2/20/2009

Franklin County's Tax Department- Now That's Customer Service!

 

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I arrived at the little cabin up the holler this afternoon and found a stranger lurking in the driveway.

It hadn't been a good day. My hairdresser turned my hair purple and for the first two-thirds of the trip toward the mountain, I indulged in a bad case of the Unlucky in Love, Lookin' Like Lyle Lovett Blues.

Just as I remembering that I own my destiny and that even purple hair can't keep a good goddess down, I saw the stranger and thought, great, a serial killer.

Ever the City Girl, I was on guard right away.  When he got out of his white SUV and started walking toward me, I got out of my car thinking, if he's psycho, I'll unleash Bailey Monster and Psycho Schnauzer on him.

He had a clipboard, black pants, button-down shirt and short, dark-brown hair.  Worse, he was smiling- a thousand-watt, brighter than my laundry, big, toothy grin.

I revised my opinion of him instantly. 

He wasn't a serial killer. He was a proselytizing, door-to-door, walking revival come to save my immortal soul and that made him worse than a serial killer.

He stuck out his hand and said "Hi, I'm Ben Whatever Followed this...I wasn't listening past the name and the words "Tax Department."

Great. Purple hair and a big, fat tax bill. The Goddess in me was fading fast...until my brain caught up with what the boy was saying.

"So they sent me out to re-assess you because we think we might've overcharged you."

Excuse me?

I thought they'd overcharged me, too. I'd looked at the map online and figured there was no way my tee-ninsey cabin had two stories and a basement like the site showed. But then I figured, the property map looked wrong online too, so it was probably just outdated. I mean, everyone's been saying the taxes were going up by a lot...but...

"Well, I did get a letter from the mortgage company saying my monthly payment was going up by $100 and I did think that was way high," I offered hesitantly.

He nodded. "That's why I'm here. One of the other guys in the office sent me out. Said he was in the neighborhood and thought your place didn't look like the valuation."

Now I'm looking around for the hidden camera. I'm being punked, right?

But no.

So, I invite him inside.

I show a total stranger all over my house. I even insist that he come upstairs and see my bedroom.

And in return- My house gets thoroughly assessed and I have the loveliest conversation with one of the county's sweetest men.

To Ben, the world is an open book- a smorgasbord of people all waiting to be greeted and welcomed. Exploring differences is what makes his world richer and savoring the seconds he gets to spend with his young family all the reward he needs in life.

We talk about child-rearing, philosophy, life in Roanoke, relationships, heritage, the future of the world, why people look so dead every and unhappy when he stops by the supermarket on his way home. I even tell him about the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory and talk about why his type loves to talk to people about feelings but hates to make decisions.

In short, we discuss the Entire World and I catch a bad case of Ben's unbridled enthusiasm for life.

The man could charm snakes out of trees. 

"I guess not everyone looks forward to your visits," I say at some point.

His eyes widen and he nods vigorously. "No, Nancy,they certainly do not." But he is still smiling.

I imagine the poor tax assessor popping in unannounced on a gun-toting moonshiner and wonder how in the world...After all, they don't call Franklin County the Moonshine Capital of the World for nothing. Bad things could happen.

But as I watch the boy carefully measure my front porch, and listen to him talking about the wonders of his baby boys, I realize this kid's truly never met a stranger.

Hostile landowners would be no match for the young tax assessor's sincere interest in their lives. He'd have the moonshiners laying down their weapons and telling their life stories in no time- And all the while he'd be quietly making notes on his clipboard and sketching out the lay of the land.

2 comments:

Beth said...

Nancy, I just wanted to say that you bear absolutely NO resemblance to Lyle Lovett whatsoever. Though you do appear to be quite slender. And you can probably sing. And I'm pretty sure that you could write a really fine song. But that's about it, I think.

Debi Kelly Van Cleave said...

Beth told me I needed to come here and see what you wrote about your tax guy because it sounded like my tax guy! But it's not. My guy doesn't have any kids. And he has light hair. And his name is not Ben.

Same thing as you. I got a knock on the door in the middle of the day. The dog almost had a heart attack. I'm in the middle of nowhere and I don't usually get unexpected visitors. I cracked the door cautiously. When he told me why he was here, I thought, ut oh. Well, it was one of the best visits I ever had with someone! Especially a stranger. We stood on my porch for hours talking about politics and religion and racism and books and the interesting people he meets going door to door reassessing people. (I also invited him in and offered him coffee but he declined.) I was on a high after he left! The next day, I get another knock on my door. It's the tax assessor again. He brought me a present. He brought me a book we had talked about. No ulterior motives. He knows I'm happily married. Just him being nice.

I don't know. Maybe tax assessors get hired for their good personalities so people don't shoot them? I wonder if our guys are from the same company? We should call them and compliment them.

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