January 1, 2018

By Arthur H. Gunther III

In these days of online buying, in these days of the disappeared downtown bakery, we don’t stand on long lines anymore except maybe at Motor Vehicles … and the tax office at my local town hall.
Hundreds of property owners were there in the mad dash to prepay town and county taxes before the last weekend in 2017 so they could claim the charge on their income tax returns. For most of us, it was a sayonara moment in deductions thanks to the Great Income Transfer delivered by a rightist horde that promises we will all be wearing gold after big corporations sprinkle us with trickle-down, a largesse that will keep on giving. (We shall see about that. I am keeping my plain cloth coat just in case.)
As you would expect, since most people are decent, behaved and mannerly, there was little complaint on the long tax line about waiting, even about the inefficiency of the setup after a second line was opened up but those long standing were not taken first. As in all lines where we wait, there was a commonality, a fraternity, and suddenly we all had neighbors. There was comfort in that, that you were not alone in the troubles. Queuing up, a real pain, but with benefits.
For me, an observer by newspaperman requirement, and a bit nosy, too, I found it interesting to listen in on this conversation and that.
The man in front of me, obviously of Irish descent, was spotted by a lass of such heritage, and wouldn’t you know,  not only were these strangers to each other from the same county in Ireland but they could each name the village stores.
For a long while during the 1.5-hour wait to the counter where cheerful and helpful tax collection clerks were doing their best to speed things along in an unusual situation, the line barely moved. But soon enough, a rhythm set in, as it always does in life, and gears began meshing.
We moved into a big room, the main lobby of my town hall where, befitting the area history of having hosted the largest World War II Army East Coast embarkation port, one wall carries a large collage mural of some of the 1.3 million soldiers who passed through Camp Shanks, so many never to return.
And what did we on our waiting line see in so many of those Signal Corps photos? Lines. Mess hall lines. Medical hut lines. And lines to board trains and buses to ships to England, to France, to Germany.
How humbling to notice how so many of our brave forebears waited so that in 2017, we could in peace also wait, to pay for the privilege of owning a home.
Argue we could, and can, about the unfairness and special interest of the new tax changes, but we are still in a democratic society where we can challenge and change all that.
In large measure because others waited for us first.

The writer is a retired newspaperman.