Friday, June 26, 2015

Fun With Childcare!

Recently my wife and I had occasion to seek full-time childcare for our kids. When you have multiple children, the white whale is to have them all placed at the same facility. It quickly became apparent that this would be next to impossible without a few well-placed bribes and a possible religious conversion so we began looking separately while holding on to the hope that we could pull off a miracle.  

First was my son, who has literally been on daycare waiting lists since he was born two years ago. We finally located a reputable and highly-recommended local program only to discover that his hairstyle was in direct violation of their dress code which forbade a boy’s hair from covering their eyes or touching their collar. I can only assume that this is to prevent the proliferation of marijuana use among the toddlers. This was not necessarily a sticking point as we had already decided to have his hair cut, but part of me wanted to push the issue and demand cornrows as a compromise.
I was also somewhat disappointed with the payment options offered. I was hoping that I could place non-sequential un-marked bills in my son’s lunchbox along with an ace of spades, but sadly they only accepted bank auto-draft. In advance. From a Swiss account. I assume that there are a large number of kited checks in the childcare industry. I hope they have someone named “Vinny” who performs collections and finds it necessary to lift you off your feet during conversations about bringing your account current.  

There are also extremely strict late-fees. These tend to be the dollar-a-minute variety and when you are getting that granular I feel that an atomic clock should be provided by the facility. Otherwise, who is to say they aren’t a little short this month so somebody decided to move the minute hand forward and make a quick profit. Who resolves these time disputes? Does the national observatory weigh in? Is it from the time I get through the front door or the time that I legally take possession of my offspring?

Once we had finally decided on a place and resigned ourselves to having our child there, we received a call from a place that could possibly place them both. All of this was contingent upon several unrelated events (personnel change, parole revocation, el nino) occurring within a given time frame. As remote as the possibility was, the prospect was alluring enough that we dropped our original plan for him. Sadly, this was after we’d had his hair cut.

This left my daughter, who we needed a backup plan in case the "white whale" scenario fell through. Like all infants, she was tougher to place. There are several reasons for this:

1. The state required caregiver-to-child ratio was much lower for infants therefore reducing the profit margin for those who offered it and creating an overall shortage of openings.

2.  For the spots that are available, priority is given to siblings of children already enrolled and since our son had never gotten in she was susceptible to rejection by non-association.

3. My wife is fiercely protective of our children.

We found one place that was amazing but they had a fairly ambiguous facilities citation on their report card from the state, so I placed a call to the inspector for our area. While we waited for the return call, I speculated as to what would constitute a facilities violation. Did the play room share a wall with a metal foundry? Was it the asbestos activity center that drew the government’s ire?

Once the call was returned, we discovered that the violation occurred because they had neglected to turn down the default setting for the hot-water heater thereby creating a situation where a child could potentially scald themselves. I feel like there should be an easier to decipher rating system for these inspections. Like  sad-face=hot water in sink and skull and crossbones=unattended firearm in crib.

Almost universally, the daycare brags that they will care for your children there just as you would at home. I have always wanted to respond by telling them that I consider myself a subpar parent at best and for what it costs I would prefer that they actually treat my children better than I would at home.

The naming is so important with these facilities. There was even one in our town that had a number 2 after it implying that it was the sequel to an earlier (perhaps heavily litigated) daycare. I half expected their motto to be “this time will be different.” In that spirit, I have created a list of names that should be avoided at all costs:

They Were Like That When You Dropped Them Off Children’s Center
Little Blisters Preschool Work Camp
A Felon’s Touch Daycare
Factory Seconds Crib Proving Ground
Take a Kid, Leave a Kid Exchange Club
Once Upon a Plea Bargain’s Discount Sitter Services
Big Jim's Clinical Trials Playschool

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Just Fine

Several weeks ago I found myself standing in line at the local Walgreens waiting for a pharmacy refill. As I waited for the next available associate, I could not help but overhear the phone conversation of the pharmacy tech directly in front of me. She was calling someone about a refill and toward the end of the conversation she said, “That will be just fine.”

The moment might have passed unnoticed except the gentleman behind me in line began parroting the statement with a strange inflection. Over and over in a deep baritone, he would say, “That will be juuuust…fine…….” He would occasionally pause between repetitions to chuckle in amusement and then continue the mantra.

After a disturbing amount of time, he leaned forward so that he was almost over my shoulder and said, “Hey man. You remember that?” Since we were the only two people in line I knew he was addressing me and I had no choice but to turn around. I found myself facing a stocky gentleman in his twenties wearing a backpack. His demeanor indicated that he still wanted me to answer the question and I was unsure how to respond since I could interpret his inquiry a number of ways:

1.      He was asking if I am lucid enough to recall the pharmacy tech utilizing the phrase just 30 seconds ago.
2.       Do I remember him saying it over and over again until I wish I had never switched pharmacies?
3.      Did the two of us have had a prior encounter in which the phrase played some significance?

Just as I was contemplating which answer would be the least likely to prolong the interaction, his face lit up in anticipation and he said, “Darkman! Liam Neeson! 1990!” Relieved to at least have a point of reference for one of the strangest interactions I have ever had, I responded that while the title sounded familiar I had not seen the film.

Undeterred, he continued to describe the phrase’s use in the film until he introduced himself as Kirk. He also revealed that he was a small business owner who specialized in the “delivery of Hollywood hits directly to your home” and began removing his backpack. In short order he had produced a gigantic spindle of burned DVD’s and selected a copy of the Colin Firth movie Kingsman: Secret Service with his cell phone number on it. 

With a hint of pride, he informed me that he “did his own previews” and that had several theatrical titles available for purchase. Delivery anywhere within the city limits was just $2 and he often ran BOGO specials. After assuring him that I would “tell my people” about his services, he handed me the disc and I retrieved my prescription.

When I got home and relayed the story to my wife, her response was, “You accepted the disc? Why?” I replied that curiosity got them best of me and I wanted to see what he meant by “doing his own previews.” Did he add his own voiceovers to current movie trailers? Did he use Final Cut Pro and actually re-enact movie trailers in his bedroom? Was this an FBI sting operation?

Needless to say I found an old laptop, placed the disc in, and was presented with a scrolling warning against a red backdrop that read “DO NOT PLAY THIS DISC IN A VIDEO GAME CONSOLE!!!” I found this to be odd since you actually have to play the disc to see the warning and presumably by that time it would be too late. This went by several times until the message began to elaborate:

The warning was so comically over-the-top I was tempted to borrow someone’s XBOX to see if it would burst into flames. Finally, the previews began and they were for movies so new I am pretty sure at least one was still listed as currently in post-production on If the previews had been any fresher he would have been required to shoot the footage himself.

The film itself was clear and featured what looked to be Cambodian subtitles (although the spoken language was English) and I couldn’t help but admire Kirk’s chutzpah. It takes fortitude to hand-write your name and cell phone number on the piece of evidence most likely to be presented against you at trial. Even drug dealers aren’t that brazen. All I know is that if I worked for the FBI’s anti-piracy division this would have been the easiest case ever. I would just call and have him deliver to the office; and when I told him that he had the right to an attorney he would reply, “That will be juuuust…fine…..”