If you’ve seen the movie Snatch, you’ll remember this exchange:
U.S. Customs official: “Anything to declare?”
Avi: “Yeah. Don’t go to England.”
Avi, who was played by Dennis Farina, has a gruff swagger that my accountant Syd has. Syd’s been our family accountant for over 20 years, and all of us deVillas swear by him. He works hard to make sure we get the best possible outcome at tax time, and he’s not afraid to get into shouting matches with the folks at Revenue Canada.
He’s a large balding man with a goatee, who often wears a dress shirt over his paunch with the top three buttons undone. Underneath the open shirt, he wears his always-present large-link gold chain, from which hangs a gold Star of David the size of a quarter. If Shaft were Jewish, he’d wear this medallion. If Shaft were an accountant, he’d be Syd.
The deadline for filing taxes in Canada is midnight at the end of April 30th. I normally don’t like cutting things so close when it comes to financial matters, but life’s been hectic for the past couple of months, and in the confusion, filing taxes almost slipped off my to-do list. It didn’t, partly because I have an accountant like Syd.
“Joey,” he said in his basso profundo when he called me last week, “it’s your best friend Syd!”
“Syd, baby,” I said — and yes, I actually did say ‘Sid, baby’ — “I’ve got some file folders for you, all organized nicely in chronological order. Pay stubs, T4 slips, charitable donations, the works. I’ll drop them off at your office.”
“All right. And don’t just leave ’em and then fuck off — make sure I come out and say ‘hi’ to you.”
“Sure thing, Syd.” I find it reassuring that Syd swears more than most gangsta rappers. I’m not sure how Mom deals with it — she hates profanity like the dickens.
When my parents first used Syd’s services, his office was located in Greektown, a reasonably central location. It was possible to get to his office by subway, and it was a good excuse to go and get some souvlaki and walk through one of the more colourful parts of town. About ten years ago, he moved to Markham, a dreary accessible-only-by-highway suburb consisting of cookie-cutter housing projects, industrial parks, office complexes and open spaces punctuated by electrical transmission towers.
As coincidence would have it, his office is a five-minute drive west of my old workplace.
The tax deadline is Wednesday at midnight, which meant that Syd’s office was incredibly busy. Still, Syd managed to break away from number-crunching to have a little conference with me.
Syd (going through the folders I brought): All organized. Chronological order. Very nice. Not like your dad. He usually gives me two shoeboxes six hours before deadline.
Me: Generosity’s his strong suit, not organization.
Syd: A fuckin’ saint, your dad. Hey, you goin’ grey?
Me: Syd, I’ve had grey hair since I was thirteen.
Syd. No shit. You got nearly as much as me. So…you still a computer…guy?
Me: Yup. I got laid off in January and I’m thinking of going back to being an independent contractor for a while. I’ve got clients lined up without much trying on my part.
Syd: Good, good. Notice I didn’t call you a computer geek. I didn’t want to offend you. You see, I consider myself a fucking accounting geek.
Me: Geek isn’t an insult, it’s a badge of honour. At least in computer circles.
Syd: Fuckin’ A. Hey, has that deadbeat yutz housemate started paying you back yet?
Me: No. He keeps saying he’s working on it…
Syd: You know, we have ways of persuading to pay their fucking debts faster.
Me: We? You mean [the accounting firm]?
Syd: No, I mean my people. Like payback for Munich 1972.
Me: But that doesn’t have anything to do with owing money.
Syd: No, but it taught them that you can’t fuck around with us.
Me: I dunno, the yutz is worth more to me alive than dead.
Syd: Yeah, and fuckin’ contract killing isn’t deductible.
Me: Hey, Syd, I need your help with getting incorporated and setting myself up as an independent contractor. Can we talk soon?
Syd: Of course! Just make it next week — after Wednesday,
I’m going to fuck off for a couple of days which a big bottle of Chivas. I can’t incorporate you, but I’ll hook you up with the best fuckin’ lawyer I know. Then I’ll walk you through getting your GST and PST shit. Fuckin’ piece of cake.
Me: Cool. Monday then. (I get up and shake Syd’s hand). Thanks, man.
Syd: No fuckin’ sweat. Say hi to your mom and dad for me!
Syd fucking rules.