADP envelope with my W-2.

Starting at 11:30, I drove across town, found the W-2, filled out the 1040 long form (including itemized deductions), calculated my meager refund, and raced back to the post office, obeying all traffic laws, as I had noticed the town crawling with police all night.

Espresso Royale was doing a lively business across the street.

I walked into the post office with four minutes to spare. Time to photocopy the return, I thought. The photocopier hesitated to accept my change, but eventually cooperated. I rushed to the stamp machine, shoved in a $5 bill. The $2.90 books were sold out, and the machine does not give money back. I searched my pockets for change, pumping in another 70 cents. I started asking people for a dime, offering a 29 cent stamp in return, a profit to them of 19 cents. Eventually someone just offered to buy two stamps at face value, and lent me the dime - an uncommon touch of kindness in today's troubled times. Perhaps this stranger felt a sense of cameraderie to be trapped, like me, in the nightmarish twilight world of the Santa Cruz Post Office at 11:58 PM on April 15th.

I stuck my stamp on the envelope and started to seal it. What! No tax return in the envelope! I rifled my papers - the return was nowhere to be found. I was relieved to find it on the photocopy machine. No one had touched it.

I sealed my return in the envelope, and asked the smiling post office employee the address of the IRS office. I couldn't figure out why he was so happy. Was he sadistically gleeful to see hundreds of people running through all evening in tearful panic? Was he pleased to see everyone turn out for the annual Post Office late-night party? Was he anticipating going home soon?

"What's that I hear?" said the mustachioed post office clerk. It was the sound of the clock tower ringing midnight. As he stepped out to lock the door to the lobby, I dropped my return in the slot, knowing that I had another year until it was time to attend the post office party again.

I'll do my state return tommorrow.