I interviewed for a part-time tax job on Thursday. I left Zombies, Inc at barely after five (a sin, but lately I totally hate myself for packing up at six because staying is accomplishing nothing and still
being the first person to leave), headed for Back Bay after getting lost, twice, in Park Street station. I didn't know the street address, but the company's website was reassuringly grey.
Swankwass office suites with shiny tiled floors and a doorman who scanned my green card and printed me a paper sticker with my name and photo on it, four elevators and a layout like a maze; shiny, shiny numbered doors, too shiny and far too close together for the offices inside to be anything more than show. I stepped out of the elevator thinking about the kind of people who feel at home in such places - reassured by the shine, paying the rent on its aspirations.
I was only five minutes late by the time I found Mr Slime. He didn't appear to notice. He then spent the next thirty-odd minutes feeling out my tolerance for jawdropping bullshit, while evidencing absolutely no social skills. Not too unlike the Dingbat, but a somewhat younger, richer, less terminal, and completely amoral variant thereof.
The Dingbat got me used to the CPA firm model; use prestige of qualification to pull in work, and then hire the nearest monkey to actually do it, pay monkey in peanuts, cover rent of reassuring-looking (kinda, when he cleaned it) prime-location facility and have $$$ left over to gamble on the stock market & lose, which is what the Dingbat actually does all day. Mr Slime is not a CPA but appears to have more $$$$ than the Dingbat. Mr Slime, in his tiny, shiny, squeaky little plaza office, wants me to work from home. I can come by twice a week for all the paperwork and then take it home to do the monkeying. His former monkey, he told me sadly, had been monkeying for him for decades, such a shiny shiny professional relationship it had been, but the dear monkey had now retired and so he had asked the Useless People (yeah, still the same agency, because none of the other four I am registered with turned anything up this year) for a replacement monkey. I wondered how many other monkeys he has spun this story at in the last few years. It's about trust, he says. A long-term working relationship, he says. He made a seriousface and bragged about how rich his clients are, mentioned the standard noncompete agreement whatsits that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has been considering outlawing, and which he takes to mean that I could not attempt to even contact my clients; the whole point is that the clients won't know I exist. This is high-end professional services, and it's like eating at a fancy restaurant, hence the post title. Some people feel at home in fancy restaurants.
Mr Slime is full of long pauses. I'm not quite sure what it is about accounting and social skills. I asked if he would like to contact my references and he said no, with no further explanation. He quizzed me, between the long pauses, on some really basic bullshit like foreign tax credits and when to use an 8453. He asked if I knew how much the Useless People billed for me - well north of 150% of what I get, I guessed - and if I'd worked for them before; clearly hoping to cut them out of the loop and get me under the table ASAP, as the Dingbat did last October. (We had already established that they had lied to him about which tax software I have experience with, but Mr Slime said he'd let that pass because I was completely upfront on the subject myself and perhaps he agreed with me that new software is a breeze if you know what the results are supposed to look like. Perhaps not). He's going to put his favourite program on my computer (a high-end program, he says; Cuddleboss has told me it's the second cheapest); in turn, I'll be feeling him out for swinging it for personal use once I have my damn EFIN [this is a whole other saga that involves repeated attempts to get the local police to mail my fingerprints to the IRS; doubly absurd as the DHS has like a billion versions of them already].
He asked me the question that Zombies, Inc forgot to even ask - whether I owned
a laptop - and a further question that I am troubled by; whether I had children. I looked this up the second I got home - it's not illegal to ask
this in Massachusetts (it is in Connecticut and DC), but it would have been illegal to discriminate against me if I had said 'yes'. I am not sure what action to take against someone who sexually discriminated in favour of me in a job interview.
But I'm so doing this. Why am I doing this? Because even when it has obviously zero future prospects other than a couple of experience boxes ticked and, going to guess, I'll get to see some some real accounting voodoo, there is no real downside to spending a couple of months taking $15/hr from a slimeball while wearing pyjamas & cuddling my dog. I was talking about it on Saturday with a coworker I adore; last year we were working together for Cuddleboss in Southie, but Ms Small World also used to work for the Dingbat a few years back, so shared my frustration at the prestige-and-handshake model of tax monkeying. Last year, I was able to enjoy the tradeoff; one job where I never saw the clients, one where I saw so many that one of them eventually hired me for a real job.
tl;dr why not
. Downside is almost zero, given that nothing else was biting and I have an absurd level of short-term tolerance for shitty people who are giving me money. It's not what I'd hoped for, for this year, but it's money and grist. I like the tax code, and this will be a good chance to get acquainted with some parts of it I know less well.
But I also like my clients. A lot. They have taught me about America one hour-long appointment slot at a time. They're how I take the pulse of the year. I know what everyone earns and how much they hate their jobs - do you know how amazing that is? Ms Small World wound up switching her college major due to paying attention to her clients' lives. I saw three clients on Saturday, including one of my favourites from last year, who stripped half-naked in my office - I mention this in case you were under the illusion that taxation and random nudity do not coexist; he wasn't sure of his daughter's birthday, so asked me to read it off his back tattoo.
He's the kind of client I'd like well enough for himself; talks enough to make all the awful compliance questions I have to ask people come out naturally, and when he's not talking family, the boomer addicts and the gay restaurateurs and how hard it gets to put on a brave face for his daughter in the winter and why he does so anyway, he tells me about his construction jobs and why urban development in Massachusetts is a dead-end union corruption spiral that leaves you getting by on cash-in-hand work; I just put my finger to my lips and reminded him that he wasn't meant to tell me about that, because America's tax code has generated the grey economy it wanted to generate. But on top of that, he's going to marry the Obama fundraiser who was left unemployed and homeless after the 2012 election
and I was just so relieved to hear that she was safe and well.