Stress Talk #8: System Malfunction

It turned out this past weekend was that time of the year again – tax filing time. I hate that time of the year, right after the health insurance buying period (November 1 – mid-December). Even though she claims she knows more about taxes than me, my mom cannot file a single tax return without calling me over to help.

Ever since my mom and I participated in VITA – a volunteer tax preparation program provided by my alma mater to help file taxes for low-income households – she has been filing taxes for a few of her so-friends (or is it frenemies). I often tell her, “You can barely handle doing your own taxes. Why are you doing other people’s taxes?”

The answer is simple. She’s not doing other people’s taxes. I am. She’s merely the big mouth taking all the credit.

Then came her family who immigrated to the U.S in 2018. Now, almost 3 years later, they still cannot communicate and reluctant to learn. The thing they often worry about is how big of a tax refund they’re going to get this year and ask me how they can get a bigger refund.

So far in 2021, 2 of the 3 families got big refunds. They were happy and unapologetically left without saying a word after I spent over an hour inputting figures and analyzing each question to a T for them. No thank you. No “here’s for your trouble” money. Nothing.

Just when I thought I couldn’t be stressed enough after a second 50+hours workweek because according to my mom and aunt, I’m still not working enough hours, here comes my cousin with his two W2s and 8 pages of 1099s for his stock portfolio.

There’s one little problem. Those 8 pages full of stock trades were Jpegs, not PDF, and I would have to manually enter one-by-one because for some reason, he placed his trades via a wacky website that is only accessible with an app on the phone. There must had been close to 50 trades on those 8 pages.

Photo by Alex Knight on

When I told him to send me a PDF copy because I can’t read the numbers, he dropped the F-bomb on me. In that moment, I didn’t know how to react. It was like I was a robot with a fried chip.

System malfunction! System malfunction!

I was in an unfamiliar territory. My family don’t speak English. So no one has dropped a literal F-bomb. I found my fingers hover over my phone’s keyboard for a moment, trying to think how to respond. Should I flip him the bird? Should I return the F-bomb?

After a few moments, I decided not to reply. He can go to hell, I told myself, but looking back now, I thought my move was cowardice. I am his elder. I am doing him a favor. He shouldn’t had treated me like this, no matter how much stress he may be enduring on his end. Then again, I could’ve said something.

Later that night, he texted back, apologizing. As of the present moment, I am still unable to find an appreciate response. My brain is still having that robotic moment – system malfunction, system malfunction.

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