Archive for Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Tax celebration at post office ends earlier, but antics continue

April 18, 2006


No one is freaking out quite yet.

"It's been pretty calm in here," Lawrence Postmaster Judy Raney says of the atmosphere. "This would be much different if we didn't have the extended weekend."

It's about 6:30 p.m., Tax Day 2006, and the line of people at the downtown Lawrence post office, 645 Vt., snakes through the interior double doors and into the post-office-box-lined lobby.

The atmosphere here may not stay calm for long. Whether last minute tax-filers know it or not, the Lawrence post office will close at 7 p.m., a five-hour change from its typical midnight closing time on tax night.

But now, the line moves quickly, and people still file in the door clutching envelopes and half-used books of stamps.

The two extra days Raney talks about helped weed out those who were simply waiting to file, or needed a weekend day, like Saturday, to make it to the post office Monday.

The people here, they're the few and the proud of Lawrence's procrastinating elite. Even after an extra couple days to prepare and file this year's batch of taxes, they are still here, a half-hour before the early witching hour when Raney and her crew stop postmarking and lock the doors.

"I procrastinate in everything I do," Lawrence resident Colleen Lignell says while she waits in line.

And the two extra days?

"That just made me procrastinate more," she quips.

Brian Dreger knew it would happen. The longtime tax preparer spent much of the weekend crunching his clients' incomes and deductions - lamenting that the two extra days mattered little when you are bent on waiting until the actual last minute.

And by Monday, plenty of people had. As the Alferd Packer Memorial String Band tuned its instruments, a crowd gathered in the lobby, ready for the annual show.

The band plays at the post office every year, but its usual midnight ritual begins early. People should form two lines, they say, one on each side of the hall to greet people rushing through to get their tax returns in on time.

So everyone walks single-file to the hall between the doors and the counters, blows up long green balloons and claps along as the band plays the "William Tell Overture."

Which means, of course, that time is of the essence for late filers. The people run the gauntlet of people and musicians - some laughing and cheering, others wholly unamused - until Baldwin resident Debbie King drops off her friend's taxes and the clock strikes 7.

The band reconvenes in the lobby to play, but late filers still straggle in with tax forms in hand. Raney helps them along until she takes her post by the office's main doors.

Now, it's 7:15 and Raney opens the main door again and again, directing people to the automated stamp machine or taking their mail, making sure taxes get paid on time.

Slight panic changes to wide smiles fast. Many don't realize the post office is actually closed, until the post office counters finally clear and Raney, with one final glance around, pulls the curtains and locks the door.

Chris Beasley from Lawrence walks in just afterward. He can see the place is closed. A sign on the door directs him to the post office in Overland Park.

"I wish I would have known that a few hours ago when I was in Olathe," he grumbles.

A group of people start to gather around the mail slot, reading the sign that says postal workers already have collected the last batch of letters for the evening.

Kreg Pemberton, Winchester, walks up and reads the sign. His shoulders slump down.

"Man, I just got off work," he says, walking back out the door.

This isn't the first time he has been in the post office on Tax Day. It's just the first time it has closed before he arrived.

"Well," he says. "I guess I'll go find some other joint."

By late Monday, the post office lobby is packed with people trying to skirt the locked doors.

A machine in the lobby spits out stamps that have the date and time printed on them. For those in line, the machine meant they could file their taxes even after the last batch of mail left for the day.

"I was expecting them to be open until midnight," Lawrence resident Bill Anderson says as he wrestles with the machine. "This better work."

Lindsey Williams stands a few people behind Anderson in the line that, at times, ran 30 people deep.

"We're all going on the logic that they're going to go by their own rules," he says, arms crossed. "If not, we'll have problems."


whitetower 11 years, 11 months ago

"The people here, they're the few and the proud of Lawrence's procrastinating elite."

I love it!


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