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Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Everything that could possibly go wrong today not only went wrong, but it also took out a little chip of everything around it. I don't even know for sure how it started, but I think it was when I decided to do some work. If I'd played solitaire and watched the soaps and eaten bonbons all day, none of this would have happened.

Today. It wouldn't have happened today. It would have happened tomorrow instead, with one less day to fix it. I started bailing early today, and by quitting time I was totally under water. And thankful for it! In for a drop, in for a bucket, I say.

A big part of this fiasco was uncovering my own mistakes. Some are related to other booboos I've already alluded to. It seems October 2003 was a bad month for me. It took me half the day to uncover all the discrepancies and the other half to run around in circles until I realized there wasn't anything I could do about it.

Today. There wasn't anything more I could do today, other than beating my head against the wall a few more times. That tactic seemed to be losing its effectiveness, though. It wasn't working as well as I thought it should.

It became clear that I'd made some minor errors on a couple of the W-2 forms I've already sent out, and a bigger error on another one. I hope those guys haven't figured their taxes yet, because they're going to have to do it again. I thought I could just send them revised W-2s, but it turns out I have to file forms W-2c and W-3c ("c" for caught in the act, or corrected form, or some such thing).

One form goes to the employee and the other to the government. I thought I could download the forms off the IRS site, but that was wrong. Original forms on special paper are required. I thought I could go to the IRS office here in town and get what I needed, but that was a disaster, too.

The only parking space close to the Federal Building was in a 24-minute zone. Then I had to go all the way around the building so that I could enter through the door where the x-rays and metal detectors are. The forms I wanted weren't on the racks, so I had to take a number and wait. By the time 23 of my 24 minutes had passed, they were nowhere near calling my number.

So I raced to my car and drove home in afternoon traffic through the middle of town. There's a reason I run my errands in the morning, and there's a reason I never drive downtown. It was horrible, and I got headed in the wrong direction so that I ended up taking the long way. You can't turn; you can't even change lanes. It took me forever to get headed back toward home.

I phoned the IRS hotline to order the forms. I was on hold long enough to hear the "your call is important to us" message twice, but that wasn't as bad as I expected. Operator 32784 (or whatever she called herself) was helpful, or at least pleasant. I told her what forms I needed and she asked how many. "One, I hope." She said she'd send several. That turned out to be the best thing that happened to me during this whole ordeal, because I'll definitely need at least three, and who knows how many I'll ruin in the process.

Ten days. She told me that I'd have my forms in ten days. What could I say? I can't fix this big mess I made for myself until I have the forms. Or can I?

Well, I thought I could. I thought that as a temporary measure I'd send revised W-2s to the three employees. That way they'd have forms they could use to file their tax returns. It wouldn't be "official," and I'd still have to do the "c" copies, but here was something helpful I could do.

I couldn't do it, though. Not because I didn't have the forms, and not because I couldn't (after hours of number crunching) make all the figures balance so that I knew what the W-2s were supposed to say. I couldn't do it because as I was typing the first form, my typewriter ribbon expired. Zas! Nothing. I use the typewriter maybe four times a year, and it has to quit on me now.

No problem, though, because I knew I had another ribbon. Somewhere. It wasn't where I thought it was, but there were plenty of other places to look. Logical places. And when I'd looked in all the logical places, I looked in the illogical ones. Then I looked in all the stupid places, just in case. I found no less than two correction ribbons, but no cartridge that would make the old Selectric do its job.

And nowhere to go to find the ribbon cartridge I needed. Nowhere but on line, that is. I ordered two of them, and then I collapsed. There's still more to do, and there's even a slim possibility that I'll find more errors I need to correct. But by this time I was spent. I felt that if one more thing went wrong I'd have to stick my head in the paper shredder just to feel better. And I knew that if I tried one more thing, it would go wrong.

So I collapsed. I quit. I gave up, until tomorrow. I'll try to find the ribbon here in town, so that I don't have to make my guys wait any longer. But I have no real hope. I'm not even sure the sun will come out tomorrow, so how can I possibly believe anything will go right? Why should tomorrow be any better than today? Except that it couldn't be much worse.

17 January 2004

Looking up through the trees from under the corner of the eave.

I swore I wasn't going to put down all these details. I was just going to write that I had a rotten day, put up a pretty picture, and call it quits. For some reason once I got started I couldn't stop. And I didn't even mention the big gushing nosebleed that slowed me down for a while, or the box that fell upside down off the top shelf of the closet, or—

Okay, that's really enough.

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Form W-2, in case you don't know, is the wage and tax statement that employers send to employees in January, telling them how much they made and how much tax they paid the previous year. Form W-3 is the summary form that goes to the federal government. I did my W-2s and W-2 a week ago. I had until the end of the month, and if I'd waited I wouldn't need to file any corrected forms. That'll teach me to try to do something before the deadline! Never again.

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Anyway rock bottom is good solid ground
And a dead end street is just a place to turn around