At the public library where I work, there are two groups of computer terminals, at which one may use Microsoft Office, spend life on the internet 60 minutes at a time, or search the collections belonging to several libraries in the region. Excepting a scattershot but otherwise hefty catalogue of free-to-check-out DVDs for kids, the internet access these terminals provide seems, at times, to be the only reason the library exists. Adults read gossip columns and keep up on email while teens and other youths fritter away their evenings before the poorly animated characters of free-to-play video games.
This is nothing inherently awful: towns all over these United States can be unkind to kids who don't want to be at home or otherwise feel that they haven't anywhere to hang out, and grown-ups can't carry on the correspondence of their secret lives and affairs just anywhere.
Terrible joking aside, there are tasks for which a library computer terminal seems ill-suited. Looking at pornography is one of them. Doing one's taxes, I'd argue, is another.
I may be old-fashioned, but I prefer to account for my taxes at home, on paper. There, the digits attached to my livelihood and identity as a citizen remain with me. And more importantly, there, should I find stress amid the process of reporting my contributions to Uncle Sam's pocketbook or to the treasurers of my state, I can freak out in the privacy of my home.
Last week, while working at the library, I spotted a teen mom at one of the computer terminals. Grandma was there, too, with Baby in her armsa little girl no older than my own daughter (which is to say, 10 weeks old or so). Teen Mom was working on her taxes. I gathered this because she burst into tears as soon as she saw the Final Number, mourning the loss of vacation plans barely made and cursing the advice of her coworkers (did they say to put down a one or a zero?) between sobs.
Then Baby was crying, too.
When the trio departed, Teen Mom was certain that they'd made some mistake, that they were neglecting some figure or calculation to transform the Final Number into What it Should Be.
However her 1040 adventure concludes, she certainly made my problems feel exactly as small as they really are.