Category Archives: Short Writings

The IRS

He’d been falling behind with his taxes for three years now, ever since his main client ran out of money.  It was a nice ride for a while, but the client hardly made a cent off of all the work he had done for him over the years.  He questioned some of the client’s business decisions from time to time, but that was not really his department.  He would offer some suggestions and then focused on the work that he was hired to do.  They were close to making a successful business out of one of the projects, but then the client abandoned it for a more risky project.  That risk was what eventually did the client in and bankrupted him.

It seemed sudden at the time, but in retrospect he could see the signs, like late payments and cutting back the work load.  Still it was a shock to him that day he turned on his computer and fired up his email program that downloaded the email that read that his client was out of money and was closing all operations.  His income not only dropped to close to zero but the money that was still owed to him would not be seen.  He had to take the money he’d set aside for taxes to pay his day-to-day bills.  That was how it started.

He had all his eggs in one basket that was bound to break.  Now he began picking up the pieces to redeposit them in as many varied containers as he could.  If one of them fell through he would have the others to rely on.  It was not easy.  With many clients he had to spend more time keeping track of details, creating invoices and collecting bills, not to mention finding the new clients.  They would haggled over price and demanded more of his time.  Still, many baskets … better than one, right?

That year, since he had spent all his tax money, he put off filing taxes as long as he could.  He had only a quarter of the amount he owed from a previous estimated payment.  Finally when he reached the last deadline of the last extension he filed, but made no payment.  Later the bill came.  He stalled a little longer before calling the IRS office to set up monthly payments.  $150 a month!  Wow, that was not bad.  He could definitely commit to that and a huge weight was lifted off his shoulders.  He wished he’d filed and called earlier.

The next year the same cycle repeated.  He did not owe nearly as much because his income was reduced in half from the year before.  Still, he put it off as long as he could before making a call to the IRS.  They were happy to add another $100 to his monthly bill, but they made it perfectly clear that he would not have that privilege the next year

The third year rolled around.  It was becoming clear to him that his business was not working out the way it was structured.  He had some ideas for restructuring, but was not sure how to implement them.  He was feeling the limits of the way he went about his professional life.  He longed to have a partner or a mentor … anything that would make him feel more like a “we” than an “I.”  He knew he needed help.

Again he did not have the money and put off filing taxes as long as he could.  The bill came a week before Christmas, giving him only one month to pay in full.  He set it aside until after the holidays and then picked it up on the first of the year.  Where would he get the money?  He cashed in his Roth IRA for one half of the tax bill.  The IRA was not doing him any good anyway.  It was years since he had contributed anything to it.  The value was lower than what he had contributed after the market crashed a few years ago.  But now the balance was at zero and there was a check in his hands.

Still it was not enough.  Taking the advice of some friends he went to the IRS office to have a face-to-face conversation and give them what he had.  The woman he talked to was very compassionate, yet stern.  She made sure he knew that he was not in integrity and he was on the verge of disaster.  Yet she did so in a kind way.  They even laughed together a few times.  She extended the deadline but made it clear he needed to be 100% on time after that…   No more late filing and no more late payments.

He went home, a little bit relieved, but a lot nervous.  He had four months to the next deadline.  How was he going to get that money!

The next day was surprised when he got on a knock on the door by a suit and a tie.  “Hi, are you Geoff?”  The man asked.  “Yes,” he replied.  “Hi, I’m Jimmy from the IRS, I’ve been assigned to your case.”  “Huh,” Geoff thought.  “I still have more time and now there is a man here to shake me down.”  “May I come it?” Jimmy asked.  Geoff was a little reluctant, but realized that there was nothing in his apartment to hide.  He did not live lavishly.  There was no excess in his home that he should worry that an IRS agent would see and accuse him of squandering money that was owed to the government.  There was nothing there that they could take, maybe his bike, but there was not much more.  Geoff looked up the street to see if the agent had arrived in a moving van ready to take everything he owned.  There was not so he invited him in.

The agent made a little small talk about the apartment and the view …the million dollar view.  Geoff thought if he could pack up a small part of the view to pay his bill he would.  Then Jimmy said, “Let’s get down to business.”  With a gulp Geoff invited him to sit opposite him at his desk.

“First we need to take a look at your business and your talents to make sure you are applying your full potential to your work.  We don’t want you short changing the world of what you have to offer, do we?  Most people fail in small business because they either do not apply 100% of their talents, thus losing interest in their work, or because they are so focused on their talent that they do not run their business right.  A small business needs balance.  I’m here to help you find that balance, and make a ton of money.

