Jane Haddam’s WordPress weblog

Things I Need To Know

with 6 comments

Well, okay, maybe not need.  It’s tax day,  I got up very early this morning, and I’ve been working ever since.  Sometimes I get to the point where little things just stick in my head.

For one thing, why is it that tax day in the US is  April 15?  I know the idea was to make sure people had enough time to gather their information and work with the forms, but why not April 1 or  April 30, rather than a day in the middle of the month?

Then there is the casino problem.  I don’t go to casinos.  I think I’ve been inside one maybe three times in my life, and all three times the places–including the really expensive, shiny, flashy one–seemed depressing and sad to me.  Nobody looked like they were having fun, and everybody, including the staff, looked tired and a little desperate.

All those people can’t have gambling “addictions,” as we like to put it these days.  I even know people who hit Atlantic City or Vegas for a few days once a year, and who have what sound to me like sensible policies for personl gambling:  set aside a budget and when that money is gone, just stop.

Maybe if I’d gone with one of thse people, my experiences would have been different.   As it was, the tension in the air was palpable, the games weren’t fun because of it, and it took me less than an hour each time to want to go home and to sleep.

Then there are pawn shops, which are also depressing, but I’ve only seen one of those, so my sample may be skewed.  I went to my first and only one on three separte occasions a few years ago because a  character in a short story  I was writing was supposed to go to one, and I thought it would be a good idea to go see how the places worked and what they felt like.

I chose one on the edge of the city, in a neighborhood that wasn’t half bad–well, okay, the local branch of the state welfare office was on the same road just a few dozen yards away, and a strip of fast food restaurants.  But it wasn’t the kind of place I drive through now and then, where the windows are all boarded up and half the storefronts are empty. 

The first thing that struck me about this place was that it seemed to be stocked with nothing but televisions, dozens of them, and really large ones, too.  I’ve never owned a television like that and the impression  I get is that they cost a lot of money, at least in four figures.   I suppose everybody pawning these things could be a drug addict or alcoholic feeding a habit, but I can’t get over the feeling that it stands to reason that some of them must have belonged to ordinary people who apparently thought buying a $2000 television set when they couldn’t be absolutely sure of making their rent made sense.

On some days, the world seems to me to be full of slightly desperate people, and I suppose this is one of them.

Not much of a post, but the tax forms have to go to the post office…

Written by janeh

April 15th, 2009 at 7:40 am

Posted in Uncategorized

6 Responses to 'Things I Need To Know'

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  1. Maybe the beginning/end of the month is already very busy for financial types. That’s just a wild guess, though, and can’t apply everywhere because our deadline is April 30. I had to look that up, because I submit my return as soon as I get the last of my information slips, because I hate having unpleasant things hanging over me, and I also like to give Revenue Canada time to find my mistakes before the big rush.

    I’ve never been in a casino, but gambling in general simply bores me to tears – lottery tickets, bingo, the one time someone tried to teach me a card game – all boring. I can understand someone becoming obsessively fixated on the outcome of a gamble – people obsess over all kinds of things, so why not over the remote chance of wealth, or at least a small win? What I don’t get is why people bother doing it for entertainment, like your friends with the annual trip. When some of my relatives lived in Utah, they sometimes went on that sort of moderate gambling trip, and claimed to enjoy it immensely. I can’t imagine why.

    I don’t think I’ve ever been in a pawnshop, although I’ve been to a secondhand store which is one in all but name. I didn’t notice a preponderance of TVs, but there was an assortment of electronic gear. It (and its customers) didn’t seem any different or more desperate from those in any secondhand or charity shop, although the prices are generally higher.

    Big TVs are important to a lot of people. If you spend a lot of time watching one, I suppose size is important.


    15 Apr 09 at 12:22 pm

  2. Akk! The internet ate my comment!


    15 Apr 09 at 3:04 pm

  3. What intrigues me about gambling is the popularity of “games” like roulette or slot machines, in which you can’t improve your chances by being clever or persistent. Loss is a mathematical certainty without the compensation of a real challenge. Small stakes lotteries look to me like the same thing. (I can understand buying a sweepstakes ticket once a year, the winner being set for life: the organizers are selling hope. Of course, logically you’d want the longest possible time between purchase and drawing.)

