August 29, 2012

On your dime

I have spent the better part of the last two days in the company of a very nice young lady, Nicole.  During our time together, I learned many things about her, the details of her family, where they live, how they came to the United States, their history, plans for the future.

Nicole is of Vietnamese descent, having moved to the United States after fifth grade.  She described to me the living conditions they left behind - there was no electricity where they lived, her family's home had dirt floors, they slept on those floors on wooden mats, there was no bathroom (not even an outhouse, they just went outside somewhere).  Her father was an officer in the Vietnamese army and was captured and imprisoned from 1975 until 1982, leaving her mother to fend for herself and five children during that time.

Nicole told me of the rigid school structure.  Everyone in Vietnam has to pay for school, there isn't a free public education system.  There is also a uniform required, with a red scarf - something she thought was notable but didn't know the significance.  She told of morning formations wherein the straightest and most quiet lines would be allowed to enter the classroom.  She still remembers the sting of the wooden stick used to smack her palms when she answered a question wrong.  Despite living in what most Americans would consider a hovel, and getting beat by her teacher, when Nicole moved to the states ready to begin sixth grade, she tested at a ninth grade level in math.  How do they do that? (Other than the mindset that paying for education and the required uniform is so important that even families who live in dirt floored shacks make it their top priority).

Nicole's family entered our country legally, I believe, as she told of a long wait for paperwork.  Nicole was actually one of the three children born into the family after her father was released from prison (yes, that makes the total 8). Once here, her father began collecting disability from our SSI system, as his years of torture in a Communist prison left him unable to work.

Nicole shared many stories of other family members that have emigrated from Vietnam to the USA.  She laughed at the stereotype while sharing that several cousins work and/or own manicure shops.  She told me that they tried other work, but they make so much more money doing nails - and not reporting all of the cash income - that they have happily settled into it full time.

I learned about Nicole's husband, baby daughter, their new home, dilemmas with daycare.  We talked about the travel Nicole does for work, the scary hotels she has been stuck in, as well as the 7-week training program that had her and 48 of her peers lodging at a name brand Times Square hotel at over $300 a night (each - they don't have to double up).

Nicole shared family recipes for pho and steamed fish that I am anxious to try.  I was almost sad to see her finish her work and bid me adieu...

...but on the other hand, since Nicole is an IRS agent, and was conducting an audit, I didn't exactly shed a tear when she left.

As you can tell by the small snippets of conversation that I have shared here, Nicole isn't required to be terribly productive.  All in, I would guess that she did about three hours of work during the ten hours that she occupied my kitchen table.  She looked at about 3% of the documentation that she had requested I produce.  The second day, she literally read one paragraph of a document, copied down the pertinent sentences, and then visited with me for two hours before settling in to 'type up the reports she has to submit'.  While I assume that she chooses, is authorized, or perhaps even required, to do that work at the audit site (in case she needs to look at something again for reference), this job assignment could have been completed in half the time she stretched it out to.

So, to all you taxpayers out there, funding Nicole's plodding work pace, luxurious travel, per diem (which she is making a pretty penny on, as she packs a water bottle and trail mix and pockets the money), her new Lexus, and supporting her extended family, many of which she knows fail to report all of their income - I say, 'Thank You', on their behalf, and mine - that was quite possibly the most enjoyable IRS audit on record. 

1 comment:

CenTexTim said...

Nicole is living the American Dream...