What Have I Been Smoking?!?

Lately I’ve had reason to question my own sanity…

Okay; so ‘sanity’ might be a bit of a stretch for me.  Let’s just say that lately I’ve been wondering if I’m crazier than I realized.

Here’s why:

A couple of weeks ago I stopped off at the lumber store.  I was in there for about two minutes, and as I walked back to my vehicle I thought, “Shit, did I forget to lock the doors?”  (I’m having a hard time adjusting to power locks after decades of locking my old car manually.)

So I walked up to the driver’s door and pulled on the handle; and was pleasantly surprised to discover that I had actually locked the car.  So I unlocked it, got in, and drove away… for about ten feet, when the overwhelming smell of cigarette smoke nearly made me gag.

I thought somebody must have walked by with a cigarette and the smoke had been momentarily sucked into the fresh air intake, so I kept driving.

A block down the street, the smell was getting stronger.

What the hell?  Had somebody flicked a live butt into my front grille?

I got out, popped the hood, and examined the front grille from top to bottom.  Nothing.

By the time I got back in the vehicle the smell had dissipated, but as soon as I drove forward again the reek was back, just as strong as if somebody had gotten into the car and lit up.

I stopped again.  Got out and checked the entire vehicle inside and out.  I even looked under the floor mats in case some diabolical smoker had seized the scant moments while I’d been inside the store to open a door (which I might have forgotten to lock after all), hide a butt somewhere, lock the car just to mess with my mind, and then flee.

But nope.  Nada.

I made several more stops where I repeatedly checked the vehicle from nose to tail and even checked the treads of my hiking boots to make sure I hadn’t stepped on a butt and carried it into the car with me.   I drove to the dealer and asked them where the secret cigarette-butt hiding place was; but they were as mystified as I.  Finally, I resigned myself to the knowledge that I was being haunted by the malevolent ghost of chainsmoker who only lit up when my car was in forward motion.

The smell is gone now and I never did find the source, so who knows?  Maybe a butt got stuck in the tire tread.  Or maybe it really was a ghost.

And speaking of ghosts in the machine, my TurboTax program is haunted, too.  Only a few days after the car debacle I was confronted by this:

TurboTax says that a Total Federal Tax of zero, minus tax credits totalling zero, equals $214.04 tax owing. I haven’t even entered my income yet.

I won’t get into the tooth-grinding frustration and unending support calls this has produced; but ultimately the TurboTax no-help-whatsoever-desk decided that it’s my fault1 their software subtracts zero from zero and gets two hundred and fourteen, and they’ve closed my so-called “support” ticket.

I’m not surprised; because clearly, I’m nuts.

Or at least, I am now

* * *

1 Transcript of the call, after the first hour of futility:

TurboTax HelpDesk:  “You’ve done something wrong.  Our software is infallible.”

Me:  “Okay.  What have I done wrong?”

TTHD:  “I don’t know.  You’ll have to enter something somewhere on a form.  Make sure you fill in all the fields.”

Me:  “Okay, which form?”

TTHD:  “I don’t know.  We don’t give tax advice.”

Me:  “I’m not asking for tax advice.  Your software is subtracting zero from zero and getting two hundred and fourteen.”

TTHD:  “Yes, because you’ve done something wrong2.”

*repeat loop*

2 Clearly, I did do something wrong.  I bought TurboTax.

46 thoughts on “What Have I Been Smoking?!?

  1. Charming. I need to start my taxes and TurboTax is my software of choice. Are there others? My son-in-law is a turbo tax fan so I call him for problems most of which are can I deduct that? Now I am scared to even download it.


    • I’ve used TurboTax for years without a problem (as far as I know anyway). Since TurboTax has refused to do their own QA on this, I hunted down the error myself. Apparently there’s some glitch that only occurs when you’re reporting and subsequently deducting capital gains on the sale of qualified farmland, so unless you’re doing that, you should be okay. But I’ll be filing a paper return this year… grrr.


  2. Hmm..I haven’t read the comments, but there is a condition where people can smell smells that aren’t actually there! It’s not that you’re nuts, you’re just…imaginative, or at least your nose is…hehe.

    As for the TurboTax thing…I must be getting old because I wanna reach in through the phone and slap that support desk person for being an idiot! LOL!


  3. Had to laugh….not being a smoking household, my wife and I occasionally smell cigarette smoke coming from nowhere…this has occurred through three homes and lasted 20+ years….we just gave it up to her Mom visiting us from beyond. Her Mom was a chain smoker and ultimately died from it. Go figure and true story….the smell I mean…whether it’s her mom or not…who the heck knows. The Turbo Tax thing….I would like to think that the software programs like Turbo Tax are written using logical algorithms, but I think they have a touch of free wheeling code designed to mess with our minds. And it works!!


