Other than having our accountant submit our annual tax paperwork, I haven’t had much interaction with the IRS. Then my child went to college.
To offset some of my son’s college expenses, we feed the remaining household members less and apply for financial aid. The IRS plays a big role in the attainment of federal aid.
Last year, the process was involved, but simple. This year, a verification requirement changed and I’ve been struggling since June. I needed an official IRS transcript. I ordered one online. It was the wrong document. Our extremely patient financial aid counselor suggested I visit a local IRS field office. What a great idea! I could pick up what I needed on my lunch break.
Armed with directions and my lunch bag, I hopped in my car and headed toward the office. Within a few minutes, I was in a very familiar area. I was confident I would be back at work with time to spare.
After turning onto the road on which the building was supposed to be located, I began looking for address numbers. The first building faced the intersecting road, so I kept going.The second building didn’t seem to have a number prominently displayed. I kept going.
The next building displayed an 8000 number. I was making progress. The building after that displayed a higher 8000 number. I was headed in the right direction. I was in search of a 9000 address.
A half-mile later, the street ended in a cul de sac. I was still on the 8000 block and I’d run out of buildings. Frustrated, I pulled over and took out my smartphone. Another search revealed several articles announcing an IRS field office relocation. I copied the address into my phone’s GPS system and headed toward the new office. I could still make it back within an hour.
When I arrived, I thought it odd there were no cars in the parking lot. The windows and doors of the antiquated building displayed "For Rent" signs. Since the main door was not locked, I walked inside. My inner horror movie fan was screaming, "Don’t go in! Turn back now!"
I soon happened upon a woman in the hallway. I asked if the IRS office was in the building. She said no. However, she had directions. She handed me a sheet of paper. I read it and then explained I’d just come from that particular street and could not find any such address. She said she knew it was there because she’d been there.
I walked back to my car. According to the paper, the building I needed was the second building—the one with no visible street number. On the drive back, my brain went through several scenarios of being set up to be captured by aliens. Before long, I had myself convinced alien abduction was the function of IRS field offices.
Upon arrival, I was able to clearly make out the building number that was not visible from the road. It was indeed the building for which I searched. My lunch break was technically over, but I was going inside.
Cautiously, I walked up. At this point, alien abduction seemed preferable to completing financial aid verification and returning to work thirty minutes late from lunch.
The security guard indeed verified I was in the correct place. As he addressed me, I caught the IRS sign on the door to the suite. Relief washed over me. It was quickly replaced by frustration when the security guard noted I would have to leave my cell phone in the car. Along with weapons, cell phones were prohibited in IRS field offices.
On my way back to the car to disarm myself of cellular communication, it seemed alien abduction was still plausible. If I wanted to abduct humans, I’d want to make sure they could not attack me, call 911, transmit their geolocation, or Google ‘how to escape during an alien abduction.’
After finally being granted access to the elusive IRS field office, it took approximately 90 seconds to figure out the high-tech number system, less than one second to be called back to booth number three, and ten minutes to get what I needed.
I was so happy to have obtained the last piece of financial aid documentation, I could have hugged the field agent. I kept my hands to myself, however, so as to avoid being arrested. But I’m sure she could tell my mood changed from discouraged, confused, fearful, and stressed to happy and relieved within a millisecond.
My son’s financial aid application is finally in process. And, as far as I can remember, I haven’t been abducted. However, I wouldn’t be surprised to find I am being closely observed by higher powers. Uncle Sam? Maybe. Scientists from distant planets? Probably. To them, I declare, "Observe all you want—as long as I get to save a buck or two on tuition."
Micki Bare is a columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau and the Courier-Tribune in Asheboro, N.C., and author of "Thurston T. Turtle Moves to Hubbleville." She lives in Asheboro with her husband, three children and mother. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org