Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Day After Halloween

"I'm not dead yet!"

It felt like the alarm clock went off early today.  Halloween went way too long last night.  It was fine for a while - the usual little kids saying, “trick or treat.”  But it got annoying when the doorbell kept ringing after 9pm, the official citywide cutoff.  And it got a little more annoying when the later visitors looked bigger and scarier than the little kids.  I mean, some of these "kids" were over 6 feet.  And they had much more frightening masks than what the little ones were wearing.  And when they said, “trick or treat,” their voices sounded like they had all left puberty in the dust several years ago.  Frankly, the late comers made me glad I had that baseball bat in the corner behind the door - particularly since I almost ran out of candy.

Luckily I had bought a really big supply.  Amazon had a sale on Halloween candy so I got it really cheap and didn't even have to pay sales tax on it.  Yeah, I know I'm supposed to pay use tax when Amazon doesn’t charge sales tax, but really, come on.

I also had the brilliant idea of getting salt-water taffy.  I always eat way too much of the Halloween candy (I mean, it's sitting right there), but since I have more than my share of expensive dental work, I stay away from things like caramels, Jujubes and taffy.  But I figured the kids wouldn't care. 

I finally got to bed, only to be awakened a few times during the night by a pretty nasty storm that came up all of a sudden.  It still looked and sounded pretty much like the end of the world as I left my building and started my short walk to work.  I could have hit the snooze alarm and slept in a little, but I had a weird sense that I’d better get to work as soon as possible.

The storm was still crashing around me.  There were branches in the street, rain was pouring, mostly from the side, and cars were going through big puddles.  People where hurrying, huddled in their hats and coats.  Umbrellas were a waste of time in weather like this.  In fact, almost every trash barrel I passed had a couple of broken ones jammed into them.

Normally, my walk takes 10 minutes, but today it took almost half an hour.  I had to walk into the blowing wind, squint through the driving rain, hold on to my hat, try to avoid the splashing water from the cars, and keep looking behind me.  You see, after a few minutes, I got the feeling there was someone following me.  I couldn't hear anything unusual, what with the storm, but I definitely got the feeling that I was being watched.  So I kept turning around. 

Only once did I see someone who appeared to be following me.  He was a tall, erect figure wearing a black coat with a black derby.  He was on the other side of the street and he didn't stop when I turned.  In fact, it didn't seem like he cared whether or not I saw him or not.  The rain and wind were so heavy that I could only barely make him out.  Not wanting to get a closer look, I kept going.  It was weird though.  He wasn’t walking fast, or hunkered down like everyone else.  And how did he keep that hat on?  I kept looking back for another glimpse, but the weather was on his side.

Once I got to the office, the door was locked.  I was early, after all.  I tapped on the door for the security guard.  He wasn't there.  I didn't realize how nervous I was until that moment.  Here I had some guy following me, and that weird desire to get to work early was getting worse.   So I waited outside under the overhang - at least I wasn’t getting wet.  But I was working up a cold sweat, just from nerves.  I kept looking for the derby-guy, but he wasn't there.  I still couldn’t make out anything more than a few yards away.  And where WAS that damn security guard?  And why did it seem so important for me to get to work?

Finally, the door opened and, taking one more look for the derby-guy, I hurried inside past the guard.  I headed for the elevator.  Normally, I try to take the stairs, but they're kind of dark and I have seen enough movies to want to avoid them, since I seemed to have a stalker.  Plus the elevator would be faster, since I REALLY needed to get to my desk. 

Just as I had gotten onto the elevator, a hand reached in and stopped the doors from closing.  I whirled around, and uttered a squawk of fear and surprise! 

It was the guard.  "Sorry to startle you.  There was someone here about 15 minutes ago asking for you.  I said you hadn't come in yet.  He said something about being back.  I just thought you should know."

Catching my breath, I said "Thanks."  Then, thinking about my hat-wearing buddy, I asked, "Was he wearing a weird hat?"

"Yeah, now that you mention it, he was wearing one of those old style derby hats.  Not a trilby like the guys in marketing wear, but something out of the last century.  And he was really tall."

Uh, oh.  He had beaten me to work!  At the same time he had been out on the street following me to the office.  Oh, crap!  "Did you see what he looked like?"

"No, he had his collars pulled up so I really couldn't make anything out.  And he had sunglasses on, which, given the weather, was weird.”

"Listen, don't let that guy in.  If he shows up, call me.  But don't let him in.  If you have to, call the police."

"OK, but the police won't be much help.  They're running around dealing with the storm, plus there was a weird guy trick-or-treating last night and they're trying to find him."

"Tell the police this guy might be the one they're looking for."

I went up to my office, unlocked the door and let myself in.  I pulled off my coat and sat in my chair - relieved.  Except that it occurred to me that there wouldn't be anyone in for at least another hour.   So I closed the door and locked it.  And I pulled a chair up against it and wedged it under the doorknob.  I don’t know if I did it right, but it looked like what they do in the movies, so I figured it might work.

Feeling a little safer, I sat down again and took a look at my desk calendar.  I'm sort of a Luddite so I still use one of those one-page-a-day versions.   I flipped the page to November 1 and thought, "Oh, my God!"  It said, "sales tax auditor at 9am."  You know those dreams where you're back in school and there's a test and you didn't even know you were supposed to take the course?  Well, I had completely forgotten about the audit.  And the auditor had given me a long list of things to have ready for him.  I had completely forgotten.  "Oh, crap, oh, crap, oh crap..."

There was a knock at the door. 

Did you know that they never have those little peepholes in office doors?  I was really wishing for one now.  "Yes?" was all I could squeak out.

"I'm looking for Mr. Frazier," came a low voice, really more of a loud whisper.

"Uh, that's me.  Hold on."

I moved the chair from door, and opened it.  There he was: derby-guy.  He was really tall and he still had the sunglasses.  He was lifting his arm towards me.  I almost fell over the chair as I backed away.

He held out his card and whispered "I'm Herman Mudgett, with the Department of Revenue."  I was staring at him in stunned silence.  "I'm here to do your sales tax audit."  And with that, he walked into my office and sat at MY chair.

I stammered out, "How did you get in here?  The guard should have stopped you!"

"Oh, we have ways of getting in where we're not welcome.  It’s part of the job."  And with that he swept everything off my desk onto the floor - the calendar, my paperwork from yesterday, everything.

"What the hell?" I yelled.  My fear had gone to anger in an instant.  Who was this jerk?

"Have a seat, Mr. Frazier." he said.  His voice had taken on a low, evil, snarling tone that made me sit down, right on the wet raincoat I had thrown on the chair a few minutes ago.

He opened up his bag and all I could see in it were two boxes.  One was very shiny and had one knob and one dial.  The other was a small cardboard box.

I said tentatively, "I'm afraid I'm not ready for you.  I completely forgot you were coming.  My bad." 

"Oh, I'm not here about that," he croaked out.  “I'm here about the use taxes you didn't pay on the Amazon candy you handed out last night."

I gasped.  "How did you..."

He cut me off, opening the small cardboard box, "…and I'm here about that taffy." He showed me a piece of salt-water taffy, with a bloody tooth embedded in it.

Then he hissed, “Just so you know, dental appliances ARE taxable in this state.”


Happy Halloween from The Sales Tax Guy

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