    • Boy, does it ever! After twisting my brain into pretzels for another week, I finally caved and called them back today. This time I got a tech who grasped the concept that a calculated value of 0 – 0 = 214.04 is probably not “something I did”. He took screenshots and escalated the issue to their developers, so I’m hoping I’ll actually be able to complete my taxes sometime before the deadline.

      And hey, maybe your MIL is actually visiting you from The Other Side – at least you’re thinking of her… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    • Oops! Alberta used to send out reminders when your license and/or registration was due to expire; but a couple of years ago they stopped. I’m sure their ticket revenues must have skyrocketed the first year! I only drove for a few months with expired registration, and by some amazing stroke of luck I didn’t get caught. I figure I used up most of my lifetime allotment of luck. I’ll never win the lottery now… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh my eye is twitching on your behalf. Dave did our taxes for years but frankly I couldn’t stand the hair pulling and dragon seething so now we have them done. I believe it was Turbo Tax that finally sent him over the edge come to think of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • LOL! Yes, the first couple of years I used TurboTax (it was named QuickTax then, I think), there was far more swearing involved than when I did the paper returns by hand. I did take my taxes to H&R Block one year when I had some complicated investment stuff, but after I discovered that I knew more about tax law than the person who prepared (and screwed up) my return, I’ve been doing them myself ever since.

      I actually kind of enjoyed doing the paper returns – I like math, and columns of nicely handwritten numbers make me happy. But being able to e-file my returns makes me happy, too…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m thinking Andrew is on to something…or on something, not sure which. There’s probably some minimum tax that everyone has to pay, at least according to Turbo Tax. Try deleting the software, shut down the computer ALL THE WAY, then reinstall it from scratch. Go and see if there are any security patches to download from Intuit’s support center, or free upgrades. Just because the helpless desk didn’t tell you about em, doesn’t mean they don’t exist. And I can’t remember if you’re PC or Mac, but if you’re on a Mac, before you reinstall (but after uninstall), run disc repair.


    • Thanks, Beth! I’m on PC; and I’ve already installed all the updates and done the usual reboots. My next trick is to start with a completely fresh file instead of importing our name/address data from the previous year, and see whether that helps. Who knows; maybe TurboTax has some built-in levy against people named Diane Henders…?

      And if that doesn’t work, I’ll fill in a paper return and mail it in. The only reason I switched to TurboTax was so that I could e-file and not have to mail in a bale of documents, but right now, that’s looking like a more attractive option. 😉


      • The only other thing I can think of, and you’ve probably done this too, is to run both antivirus and malware checks. Oh and clear your history and cache out too. It IS a pain to do all that hard copy…I’ve used turbo tax for several years but was too cheap one year to pay the e-file fee for MN, and e-gads, the trees I killed printing all that crap out not to mention the cost of the postage. Never again.


        • Back in the old days, I couldn’t even fit the whole bale of documentation into the envelope they provided. I had to staple it in multiple groups (because my staples were too short) and then staple the top and bottom sheets of the groups together to hold the whole thing in a bundle. My personal return isn’t nearly so complicated now, but still, I’m gonna try really hard to get this return done electronically!


  6. I think you need to sic your car ghost onto the unhelpful customer-service rep. Knowing he or she is getting a ghostly scare might help cushion the pain you experienced in dealing with their messed-up tax software 😄


  7. I kept thinking you must have gotten in the wrong vehicle, but then again your key worked . . .

    After using a corticosteroid inhaler for bronchial issues a couple of years ago,
    I started smelling smoke all the time. At work, I was convinced it was coming through the vents from the apartment that shared the wall with our office. At home I accused my husband of smoking more than usual (he smokes outside but if he doesn’t air himself out, it’s noticeable in the house when he comes back in). Turns out the medication had done something to my sinuses. Now whenever I’m exposed to dry air or mold I smell smoke; I even feel like I’m choking. This is most likely not your issue, but it shows how fickle our sense of smell can be!

    On the other hand, as Some Random Guy’s story points out, sometimes smoke IS smoke, and best we get to the bottom of it . . .


    • What an annoying side-effect of your inhaler! Annoying, and potentially scary and dangerous. How will you know whether you can trust yourself when/if you do smell smoke?

      And I never even thought about the possibility of getting in the wrong car. That would have really messed with my mind! But I always have a water bottle and a little tub of dried fruit and nuts in the front console, so I probably would have noticed if I was trying to jack somebody else’s vehicle. Maybe. At least, I hope I would have noticed…


    • Gawd, I’ve had something similar in the last few years, except I smell a chemical/dry ice type of smell and my husband thinks I’m goofy. I can’t tell you how glad I am to learn what it is caused by (and I’m a nurse, you’d think I’d be smarter than that!!)

