I noticed—in this piece that purports to tell us what jobs are probably not going to go out of style in the near (or even distant) future—that “accountant” led the list.
Well, that’s awfully nice—for accountants. But having been up last night till the wee hours of the morning (and even the not-so-wee hours) doing my taxes, I know that, despite the advantages and the job security, an accountant I’ll never be.
What a headache-inducing, cold-sweat-creating, frustration-inspiring chore! Of course, I was more emotionally involved in last night’s endeavor than an accountant would be for a client because, after all, it was my taxes, and my ever-dwindling store of money, that were being taken away. But I also know that doing taxes is an activity I utterly loathe, and I’m not sure you could pay me enough money to take it up as a profession. And I suspect (actually, I know) that I am hardly alone.
My father was a CPA, and I well remember the drill. My parents would go away in mid-February in an attempt to store up some relaxation for the coming assault. But from the time of their return in late February until that long-awaited-for date in the middle of April, my father would sit at a small table in our living room every night when he came home from work, filling out large sheets of checkered paper and stacks of tax returns. He did this till bedtime, and then got up in the morning and set out to do it again.
I imagine that nowadays this is all computerized. Certainly, at the very least, electronic calculators are a large part of it. But in my father’s era it was a matter of his own brainpower doing the computations and then entering everything by hand. I don’t think he trusted calculators anyway; he trusted himself.
We children tiptoed around him even more than usual because we knew it was tax time. After the magic Ides of April things improved, but till then you stayed away and stayed quiet.
I think my father enjoyed the neatness of math, and took pride in his reputation as one of the best accountants around. He also was a lawyer, and so he didn’t do this all year, although for a few months it seemed to take over everything.
I think some people have an affinity for seizing the messiness of life and trying to impose order on it through numbers, and some of those people are called accountants. The rest of us can either pay them to do our taxes, or gnash our teeth every April as we do our own—and reflect in awe on those for whom this is an everyday event.