house of happy

Life adventures in prose and verse. Explorations of places, people and words. Stories and fun.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

44 days, 36

I can't put it off any longer: today I wake up early and leave the two bears sleeping; I'm off to the tax office to pay taxes and pick up a several incomprehensible forms I need to fill and file. Inwardly, I shake for the sanity of the person who invented these forms, I quake for the army of people whose jobs involve learning them by heart. Dozens of rules and sub-rules in a sad and forever foreign language.

Finally, upon entering the old shabby building, I weep for the lives of the people who must come here every day, every day from 9 to 5, swimming in cryptic paperwork, hiding behind their dry and deplorable jargon.

I pick up a ticket and stand in a queue. Immediately I realise that I don't have the invoice I need, to make my payment. It's in the car. I leave the building and sprint to the parking lot. Clutching the paper, I run back. Have I lost my place in the queue? Phew, no, a stroke of luck – I'm next.

Before me, paying his dues, an old man in corduroy trousers. He's very slow. I can't see his face, but I see the face of the clerk at the till. You know the stereotype: young, fast-speaking, superior, cocooned in his jargon, unwilling to use normal phrases so that any of us might understand what's actually being said. No patience, no sympathy, no imagination. You know.

Soon, I'm fascinated: the clerk is not young, maybe in his fifties. Doesn't act superior. Doesn't speak fast, and when he speaks, utters simple, human phrases that even I – a foreigner standing 5 steps away – understand. He guides the old man through his paperwork with infinite patience and affection. He's never impertinent or patronising. Asks questions about the old man's life even, and nods his head in wonder. Stands up to show him the way out.

When my turn comes, he's still standing, still nodding, still in awe. 'He's 104 years old,' he tells me. 'And still working his fields.' 'Oh, and he came here by bike.' This makes my day, and the least I can do is give something back. 'It was great,' I tell him, 'to see you talk to him like you did.' 'Look at me, he says, '52 years old and stuck in this office. It will be such a miracle if I even reach 80, let alone 100...'

So we have a little laugh about Old Age waiting for all of us round the corner, then I pay my taxes and walk out feeling better about humankind than any person can expect when leaving the tax office.


At 11 April 2012 at 12:49 , Anonymous Marina Sofia said...

A, da, deliciile birocratiei! Imi place atit de mult cind poti sa scrii cu umor despre asa ceva. Mie imi vine sa scuip si sa injur!


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