      Liked by 1 person

      • Here ya go, Nurse! Synthesia. Various types and definitions of the “condition’ for lack of a better term, apparently, but the quick version is that one sensation or sensory experience can trigger another, or it can trigger the ‘memory’ of another, according to another source. It’s happened to me more than once, too. I’ll notice an odor that NOBODY around me can smell. I’ve smelled cigarette smoke, pine smoke, mesquite smoke, nitromethane fumes (very faint, but distinct–big drag racing fan back in the day), natural gas, and random other things. The sensation has been so strong several times that others around me would have HAD to have smelled what I thought I was smelling, too, if it had actually been there. Therefore, my brain was lying to me. Not my nose, cuz there was nothing–apparently–to smell.

        Google will bring you up to the level of ignorance and confusion about this phenomenon that i currently enjoy. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Ok I have to admit that I kept thinking you drove off in someone else’s car, lol. I know it’s not probable but stranger things have happened. Like the unexplained smells. Yuck! I think I’ll keep my phantom nail polish remover smell as opposed to your cigarettes smell. Three out of the four cars I’ve had have eventually produced this obnoxious scent. The only one that didn’t was the only brand new car I ever bought. So my conclusion is that I subconsciously seek out vehicles previously owned my manuicurists who take their work home with them. Or possibly that my car can “see” that my hands are wrecked and I need a manicure immediately. Those onboard computers are watching us after all. 😉

    And speaking of computers, I believe that tech support exists to make us feel either stupid or crazy. Maybe we are. After all, we call tech support to ask for help with a problem and the human who is suppose to help us types our question into their computer which is suppose to give them the answer that they can then spoon feed to us. I’m seeing a problem here. LOL! But I’m definitely not seeing a conspiracy. Nope. Not at all. Just me being crazy, hahaha!


    • Agh! I never even thought about tech support asking their computer about my computer! Brain… exploding… now…

      And I’m laughing about your subconscious desire for a manicurist’s car. There’s always some deep Freudian explanation! I hate to think what Freud would say about me… 😉


  9. Supposition A: “Sanity” is NOT a constant quantity.

    Supposition B: “Sanity” is not a reliable indicator of the viability of one’s personhood.

    Supposition C: “Sanity” is not a reliable indicator of pretty much anything at all…at least in my world. (And welcome to my world, apparently.)

    I’m a staunch proponent of the so-called (by me) Life Suppositions. (And yes, I meant suppositions. Not, er, suppositories. At least on a good day.)

    Odd-but-persistent smells? Yep, been there. Also, years and years ago some friends awoke in the night smelling smoke, or so they thought, but the smoke alarm was dead silent. They got up, sniffed all around the house inside and out. Found nothing definitive, so they went back to bed. Couple of hours later, same thing. Found nothing, went back to bed. Couple of hours later, neighbor is banging on the door and fire trucks are arriving. Smoke is coming out of their roof vents, the neighbor said. Damage was kept to a minimum, but the forced remodel hassle took weeks. Cause? Wiring in the attic succumbed to the attack of the dreaded insulation eating squirrel. And the babysitter had pulled the battery out of the smoke alarm because it kept going off and scaring the baby…

    Infallible tax software? Yeah, right. Thuh Missus is a CPA, remember. (And no, Accountant vs. Engineer jokes are not funny. Not at *our* house, anyway.) She does this stuff for a living, so she uses one of the high-dollar, seriously high end, professional-grade software packages. The good stuff, okay? When she has to call tech support (not often, but it does happen), the people who answer the phone usually are either the ones who WROTE the software or the ones who debugged it. So they know it inside and out. She goes on and on about how knowledgeable they are and how endlessly helpful they are. So, see? There really are TS people who have a clue, are knowledgeable, and are actually willing to be helpful. Just so you know.

    Would that such could be said of all TS people.


  10. When you talk to your tax advisor you’ll find a little known law that taxes people with no tax a total of 214 for processing a tax form with no tax owning. and maybe your car has taken up smoking. Has it been asking for spare change or stopping at smoke shops? Check your wallet when you get out of the car to make sure it’s not stealing money.

    and this is really bothering me: Did you actually buy anything at the lumber store? Or just walk in, walk out and drive away? Perhaps the next time you’re out and about, a quick stop at the local clinic for a little chat might be in order. Just a suggestion …


    • LOL! What, you mean it’s abnormal to walk into a lumber store just for a quick fix of woodworking-scented air…?

      But just to set your mind at ease, I did actually buy something. I needed ten screw caps, which cost pennies apiece, and I knew exactly where they were in the store so I zipped straight to them (yes, I go there often). The guy behind the counter said, “You got fifty cents?” I said, “Sure.” He said, “Great, I’ll put it in the dog-biscuit fund.” Two quarters changed hands; no need to ring up the transaction; done in under two minutes. I love small towns!

      And you may be right about the taxes, and the smoking car. I’m not sure I want to know…

      Liked by 1 person

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