I was sitting in the lobby of the IRS office at 2 o’clock…waiting. I had come there earlier in the day, around 11:15 a.m., when the security guard told me I could not sign the registrar and go in because it was too crowded in there. She said it would be two hours before they would allow anyone else in. I went out and sat in my car in the parking lot for about fifteen minutes and enjoyed the air conditioning, made a couple of phone calls and then decided to go to IHOP and have breakfast for lunch. I had a spinach-mushroom omelet with onions, two cheeses, and covered with a creamy hollandaise, sans the spinach because they were out of spinach. I also had a nice stack of pancakes, of course, coffee and ice water. Three very nice waitresses interacted with me; one to seat me, another to take my order and another who took over my case and checked on me periodically. I noticed that my last server was also taking care of a couple seated two booths down from me. Even though she had a very pleasant attitude and delivery, the man and woman never looked at her, or smiled at her, or said thank you. In fact, the woman, who was facing me, had the nastiest look on her face. I wanted to say something to the nice little waitress about it, but instead I just increased the level of my smiles and thank you’s, hoping that would compensate for the rudeness she was experiencing with them. She didn’t seem to be phased by their bad manners. I hope she felt my good vibes.
There were two young ladies seated in a booth diagonally from me and they had an adorable two-year-old little boy with them who was getting all the attention and showing off, but not too much. At one point three other girls came into the restaurant who must have been friends of theirs because when they entered, instead of being seated they stood up in the aisle in front of the two ladies with the boy, and chatted for about twenty minutes. I thought how rude they were to the couple that was sitting across from them. There wasn’t a lot of space in the aisle and seeing that all three of them were pretty big-butted, I just knew they had to be imposing on those folks as they visited…loudly. I wouldn’t want to have to focus on those huge asses of theirs while I was trying to enjoy my meal. I was grateful that they weren’t visiting opposite me. I would have had to say something and could likely have gotten my ass kicked, because by what I could gather from their boisterous conversation they were already talking about one of their other friends who was planning to fight someone; and they sounded pretty enthusiastic about it. They finally all left together. I finished my meal and went back to the IRS office. I would arrive precisely at one o’clock as directed.
When I got there the guard /receptionist told me it would be another hour. Come back at 2 p.m. I decided I would just wait there in the lobby. There was already another man waiting and he started in talking to me the minute I sat down in the one chair available, which was beside him. His business partner died of cancer about a year ago. He was about to retire. He was 72 years old. He had some property at the lake. His daughter-in-law was coming in and he was waiting for a call to drive up to the Atlanta airport and pick her up. They were going to take care of some business and then go to the lake and do some fishing. His stepson had died and left her all alone. He had lived in California. Highway 1 is a lovely ride along the coast of California. He had lived in Oklahoma. He had started to join the Army, but never did. To all this, and a myriad of other personal facts that he shared with me, I just gave short, polite answers; trying with all my heart not to engage him further. However, he obviously was not going to be deterred by my lack of interest. He seemed like a nice man. His breath was a little tart and every now and then I had to endure a quick whiff of it. After the first time I turned in my chair a little so as not to take a direct hit again.
Finally the hour passed and the security guard lady said we could sign in. She actually checked my bag, my briefcase, and made me stand with my arms outstretched as she waved an electronic wand up and down and around me; front and back, before she allowed me into the IRS office. I took the number 006 from the dispenser and sat down, next to my outer office lobby companion, of course. He was quiet for a moment. The “Now Serving” LED queue was on number 709. This was a pretty small waiting area. About fifteen people occupied the very close seating. The “Now Serving” sign changed with a ding and I saw that it was not moving in any sequential order, so I didn’t get too nervous about it.
Seated behind me was an older couple. I recognized them from seeing them enter the building and then exiting again, when I was sitting in the parking lot earlier, cooling in my car. They had been holding hands and he was leading her very carefully and I thought that was cute. I later realized, when they were called up ahead of me, that she was blind and he was guiding her. But before this, I listened to them talk behind me. They talked low, but not whispering. You know sometimes how people will talk out loud as if they are certain that others will want to hear whatever they happen to be saying? As if they are certain whatever they’re saying is interesting enough that it will be enjoyed by all? Like that. Her slow, southern, country black woman drawl was endearing though. She sounded like a Grandma. Their conversation was about family matters, what foods she had a taste for, and a number of other things. He only spoke in answer to whatever she asked him. She expertly kept him engaged in the conversation by inserting an applicable question after every statement she made. “I got me a taste for some butter beans. You know where we can get some good butter beans?” “I don’t pay no ‘tention to them politicians and they mess.” “Do you know what they talking ‘bout wit diss budget mess?” His deep, scratchy voice sounded as if he were patiently tolerating her ceaseless chatter. He answered her with ten syllables or less, howbeit, very calmly and seemingly sincerely. Then at one point when he was long-sufferingly answering one of her questions, she replied “What you say? I can’t hear what you sayin’. You talk like a Jew.”
My eyes flew open. I had been feigning taking a quick nap so that my new IRS-office-waiting-room friend would stop talking to me, and almost really falling asleep listening to the exchange behind me, when that zinger slapped the back of my head. I looked around to see if anyone else had heard and was possibly reacting to that. Only three of the ten people still seated in the waiting area were white, and therefore, more likely to be Jewish than the rest of us. They didn’t look disturbed. So instead of me taking on my civic duty to be embarrassed and/or offended for them, I got kind of tickled. I immediately texted it to my sister; who immediately texted back, “OMG,” to which I re-texted, “I KNOW, RIGHT?”
As I sat there pondering what in the world that statement could possibly mean, their number appeared on the display, and the couple behind me with the woman who made the totally ignorant racist remark got up and went in to see a counselor. I saw how he carefully steered her around the other chairs and across the short space to the office to which they were directed. That’s when I realized she was blind, however, that had no bearing on her being stupid. My talkative companion’s number came next, then mine.
The IRS counselor was helpful. It was worth the one two-hour round trip to Montgomery. It was worth the three and a half hour delay after initially arriving. Plus, I got the added bonus of experiencing humans in their natural habitat. I wonder if anybody wrote about me. I doubt it. I didn’t do anything…this time.