Geoff was shocked at what he was hearing.  He sat there in silence.  “I can tell you are in disbelief,” the agent commented and decided to offer further explanation.  “You see it is in our best interest to help you succeed.  The more money you make, the more money we make.  In a sense we are business partners so I’ve been sent to help you achieve your goals.  You do want to make a lot of money while sharing your talents with the world don’t you?”  Geoff nodded his head yes.  “Well the let’s get started.  I’ve spent the last ten years of my life helping small business owners like you.  For the most part I have always been able to turn their businesses around and help them succeed.  Other times … well let’s just say that some people are not suited to be in business for themselves and we help them to find a career using their talents as an employee for someone else.  Most of the time they find they are much happier.  I don’t get that sense about you.  You are meant to have your own business, I can tell.  I’m going to help you.”  With that Geoff did become a “we.”  He was no longer doing it alone.

Together they went over his ideas and business plans.  Jimmy made some suggestions and set up target goals.  They set up weekly phone appointments and monthly group sessions with other small business owners.  Within less than a month more money started rolling in.  Geoff set everything extra aside to save up for that payment due in April.  As the months drew nearer the amount set aside continued to grow.  Come April he had every cent that he needed for the IRS.  He paid off last year’s taxes, his current year’s taxes and the estimated payments for the following year.  He was never so happy to spend so much money and write out that check to such a kind, compassionate and caring organization like the IRS that helped him achieve his dreams.

Shark Attack

It was about three in the morning.  I knew I would not be able to sleep.  I had all my stuff ready for the morning and went to bed around ten, a couple of hours before I usually do.  Here it was five hours later and I was still awake.  I would describe my state as excited.  Not the kind of excited that one feels before Christmas as a child, no this was the excitement of going into something new and not knowing what to expect … whether one would succeed or fail.  This excitement can take the form of anxiety or enthusiasm depending on the state of mind, and my mind was fluctuating between the two.  In about three hours my alarm clock would go off and I would be off to my first Olympic distance triathlon.  I’ve done a few smaller ones throughout the year, but I was not certain I had what would take to finish one at this distance.

You know what the mind can do, I guess to entertain one when the excitement is keeping one awake?  Mine makes up stories.  This following story was one such story my mind made up that night.  No, this did not really happen, only in the imagination of an excited mind:

It was my first time swimming in the Bay in a wet suit.  I had every intention to get out and practice a little before today, but as fate would have it, I did not.  I just picked up the rented wetsuit the day before, took it out to the bay and jumped in for a little practice.  I only stayed long enough to know that I would be able to move in it, but I did not swim, for I had left my swim goggles at home.

Here it was now on race day.  It was ten minutes before my wave and we were allowed to get into the water.  There I was bobbing up and down with 100 other swimmers in my age group waiting for the starting gun.  Wetsuits do make one more buoyant and I did not have to tread water to stay afloat.  Perhaps the next time I’ll wait other five minutes before I get in the water to avoid all this bobbing.

Finally, the gun went off and we were off.  I keep towards the back because I know I’m not fast.  There were six legs to this 1 mile swim.  As usual, the first few hundred yards were tough as I get used to my new environment.  I like to joke with myself that for the first few hundred yards that I feel like a fish out of water.  Anyway, I made the first two legs and was well into the third when it happened …

I was just kicking into gear when I felt a disturbance in the water forcing me to the left shortly before an intense pain of several knives in my abdomen.  I was completely out of control with pain and this force that has pushed me far out of my path.

I remember from a Biology class that I took one year in college about the phenomena of flocking.  When animals flock it increases their individual chances of surviving a predator’s attack.  I don’t remember the exact figures, but it goes something like this: if an animal is alone and a predator attacks there is a 75% chance it will be caught.  If the animal is in a flock the chances go down to about 1 or 2%, I guess depending on the size of the flock.  The remarkable other side to this statistic is that flocking also increases the chances that the predator will catch something.  Their 75% will go up to about 95%.  What an incredible phenomena then, flocking is to the world of nature.  It increases the chance of survival on both ends.

So, I figured, out there in the bay that day, in a flock of triathletes, the probability of that shark catching one was rather high … especially considering there are not any man eating sharks in the bay and until just now there has never been a shark attack on a human in the bay.  So what was the probability it would be me?  Perhaps I should have played the lottery today instead.  So the shark quickly let me go once it realized that I was not the tasty morsel of a seal that it thought I was, but that did not change the fact that I was not going to be able to finish the race.  The life guard was quickly by my side pulling me up on their handy surf board, and paddled me back to shore and off to the hospital I went.

And that was how I DNFed on my first ever Olympic distance triathlon.