Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Internal Revenue Service in the early 80s

Family friend John Grindley briefly worked as a temporary employee for the IRS back in 1980. Here's how the IRS handled things in the days of paper files and typewriters:

I worked a week at the IRS as a trainee. To be hired on permanently, we had to transcribe thirty-six 1040 forms in one hour -- and we had all day to "pass" the test. Or in my case, all night; I opted for the night shift because the pay was marginally higher: $3.90 an hour.

I think I managed to transcribe 9 forms in the first hour; by the end of the night I was up to 32 per hour, which wasn't enough to get hired.

I gratefully walked out -- the office was like something out of Kafka.

As a point of comparison, John soon got a job at McDonald's as a hamburger cook earning $4.10 per hour, plus free lunch. John described the fast-food job as being preferable to working for the IRS in every way imaginable.

So, it's no surprise that IRS employees had a reputation for being unhelpful and grumpy at best (and viciously vindictive at worst) considering they had a grindingly huge workload and made less than your average fry cook.