- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 16, 2002

It was a rubdown not a shakedown that some taxpayers received while waiting until the final hours to file their returns yesterday.
Seven-minute massages were given to the first 100 taxpayers filing returns at a temporary postal station in Potomac Mills outlet center. Jasmine Figueroa, a postal clerk for 15 years, was there to stamp the envelopes with "April 15, 2002" the deadline for filing.
Major post offices in the District, Virginia and Maryland stayed open until 11:59 p.m. A minute later, the returns would be past the filing deadline.
"We've stayed open like this for many, many, many years," said Dave Demartinis, customer-service manager at the Woodbridge post office. In addition to relaxing income-tax filers, Mr. Demartinis said, the Potomac Mills station would "help a little" to relieve late-night congestion at Woodbridge.
"It is closer to come here than to go to the post office," said Gair Choo Chan, 25, who was given one of the certificates for the massage at Hydro Touch down the promenade at Potomac Mills.
Unlike many tax filers yesterday, Miss Chan said she expected a refund.
Grace Ngomba, 37, was on an errand to Potomac Mills when she saw the sign advertising the postal station there from 2:30 to 9:30 p.m. Instead of driving to the post office, she took the tax return out of her car, bought a stamp and became the first massage recipient.
The Internal Revenue Service estimated that about 1 million taxpayers in the metropolitan Washington area waited until yesterday to file their annual returns.
As in previous years in the District, the post offices on Capitol Hill, at Massachusetts Avenue and North Capitol Street were staffed until midnight for late filers. Most other post offices closed at regular times.
At the post office in the Merrifield section of Fairfax, an Asian elephant made a short appearance to help cheer taxpayers. The Postal Service brought in Bo from the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which was in the midst of a nearly two-week stint at the Patriot Center at George Mason University in Fairfax.
But the Humane Society of the United States was not amused by the elephant's visit.
Senior Vice President Wayne Pacelle said the Postal Service shouldn't be promoting wild-animal acts and said many circus elephants are prodded with sharp metal hooks and kept in chains up to 22 hours per day.
Postal Service spokeswoman Deborah Yackley dismissed the complaint, saying, "This was just a fun thing to do."
The Postal Service did not receive or pay any money for Bo's 20-minute appearance, she said.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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