    I rather enjoy pawnshops–but I see them as a place to purchase cheap DVDs at the expense of people who have to buy the hot movie before the price drops. Once they were a very real blessing for the hard-working poor who had no cash savings and no way to borrow money. Now they’re a testimony to just how many people can’t manage money, or don’t know what they want. We do seem to have a lot of those.


    15 Apr 09 at 6:16 pm

  4. Australia’s fiscal year is 1 July to 30 June. Tax deadline is 31 Oct (I think), I file over the net using a tax office program called e-tax. Generally file in August after I have all the forms.

    I’ve been in a casino a few times but find them boring.

    I’ve never used a pawn shop but the few times I’ve been in one, they seemed to have a lot of guitars.

    That was before big TVs and DVD players.


    15 Apr 09 at 9:46 pm

  5. I’ll try again.

    A websearch seems to imply that the Apr 15 date allows the IRS more time to gather returns, and delays the moment they must refund money. Past dates for tax day have been March 1 and March 15. I guess even the government can’t meet deadlines.

    Casinos. Yes, filled with desperate people who just dont’ seem to be having any FUN, despite the fact that what they’re doing is termed “play.” We go, rarely, with a strict $20 per person limit, and play nickel slots mostly, so we can stretch it for about as long as I can stand the cigarette smoke. All casinos go for that “no clocks, no daylight, flashing lights and loud noises” ambience that keeps patrons disoriented and adrift from real time. Just recently visited a casino in Florida because my sister wanted to. We had fun encouraging each other, but did note that we seemed to be the only ones enjoying ourselves.

    The gambling phenomenon is an interesting one. They’ve done animal studies with rewards for performance, and found that while rewarding an animal every time for doing something gets them to do it more, what gets them to do it *most* is rewarding them at random intervals. Sounds like gambling, yes? But people are smart enough to know that really, the house is the only one that wins regularly. Thus the dreary desperation.

    There are plenty of places populated with desperate people. Courtrooms. Police stations. Bankruptcy attorney offices. The aforementioned bad neighborhoods, if you get a look at anyone over 15. But casinos are the only place where people go voluntarily and allege they “love” being there, while looking like death warmed over.

    I’ve never been in a pawn shop. They seem like a real-life lesson in Math for Dummies, all those people who bought expensive electronics and then pawned it for pennies on the dollar. And the sale of heirloom jewelry or other goods is just sad.

    My taxes are not done, but I’ve filed for extension and sent the gov’t a pantload of money. Capital gains on the sale of a house is killing us this year. It’s an invention of the devil. We almost went to a Tea Party near us today, but opted for an argument (about money) instead.

    Ahhh. Tax Day. Ptui!!


    15 Apr 09 at 10:43 pm

  6. Desperation isn’t limited to places. There are people who are desperate in the offices of a bankruptcy firm, or in court, and those who are there to find a kind of routine route through their problems. It depends on how they view the cause and nature of the situation that brought them there. And secondhand stores, which seem to be our equivalent of pawn shops, are patronized by an astonishing range of people. People in bad neighbourhoods don’t always seem desperate to me, and I’ve found out that some people who seem rich, in control, and happy on the surface can be incredibly desperate underneath.

    I think with gambling, there are periods of desperation, such as when you’ve just gambled the money you stole from your employer on a horse race, and your boss will be checking the books in the morning. But I suspect a lot of the appeal is adrenaline, even if it doesn’t show . People get a rush from the possibility of a win, just like they do from the possibility of dying while parachuting or skiing. The routine actions of putting money in the slot machine build up the internal tension, which is released only if a ‘win’ – even one that is less than the total put in – happens. I can’t think of any other reason to gamble, but obsession I can understand.

    I suppose some people who gamble on cards like the competition and human interaction as well. I have a friend who loves playing bridge. But the repetitive actions with occasional payoffs – sure, it’s an example of reinforcement, but it’s also the way obsessive behaviour works. The person has to keep repeating the actions – the occasional reward only helps him justify them.


    16 Apr 09 at 5:52 am

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