I'm no tax cheat. But doing my own taxes is intimidating. That's why I generally put it off until the last minute. Feel free to call that procrastination. Still, the Internal Revenue Service--an agency run on tax dollars--says we've got until midnight, April 16, to get a postmark from another taxpayer-funded agency, the U.S. Postal Service, on our tax forms.
Last week, I hustled to the downtown Durham post office at 11:10 p.m. That's the city's main post office. The big one. As I pulled up, I expected to see postal workers grabbing envelopes from hands outstretched from car windows, and Libertarians preaching the gospel of a tax-free America. Instead, I saw small groups of people wandering aimlessly, their faces registering a mix of shock and extreme weariness. I vaguely remembered a smiling Steve Daniels introducing WTVD's 11 p.m. newscast as I'd left the house. He was giggling about some post offices being closed and promised to tell us more in a few minutes. Surely, he hadn't meant Durham's post office? I didn't have time to find out.
"It's closed," some people sang out as I approached the agency's doors. A piece of paper taped there directed us to the Cary post office.
Cary? "Do any of us have any idea how to get to the post office in Cary?" I asked the small throng gathered outside the building.
Nope. They didn't know and it seemed neither did the person who had ripped the address and directions off the bottom of the sheet taped to the door.
Since I'm a good little taxpayer, I followed the advice of a fellow Durhamite and sped on to Raleigh, our capital city. There, I found the post office was closed. Maybe if I'd read the newspaper, I would have known that. Not much consolation at 11:50 p.m., especially when it takes a half-hour to get from Durham to anywhere near Raleigh, and 15 minutes to get from Raleigh to downtown Cary.
As I began grinding my teeth and crying, I recalled the chatter I'd heard on the radio earlier that day. Seems the IRS has so few employees this year, you could cheat your brains out and they'd never audit you. I resisted the temptation to rip up my tax forms and instead, stuffed them in the blue box outside the closed Raleigh post office.
As I left, I struck up an internal whine: "But I went to all this trouble, and I drove my ass off, and I want to help the government, not steal from it. Even if I did, who would care?"
It seems the only answer is, "Cary."