Next bureaucratic stop, CRIM, home of the tax man—to pay the property tax and get copies of 5 years’ of tax records for my mother. I’ve been putting it off—who wants another celebration of paperwork? Finally I steel myself and go.
The lines at CRIM aren’t bad, I’m told; no need to rise at dawn. I arrive at 10:15 and walk into a room full of waiting people. A man at a table asks my business and then gives me a number. 3017. I really hope that means just 17th in line. I sit. I wait. This feels exactly like waiting at the RMV back home.
I snooze, startling awake to check the numbers on the board every time the bell dings. I chat with my neighbors. The savvy woman sitting next to me tells us all how to avoid pitfalls at various government agencies. The circle of chat grows, then quiets again.
An hour passes. Other sets of numbers are progressing—the 1000s go at a reasonable clip; that group is for people just paying bills, explains my neighbor. The 5000s are climbing, if slowly. The 3000s don’t budge. They were at 3005 when I walked in, and they’re at 3005 now.
At 11:30 the 3000s begin to move—at last. Ding. Ding. My savvy neighbor, number 3016, gets up. Ding. I leap to follow her. In a back room a man leads us, a dozen hopefuls, toward a small sea of cubicles. He proceeds rather like a sower, tossing citizens into cubicles, right, left, right, left… I sit down with a cheerful young woman who has the usual Puerto Rican courtesy—and something else. I’m struck by her efficiency as she checks my papers (the usual—passports, my father’s will, authorization letter, death certificate, past bills, social security numbers, etc.), makes copies, changes the name and billing address. Someone is watching over me; this woman is quick.
Then… copies of past payments? She gets a supervisor. When did my father buy the property? Um, 1969? She blanches. We can’t possibly give you 45 years of records! No, no, just since 2009. A bit of back and forth with my clerk, and the computer system, and a man who consults and then heads, with some hurry, downstairs to magic up the copies. The supervisor escorts me back out, telling the man at the numbers desk to put me in line, immediately, to pay the bill. The numbers maven pops me in and politely tells me to hurry. I head to the bill pay window. I’m pleased at their speed and coordination (all done with that Puerto Rican courtesy that looks so relaxed) but a bit puzzled. Why the sudden rush? At 11:58 I finish paying and the bell dings for the next in line. My guardians motion me downstairs. I jog down and spot my man with the copies just coming out of a doorway. He smiles and hands me the papers.
And then I find out why the rush. At noon the office takes lunch. Anyone still sitting in a chair, clutching a number, must wait another hour until the windows open again at 1 pm. Yipes! My team at CRIM has been racing to beat the clock. Bless them!
Here’s George Harrison and Eric Clapton performing the Beatles classic, “Taxman”:
(Coming next in Part 13, we’re running out of time!)[To read The Ponce Chronicles in order, start here.]