Dina Diaperchanger flips her hair back in a ponytail and ties it in a scrunchy that's seen better days. Too bad, she thinks, they're lucky I got a shower this morning. She slurps her third cup of coffee and sprints out the door. It's 6 a.m. on the bank clock a block before her day care center. Dina whips her car into the center's parking lot, grabs a super-sized soda from the convenience store across the street, and mutters under her breath as she sees a parent already waiting to drop off her child. Although Dina's day care center doesn't officially open until 7, more and more parents are pushing the envelope these days.
For the next two hours, Dina's life is a blur. Parents drop off 25 sleepy, cranky kids to Dina and her assistant Tammy. Dina's second helper has picked this morning to call in sick with a stomach virus. By the time the last of the children arrive around 9, the first batch has to go potty. Unfortunately, Dina's Day Care Center only has one bathroom, which means the rest of the kids are dancing and squeezing their legs while they wait their turn. A couple of them lose the battle and let loose on the floor, which unleashes a pervasive foul odor throughout the entire facility. Dina rushes to clean up and disinfect the crime scene, while Tammy hustles both offenders into the bathroom. However, here's more bad news: yesterday's potty emergencies have depleted the toilet paper supply. There's only one spare roll on the shelf – surely not enough for the rest of the day. Dina finishes her toxic waste disposal job and rushes to the convenience store for some overpriced TP.
Pretty, but does the same job as the white stuff.
Finally all the kids are clean and ready for their morning playtime. Dina and Tammy herd them outside so they can blow off some steam in the center's fenced play yard. As Tammy tosses a plastic ball around a small circle of children, Dina notices that two playground bullies have already reared their ugly little heads. A little boy and girl seem intent on keeping the ball away from everyone else, several times grabbing the ball out of another child's hands. A happy morning playtime quickly deteriorates into screaming, wailing chaos. Good thing it's almost lunchtime.
But not so fast. While Dina and Tammy have focused most of their attention on the toddlers, the three infants have been contentedly snoozing in their cribs. They've also been pooping themselves silly, as the entire room is permeated with a nauseating stench. Obviously not a good situation for anybody. Tammy cleans and disinfects the babies while Dina prepares lunch for the toddlers, quite a task considering they're careening around the room while she works. Thankfully, everyone eats quickly and quietly, while Dina spreads out each child's sleeping mat for the afternoon nap time.
Dreaming of less embarrassing clothing.
While the kids are asleep, Dina sifts through the center's bills and accounts receivable statements. She notes that an increasing number of parents are paying their day care invoices late, and a couple hasn’t paid them for the second month in a row. Dina knows shrinking work hours and lost jobs are behind the reduced revenues, and she hasn't figured out a good way to address the problem. Fortunately, the day care center has a decent-sized financial cushion to keep it going, although Dina's plans for expansion might have to wait.
Finally the kids wake up, and Dina and Tammy pass out juice and cookies as the children settle down to watch a cartoon video. Now the after-school kids are starting to arrive via a special school bus drop-off arrangement. These older children represent easy, effortless income for Dina. The kids entertain themselves, do their homework, and sometimes play with restless toddlers who are itching to go home. Dina and Tammy gather each child's clothing and toys to avoid a mad scramble when their parents arrive.
The afternoon exodus begins about 4 o'clock, and mostly ends by 6, although one child mysteriously remains at 6:15. Dina can't reach the mother by cell phone, and the woman's office closed at 5 o'clock. Clearly, Dina can't leave until the child is picked up, which means this evening's date night might just be a figment of her imagination. Finally, the mother arrives at 7 with no explanation of the delay. She seems indignant when Dina informs her of the extra charge for keeping the child beyond the center's advertised 6 p.m. closing time. Too bad, Dina thinks, I have a life, too. Just not tonight.
With all the children finally gone, Dina and Tammy put all the toys to bed, and clean and mop the kitchen. They disinfect the bathroom, throw the dish and hand towels into Dina's home laundry bag, and prepare the day care center for the next batch of kids. Finally, at 8 p.m., they close the doors and trudge to their cars. Funny, Dina thinks, now my stomach is gurgling and I feel the trots coming on soon. Hope I'm not getting that stomach virus.