Property Taxes: She's on Shaky Ground

Remember me kindly. Recall that I was the one who reminded you where you put the Christmas tablecloth and the children's baptismal certificates. Bear in mind that I was the one who always reminded you of that sweet roundelay, "Hey, hey, it's the first of May, outdoor smooching begins today."

The reason I'm asking for your softest thoughts is that there is a strong possibility that I will not be around to help you day through wearisome day. I will be in the ladies' slammer, probably running the mangle. What I did was I wrote a bad check to the County of Los Angeles for my property taxes and I do not think those boys will recognize it for the blameless little mistake it was.

First, it was not my fault.

Here's how it went: Once in awhile, a program chairman, gone near daft with frustration, asks me to speak before his or her organization and I often agree. Mostly because the date in question seems so far away, I'm sure it will never come. It, however, does.

This was a nice group of ladies and gentlemen with whom I agreed to speak some months ago. The place of the appearance was near the residence of my dear friends, Madeline and Clifford Anderson. I planned to go down the night before to the Andersons' and appear for my speech at lunch the next day. I did exactly that, arriving on time at the clubhouse. I walked into the middle of a fashion show. I was reasonably sure I had not agreed to model. No one, even a program chairman, would have been that desperate. I asked a woman standing there if there were another speech or event taking place at the same time in another room, a talk on column writing, perhaps. "Oh, no," she said. "That's tomorrow. My husband and I are going. Here are our tickets."

I walked out and sat in the car and stared at a tree. Then I remembered that I had the two letters the chairman had written to me. Sure enough, I had the right day of the week. It was in the letters.

I had planned to return to Pasadena after the speech and rush to the bank to make a deposit because of the upcoming property tax check. And I had cleared the decks for the following day to collect all my stuff for the income tax man, where I was due the next day. My plans lay in fragments at my feet.

I went back to the Andersons' and Madeline had gone out to lunch. I knew there was a gate in one of the walls but that did me no good at all. Clifford is 6-feet-5 and Madeline is a graceful, long-legged lady, and they can both reach over the fence and trip the latch.

I jumped up and down trying to reach the latch until I felt eyes on the back of my neck. I turned around and a man was gazing unblinkingly at me.

"Uhh, I guess the Andersons aren't home," I stammered.

I got in my car and drove to a nearby shopping center where I tried to reach the chairman for the speech, whichever day it might be. I had two dimes and when I reached the operator, she told me my telephone credit card had expired. Near tears, I said, "Lady, I'm leaning on the wall outside of Safeway and I have two dimes. May I charge it to my residence phone in Pasadena?"

"Will you be there to OK the call?" she asked.

"Perhaps I am not making myself clear. I am leaning on a Safeway wall about 100 miles from Pasadena."

She didn't even say she was sorry. She just went away. I went and had lunch on a credit card, eating as slowly as I could and went back to the Andersons'. Thank goodness, Madeline was home.

We had a pleasant afternoon and evening and I struck out the next day. But not before I called the Auto Club to jump-start my car because in my delight at having found Madeline home, I had left the car door slightly ajar after hauling my suitcase back in the house and my battery was as dead as my enthusiasm for the day ahead.

Now you will note that I have lost one afternoon and the next day. I had written the tax check and given it to Patsy to mail and Patsy, who has never dropped a piece of mail in less than three days in her life, did that time. And the check got there before I made it to the bank. I also had to call the tax man and cancel my appointment and arrange for an extension. That meant I had to drive to West Covina on Sunday to sign stuff for the extension.

The hot check still is floating around. I called the property tax office and listened to the recorded voice of a man who had been to charm school who told me which buttons to punch on the telephone in order to hear 12 messages concerning property taxes, their cause and effect and hazards. At no time did I hear the voice of a human. Just a recorded voice of this achingly well-spoken man.

I wrote to the tax office and asked them how much delinquency money I owed and what to do next. I have not yet heard from them. I was never able to break the code and catch a human being unaware, so the delinquent dollars are ticking away while I am sadly trying to see where I went wrong. If you want me to speak to your club, of course, I'd love to. But, honey, I'll call you.

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