Auld Lang Whatever

Time to Change Your Calendar

Time to Change Your Calendar

In the accounting profession, we are apt to view New Years Day with a jaundiced eye. It is the beginning of the 100-day Bataan death march that is tax season. For a while, we will have weekends. Then, at some point in February, we begin to work Saturdays. In March, Sundays are also added. That is in a high-rise building with no weekend air-conditioning, unless we pay for it. To add insult to injury, the two national holidays during this period—Martin Luther King Day and Presidents’ Day—are just two more workdays. (The company makes up the time lost later.)

Every year, our clients tend to be later and later in supplying us the information we need to file the returns, and gradually increasing pressure is applied between February 1 and April 15, until the last week is a nightmare of running around, making last-minute changes, and printing numerous copies of multiple hundred page returns.

Not a pleasant prospect.

So, auld lang whatever. Put up a new calendar, start paring away at your social life (such as it is), be sure to get some exercise, and read some good books.


Don’t Let Retailers Set Your Agenda

Don’t Let Retailers Set Your Agenda

We are currently on that Snakes & Ladders descent from Halloween through Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years to Super Bowl Sunday. That’s a goodly chunk of the year being anxious as to whether one has satisfied all one’s loved ones. Because we watch television so many wasted hours each day, we are very conscious of what all the brick-and-mortar retailers want us to do. They endlessly supply us with suggestions as to what to buy for whom. And if the TV isn’t bad enough, there are also the radio, newspapers, e-mail, and FaceBook to remind us.

Because I am in the accounting profession (for the time being), I see this time of year primarily as the run-up to tax season. It means printing and sending out tax organizers, frequent installation of new versions of the tax software, constant re-indexing of the tax database, printing Form 1096 and 1099 for our clients (as needed), and dozens of other tasks. The worst part is the entry and processing of the actual tax returns, which builds up in a slow crescendo to the frantic last weeks before the April 15 deadline. In accounting, one doesn’t look at the Holidays so much as one looks past them.

Enough Already!

Enough Already!

As a result, I don’t go in for holiday decorations. I skip Halloween altogether—there’s never any Trick-or-Treaters who come to our door any more. We get together with our friends for Thanksgiving. We go to a couple of Christmas events, usually a concert of holiday music, and then we visit friends and family. On New Year’s, we stay in to avoid the drunk and drugged motorists. And Super Bowl Sunday? A great time to visit an otherwise crowded museum. Instead of joining the throngs at a shopping center on Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving), I am thinking of suggesting Martine that we go instead to the Getty Villa to enjoy the serenity of ancient Greek and Roman art.

In fact, serenity is the key. If you don’t feel this serenity during the holiday season, I think you are probably doing something wrong. There’s little that we can do in the way of material goods to show our love. The batteries will run down, the gizmos will fail to work—but the love behind them still runs strong. At least, it should!

Yesterday, I saw my best friends and learned a lesson. Last year, I bought their youngest son a subscription to The New York Review of Books, which wound up being enjoyed primarily by the father. When I asked the son what should I get him, he told me not to worry about it. I don’t have any children of my own, so the children of my friends are particularly important to me. I won’t worry about it, but I will find something nice for him.


What Day Is It Today?

This Is a Trick Question ... So Beware!

This Is a Trick Question … So Beware!

If your answer was “Presidents’ Day,” you are only partially correct. Unofficially, that’s what the holiday is called, but according to the National Archives, it’s Washington’s Birthday. There is even an explanatory footnote:

This holiday is designated as “Washington’s Birthday.” Though other institutions such as state and local governments and private businesses may use other names, it is Federal policy to always refer to holidays by the names designated in the law.

If your answer was, “Monday, February 18,” you are an unspeakable literalist. But you are also correct.

Of course, my answer is, “Another damned working day in tax season.” For people in the accounting profession, there are no holidays between New Years and the end of tax season.


Run Like Hell: The Holidays Are Here!

Thanksgiving: Gobble Until You Wobble

The end of the year tends to be something of a blur for me. The holidays come one right after the other, starting with Halloween and continuing with Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day. I am of two minds about these holidays. On one hand, I feel I am required to be in a festive mood and follow certain “family” traditions that were, in fact, never a part of my own family. On the other hand, while I appreciate the time off from work, I would rather pick my own holidays and spend the time going someplace interesting, such as Peru, Siberia, American National Parks, or Australia.

Still, for those of you who feel they have to be uplifted by celebrating our holidays in a traditional manner, my heart goes out to you. Just remember that your holidays do not define or delimit you in any way. You are a unique person with needs which other people might at times find off-putting. Never you mind! Just put on a happy face and grit your teeth. But whatever you do, remember to pay homage to your own daemons, once the needs of your loved ones have been taken care of.

I recognize that I am a little strange at times. But so are we all! There is a certain safety in being conventional, but that safety is an illusion. Any day of the year, I would rather read a good book than watch a football game; eat a pork tamale with a fiery salsa picante rather than turkey; give gifts because I want to, not because it is a social obligation.

Tomorrow, Martine and I will go to the Getty Villa to look at ancient Greek and Roman art. We will pointedly not join the throngs at the malls looking for Black Friday bargains. We would rather have a restful Friday looking at works of art which have survived for two or more milllennia that were created by people who were much like us.