The Internal Revenue Service is trying to be more user-friendly. It wants us to like it so much that it smacks of desperation.
It's like the awkward teen that yearns to sit at the cool table in the lunchroom but knows she never will because she doesn't have enough money or isn't smart enough or doesn't really think that the band Yes is all that and a bucket of chicken.
Sorry. Having a little flashback to 1974 there.
Last week, I needed some tax forms so I sought out the brand new IRS headquarters in my town. I walked into a cavernous space, freshly carpeted and smelling of new paint and just- opened office supplies. It was, honestly, a vision, right on down to the several HUNDRED padded chairs that had been arranged in rigid long lines that would do an obsessive-compulsive proud.
I have to say I was impressed. Also puzzled. Because there wasn't a single soul in this enormous room, just a row of walled cubicles as far as the eye could see.
"Hello!'' I called, my voice echoing back to me. Cool. I did it again. Finally, a voice came from behind one of the far cubicles.
"Please take a number.'' OK, for some reason this struck me as hilarious. I mean there was NO ONE within 10 miles of this room. But this is the IRS, and it can't help its nerdy self. Instead of just saying "C'mon back,'' I gotta take a number. And sit. And wait.
About two minutes into this process, with only the sound of a far-away vacuum cleaner to keep me company, I got the silly giggles and laughed so hard that my palms sweated all over my number: 100, by the way.
Finally, after a few more minutes I heard the disembodied voice call out stiffly, "Number 100.'' I said to the empty room: "I think that's me!''
I walked way down to greet "the voice,'' which turned out to belong to a very nice and helpful woman. She told me that I needed Form 1040-ES, which would contain coupons.
"That's great!'' I said, instantly warming to the government. "For like Arby's or Domino's or something?'' She looked perplexed at No. 100.
"That's very funny,'' she said without a trace of a smile. "They're coupons to accompany your tax payment.''
"Oh,'' I said, irrationally disappointed that there would be no cents off on Buffalo wings.
She then handed me a customer satisfaction survey, but all the admonitions to fill in the bubbles exactly and precisely and to LEAVE NO STRAY MARKS were too scary.
Face it, IRS. Until you learn to loosen up a little, you're never gonna sit at the cool table.