It was without a doubt one of my most embarrassing moments that did not involve me falling naked out of a bathroom window of my mom’s house as two nuns walked by.
I was invited to what I thought was a summer gathering of work acquaintances and their spouses. After arriving and exchanging greetings I was ushered out to the patio where a woman I had never met before was sitting on a chaise lounge wearing a stunning solid blue summer dress.
Before I could say a thing my best friend Jack started introducing us.
This might surprise more than a few people — including those that will double over laughing hysterically when they read this — but I’m kind of shy at times.
When I didn’t engage Jennifer in a conversation besides just a basic greeting, Jack decided to put his matchmaking skills to work.
Jack, as they say, played me like a violin.
“Why don’t you tell Jennifer about your experience with the IRS?” Jack asked in his most innocent looking face.
I should step away from what was about to unfold on a warm August night in 1988 and explain my IRS experience.
It would fill up the page and then more but I’ll just give you the Cliff’s Notes version. I had received a letter that started with the word “greetings’ — the same way the letter I got from the Selective Service started when I turned 18 — seven months prior stating that I owed the IRS $1,367.46 in back taxes, interest, and penalties for a previous tax year.
I was beside myself given it was the first time I ever received a letter from the government telling me I had to pay up or prove otherwise unless I wanted to possibly face federal prosecution.
As luck would have it, The Press-Tribune business manager when I asked for her assistance so I could try to piece what was going on together, had the tabulation for business expense reimbursement for the year 1985 attached to paperwork in my file.
I had been reimbursed $6,567 that year, the same amount the IRS said I failed to pay taxes on. The Press-Tribune has erroneously reported it as advertising commission.
I had been sent that year for two weeks to Mexico to cover a Roseville sister city trip, to BYU, Colorado Springs, and a number of other places for stories involving people from our circulation area who were mostly athletes. I paid for the tickets, hotels, food, rental cars and such and got reimbursed.
I dutifully photocopied everything on file, put it in a manila envelope and went to the Roseville post office to mail it. There a clerk trainee who was being assisted by her supervisor, weighed it, and I paid her $2.58 to mail it to Ogden, Utah. I figured it would get to Ogden within a few days to spare before a substantial secondary penalty that was threatened in the letter would be imposed.
Two days later I went for a week-long trip to Death Valley to bicycle.
When I returned I glanced at my mail. It didn’t register at first, but in it was what I had sent the IRS. I was marked refused by recipient for insufficient postage.
In a second, my relaxed state from a week-long vacation was blown to smithereens by what I was later to find out was a one cent shortage on the postage.
I ended up getting the Roseville postmaster to write a letter verifying a trainee was working the day of the postmark. He shared how if wasn’t unusual for trainees to make mistakes with postal meters.
I then sent everything again to Ogden paying the full postage for a second time.
What ended up happening next was a full scale audit of three years. I found out later it was triggered because the business expense reimbursement I received was out of line with a model the IRS had established for income for newspaper reporters.
Four months of unadulterated fun ensued including an in-person audit at the IRS office in the Sacramento Main Post Office building.
They finally relented by insisting I owed $41.56. By then one of the owners of the paper who had an accounting firm but wasn’t a tax accountant, helped me redo my taxes for the years in question deducting items I bought out of my own pocket for work including two Nikon F cameras. He concluded the IRS owed me $200.67. When he found out they had made a “settlement”, he advised me to cut my losses and go for it.
Now back to the patio.
Jennifer sat there with her legs crossed smiling as I stood there going through the long version while being egged on by Jack. I think I did my outraged impassioned IRS monologue for five minutes or so.
Then Jack turned on the charm.
JACK: “Jennifer, what did you say you did for a living?”
JENNIFER: “I’m an IRS auditor.”
JACK: “And what did you say you were up for a promotion to do?”
JENNIFER: “To be an IRS agent.”
I could feel my face burning. I honestly do not recall what I said happened next after I mumbled an apology. It was like I blacked out.
The next thing I remember was being in the kitchen and asking Jack what I should do. I couldn’t believe how I had embarrassed myself.
Without missing a beat, he suggested I re-enforce my apology by offering to take her to the Music Circus that Monday where “Hello Dolly” was playing as Jennifer was a big fan of musicals.
I was too shell-shocked at the time to realize he had found a way for me to ask out a cousin of a fellow newsroom reporter knowing full well I wouldn’t do it on my own. Who needs dating apps when you have friends?
Jennifer accepted my apology and the invite for a date.
If you’re thinking that was the embarrassing moment, you don’t know me. My severe case of foot-in-mouth at poolside doesn’t even make the Top 100 list of my all-time embarrassing moments.
Fast forward two days later: Jennifer and I are at the Music Circus. It’s intermission. I’m having a great time. Jennifer is smart, well-versed, witty, and has what I would call an aura of Stephanie Powers class.
We’re making our way through the crowd when out of the corner of my eye I see Aloha Schafer and her daughter. I had not seen Aloha for nine months. She was a 55-year-old reporter that worked for a competing paper.
I tried to turn away, hoping she didn’t see me.
And then it happened.
In a booming voice laced with astonishment and concern she blurted out from 15 feet away, “My God, Dennis, what happened to you! You look like you lost a hundred pounds!”
She was close. It was more like 130.
As her words rang across the patio the people around Jennifer and I started moving away in such a manner that I could feel what a disciple must have felt like following Moses into the Red Sea.
Jennifer stood there with her mouth open.
A little background: This was back when AIDS was a major health issue. And it happened that very day the Sacramento Bee and every TV station in town faithfully reported the medical finding that rapid and extreme weight loss was a sign of AIDS.
I now had the first date dilemma from hell. I had to either tell Jennifer just nine months previously I weighed 320 pounds or let her think I had AIDS.
As astonishing as it may sound, I got a second date. We actually dated for six months before she moved to San Francisco after she got her job promotion.
I have other first date disasters that can actually top it.
As for falling buck naked out of a window after getting looked in a bathroom at my mom’s house as two nuns were walking by I’ve run out of space.
This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org