It was with severe dread and trepidation that I headed to the tax office yesterday. See, we'd forgotten to file our French taxes on-time so I had the pleasure of taking them in, myself, two weeks late.
I don't think I've been this nervous about dealing with a public entity since I had to get my first driver's licence in the US ever so long ago.
My experiences with tax offices has been remotely neutral. Never any real contact with anyone and never any real problem. But, the overwhelming fear that there might be one can make me giddy, freaked out, and humble. And that's when I'm dealing with one in a language I actually speak well.
There is a local tax office in the town near us, so I headed there with all our papers. I hoped and prayed that the late fines wouldn't be too terrible and that I wouldn't be chided in front of a large group of people for missing the deadline. Visions of being scolded by my grade school principle kept creeping into the back of my mind.
Turns out, our local tax office is as big as my living room and there was the nicest, kindest person working there.
"Hello," I said. "I'm afraid we are late with submitting our taxes."
"Oh la, la! That's right. The deadline was two weeks ago," the woman responded.
And with a sypathetic smile, she took our papers, checked all our details and then asked why hadn't we claimed the commuting benefit since Hubster drives 86k each day for work. When I told her I didn't know, she let me phone Hubster at work and then spoke with him directly so she could get all the right details and hence, the right amount for the benefit.
She then checked our other deductions, corrected a mistake, photocopied everything for me, and said,
"I know this is late, but I'll mark on the form that I had it here and that you had some issues. It's hard to understand the French system when you are French, let alone when you're foreign. Hopefully, the fines won't be too harsh, " she said with a beautiful, kind laugh.
I could have kissed her.
I'm amazed how in this country that can be so stuck in red tape all the time, I found someone so nice and so willing to help me.
A lovely woman named Marie-France, in the tax office, of all places.