Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Riding With The Enemy

This morning the Max was very full at the Hollywood Transit Center
and I was resigned to standing. But a couple riders got off the bleachers - the five seats in rows that face each other -- and I took a place. A talkative woman was weighing the plusses and minuses of bicycling the Springwater trail on her own for the listening pleasure of a man I thought must be her husband -- such a good listener he was.

"Transients hang out there," she said, talking herself out of the trip without any help from the man.

As she got up to leave a big, blond guy sitting on the bench down from me, across from her said, "You're afraid of a transient who sleeps out in the cold and drinks beer all day? Kick his ass!"

The guy's big laugh infected me and drew grins from all directions. He got talking with the man I had thought was the husband, asking "What do you do?"

"I'm an electrician."

"That's a good job. Pays good, too. That's where you're goin'?"

"I go to school today."

"What are you studyin'?"

"To be an electrician."

"So you're not legal yet?"

"I could be more legal."

"Do that!" The giant laugh filled the train car.

The big blonde mentioned he's been in the Marines, GI bill, studied computer science. His buddy went to nursing school.

"We all basically laughed at him, but he was working already when he was in school, got everything paid for, was making good money as soon as he got discharged. Thirty-four dollars an hour?  Or forty-three? I forget. And when he started, as much overtime as he wanted. Not so much now, but still plenty of work."

The two agreed nursing was a good job. Travel anywhere and work. The husband guy told of a friend who did that -- a nurse, worked three months here, six months there.

Blondie said he worked for the IRS. I suddenly felt a little different about him, like I knew we could never be friends. He told a loud tale about a man, a self-employed roofer, who made $90K a year but only claimed $30K on his tax returns. He was injured several times, as roofers often are, and in his fifties applied for Social Security disability.

"They qualified him but only for two-thirds of 30K benefits, from his 1040s. He was so upset he protested that he'd been making 90K, talking with an IRS revenue agent. Agent said, 'Yep, you been makin' 90K for quite a few years.' So he got more disability but was in debt to the IRS for hundreds of K."


"Yeah, he netted less than the 20K he would have had on a 30K income."

Blondie went on. "When the Revenooers come for yor assets, they've already sent at least three warning letters and they're no longer negotiating. They're itemizing. Inventorying. They'll take everything but your house and car."

He paused to glance around. I looked away.

"We don't want your stuff. We can't sell it for what it's worth. We just want your money."

A minute later the Blond Bomber left and a mentally disabled guy spoke up.

"Who was that? Is he a comedian? What was he talking about?"

"Taxes," someone replied.

"What's taxes?"

"That's when they take your money away and give it to someone else."

Happy Tax Day!

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