Friday, March 28, 2008
I went to the Federal Office building in San Francisco to pick up tax forms from the IRS as I decided to do our taxes myself for the first time in years.
The outing required two buses each way as there is no parking downtown. I know because I tried to get there the other day in my car. It couldn't be done.
At one bus stop, the wind was whipping at my wet hair as I huddled against the plastic wind shield, holding the collar of my light jacket over my throat. A half hour later, an elderly couple joined me, speaking a Slavic language I didn't understand.
The man beckoned to me. I thought he needed directions so I walked to the other side of the shelter where he took me firmly by the shoulders. I backed away. He reached out without speaking and tightened his grip. He seemed to be pressing me against him. I pulled away again but suddenly realized that he was placing me behind the wind barrier that he deemed more effective. Then he rejoined his wife on the collapsible seats and we all waited for the bus.
As I entered the huge, grandiose Federal building, two guards ran to my side so fast they nearly tripped themselves.
"How nice," I thought. "So helpful."
Uh, no. They thought that I might be a terrorist and were eager to relieve me of my purse and a small camera I was carrying. My purse was passed through an airport-type X-ray machine and I had to leave my camera with a large bouncer-like man who gave me a check stub.
They did not, I am pleased to report, require a check of my body cavities. They did not draw blood. But they wouldn't have thought twice about doing so, especially the really big guy.
They inspected my shoes. Pumas. Plum kitten brown & powder blue with asymmetrical lacing system. Size 6 1/2.
It seemed more than a little unfair to go through all that without boarding a plane for someplace exotic, or even just different.
I took several forms, reclaimed my camera and walked across the street to the California State Office Building where I had been told I could obtain the state forms. There was another long Customs line to go through, at the end of which I was informed that "they moved out 6 or 7 years ago."
La-La Land. No kidding.
It will require another bus ride to get to the area where allegedly the State now has its tax office. They have no parking either.
I am so close to just sending everything to our CPA in Los Angeles, as we have for the last several years. His fee is unjustified by the amount of return we can expect, if any. Last year we paid him $275 and got a refund of $40, which is why I decided to do it myself. His rate has probably gone up and our return has likely gone down.
But they don't make it easy. For the legwork alone, as it turns out, I am willing to pay someone.
As long as I was downtown, I decided to walk around with my camera. There was a rally for Tibet in front of City Hall. People with megaphones were chanting, "Olympics in China, Murder in Tibet, Olympics in China, Murder in Tibet."
Like a drum.
Two teenagers jived to the beat as they passed the protesters in Tibetan clothing carrying flags.
On April 9th, the Olympic torch will come to San Francisco, its only North American stop. The protesters want the city to refuse to support "the egregious and ongoing human rights abuses in China and occupied Tibet." Team Tibet, comprised of Bay Area Tibetans and their supporters, is not anti-Chinese but pro-freedom and justice for all.
They are calling on our Mayor and all Americans to revoke the welcome of China's propaganda torch and take a stand for freedom and human rights.
After nearly 50 years of Chinese rule, the Tibetans are sending out a global cry for change. Violence is spreading across Tibet and neighboring regions, and the Chinese regime must now choose between increasing brutality or dialog that could determine the future of Tibet and China.
We can affect this historic choice. China cares about its international reputation and is eager to make the Olympics in Beijing this summer a celebration of a new China that is a respected world power. Its economy is totally dependent on "Made in China" exports that we all buy.
President Hu needs to hear that 'Brand China' and the Olympics can succeed only if he makes the right choice. It will take an avalanche of concerned and vocal people around the globe to get his attention.
Click below to sign a petition to President Hu calling for restraint in Tibet and dialog with the Dalai Lama, and please tell everyone you know.
The petition was organized by Avaaz, and it is urgent that one million signatures be delivered directly to Chinese officials.
(Avaaz is a not-for-profit organization that works to ensure that the views and values of the world's people inform global decision-making. Avaaz means "voice" in many languages.)
Thank you for helping with this important campaign.